The Istanbul Archaeological Museums contain a wealth of material, with a massive collection of art and artifacts housed in three separate buildings. Founded in the 19th century by Sultan Abdülaziz, who wished to have a museum on par with Europe’s, the museums draw on superb pieces—from sarcophagi to pottery and tile—from former Ottoman lands.The Basics
The museum—whose earliest director was Osman Hamdi Bey, the famous Ottoman artist and archaeologist—divides its collection between the Archaeological Museum in the primary building, the Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Museum of Islamic Art in the Tiled Kiosk. Its pieces span millenia and come from many countries, including Egypt, Syria, and Greece.
Small-group and private tours of Istanbul visit the Archaeological Museums as part of full-day or multi-day trips. Tours usually also include stops at the Kariye Museum (Chora Church), the Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya), Topkapi Palace, and other city highlights.
Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- The Archaeological Museums are a must-see for history and archaeology buffs.
- Most visitors spend about two hours exploring the museums.
- Wear comfortable shoes to explore the extensive collection.
- One ticket provides entry to all three venues.
- Only the Archaeological Museum, in the main building, is accessible to wheelchair users.
The museum is centrally located in Istanbul and easily reached by public transportation. Take the tram to the Gulhane stop, take a public bus to Eminonu near the museum, grab a taxi, or walk from the Sultanahmet neighborhood.
When to Get There
The museums are open Tuesday through Sunday. Opening hours vary seasonally, with longer hours in the summer. Hours also change due to Turkish and religious holidays, so check online ahead of time.Highlights of the Collection
The Istanbul Archaeological Museums are internationally known for several outstanding pieces, primarily the ornate Alexander Sarcophagus, which originated in Sidon in the late 4th century BC. In addition, the museums contains the Sarcophagus of the Crying Women and the Tabnit Sarcophagus, from Sidon as well. You can also see a Lycian tomb, cuneiform documents, spectacular busts of Alexander the Great and Zeus, and collections of tiles, Ottoman coins, and historical documents.