Museums Tour, Istanbul (Self Guided)

Istanbul is a city with nearly 2 millenia of history as a capital of empires and the largest city of the republic of Turkey. Tourists may see history on every corner, but museums have the finest artifacts on display. We invite you to walk through the best museums in Istanbul in the guide below.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for IOS   Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for Android

Museums Tour Map

Guide Name: Museums Tour
Guide Location: Turkey » Istanbul (See other walking tours in Istanbul)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.6 km
Author: kane
1
Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)

1) Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) (must see)

This monumental structure was once an Orthodox patriarchal Basilica, then a mosque, and now, finally, is a Museum in the city of Istanbul. It was built in the fourth century by Constantine the Great as a Church, and it has seen much of the changing ruling powers of Istanbul ever since.

Many people mistake it as being dedicated to Saint Sofia, but the church was, in fact, originally dedicated to the second person of the Holy Trinity, and its full Greek name is “Church of the Holy Wisdom of God”, with Sophia meaning “Wisdom”.

Before its takeover by the Ottoman Turks in 1435, the church housed many holy relics. It was converted into a Mosque by Sultan Mehmed II, and it remained a mosque for the next 500 years.

Located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood, Hagia Sophia is, without doubt, one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture and was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985. It houses many decorations that make it distinctive and it is famous for its beautiful mosaics that decorate the entire structure.

Why You Should Visit:
Unique in it being both a church and a mosque, with respective symbols omnipresent.
Even if you are not familiar with Byzantine history, you will surely be impressed.
The multi-domed enclosure is so mesmerizing you can't take your eyes away from it!

Tip:
Should you want to visit multiple museums, buy a Museum Pass at the Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts as there are few people in the line (the queues at the Hagia Sophia are usually enormous and it can take an hour or more to get a ticket). The Museum Pass (valid for 5 days) allows you to queue-jump and gets you into other museums/attractions as well.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-7pm, last entrance: 6pm (Apr 15-Oct 31); 9am-5pm, last entrance: 4pm (Nov 1-Apr 14)
2
Istanbul Archaeological Museums

2) Istanbul Archaeological Museums (must see)

The Istanbul Archaeology Museums (IAM) consist of three distinct museums: 1. The Archeological Museum 2. The Museum of the Ancient Orient and 3. The Museum of Islamic Art. Located in the Eminonu district of Istanbul, near the Topkapi Palace, the IAM houses some of the most remarkable objects and collections that span over a millennium in world history. The most distinctive and famous item exhibited is the Alexander Sarcophagus which was once believed to be made for Alexander the Great. The Kadesh Peace Treaty (1258 BC) which was signed between Hattusili III of the Hittite Empire and Ramesses II of Egypt is also on display. There are over one million objects housed in the IAM and the oldest objects age thousands of years BC. The IAM is distinctive as it has a vast collection of locally found artifacts, which are reminiscent of the origin of the city of Istanbul. Over 800,000 Ottoman decorations, coins, seals medals, stone works and statues are housed on the upper floors of the building where there is also a library with over 70,000 books.

Why You Should Visit:
To get a wider perspective on how cultures and kingdoms have shaped the world. Where east meets west!

Tip:
Visit all the separate buildings to see the variety of collections, but make sure to focus on the intricately carved sarcophagi: they are the reason the museum was founded in the 19th century.
The Istanbul Museum Pass Card is valid here; buy it to get discounted access to the Archeology Museums, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts, and a bunch more.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-7pm
3
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

3) Istanbul Museum of Modern Art (must see)

Istanbul has always been a rich centre of culture and history, and the Museum of Modern Art gives visitors a taste of the “new city”.

This museum features the contemporary works of Turkish and also international artists. It was once a warehouse in the Tophane neighborhood on the Bosphorus and it is unique throughout Turkey, being the first of its kind found in the country. The museum is also a break from the centuries-old mosques, churches and architecture found throughout Istanbul. The building was inaugurated on December 11, 2004.

The Istanbul modern museum exhibits art collections on 2 floors. It has a permanent collection on the top floor, with works by Orhan Peker, Ismet Dogan, Seker Ahmet Ali Pasa, Omer Kalesi, Cihat Burak, Avni Arbas, Ihsan Cemal Karaburçak and Sema Gürbüz amongst others. A shop and a restaurant are also present on the top floor while temporary exhibits are held on the ground floor. This floor also consists of a library and a cinema hall along with a new media art area and a video art area.

Why You Should Visit:
To get a new perspective on Turkish culture; a must for anyone interested in art and the question of identity & expression.

Tip:
Reasonable admission fees but FREE to visit on Thursdays!

Opening Hours:
Tue, Wed, Fri-Sat: 10am-6pm; Thu: 10am-8pm; Sun: 11am-6pm
4
Pera Museum

4) Pera Museum

Pera Museum is a private museum in the Tepebaşı quarter of the Beyoğlu district in Istanbul, Turkey. It was founded by the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation with the aim of offering a broad range of high-quality culture and arts services. Inaugurated on 8 June 2005, the museum is located in the historic building of the former Hotel Bristol, which was designed by architect Achille Manoussos and built in 1893.

Pera Museum shares its three permanent collections Orientalist Paintings, Anatolian Weights and Measures, and Kütahya Tiles and Ceramics, as well as the values that these collections represent, with the public through exhibitions, publications, audio-visual events, educational activities, and academic works, striving to transmit these values to future generations.

The Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation's Orientalist Painting Collection brings together important works by European artists inspired by the Ottoman world, Turkey’s regional geography, as well as works of Ottoman artists and how they influenced one another from the 17th century to the early 19th. The Collection presents a vast visual panorama of the last two centuries of the Ottoman Empire, also includes works by Osman Hamdi Bey and his most famous painting, the Tortoise Trainer.

Working Hours: Tuesday - Saturday: 10 am - 7 pm; Sunday: 12 pm - 6 pm.

Long Fridays: Pera Museum is open and free of admissions from 6 pm to 10 pm every Friday.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Adam Mickiewicz Museum

5) Adam Mickiewicz Museum

Adam Mickiewicz Museum is located in the house where Adam Mickiewicz, the great Polish poet, lived and died. Here you can find some of his manuscripts, paintings and historic documents. After a fire in the late 19th century, the house was renovated and established as a museum with the help of the Polish Museum of Literature in 1955.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Sunday 9 am - 4 pm.
6
Istanbul Military Museum

6) Istanbul Military Museum (must see)

Called the Askeri Müze by locals, this museum is dedicated to 1000 years of the Turkish military’s history. Originally the museum was opened in the Saint Irene Church only to be shifted to the First Army Headquarters building during the 1950s. Its current location is not far from Taksim Square in Cumhuriyet Caddesi, Harbiye district. The word “Harb” translates to “warfare” from the Turkish language and this site is an important military installation. The Ottoman Imperial Military Academy was also located here.

The museum hosts a fine display of uniforms, historical weapons and tools from various periods of the Turkish army’s history. A rail gun, Ottoman cannons, mortars, aircraft and a helicopter are all on display outside the edifice. Its most magnificent display is of campaign tents and standards present inside the museum. Historical army relics like the Byzantine chain that was stretched across the Golden Horn during the siege of Constantinople to keep out invaders in 1453 are also displayed.

Temporary exhibits, meetings and cultural events are held in the East Wing, while the ground floor features displays of bows and arrows, curved daggers, lancets and other weapons.

Why You Should Visit:
You don't need to be a military buff to appreciate amazing items from the Ottoman Era to World War II.

Tip:
Arrive at 3pm to experience the marching band that takes you to old Turkish military times – it is free and a fantastic half-hour performance (you can take photos with the band at the end).
Go right as you leave the building, then around the corner and straight ahead to find a staff cafe that serves simple food at very cheap prices.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Sun: 9am-5pm
7
Atatürk Museum

7) Atatürk Museum

Atatürk Museum is of crucial importance for each person in Turkey, as it is entirely dedicated to the founder of the Turkish republic Mustafa Kemal, later called Ataturk, the father of the Turks. Here visitors can find his personal belongings, paintings, even clothes, plus many documents.

Operation hours: 9:30 am - 4 pm daily except Thursdays and Sundays.

Walking Tours in Istanbul, Turkey

Create Your Own Walk in Istanbul

Create Your Own Walk in Istanbul

Creating your own self-guided walk in Istanbul is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Architectural Walking Tour

Architectural Walking Tour

Istanbul can offer its visitors quite an unforgettable experience when it comes to architecture. Here you can admire both the architectural achievements of the long vanished Eastern Roman Empire and its influence and the traditional Ottoman-Arabic style. Take this tour to see some of the best examples these architectural styles.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 km
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

Istanbul, throughout its history as Byzantium and Constantinople, has been a center of commerce and trade- a place to buy all kinds of exotic items. Today’s modern traveler in Istanbul also enjoys an interesting and colorful shopping experience. The sheer number of shops, bazaars, products, prices and insistent shopkeepers, however, can be overwhelming. To focus your search and improve your...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 km
Roman Heritage Walking Tour II

Roman Heritage Walking Tour II

Constantinople was an imperial capital for over a millennium and still contains many sites that demonstrate the importance and greatness of the Eastern Roman Empire. This tour will take you trough the most famous of them, located in the inner city of Constantinople.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 km
Shopping Tour of Istanbul

Shopping Tour of Istanbul

Istanbul can easily claim to be one of the most interesting cities in the world. Located on the very edge of Europe, it later expanded into Asia resulting in a mixture of both cultures. When it comes to shopping you will be amazed by the variety of goods you can buy here and the way everybody bargains - even in the grocery store. Take this tour and explore the legendary bazaars and the hidden...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 km
Roman Heritage Walking Tour I

Roman Heritage Walking Tour I

Constantinople, being an imperial capital for over a millennium, still contains many important buildings and sites that show the greatness of the Eastern Roman Empire. This tour will take you through the most famous of them, giving you a glimpse of the most developed and flourishing city of the middle ages in Europe - Constantinople (Present day Istanbul).

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 km
Mosques Walking Tour

Mosques Walking Tour

Istanbul has been a center of Islam for over half a millennium. Add to the fact that it was always growing in population and wealth, and we have the reason why there are so many dazzling mosques in the city.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.4 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


Istanbul Shopping Guide: 16 Turkish Items To Bring Home

Istanbul Shopping Guide: 16 Turkish Items To Bring Home

Istanbul, known throughout history as Byzantium and Constantinople, has been a major center of commerce and trade, a place where merchants and general folk would rush to regularly in search of exotic things. In our days, modern travelers to Istanbul are also bound to enjoy a truly magnificent...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Istanbul for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Istanbul has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes


To save yourself time and money visiting Istanbul's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Istanbul Tourist Pass or Istanbul Welcome Card.

A city pass combines all or multiple Istanbul's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows user to skip lines at major attractions, thus saving precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels


Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Istanbul hotels conveniently located for a comfortable stroll: Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel, Deluxe Golden Horn Sultanahmet Hotel, Great Fortune Hotel & Spa.

Taking Care of Your Feet


To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Istanbul, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device


Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours


We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Istanbul typically costs somewhere between US$20 and US$80 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to enjoy sightseeing of Istanbul from the open top of a bus listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able get on and off at any of the stops along the two interconnecting routes (the ticket is valid for both). The ticket provides 24-, 48-, or 72-hour access, plus a free ride on Bosphorus sightseeing boat, and more.

- No visit to Istanbul is complete without savoring authentic Turkish cuisine. Embark on a 5-hour night food tour of Istanbul for a generous dollop of delectable Turkish culinary delights at the food hotspots many tourists don’t even know about.

- Get yourself lost for a while in the aromatic maze of stalls at Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar in the company of a knowledgeable guide, followed by a jaunt aboard a sightseeing boat along the Bosphorus Strait!

- Prepare for an action-packed day of sightseeing visiting Istanbul's top attractions in a single go including historic district Sultanahmet, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the dazzling Grand Bazaar and more.

- Follow an expert guide on a 3.5-hour walk around Istanbul’s must-see attractions to familiarize yourself with the city's contrasting cultures and history.

- Take an opportunity to witness centuries-old Istanbul culture in the form of whirling dervishes performing their dance-like spiritual ceremony accompanied by Persian chanting and traditional Turkish music played by live orchestra.

Day Trips


If you have a day to spare whilst in Istanbul, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations like Gallipoli, Ephesus, or Cappadocia. For as little as circa US$100 up to US$300+ per person you will get a chance to discover the highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage sites (rock pillars, cave villages and subterranean cities), explore World War I battlefields, see the finely-preserved ancient eastern Mediterranean city and walk the pavements once strutted by toga-clad Romans, visit what is believed to be St. Mary’s last place of dwelling, and more. For any of these tours you will be picked up either straight from your hotel or a designated place in Istanbul, and transported either by a comfortable air-conditioned coach, minibus, private vehicle or a plane (whichever is applicable) to the destination of your choice and back again.