Museums Tour (Self Guided), Istanbul

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.
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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: 6
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.5 Km or 4.7 Miles
Author: kane
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!

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)
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!

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
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.

Reasonable admission fees but FREE to visit on Thursdays!

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

5) 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.

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
Atatürk Museum

6) 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: Monday-Saturday: 10 am - 6 pm.

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.
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
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: 7.5 km
Churches Walking Tour

Churches Walking Tour

Constantinople was a center for religion and the orthodox Christianity for over a millennium and even after the Ottomans came many Christians remained in the city. There are many churches in Istanbul and each of them has its uniqueness.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.7 km
Roman Heritage of Outer Constantinople

Roman Heritage of Outer Constantinople

Istanbul, known as Constantinople in the Middle Ages, was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire for over a millennium. Although conquered by the Ottomans in 15th century, the city still preserves many signs of its imperial Roman past that reflect the might and splendor of this long vanished empire.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 km
Walking the Bosphorus Coast

Walking the Bosphorus Coast

What Istanbul is today and what it was in medieval times is due to the geographical location of the city and the fact that it lies on the Bosphorus shore. This tour will take you along the coast so that you can enjoy the beautiful view and admire the city's architecture.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.7 km
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

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