Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum

Once the palace of Ibrahim Pasha, this museum houses a unique collection of calligraphy, tiles and rugs.

TravelCurious Tip

Keep an eye out for the footprint of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)!

Pasha’s downfall

Though conveniently located alongside the Hippodrome and a stone's throw from the Basilica Cistern and Blue Mosque, the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum is often overlooked. Don’t make the mistake of missing out: it has a stunning collection of the very best in Islamic craftsmanship, unrivalled in its scope and depth.

The building that houses the displays was built in 1524 for Ibrahim Pasha, Grand Vizier to Süleyman the Magnificent. Brought over from Greece as a child slave in the imperial household, Ibrahim became friends with the young Süleyman, who was of similar age; as Süleyman rose to the sultanate, Ibrahim was promoted to Chief Falconer and later Grand Vizier. He was also married to the Sultan’s sister. Sadly for Ibrahim, his growing wealth, opulent lifestyle and influence over the monarch made others envious and suspicious of his position. The Sultan’s wife Hürrem convinced Süleyman to have him strangled in 1536, and all his wealth was seized by the state.

Artisanal relics

In the museum is an awe-inspiring array of carpets dating back up to five centuries, made by artisans from Iran, Caucasia and the ancient city of Uşak: you will recognise some of their elaborate patterns from the Renaissance paintings of Holbein and Lotto. Similarly impressive geometric decoration appears in mother-of-pearl inlaid wood, painted ceramics and sections of beautiful tiling.

Other highlights include gorgeous examples of ornate Safavid Iranian bookbinding, with stunningly delicate calligraphy; there are additionally a number of müknames (scrolls outlining an imperial decree), signed with the intricate tuğra or monogram of the Sultan. Ethnographic displays recreate typical dwellings of different Turkish nomadic groups throughout history, such as the impressive Seljuq exhibition, an immersive experience of Persian life nearly one thousand years ago.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Istanbul
Blue Mosque
A beautiful and elaborate place of worship, the Blue Mosque is the most important legacy of a roguish Ottoman Sultan.
Hagia Sophia
The height of Byzantine architecture, the Hagia Sophia is one of Istanbul’s must-see attractions.
Grand Bazaar
One of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is the ultimate shopping spot.
Basilica Cistern
Hidden beneath the city is a vast and mysterious space, crowded with ancient Roman columns.
Hippodrome of Constantinople
The ancient pleasures of Constantinople are brought to life in this stunning historic site.
Istiklal Street
Istanbul’s ‘Independence Avenue’ is a popular promenade filled with galleries, bookstores, cafés and more.

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