5 Museums Not to Miss in Istanbul

If you think street food and popular streets are all there is to Istanbul, think twice. The city’s art and cultural scene can keep your schedule busy for days. From museums to art exhibitions, antique shops, libraries, and street art, Istanbul can definitely be a hub for art lovers. While scouting the museum scene was part of my “culture trip” mission, you can find here my most interesting picks.

Ai Wei Wei Exhibition at Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Part of Istanbul Biennale held in November, the Ai Wei Wei porcelain exhibition is on till March 2018 and I was very lucky to catch it. Ai Wei Wei on Porcelain is the first solo exhibition of the Chinese artist, reflecting through art, specifically the Chinese porcelain material, his political stance on urgent crises both in his homeland and around the world. Both the exhibition and the museum are stunning and I would highly recommend checking them!

Sakip Sabanci Museum
View from the museum

Istanbul Modern

There’s always something for you at Istanbul Modern if you’re a fan of contemporary art. The current exhibition, which is the one I saw, is called “Artists in Their Time”. It focuses on how artists, from different periods and countries, experience their own times, which makes it quite diversified, combining different artistic styles and media.

The view.

Pera Muzesi

Located in the lively district of Beyoglu, Pera museum is a private museum where there is always something awaiting to impress you. On till March, the current temporary exhibition showcases ambassadors’ portraits and glimpses of the Ottoman world from the 17th till the 19th century, however my favorite part was the stunning life work of famous architect Louis Kahn.

Having some fun at the museum


An art space on Istiklal street? It’s so hard to imagine that you would actually miss it a few times before finding it. I completely fell in love with the “Behind Mount Qaf” exhibition by Canaan currently held at Arter. Named after the legendary Mount Qaf of Arabic and Persian cosmology, the exhibition showcases through mix media art how the artist views the concepts of Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. I loved the abstract representations of these themes and would totally recommend checking this space!

Museum of Innocence

Last but not least, the Musem of Innocence based on Orhan Pamuk’s novel. Those who have read the book, you have no excuse not to go, and those who haven’t, the audio will escort you through the writer’s vision behind the museum’s 83 display boxes, each for every chapter. Tucked away in a 19th century building in Cihangir’s beautiful neighborhood, the museum was bought and has been designed and furnished by the Nobel Laureate writer over the past dozen years. Displaying all the belongings of Fusun, the young woman the protagonist was obsessed about, the museum reenacts memories and moments of the novel, as if it was all real. All I can say is that it’s done so well, down to the last details, that it’s hard to believe “The Museum of Innocence” is a fiction novel. I can’t recommend it enough!

Destination reached.
The boxes.