Istanbul is one of the most historic cities in the world. Many historical treasures are left in Istanbul, both from the Ottoman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. As a result, many tourists want to visit these beautiful ancient structures and the history left by these civilizations.
One of the best ways to see the living history is to visit the museums. There are many museums in Turkey, and visiting Istanbul is a great way to visit multiple museums in one trip. However, visiting all these spots can be expensive. Luckily, there is an alternative and more economical method: Istanbul Museum Pass.
Museum Pass Basics and Tips
What is an Istanbul Museum Pass?
To see most of Istanbul's top museums in a short time, with reduced admission fees and shorter waiting lines, you can buy an Istanbul Museum Pass.
The 5-day pass is sold for $65 (2023 pricing) and is valid for one entrance to these museums within 120 hours after the first use of the pass to enter a museum.
Please note tickets for children below the age of 6 are generally free in Turkey, so you don't need to buy a museum pass for them.
Which Museums Are Included?
- Topkapı Palace and other palaces in Istanbul (including Hagia Irene Church and Harem)
- Istanbul Archeological Museums
- Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts
- Museum for the History of Islamic Science & Technology in Gülhane Parkı
- Istanbul Great Palace Mosaic Museum (As of 2023 July, closed for renovations)
- Chora Church Museum (Byzantine Mosaics) (As of July 2023, closed for renovations)
- Yıldız Palace Museum (As of 2023 July, closed for renovations)
- Galata Mevlevihanesi (Whirling Dervish Hall) (As of July 2023, closed for renovations)
- Galata Tower Museum
- Istanbul Rumeli Hisarı Fortress Museum
- Adam Mickiewicz Museum
- Istanbul Airport Museum
- Maiden's Tower
- Turbes Museum
Istanbul Fethiye Museum (Pammakaristos Church) (As of July 2023, closed for renovations)
Where and How to Buy an Istanbul Museum Pass?
The Istanbul Museum Pass is sold at all of the museums mentioned above (unless they run out of cards the day you're there, which can happen).
Alternatively, you can buy E-tickets online, which will be delivered to your e-mail within 30 days. You can also buy Museum Pass Istanbul at many hotels, including those recommended by TurkeyTravelPlanner.com: Dersaadet Hotel, Niles Hotel, Sirkeci Mansion Hotel.
Benefits of the Istanbul Museum Pass
1. Cost Comparison
Museum Pass Istanbul is quite economical considering that entry to Topkapı Palace costs $18 and Maiden's Tower another $16 and that the other museums have entry fees of $5 or more. If you visit the top museums and one more, you will be nearly paying for the price of the Istanbul Museum Pass.
2. Additional Discounts
In addition to admission to those museums, the pass entitles you to discounts at numerous other museums, attractions, travel companies, and shops, including Efendi Travel, Şehir Hatları ferryboats, Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence (Masumiyet Müzesi), Harbiye Military Museum, Pera Museum, Rahmi M Koç Museum, Sakip Sabancı Museum, Sadberk Hanım Museum, and more.
3. Saves You Time
Although the Istanbul Museum Pass allows you to avoid waiting in the ticket purchase line at each museum, it does not exempt you from the security-check line, so you will still have to spend time waiting in line, meaning that the time it takes you to visit a museum is not just the time you enjoy inside the museum.
All-Turkey Museum Pass
Note that there is also an All-Turkey Museum Pass for $90 (2023 pricing) which gives you admission to 300+ museums and archaeological sites operated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for 15 days. However, remember: not all museums are operated by the Ministry. Museums outside the Ministry's control may not be included in the pass.
How to Plan Your Museum Visits to Take Advantage of the Five Days As Much As Possible
If you want to visit all the museums in Istanbul, you should pick your days carefully because certain of these museums are closed on different days. So it is important to plan your days carefully to take advantage of the five days the Museum Pass Istanbul offers. Let's see some steps that might help you to prepare better.
1. Know the Days Museums are Closed
Knowing when each museum is closed can save you time and money. For example, if you visit your first museum on Sunday morning, then you can not follow the next day with Istanbul Rumeli Hisarı Fortress Museum because it will be closed on Mondays. Also, Topkapı Palace on Tuesdays. So, planning these museums for different days may be more practical.
- Topkapı Palace: Closed on Tuesdays.
- Istanbul Rumeli Hisarı Fortress Museum: Closed on Mondays.
- Istanbul Archeological Museums: Open every day.
- Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts: Open every day.
- Museum for the History of Islamic Science & Technology in Gülhane Parkı: Open every day.
- Galata Tower Museum: Open every day.
- Adam Mickiewicz Museum: Open every day.
- Istanbul Airport Museum: Open every day.
- Maiden's Tower: Open every day.
- Turbes Museum: Closed on Mondays
- Hagia Irene Museum: Closed on Tuesdays.
2. Start Around Noon
Here's a tip: you can have six calendar days of museum visits by starting your pass around 12 noon or 1 pm so that it is valid for that afternoon, the next full days, and the morning of the final day.
Thus, if you validate your pass with a visit to one museum in the afternoon of Day 1, visit any museums you like all day on Days 2, 3, 4, and 5, you can still visit a museum on the morning of Day 6 before the pass's validity ends at 12 noon or 1 pm.
3. Start Your Pass at a Museum Farther From the Center
Five days can be short to visit all museums in Istanbul, so another tip is to start your museum pass at a museum further away from the city to save time.
If you start your pass at a farther museum, you will not have the clock running while you're in a bus or taxi traveling to that museum. Most other museums are closer to Sultanahmet, so you will not lose precious time while traveling.
Remember, your pass becomes valid the first time to use it to enter a museum and may be used to enter any or all of the other museums included in the program, but only for one entry per museum—you can't leave the museum and re-enter on the same pass, even on the same day, even if your pass's validity is still current.
4. Note Last-Entry Times for Istanbul Museums
Entry to museums ends 30 minutes before the daily closing time (so if closing time is 5 pm, you will not be allowed entry after 4:30 pm). Thus if you enter at 4:29 pm, you'll have only a half hour to tour the museum on your pass.
Also, you cannot do "half a visit" to a particular museum on one day and come back to that same museum the next day to see the rest, at least not using the pass (though you can always wait in line and purchase a regular ticket if you wish.)
With its rich history and museums, Istanbul has a special place in history lovers' hearts. There are many museums in Istanbul, so it can become difficult to get to each museum within five days provided by the Istanbul Museum Pass. So, planning your visit to take advantage of the pass as much as possible is essential.
Regardless of your choice, remember to enjoy your time and take as many pictures as possible to cherish your precious memories.