Istanbul Museum Pass is a useful tool for those who want to visit museums in Istanbul. It provides cheaper entrance compared to normal museum tickets and saves you from waiting in front of the ticket offices. In this article, I would like to introduce you to the museum card of Istanbul.
Types of Museum Cards in Turkey
Turkey is the 6th largest tourism country in the World. (Source: telegraph.co.uk) Turkey is situated in the Anatolian Peninsula, where many different civilizations had lived. Some of the civilisations that settled down in Anatolia are Ancient Greeks, Hittites, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans.
There is a very rich culture especially in Istanbul and Turkey due to the heritage of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empire. Each and every city of Turkey worth to visit but the most popular places are Istanbul, Ephesus and Cappadocia. These three places are considered as the Golden-Triangle of Turkey.
There are several types of Museum Cards to use in these regions. Museum Pass the Aegean is valid in Ephesus Ancient City and museums around it. Museum Pass Cappadocia is valid for Cappadocia geography that covers several cities.
Museum Pass Istanbul is obviously valid in museums in Istanbul. However, not everything is that simple. Because the museums in Istanbul are managed by three different state institutions and each has different visiting conditions. For this reason, the Museum Card is only valid in museums affiliated with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Is Istanbul Museum Pass Worth The Money?
If you are going to stay in Istanbul for 2 or 3 days and spend most of it visiting museums, the Istanbul Museum Pass is worth the money. However, you have to visit at least 4 museums to cover the money you give to the Museum Pass. On the other hand, it would not be right to consider the Museum Pass only for its price. Because it saves you time by giving you fast entry at ticket offices.
If you have only one day in Istanbul and planning to see only Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia budget-wise it’s not recommended. Because entrance to Hagia Sophia is now free. Entrance to Topkapi Palace is 100 Turkish Liras. If you visit the Harem, you will pay an extra 70 lira. However, the cost is still far below what you pay for the Museum Pass.
1. Where to Buy Istanbul Museum Pass?
You can buy the Istanbul Museum Pass from the ticket offices of museums such as Topkapi Palace, Turkish and Islamic Art Museum and Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Since there are usually long queues at the entrance of Topkapi Palace, if you buy from the Archeology Museum inside the palace, you will save time.
2. Price of Istanbul Museum Pass
The price of Istanbul Museum Pass is 325 Turkish Liras as of 2020. If you have the energy to visit all museums in Sultanahmet, you can cover this money in one day. I explained this in detail in the next title. However, under normal circumstances, I would recommend the Museum Pass for those staying in the city for two days.
3. How to Cover the Cost of Museum Pass in a Day?
Yes, now I will explain how to cover the cost of Istanbul Museum Pass in one day for those who trust their fitness.
The entrance fee to Topkapi Palace is 100 Turkish Liras and it takes an average of 2 hours to visit. If you visit other sections in Topkapı Palace, you will compensate the majority of the card fee.
If you also visit the Harem, there is an extra cost of 70 TL. In addition, Hagia Irene Museum is 60 Turkish Liras. Thus, a total of 230 Lira.
Entrance to the Istanbul Archeology Museum is 50 Turkish lira. Thus, the price came to 280 Lira. So far you have visited all the places within Topkapi Palace walls.
If you visit the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Sultanahmet Square, you have to pay an additional 50 lira. Thus, the total price reached 330 TL.
You got back the money you paid for the Istanbul Museum Pass within one day. Moreover, without waiting in line at the ticket offices! Of course, there are many other museums that you can enter with a museum card. You can also find them in the following lines.
4. Istanbul Museum Pass PROS & CONS
In this title, let’s briefly look at the pros and cons of the Istanbul museum pass.
PROS: Fast track advantage, convenient for 2-3 days visit, saves your time, easy to get. Besides it provides some discount in private museums (Koc Museum, Istanbul Modern, Pera Museum) and some activities.
CONS: It can not be used for Dolmabahce Palace, Basilica Cistern and Galata Tower. It might not be suitable for daily visits & layovers. You need to visit at least 4 museums to cover the cost of the card.
5. Skip the Line Tickets with Guided Tours
As an alternative to the Museum Pass, you can also buy skip the line tickets with a guided tour. These tickets are slightly more expensive than standard entrance tickets. However, it provides you with the advantage of both guided tour and fast track. Moreover, you will listen to all the necessary information about the place you visit from the guide. You can buy these tickets from the links below.
- Hagia Sophia skip-the-line ticket
- Topkapi Palace skip-the-line ticket
- Basilica Cistern skip-the-line ticket
- Dolmabahce Palace priority access tour
6. Hire A Private Tour Guide in Istanbul
Another way to quickly enter museums in Istanbul is to hire a private tour guide. Tour guides can buy tickets directly as they have priority at the ticket office. So they can get you into the museum quickly.
It is a long process to become a licensed guide in Turkey. The guides receive language and history education for years and get a license from the Ministry of Tourism. If you find an experienced private tour guide in Istanbul, you will be well informed about the history of the city.
7. High Season & Low Season Comparisons
If you are visiting Istanbul in spring or autumn, which means high season, there may be long lines in front of the museums of Istanbul. Especially April, May, June, September and October considered as the peak of the high season.
In this case, I suggest you buy the museum pass even if you think it is not worth the price. Because when you see hundreds of people waiting in the lines, you would understand what I’m saying.
The picture above shows the queue at the entrance of the Hagia Sophia Museum in April 2018. Now Hagia Sophia is not a museum, but Topkapi Palace and other museums get the same crowd during tourist season.
If you will visit Istanbul during the winter (December, January, October) or when it’s too hot (July, August) then you will less likely to see long lines in front of museums. However, museums can get crowded during Christmas, Easter, and Islamic holidays, even in low season.
8. How to Buy Museum Pass Online?
You can purchase the Istanbul Museum Pass online from the official website of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. You can reach the official site from this link. Alternatively, you can try the Istanbul Tourist Pass. This product provides guided entrance service to museums. It also includes extra services such as Bosphorus Cruise and Whirling Derwish Show. You can also view the offers of Istanbul Tourist Pass from this link.
9. What is the Muzekart?
When buying Museum Pass online, you can see that a product called Muzekart is sold much cheaper. This card allows Turkish citizens to enter the museums at a symbolic fee for 1 year. However, this discount card will not be sold to non-citizens of the Republic of Turkey. You must have a citizenship number to get this card.
10. List of Museums Included in the Museum Pass
The list of museums included in the Istanbul Museum Pass is quite long. However, important museums such as Dolmabahce Palace, Basilica Cistern and Galata Tower are not included. So I suggest you take note of the list. In the picture above, you see Topkapi Palace, the largest of these museums.
- Topkapı Palace Museum (including Hagia Irene Church and Harem)
- Archeology Museums of Istanbul (Next to Topkapi Palace Complex)
- Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum (Near Blue Mosque)
- Grand Palace Mosaic Museum (Byzantine Palace Mosaics – Near Blue Mosque)
- Kariye Museum (Also known as Chora Church)
- Rumeli Hisari Fortress (Castle Next To 2nd Bridge of Bosphorus)
- Yildiz Palace (Ottoman Palace complex within Yildiz Park, Besiktas)
- Galata Mevlevihanesi (Whirling Dervishes Museum – Near Galata Tower)
- Fethiye Museum (Former Greek Orthodox Patriarchal Church)
11. Museum Pass for Dolmabahce, Cistern or Galata Tower?
Museum pass is not valid for Dolmabahce Palace, Basilica Cistern and Galata Tower. The entrance fees of these three important museums in Istanbul are as follows: Dolmabahce Palace entrance fee is 90 TL, Galata Tower entry fee is 35 TL, Basilica Cistern ticket price is 30 TL.
12. Map of Istanbul Museums
You can see the map of the museums in Istanbul on the visual above. Of course, Museum Pass is not valid for all of them. However, entrance to places such as Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Suleymaniye Mosque is already free. The Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar are also open to everyone.
Museum pass is not valid in Miniaturk, Dolmabahce Palace and Galata Tower. These will be the only museums on the map that you need to pay extra for.
I recently wrote an article called Istanbul Tourist Attraction Maps. This post can be very useful if you are looking for an article which shows the places to visit in Istanbul on maps. (There is also video narration in it)
Written by Serhat Engul