With its rich history that spans the ages and empires, Turkey’s museums are full of stunning artifacts as well as art. From Istanbul’s renowned museums to the lesser-known yet equally important museums around the country, Culture Trip rounded up the most essential.
This medieval Byzantine Greek Orthodox church dates back to around the early 4th century and possesses some of the most stunning Byzantine frescoes and mosaics. Converted into a mosque in the Ottoman era in the 16th century, Chora Church became a museum in 1948.
After you’ve experienced the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Ephesus, make sure to visit the Ephesus Museum, where more artifacts are on display. You’ll find remnants of the Temple of Artemis, sculptures from the fountains, coins, and much more.
Located in a beautiful mansion—which used to belong to the famous Sabancı family—overlooking the Bosphorus, the Sakıp Sabancı Museum hosts some of Istanbul’s most well-regarded art exhibitions. Past art shows have included works by Rodin, Picasso, Monet, and Anish Kapoor.
The world’s largest mosaic museum, Zeugma has 1,700 square meters (18,299 square feet) of beautiful and well-preserved mosaics. Located in the city of Gaziantep, the museum’s exhibitions stem from the ancient city of Zeugma, which was in danger of being flooded by a dam project in 2000. The museum’s “Gypsy Girl” mosaic, displayed in a dark room, is one of the most popular pieces.
Istanbul’s hub for contemporary art is one of its most important museums and always features excellent exhibitions from local and international talent. Istanbul Modern’s sculpture garden and Bosphorus-facing café are also local favorites.
The mausoleum of the Persian poet and Sufi mystic Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi is one of the main reasons to visit the Turkish city of Konya. The beautiful structure, which stands out with its turquoise dome, also once served as a tekke (a whirling dervish lodge).
The overtly lavish residence of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years, the Topkapı Palace, built in 1453, is a true wonder and a must-see sight while in Istanbul. The sultan’s ostentatious lifestyle is thoroughly exemplified in beautiful pavilions, a treasury full of jewels, and harem.
Built within a renovated train depot, CerModern is not only a stunning work of architecture but also the main destination for art in Turkey’s capital. Engaging exhibitions, as well as workshops from art history to yoga, make CerModern a profoundly engaging museum.
Once a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica, the Hagia Sophia was declared a museum in 1935 and is one of Istanbul’s icons. From the grand fading red façade to the stunning interior with frescoes and mosaics, the former church is one of the world’s most unique museums.
Located in a beautiful neo-classical building that used to be the famous Bristol Hotel, the Pera Museum has been hosting important art exhibitions and events since its establishment in 2005. Past featured names have included Rembrandt, Joan Miró, Frida Kahlo, and Goya, among many others.