About Istanbul Archaeology Museum
The Istanbul Archaeology Museum (İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzeleri) houses around a million artefacts from an impressive range of cultures and periods, including some of the world’s most remarkable pieces. Split between three buildings – the main archaeology museum, the Ancient Orient Museum and the Tiled Kiosk Museum – the Istanbul Archaeology Museum has much to offer the history enthusiast.
History of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum
The museum was founded by imperial decree in 1891. Regional governors sent in items from the provinces to Istanbul, Turkey’s capital and quite a collection had been amassed. Built in the outer gardens of the Topkapi Palace, construction of the museum building began in 1881, and was altered in the early 20th century so that it had a neo-Greek façade.
On the museum’s 100th anniversary in 1991, it received the European Council Museum Award for its renovations and new displays
The Istanbul Archaeology Museum today
The Alexander Tomb and Other Funereal Pieces
The most impressive item at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum is often cited to be the Alexander Tomb, which was found in Sidon in the nineteenth century. Indeed, this fourth century BC tomb with its friezes of Alexander the Great is incredible and, although it is no longer thought to be this great leader’s original resting place, it is still a fascinating find.
Yet, the Istanbul Archaeology Museum has so much more to offer. For example, it has much more in the way of funereal items, such as the celebrated Sarcophagus of Mourning Women with its depictions of eighteen grieving women. In fact, as soon as the visitor steps through the door they are met with another important piece, the statue of a lion from one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Another great collection at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum is from the Ottoman period. From its vast exhibits of coins and medallions to decorations and a whole library of books, this really is a great place to see Ottoman pieces.
This is really only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the works at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. There’s a good Troy exhibit, a collection of classical statues, a Thrace-Bithynia and Byzantium exhibition and plenty of art from a variety of ancient civilisations such as Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Arabic and Anatolian.
The museum is closed on Mondays and has shorter opening hours during the winter. You can buy a combined ticket which includes entry to the Topkapi Palace itself. Be sure to visit the Tiled Pavilion in order to enjoy its remarkable collection of Iznik tiles.
Getting to the Istanbul Archaeology Museums
The Topkapi Palace is in old Istanbul, not far from Hagia Sophia. The nearest tram stop is Gülhane istasyonu (T1 line) which is roughly a 5 minute walk away. If you’re coming by taxi, you’ll want to be dropped on Gülhane Parki as the area round the palace is pedestrianised. It’s a short walk (5-10 minutes) from Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque if you’re in the area, and the next door Gülhane Park makes for a nice afternoon stroll.