A list of sites to explore the history of Constantinople, contemporary and traditional Turkish art and ancient fortresses.
This museum for contemporary art on Bosporus is trendily located in converted cargo warehouses in Tophane. It hosts great exhibitions by modern artists, photographers and sculptors and imitates Tate Modern. You can see a permanent exhibition about the evolution of Turkish art and some contemporary shows, including Istanbul Biennale – flying books in the library are its gift. There is a photo gallery and an art-house movie theater. After art enjoy their terrace bar and the Sultanahmet view – a great example of Islamic architecture.
Yedikule Fortress by the city wall is the main defense of old Constantinople. Its highlight is the Torture Museum in one of its seven towers – in the 15th century it housed Mehmed the Conqueror treasures but later he turned it into prison for noblemen- wazirs, foreign spies and masters. You'll be numb seeing the torture gear compared to which inquisition is a child's game. Among other curiosities are canon balls in the yard, graffiti and dark spots resembling Byzantine blood.
The Topkapı Palace
Istanbul's largest and richest museum. It was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans and their harems as well as a government building. Six centuries after it boasts the same splendid tiled exterior, stained glass, pavilions (the circumcision room, the dressing room, vast kitchens) and gardens – mainly all are opened to tourists. The Blessed Mantle Pavilion hosts sacred Muslim relics like hairs from Muhammad's beard, his tooth, footprint and the mantle itself stored in a special golden chest. You can admire bejeweled throne made of gold, Topkapi emerald dagger and the 86 karat diamond. It's a real Oriental fairy tale.
Istanbul Naval Museum
For Navy fans only – they will be super excited. Navy uniform, decorations, maps featuring some of the 16th century painted in color on antelope skin, the Austrian cannon and galleys. They also have a vast collection of warship models of all centuries as well as restored Ataturk's yacht. If you are not into boating knots, check the maritime gallery in the same building.