10 Best Museums of TURKEY

1- Istanbul Archeological Museums

 Istanbul Archeology Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Özgün

Istanbul Archeology Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Özgün

Although Ankara is the official capital of Turkey, Istanbul is considered to be the capital of cultural events. In 2010, the city was titled as the European Capital of Culture by the European Union. The city has a lot to offer to history buffs and art and culture-lovers. If you are planning to visit this breathtaking city one day, try to include Archaeological Museums of Istanbul to your itinerary, too. It is located in the Historical Sultanahmet Peninsula, near Topkapi Palace. 
The Istanbul Archaeology Museums consists of three museums
Archaeological Museum (in the main building)
Museum of the Ancient Orient
Museum of Islamic Art (in the Tiled Kiosk)
There are hundreds of artifacts from Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times of Turkey. It has multiple buildings and exhibits. Put on your comfortable shoes and be prepared to spend at least 2-3 hours there, because it is one of the world's largest museums in the world… However, this one of its kind museum is not crowded at any time of the day that as it is not included in the tour itinerary of the most travel companies and in fact most of the travelers are not aware of its magnificent artifacts. Therefore, you can enjoy a quite and crowd-free visit.

2- Zeugma Mosaic Museum

 Zeugma Mosaic Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Ozgun

Zeugma Mosaic Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Ozgun

Who doesn’t like some gold-colored, crispy Turkish baklava!? The city of Gaziantep in southeast Turkey is famous for its pistachio baklava and now you probably say ‘’does this have anything to do with a mosaic museum!?’’ Today, Gaziantep is home to the biggest mosaic museum in the world known as Zeugma Mosaic Museum. The city, overlooking the Euphrates River was very popular among wealthy Romans who had built 2nd and 3rd century villas in the city of Zeugma. The houses were all covered with incredible mosaic decorations with very high sense of fine art and most of them were found complete by archaeologists.

Gaziantep seems that it is not on top of the list of Turkish cities that tourists would want to visit. In fact this exoticcity is an undiscovered pearl. It doesn’t attract tour crowds that it deserves because it is being shadowed by Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya or other most popular tourist destinations in Turkey. If you ever decide to discover its hidden beauty, -after or before visiting Zeugma Museum- we highly recommend you to have a lunch break at a local restaurant where your palate will be delighted by the local but very famous dishes of Antep. Last year, Gaziantep cuisine was added to UNESCO list and the city became one of the world’s “capitals of taste.” At the end, don’t forget the crown your meal with a piece of unforgettable baklava that comes with a cup of coffee. You know what they say think global, eat local!

3- Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in Istanbul

 Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Ozgun

Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Ozgun

The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum is housed in the historic Ibrahim Pasha Palace from the Ottoman Period and it is a top ten do not miss destinations in Istanbul. The stone Ottoman building itself is a historic monument as it was gifted to İbrahim Pasha by Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in 1521. The museum is home to a stunning collection in excess of 40,000 items from Turkey and many other parts of the Islamic world, which span over many centuries. It has recently been renovated and you can find excellent English descriptions including information of the history of the artifacts and times from which the artifacts came. It also has a nice coffeehouse facing the Hippodrome and the Blue Mosque. After seeing the artifacts, you can enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee with a nice view!

4- The Museum of Great Palace Mosaics in Istanbul

 The Museum of Great Palace Mosaics / Photo: www.hagiasophia.gov.tr

The Museum of Great Palace Mosaics / Photo: www.hagiasophia.gov.tr

The Museum of Great Palace Mosaics is located in Arasta Bazaar within the Sultanahmet Mosque compound.

The museum has a collection of the mosaics on the Imperial Palace floors from the old Byzantine period and they depict the scenes such as hunting, feasts, love and nature astonishingly in their perspective art. Some of these scenes include lizard eating gryphon, elephant and lion fight, lactation of mare, goose herding children, goat milking man, a child feeding his donkey, a young girl carrying a pot, apple eating bears, and fight of hunter and tiger. Once they were decorating the palace floors hundreds of years ago however they still have dramatic affects on modern-day eyes. They will make you think about how Romans were talented than we thought and you won’t believe how mosaics are well-preserved after almost 1400 years.

5- Ephesus Museum

 Ephesus Museum / Photo: www.wien.info

Ephesus Museum / Photo: www.wien.info

Ephesus is the most visited ancient city of Turkey and most likely it is the best spot to understand what life was like back in the Roman Period. It is one of the largest anicient sites in the world and it has still been excavated by Austrian Archaeological Institute. The best of the archeological objects excavated at Ephesus, tweezers, combs, medical instruments, potteries and coins, statues, the jewellery, reliefs etc. are on display in Ephesus Archaeological Museum.  Some artifacts are from Ephesus's great Temple of Artemis, and finds from some of the many other significant ancient Hellenic, Hellenistic and Roman cities in the region. The Artemis room is something else to behold - the 2 statues of Ephesian Artemis are completely breathtaking and marvelous. Either before or after Ephesus visit, you must include this museum to your schedule if you want to know anything about Ephesus and it is just 5 min drive to the ancient city. 

6- Aphrodisias Museum

 Aphrodisias Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Ozgun

Aphrodisias Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Ozgun

Aphrodisias is another worth-visiting ancient Roman city in Turkey. It is in between Ephesus and Pamukkale. The name of the city is derived from the goddess of love, Aphrodite – called Venus by Romans- , who has her famous sanctuary here.

Some say that this city is much more impressive than Ephesus but somehow it is not as famous as. So, there is no big tour crowds and noise here, unlike Ephesus. It is located in the green country-side and laid on a skirt of a mountain. While Roman structures made of white marble are glittering under warm Aegean sun, you can benefit from the cooling breeze blowing from the mountains at the same time.

Apart from the stadium, the temple of Aphrodite, Grand Theatre, the Sebasteion and Odeon, Aphrodisias had a sculpture school so it is no surprise the city is literally full of Roman statues which are being displayed in the Archaeological Museum of Aphrodisias. The museum is not outside the ancient city, in fact it is located right at the entrance of it. You will be fascinated in the museum by hundreds of ancient statues which look like capable of moving. They are so exquisite and vivid. Each statue is depicting a story from Roman Imperial History and Mythology. So if you hire a professional tour guide, you’ll be informed about the background of what you are looking at. 

7- Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archeology

 Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archeology / Photo : Ali Mert Ozgun

Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archeology / Photo : Ali Mert Ozgun

When it comes to ‘’Bodrum’’, tranquil beaches, typical white-blue washed, Mediterranean type houses, narrow and cobblestoned streets, historic windmills come to mind. In fact Bodrum offers more than these. It is a historical resort town in southwest Turkey. It is just by the Aegean Sea facing a Greek Island. Travel site Trip Advisor revealed its Travelers' Choice Destinations on the Rise in 2014. The awards highlight spots around the world that have received the greatest increase in positive feedback and interest from TripAdvisor members, year over year and Bodrum is among nine other destinations in the world.

In the ancient times, Bodrum was called Halicarnassus and one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World namely Halicarnassus Mausoleum was here! Today apart from the ruins of the Mausoleum, there is one other –probably the most prominent- historical spot in Bodrum. It is the St Peter Castle which serves as Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. Even if you are not history buffs or museum lovers, this one will thrill you! The world’s biggest Eastern Mediterranean Amphora collection is on display here. The Bronze Age Shipwrecks exhibit displays interesting findings recovered from sunken trading vessels discovered by local sponge divers. The wisely-arranged exhibition shows what the ships looked like when they were in use. The world’s oldest known shipwreck which was discovered at Ulu Burun in 1982 is also being displayed here. Apart from all, what makes this one unique is that the medieval Castle’s architecture will give youa  feeling like you are in Game of Thrones scenes and remember to climb the English tower where you will face the most beautiful view Bodrum.

8- Museum Of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara

 Anatolian Civilizations Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Ozgun

Anatolian Civilizations Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Ozgun

Anatolia is the oldest name for Turkey and it means ‘’where the sun rises up’’. Modern Turkey is a young country as it was founded in 1923 in Anatolia however the human habitation in Anatolia dates back to the Paleolithic and it has continuously been inhabited since then. It is one of the oldest countries in the world and thousands of archaeologists have been missioned to reveal the historical richness of this unique homeland. The Anatolian Civilizations Museum is situated in Ankara, near the Old Castle and it has a number of exhibits of Anatolian archeology. The exhibition starts with the Paleolithic era, and continues chronologically through the Neolithic, Early Bronze, Assyrian trading colonies, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuq and Ottoman periods. Excellent exhibit organisation brings history to life as you walk round. The museum building has also its own history as it is an old stone Ottoman building. The museum has an international reputation by being elected as the first "European Museum of the Year" in Switzerland on April 19, 1997. What makes the museum most remarkable is it was established because of Atatürk's desire whose mausoleum is very close to the museum.

9- Mevlana Museum in Konya

 Mevlana Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Ozgun

Mevlana Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Ozgun

This one is not just a regular museum but it is also a mausoleum! The 13th century Muslim poet, philosopher, Sufi Mystic Mevlana (he is also called Rumi in the West) is buried here. Sufism is the mystical aspect of Islam – one that eagerly welcomes all seekers of ecstatic experience. Why are we sent to this world with our unique presence? What is the meaning of all these? Our questions are endless and sufism is a spiritual journey to improve one’s knowledge on these questions. The followers of Sufism are famous for performing ‘’whirling dance’’ and they are known as ‘’whirling dervishes.’’

After Mevlana died in 1273, he was buried in the Rose Garden of Seljuq Palace and his successors built a mausoleum over his grave. Especially during the Ottoman Period, the mausoleum was enlarged and decorated with the most striking Islamic art works and over time it became a dervish-training school.

Old dervish musical instruments, including the ney, or Mevlevi flute, antique prayer carpets—one, of silk, with more than four million knots!—, illuminated Kur'ans, the relics of the Prophet Muhammed, the items used by dervishes and Mevlana’s personal items himself are being displayed here. Don’t forget these artifacts are over seven centuries old!

The museum entrance is free and it is not important only to a certain people of faith. There is a very special energy here for any kind of spirituals. During your visit; the sound of the Sufi instrument reed and the colorful paintings and calligraphic works around the tomb area will take you for a journey into your spirit. Here, just close your eyes for a couple of minutes, silence your inner-talking, free your mind from all worries and let your spirit be mingled.. 

‘’I looked in temples, churches and mosques. But i found the divine within my heart.’’ Mevlana

10- Demre Santa Claus Museum

 Demre Santa Claus Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Ozgun

Demre Santa Claus Museum / Photo: Ali Mert Ozgun

Much of what is now modern Turkey was a large Roman territory in the past. Romans called the country Asia Minor which means Little Asia and today you can visit ancient Roman cities scattered all around the country and Myra city in the Mediterranean shore is one of them. Apart from the Roman structures around, there is Byzantine church here which is housing the grave of Santa Claus Saint Nicholas, known throughout the world as Santa Claus, was born in Asia Minor. He became the Eastern Orthodox bishop of the ancient city of Myra in the 4th century, and is an important religious figure for Eastern Orthodox Christians today. A church was built where his grave is located and was later transformed into the Santa Claus Museum. The church is regarded as the 3rd most important Byzantine structure in Anatolia. It is noted for its remarkable wall frescos, and its architectural and religious significance and it is in UNESCO World Heritage List.