The İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzesi (Istanbul Archaeological Museums) complex is one of the most underrated museums of Istanbul, and actually consists of three museums: the Archaeology Museum, the Ancient Orient Museum, and the Islamic Art Museum (also known as the Tiled Kiosk Museum).
It was founded by master painter, Osman Hamdi Bey (see his famous Tortoise Trainer painting at the Pera Museum) in 1875, in a response to the removal of many of Turkey’s ancient artefacts destined for European museums.
There is a wealth of treasures on show from the Assyrian, Hittite, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman civilizations. The below are a few of the collections and items not to miss.
The Treaty of Kadesh – the oldest peace treaty in the world, written in cuneiform script, signed in 1274 and discovered in the Hittite capital of Hattusa.
The oldest Love Poem from the Ancient Babylonian Era of the 8th century BCE, which begins:
“Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.”
The Treaty of Kadesh – the oldest peace treaty in the world
The Lycian Sarcophagus, which depicts scenes from Greek mythology as well as griffons, centaurs, and sphinxes.
The Alexander Sarcophagus that is covered in scenes of the Alexander the Great, but is actually believed to hold Abdalonymus, the king of Sidon.
The Istanbul Through the Ages exhibition, which gives a good overview of the history of this complex city. Look out for a section of the chain used to block access to the Golden Horn during Byzantine times.
The Istanbul Troy museum in the Anatolia and Troy through the Ages collections are worth seeing, and contain many artefact discovered at famous site.
The famous "The Alexander Sarcophagus" at Istanbul Archaeology Museum
The stunning Tile Mihrab taken from Karamanoğlu İbrahim Bey Imaret (public kitchen) that was built in 1432.
Sultan Murat III’s pretty Fountain of Youth dating back to 1590 and set in the wall of the final room.
Located inside the beautiful Gulhane Park, adjacent to the Topkapi Palace and the Aya Irene (Hagia Eirene) museum/concert hall, there is plenty to see in the area. It is also just a short walk from the legendary Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque.
Main entrance of Istanbul Archaeological Museum
The Istanbul Archaeology Museum hours are from 9am - 7.30pm. The last entrance (ticket kiosk closing) is at 6.30pm. The museum is open everyday. Admission is 60 Turkish Lira per person, but is free to holders of a Museum Card.
The easiest way to get there is to take a tram to Gulhane – from where it is just a short walk.