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A Guide to Turkey's Best Museums: From Antiquities to Contemporary Art

Updated: May 24

Turkey is a country steeped in history and culture, and its museums are a reflection of that. Whether you're interested in the ancient civilizations that once thrived in this region or the contemporary art scene, Turkey has something for everyone. In this guide, we will take you through the best museums in Turkey, from the famous Istanbul Archaeology Museums to lesser-known but equally fascinating gems like the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation's Pera Museum.

Istanbul Archaeology Museums

The Istanbul Archaeology Museums are a must-visit for anyone interested in ancient history. The museum complex consists of three separate museums: the Archaeology Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Tiled Kiosk Museum. Here are some highlights of each:

Archaeology Museum

  • The sarcophagus of Alexander the Great

  • The oldest known peace treaty, the Treaty of Kadesh

  • The ancient Greek statue of a boy on a horse, also known as the "Lycian Boy"

Museum of the Ancient Orient

  • The extensive collection of cuneiform tablets

  • The Ishtar Gate of Babylon

  • The statue of Gudea, the ruler of the Sumerian city-state of Lagash

Tiled Kiosk Museum

  • The famous Iznik tiles

  • The marble sarcophagus of the Ottoman sultan Selim II

  • The Calligraphy section, which includes calligraphic works from the 13th century to the present day.

Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation's Pera Museum

The Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation's Pera Museum is a private museum located in the historic Pera district of Istanbul. The museum's collection includes three main themes: Orientalist paintings, Anatolian weights and measures, and Kütahya tiles and ceramics. Here are some highlights of each:

Orientalist paintings

  • Jean-Léon Gérôme's masterpiece "The Duel After the Masquerade"

  • Osman Hamdi Bey's famous painting "The Tortoise Trainer"

  • Paintings by other prominent Orientalist artists such as Ludwig Deutsch and Rudolf Ernst

Anatolian weights and measures

  • A collection of over 5000 weights and measures from different periods of Anatolian history

  • Rare examples of weights made of precious metals such as gold and silver

  • The only surviving set of complete Ottoman scales

Kütahya tiles and ceramics

  • A collection of over 800 Kütahya tiles and ceramics from the 18th to the 20th century

  • The display of traditional Kütahya ceramic-making techniques

  • A stunning collection of plates, vases, and other decorative items.

Antalya Museum

The Antalya Museum is one of Turkey's largest and most impressive museums. Its collection spans the prehistoric era to the Ottoman period, with a focus on the ancient civilizations that once flourished in the Antalya region. Here are some highlights:

Prehistoric era

  • The world's oldest known wooden statue, the "Göbekli Tepe T-shaped statue"

  • The ancient city of Perge's Roman Baths

  • The Karain Cave, one of the oldest human settlements in the world

Hellenistic and Roman periods

  • The Sarcophagus of Hercules, a Roman sarcophagus that depicts the twelve labors of Hercules

  • The Museum of Architecture, which showcases the evolution of architecture in the Antalya region from the Hellenistic period to the Ottoman period

  • The ancient city of Aspendos' Roman Theatre, one of the best-preserved ancient theaters in the world.

Istanbul Modern

For lovers of contemporary art, Istanbul Modern is a must-visit. This museum is dedicated to showcasing the best of modern and contemporary Turkish art. Here are some highlights of the museum's collection:

Permanent collection

  • Works by prominent Turkish artists such as İbrahim Çallı, Abidin Dino, and Burhan Doğançay

  • Works by international artists such as Andy Warhol, Julian Opie, and Cindy Sherman

  • A special section dedicated to video art and installations

Temporary exhibitions

  • Regularly changing exhibitions that showcase the latest trends in contemporary art

  • A focus on emerging artists and experimental works

  • A program of talks, workshops, and events that aim to engage visitors in the contemporary art scene.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the opening hours of the museums?

Opening hours vary depending on the museum. Most museums are open from 9 am to 5 pm, but some have extended hours on certain days of the week. It's best to check the museum's website or call ahead to confirm opening hours.

Are the museums closed on certain days?

Most museums in Turkey are closed on Mondays, but some are closed on different days of the week. It's best to check the museum's website or call ahead to confirm opening days.

Do I need to buy tickets in advance?

It's not always necessary to buy tickets in advance, but it's recommended for popular museums like the Istanbul Archaeology Museums and Istanbul Modern. Buying tickets in advance can save you time and help you avoid long lines.

Can I take photos in the museums?

Most museums allow photography, but some have restrictions. Flash photography is usually not allowed, and some museums prohibit photography in certain

Turkey is a treasure trove of art and history, and its museums are the perfect places to explore the country's rich cultural heritage. From ancient artifacts to contemporary art, there's something for everyone in Turkey's best museums. Whether you're a history buff, an art lover, or simply curious about the country's past, a visit to these museums will be an enriching and memorable experience. So pack your bags and embark on a journey of discovery through Turkey's best museums!

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