If you have any interest in military or turkish history this is the musuem to visit. Floor after floor of Ottoman weapons ranging from stylish scimitars to giant cannons. And on some days (check site) you get a free live show from an Ottoman marching band (mehter band bit like a highland regiment band in full costume with massive drum and pipes - great fun and much enjoyed by the Turkish schoolchildren on our visit). The text for the exhibits gives the "Turkish perspective" on issues such as Cyprus (but no mention of Kurdish conflict) and some debatable ancient history claiming Attila the Hun for the Turks. There is is even a Turkish submarine. In the grounds there are some giant cannon used in WW1 and a fighter jet. Highly impressive and most exhibits have English text. Companion naval museum is also meant to be good but we did not manage to find it. Recommended
A hunting lodge built by Sultan AbdulMecid in the middle of the 19th century on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus close to the second bridge (Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge) and to the village of Anadolu Hisarı. It is Dolmabahce Palace in miniature. The guided tour is only in Turkish but there is often someone around who will translate for you. Open daily except Monday and Thursday, entrance is only 4TL. After your visit, turn left and walk the five mintues to see the ruined castle at Anadolu Hisari. There you can find several cafes on Kucuksu stream where you can have a meal and enjoy watching the fishermen and pleasure boaters pottering around.
Take a ferry to Uskudar and then hop on a number 15 (to BEYKOZ) bus from in front of the mosque opposite the ferry terminal for the 30 minute (or so!) journey up the Asian shore of the Bosphorus, passing the summer palace of Baylerbeyi on the way.
A beautifully and sensitively restored church with outstanding mosaics depicting various biblical scenes.
It's not easy to get to but worth the effort.
Go to the bus terminus at Eminonu on the waterfront side of the street.
Find the bus stop for number 90.
It should say Draman on front.
Ride the bus all the way to the terminus. It goes through a fascinating neighbourhood. Then continue to walk straight on up the same street up the hill.
At a T junction go left and immediately right up Nester St.
The church, a brick building which looks like a mosque is over on a side street to the right.
Don't go on Wednesday - it's shut.
Sick of the layers of history in Istanbul? OK, that's unlikely, but here's an alternative for the culturally omnivorous.
Officially the Istanbul Modern Art Museum, it has both a permanent collection of modern Turkish art and visiting exhibitions and installations and is located in the Tophane district, between Karaköy and Dolmabaçhe palace.
Its location is not obvious, though it is not far from the tramway that runs along Necatibey Caddesi - it is on the waterfront, in a converted warehouse-type building, with stunning views of the Bosphorus from its café. Though some detractors will take delight in spotting international influences on some of the Turkish artists, the place itself is a model of museum/gallery planning, with an excellent shop and impressive education activities.
Built between 1316 and 1361, around an earlier church, the small brick building of St. Saviour in Chora (now called the Kariye Mosque Museum) contains some of the most wonderful and best-preserved examples of Byzantine art anywhere.
The church’s patron, Metochites, a Byzantine scholar and politician ended his days as a monk at the church having been allowed to return after falling from power and spending two years in exile.
The mosaics found in the church portray scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, the Day of Judgement and Heaven and Hell. The colours in the mosaics seem as vibrant and fresh as they were when first created. When the church was converted to a mosque in the 15th Century the mosaics were covered over with plaster rather than destroyed remaining so until the mid 19th Century, and this covering may have helped to preserve their appearance.
They are also intricately detailed and one of the pleasures of standing in front of them is being able look deeper into the images picking out different things with each sweep of the eyes, for instance one small beautifully realised scene where water is being poured from a pitcher into large earthenware pots.
Although slightly off the beaten path it is well worth taking a trip to the Kariye Camii to see these magnificent pieces of art.
Open: Mon-Tues, Thurs-Sun Closed: Wed.
Kariye Camii Sokak 26, Edirnekapi
Bus 37E and 38E from Eminonu
Housed in an old palace overlooking the Hippodrome the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts charts the history, influences and changes in Islamic art through the use of pottery, tiles, artefacts, calligraphy, glass and metal work, manuscripts and friezes.
There are some wonderful exhibits, especially the beautiful calligraphy and decorated manuscripts, vibrantly coloured tiles and also the exquisite, elaborate pins and brooches used to decorate turbans.
The later galleries and the Main Ceremonial Hall contain one of the world’s foremost collection of antique carpets. The exhibition explains the different types of carpets and how some styles are named after certain artists i.e. Holbein, because they were featured in paintings by those artists. In the west Turkish carpets were so prized that they were used as table coverings rather than on the floor, thus showing the wealth of those who owned them.
The museum also has an Ethnographical Section which includes a reconstruction of a traditional Yurt dwelling and also details of how natural dyes are made from such things as plants, dried flowers and even crushes insects.
All the exhibits are well displayed with descriptions in Turkish and English. There is a lot to take in however the museum also has a lovely tea room where you can refresh your senses and feet and, in summer, sit out on the terrace with beautiful views over the Blue Mosque.
At Meydani 46, Sultanahmet
Overlooking the Hippodrome, opposite the Blue Mosque.
When I visited the Topkapi Palace during the holy fasting month of Ramadhan, they had a special display of the Prophet Muhammad's sandals at the Pavilion Of The Sacred Relics. I was surprised to see it there as I didn't find it showcased in guidebooks.
Feeling nostalgic for London Routemasters? Ever imagined yourself in the cockpit of a Douglas DC3 Dakota or behind the controls of an Istanbul tram? Then a visit to this fascinating transport and industrial museum should be ideal. The museum is a massive personal collection of transportation assembled by the eponymous Turkish industrialist who founded the museum. You can also see speedboats, steam engines, a Formula 1 car, the Sultan's personal railway carriage, and most unexpectedly a Turkish submarine.
Rahmi M Koç Museum, Hasköy Cad. No: 27; Hasköy 80320 - Istanbul
Tel: 212 369 66;
Buses 47, 54HM and 54HT; www.rmk-museum.org.tr
The Topkapi Palace must be one of the highlights of visiting Istanbul. Built between 1459 and 1465 it is not the traditional royal palace building I was expecting, but a series of pavilions and kiosks placed in four large courtyards and surrounded by beautiful gardens.
The harem, the private living quarters of the Sultan, his wives, concubines and children, is a labyrinth of corridors rooms and courtyards. Some of the rooms, such as the imperial chamber and the dining room of Ahmet III, are exquisitely decorated. Standing in one of the courtyards overlooking the Harem baths it is easy to imagine the daily life of the women here, their frustrations, hopes and ambitions.
In the narrow corridors one can imagine the scheming, intrigue and jostling for position as the favours of the Sultan were vied for.
The third courtyard contains the treasury, where the famous Topkapi dagger is held, and the pavilion of the holy mantle, which contains some of Islam's Hholiest relics. Walking past the room containing the Prophet Mohammed's mantle listening to the sound of chanting as verses of the Koran are recited was a heady, quite emotional experience.
In the fourth courtyard is the Baghdad Pavilion beautifully decorated with blue and white tiles and the gold canopy of the Iftariye Pavilion where there are wonderful views over the Golden Horn.
nearest Tram stop: Sultanahmet
Hagia or Aya Sophia (Church of the Divine Wisdom) was inaugurated in 537 by Emperor Justinian. It has been a church, mosque and is now a museum.
The first thing to strike you when entering the nave is its sheer size and scale (the dome reaches a height of 54m, 187 ft). It is worth letting your eyes wander up the walls past the half domes and on to the apex of the main dome which seems to float, as if suspended in the air, above the interior space. Quite dizzying.
The galleries contain some beautiful frescos, you can also get a close up view of the huge plaques bearing calligraphic inscriptions which hang over the nave. The views over the nave itself and the ceiling are fantastic.
Just outside the exit is an exquisite ablutions fountain. Visiting Hagia Sophia is a truly awe-inspiring experience.
Ayasofya meydani, Sultanahmet; nearest tram: Sultanahmet
In bustling Galata step off the street into a tranquil garden with a cemetery. Inside, there's a beautiful old building with a wooden chamber in which dervishes hold ceremonies at times. Mevlevi ceremonies used to be performed for visitors on the last Sunday of each month (but check if this is still the case).
Galata Mevlevihane, Galip Dede Caddesi.
This is a fascinating museum with some wonderful exhibits. The highlight is probably the collection of sarcophagi discovered in 1887 at Sidon in Lebanon. The "Sarcophagus of the Mourning Women" has wonderful decorative friezes and the remarkable Alexandria Sarcophagus is covered in intricate raised friezes on which some of the original colours can still be seen.
There is a collection of fine Roman statues and in the Museum of the Ancient Orient colourful glazed brick friezes from Babylon.
Osman Hamdi Bay Yokusu
Opening Hours: 9.00am-4.30pm closed Mondays
A perfect chance to see the way in which two cultures, the way in which east and west, truly meet in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia is now a museum but was previously a church and later a mosque. The beautiful building shows various aspects of two cultures. Hagia Sophia truly allows the cultural richness of Istanbul to be seen.
The museum is also located close to the Blue Mosque
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