Of course, you can wander around Istanbul from east to west and explore this magnificent bustling city of Turkey for days on end, without setting foot inside a museum or monument. Yes, you can do that. But for a history buff like me, there are certain must-see attractions in Istanbul. Like the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace for example. But famous monuments and sights usually come with a hefty price tag too. When I looked for a budget-friendly option to visit all the big sights of Istanbul, I found the Museum Pass. I’ll explain here what the Istanbul Museum Pass is and if the Istanbul Pass is worth your money.
My original post was made in 2017 with the prices of that time. In the meantime, prices have gone up. This post is updated in May 2019 to reflect the new prices.
What is the Istanbul Museum Pass?
The Istanbul Muzecard (from Müze, Turkish for museum) is a bank card like a pass which gives access to a number of museums in Istanbul and top famous attractions of the city. At the entrance, you just show your card, it gets scanned and you can enter the sight.
What can you do with the Museum Pass in Istanbul?
The museum pass gives you free entrance to the following list of museums and monuments:
- Hagia Sophia Museum
- Topkapı Palace Museum and Harem Apartments (optional- inside Topkapi Palace)
- Istanbul Archaeological Museums
- Istanbul Mosaic Museum
- Museum of Turkish and İslamic Arts, Museum for the History of Science and Technology in Islam (currently closed until further notice)
- Chora Museum
- Galata Mevlevi House Museum
- Yıldız Palace
- Rumeli Hisar Museum
- Fethiye Museum
**Click the links to learn more about the museums and to see if this is of interest to you.
Now, I am a history buff and I do like to visit museums but Istanbul has so much to offer, it is almost impossible to visit all of these in 1 visit. Luckily you have 5 days to visit the museums you like. You can only visit each museum once per Istanbul Museum Pass.
But as you can see, the Hagia Sophia Museum and Topkapi Palace are at the top of the list. In my opinion, these two are definitely worth to visit when you only have little time and are not so keen on museums. Mainly because the Hagia Sophia is more an old mosque and sight to roam around at and the Topkapi is a palace (and who doesn’t like palaces?)
How much does the Museum Pass cost?
The Istanbul Museum Pass will cost you 185 Turkish Lira. At the moment, that comes in at €31 or $35.
For the 185 TL you get 5 days to visit all the above-mentioned museums and sites.
Where can you buy the Istanbul Museum Card?
You can buy the card online, here, but maybe your Turkish is a bit rusty and you’d rather buy on site. I bought my Istanbul Museum Pass at the first site I visited, the Hagia Sophia Museum. You can pay at the cashier in all major credit cards and with actual cash money if you’d like. Once you have the card, you can skip the lines and just swipe your museum pass to get in.
You can also combine the Istanbul Museum Pass with a boat tour of the Bosphorus. Check for options here.
At another major tourist attraction of Istanbul (if not THE tourist attraction of Istanbul), the Topkapi Palace, there are vending machines to purchase your Istanbul Museum Pass. No waiting in line to buy tickets or buy the card, just purchase one from the many machines on site. I found this an absolute plus. Just keep the museum pass in your purse or backpack and off you go!
So… is the Istanbul Museum Pass worth it?
In my book: YES!
185 TL is quite steep. You can have a more than a luxurious meal with starters, main course, dessert and wine for that in Istanbul. You can buy all the lokum in the world for that for your whole family and you can easily spend that money on something else at the bazaar.
But then again, 31€ or 35 USD is just a little more expensive than the entry price for a zoo or major museum in, for example, Florence or Rome. And with the Istanbul Museum Pass, you get the entry for 10 museums (and a whole bunch of other discounts) for free.
But let’s look at the numbers. Below a list of the major attractions with their single entry fee:
- Hagia Sophia Museum: TL 60
- Topkapı Palace Museum: TL 60
- Harem Apartments (optional but inside the Topkapi Palace): TL 35
- İstanbul Archaeological Museums: TL 30
- İstanbul Mosaic Museum: TL 20
- Chora Museum: TL 15
- Galata Mevlevi House Museum: TL 10
- Yıldız Palace: TL 20
- Rumeli Hisar Museum: TL 10
- Fethiye Museum: TL 5 (currently closed for restoration works)
So let me add that up for you quickly. That is TL 265 worth in museum visits. But that is when you visit all of them. And although I like museums, I didn’t even do that.
Most famous sights and the Istanbul Museum Pass
But why did I bother to buy the Istanbul Museum Pass then? I only had 2,5 days in Istanbul and I didn’t want to visit all of those museums.
I wanted to visit the Hagia Sophia (now 60TL it was 40TL) and the Topkapi Palace (now 60TL it was 40TL) and the harem at the Topkapi (now 35 TL it was 25TL). If I would have paid for that on the spot, it would have cost me 105 TL. Now you would pay 155 TL which is cheaper than the Istanbul Museum Pass at 185 TL
Because at the time it was cheaper to buy an Istanbul Museum Pass, I bought it, swiped my way through security and enjoyed the famous attractions of Istanbul without having to wait in line and I saved a few Liras.
Back then, it was totally worth it. Now, with a price tag of 185 TL, you need to add at least one other interesting museum to make it worth your money. With 5 days validity to the card, this is easily managed. But if you’re short on time, it might still be worth it, as the Istanbul Museum Pass allows for you to skip the lines and walk straight through security. At the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, this might save you over an hour each, so do consider this.
Read more things to do in Istanbul on a 1-week itinerary here.
If I would have had more time or when I will go back, I definitely would like to explore more of the other museums too as they seem very interesting to me.
Looking for more than just museums in Istanbul?
Get the Istanbul Museum Pass and a boat tour on the Bosphorus! Check for prices and options here.
Have you been to Istanbul? Did you visit any of these museums? Did you use the Istanbul museum pass or not? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.
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