Museums in Istanbul

The Basilica of St. Sophia, now called the Ayasofya Museum, is unquestionably one of the finest buildings of all time. Built by Constantine the Great and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century, its immense dome rises 55 meters above the ground and its diameter spans 31 meters. You should linger here to absorb the building's majestic serenity and to admire the fine Byzantine mosaics. (Open every day except Monday.)

The Archaeological Museums are found just inside the first court of Topkapi Palace. Included among the displays are the celebrated Alexander Sarcophagus among its treasures of antiquity. The Museum of the Ancient Orient displays artifacts from the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hatti and Hittite civilisations. (Open every day except Monday.)

Originally built as a kosk or pavilion by Mehmet the Conqueror in the l5th century, the Cinili Kosk, which houses the Museum of Turkish Ceramics, contains beautiful Iznik wares from the l6th century and fine examples of Seljuk and Ottoman pottery and tiles. (Open every day except Monday.)

Like the Ayasofya Museum, the St. Irene Museum was originally a church. It ranks, in fact, as the first church built in Istanbul. Constantine commissioned it in the fourth century and Justinian later had the church restored. Reputedly the building stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple. (Open every day except Monday.)

The dark stone building that houses the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art was built in 1524 by Ibrahim Pasa; Grand Vizier to Suleyman the Magnificent, as his residence. It was the grandest private residence ever built in the Ottoman Empire . Today, it houses a superb collection of ceramics, metalwork miniatures, calligraphy, textiles, and woodwork as well as some of the oldest carpets in the world. (Open every day except Monday.)

Across the street from the Ibrahim Pasa Palace is the Museum of Turkish Carpets which contains exquisite antique carpets and kilims gathered from all over Turkey. (Open every day except Sunday and Monday.)

Near St. Sophia is the sixth century Byzantine cistem known as the Yerebatan Sarnici. Three hundred and thirty-six massive Corinthian columns support the immense chamber's fine brick vaulting. (Open every day except Tuesday.)

The Mosaic Museum preserves in situ exceptionally fine mosaic pavements of the fifth and sixth centuries which remain from the Great Palace of the Byzantine emperors. (Open every day except Monday.)

The Kariye Museum, the 11th century church of "St. Savior" in Chora, is, after St. Sophia, the most important Byzantine monument in Istanbul. Unremarkable in its architecture, inside, the walls are decorated with superb l4th century frescoes and mosaics. Illustrating scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, these brilliantly colored paintings embody the vigor of Byzantine art. Restored wooden houses in the area surrounding the church offer tea and coffee in a relaxed , atmosphere far removed from the city's hectic pace. (Open every day except Tuesday.)

The Aviation Museum in Yesilköy traces the development of air flight in Turkey. (Open every day except Monday.)

The great field tents used by the Ottoman armies on campaigns are displayed in the Military Museum. Other exhibits include Ottoman weapons and the accoutrements of war. The Mehter Takimi (Ottoman military band) perform Ottoman martial music between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. (Open every day except Monday and Tuesday.)

The house in which Atatürk lived in sisli now serves as the Atatürk Museum and displays his personal effects. (Open every day except Saturday and Sunday.)

In the Besiktas district the Naval Museum displays the great imperial caiques in which the sultans were rowed across the Bosphorus, as well as many other interesting exhibits of Ottoman naval history (Open every day except Monday and Thursday.)

Also in Besiktas, the Museum of Fine Arts displays Turkish paintings and sculptures from the end of the l9th century to the present day. (Open every day except Monday and Tuesday.)

Located within the gardens of Yildiz Palace, the City Museum preserves and documents the history of Istanbul since the Ottoman conquest. (Open every day except Thursday.)

Also within the gardens are the Yildiz Palace, Theatre and the Historic Stage Costumes Museum, with its richly decorated scenery and stage, and its exquisite costumes.

Rahmi Koç Industry Museum, in the suburb of Hasköy on the coast of the Golden Horn, an Ottoman-period iron- and steel-works building formerly called Lengerhane, it houses industrial development exhibits. (Open every day except Monday).

Up the Bosphorus in the picturesque suburb of Büyükdere, the collections of the Sadberk Hanim Museum fill two charming l9th century wooden villas. A private museum which originally displayed Turkish decorative arts, it has recently been expanded with a new collection of archaeological finds. (Open every day except Wednesday.)

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