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Istanbul Archaeological Museums

Last updated: 30 March, 2024

They may not attract the crowds of the nearby Topkapi Palace, but this trio of world-class archaeology museums set in the gorgeous Gulhane Gardens is worth a visit for anyone even remotely interested in history.

The main Archaeology Museum has a predominantly classical collection dating from the 19th century; the Ancient Orient Museum has spectacular finds from Babylon and Assyria; while classic Turkish ceramics star in the lovely Tiled Kiosk building.

Don’t miss

The star attraction is the Roman Alexander sarcophagus, a late 4th-century BC Hellenistic stone sarcophagus adorned with bas-relief carvings of Alexander the Great. It’s believed to contain Mazaeus, a Persian noble and governor of Babylon – but no-one is quite sure.

Also look out for the lion and auroch mosaics, part of a collection of about 120 original materials (now housed in museums around the world) that were taken from the walls of the Processional Way, that ran through the world-famous Ishtar Gate of ancient Babylon.

The Ishtar Gate was one of the eight gates of the inner city of Babylon, built circa 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II and dedicated to the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Berlin’s Pergamon museum houses a stunning reconstruction.

Logistics

Price from: £5
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

The museums are located on Osman Hamdi Bey slope, which links Gulhane Park with the Topkapi Palace; it’s a short walk from the Gulhane stop on the T1 Tram. Avoid the queues by purchasing museum tickets online and printing them out at home or your hotel.

After your visit, head over to the Bosphorus side of Gulhane Park to the charming al fresco tea garden, serving Turkish tea from Ottoman-style pots, with gorgeous views.

When to do it

The museum is open all year round, Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Monday.