Originally built as the Church of the Holy Savior during the Byzantine era and converted to a mosque during the Ottoman rule of Istanbul, Chora Church is now a museum with colorful, well-preserved frescoes and mosaics. Located outside the Old City in the Edirnekapi neighborhood, the art-filled Kariye Museum is well worth the trek.
The Kariye Museum was constructed as a church in the fifth century and then partially destroyed by an earthquake in the 12th century. The vibrant frescoes and mosaics that cover its walls were mostly created during its post-earthquake reconstruction. Though the frescoes were covered during its stint as an Ottoman mosque, they were uncovered and preserved when the building was converted into a museum in 1948.
Small-group and private tours often combine a visit to the Kariye Museum with other attractions around the Golden Horn, including Pierre Loti Hill, the Eyup neighborhood, the Ecumencial Orthodox Patriarchate, the Walls of Constantinople, and more.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Kariye Museum is a must-visit for history and religious art enthusiasts.
- Restoration is ongoing in the Kariye Museum, and some sections might be closed to visitors.
- Wear comfortable shoes to explore the museum and surrounding area.
- The museum is not accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
The Kariye Museum is located in Istanbul’s Edirnekapi neighborhood and is accessible by city bus. Take a taxi directly to the museum, or take a ferry from the city center up the Golden Horn to Eyup, then a short taxi or bus ride to the museum.
When to Get There
The Kariye Museum is open daily from 9am with seasonal closing hours; check ahead for a current schedule, which can also be affected by major national and religious Turkish holidays. To avoid the crowds, arrive early in the day.
Art at the Kariye Museum
Like many religious buildings in Istanbul, including the Hagia Sophia, Chora Church was converted into a museum after the establishment of the Turkish Republic. Its walls are strewn with gorgeous gold-speckled 14th-century frescoes and mosaics. Look out for the major biblical stories that are depicted, including the birth of Christ and the journey of the Magi, as well as major events in the life of the Virgin Mary.