Istanbul Military Museum stands out with its excellent location. The museum, which is within walking distance to Taksim, Harbiye and Sisli districts, where the most five-star hotels in Istanbul are located, is a must-see place for history lovers.
Istanbul has an important place in world history with its history dating back to 2700 BC. During the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, Istanbul witnessed developments that will change the world history. You can trace these events at the Istanbul Military Museum.
The Evolution of Weapons
Weapons have been one of the most important elements in determining powers of countries throughout history. Changes in weapon technology explains many of the radical changes in history, as well.
For instance, it is argued that, with the advancement of cannonballs that can demolish huge walls, Ottomans was able to capture Constantinople and played a big role in entering a different period in history. Consequently, one must know military history to be able to understand world history.
Istanbul Military Museum hosts a substantial collection consisting of weapons manufactured from 15th century to recent history. If you are curious about the evolution of weapons, you should definitely visit this museum.
History of Istanbul Military Museum
The history of the Istanbul Military Museum goes back to the 19th century. Abdulhamid II, one of the last Ottoman sultans, established a military school named Mekteb-i Harbiye in 1862. The military museum serves in this historical building today. However, the history of military museology in Istanbul actually goes way back.
After Turks captured Constantinople, Hagia Irene Church was turned into an armory called Cebehane. Valuable weapons and warfare equipment were stocked in this place. Cebehane was regulated as Dâr-ul-Esliha (House of Weapons) in accordance with military reforms under Sultan Ahmed III period. Dâr-ul-Esliha was also a place where weapons were displayed to the palace visitors.
It was 1846 when Dâr-ul-Esliha became a proper museum. Ahmet Fethi Pasha, field Marshall of Artillery, transformed Hagia Irene into an exhibition center and the collection stationed there was called as Muze-i Humayun (Imperial Museum).
Military Museum continued its operation from 1846 to 1940 in Hagia Irene but the collection was moved to Anatolia in World War II so as not to get damaged. Although Turkey was not involved in WWII, measures were taken against the risk of an attack on Istanbul. After the war, the collection was moved back to Istanbul in 1949.
However, Gymnasium of Military Academy, used as an exhibition center until 1959, was insufficient for the collection. Therefore, it was decided that the building of Mekteb-i Harbiye (Military Academy) to serve only as a museum.
The building was restored by Prof Dr Nezih Eldem, one of the most important architects of Turkey. The museum opened on February 10th, 1993 after its restoration. With the development of tourism in Istanbul in the last 30 years, the museum has become a place in the middle of touristic centers and luxury hotels.
Istanbul Military Museum Collection
The Istanbul Military Museum collection hosts weapons used throughout the Ottoman period. The variety of weapons exhibited in the museum makes it one of the most detailed military museums in the world.
The Museum includes 5000 pieces that was manufactured in different timelines ranging from 1400s onwards to recent history. Although weapons are the essential pieces of the museum, the museum also exhibits holsters, armors, shields, helmets, tents, banners and different objects about military history.
There are 27 showrooms in Istanbul Military Museum (locally known as Harbiye Askeri Muzesi). While many of showrooms includes historical collections, there are specific showrooms that were designed for important historical events such as World War I, Battle of Gallipoli and Turkish War of Independence.
On the other hand, there is a showroom that exhibits works used in military correspondence such as edicts, warrants and enrollments. Yet, in accordance with the concept of the museum, it is good to mention the sections about “military history”.
1. Entrance Room
Entrance Room will give you an idea of how to visit the Istanbul Military Museum. You can see the structure of the museum and exhibition halls from the small model found here. You can also view models of featured works from each exhibition and plan a visit based on your interests.
2. Introduction Room
Introduction Room gives you information about the history of the military museum. From the articles here, you can get information about what the museum wants to offer its visitors.
3. Shooting Weapons Room
In Shooting Weapons Room, you can see works about arrows and archery. In this section, there are generally arrows, bows, targets, equipment of bow-drawing manufactured between 17th to 19th centuries.
4. Riding Room
Riding Room will offer you many tips on Ottoman history. Horses were of great importance to the sultans and the person responsible for the stables in the palace had an important power.
Mounted soldiers formed the backbone of the army for the Turks who came from the nomadic tradition. For this reason, horse riding had a vital importance in the Turkish lifestyle.
You can also see explore cavalry equipment manufactured in 19th and 20th centuries. German and British saddles -in a great demand at those times- have a place in this section.
5. Fatih and Yavuz Section
The Fatih and Yavuz section introduces the two sultans at the height of the Ottoman Empire. In this section, which introduces Mehmed II (Fatih) and Selim I (Yavuz), the two most influential sultans on the battlefields, you can get an idea about the Ottoman army.
This section also includes some animated pictures about the capture of Constantinople. The conquest of Istanbul was a groundbreaking development in Ottoman history. During the siege of Constantinople, ships were brought to the Golden Horn over land. Thus, Byzantium’s famous defense chain was bypassed. This section also contains information about this event.
6. Edged Weapons and Defense Room
Edged Weapons and Defense Room has some exciting artifacts for history lovers. You can see weapons such as swords and spears, manufactured in Europe, in this section. In Defense Room, there are different equipment such as helmets, shelters and shields which were manufactured mostly in Middle-Age Europe. These weapons are mostly coming from between 14th to 16th centuries.
7. Firearms and Cannon Models Rooms
Firearms and Cannon Models Rooms host rifles and cannonballs manufactured between 15th and 20th centuries. Rifles, pistols, detonators and rifle equipment, manufactured in Ottoman Empire and Europe, are exhibited in Firearms Room. Wood and metal cannon models of Ottoman Empire are displayed in Cannon Models Room.
8. Somali-Bosnia-Kosovo Room
The Somali-Bosnia-Kosovo Room is a section where flags and uniforms of Turkish soldiers serving abroad are displayed. Turkish soldiers serving within the UN and NATO still play an active role in many parts of the world.
9. Military Uniforms Room
The Military Uniforms Room is a section that reflects the change of the Ottoman army over the course of 600 years. In this section, you can get an idea about the classical period of the Ottoman army, as well as witness its modernization from the 1700s.
The most important element of the classical period in the Ottoman army was the Janissaries. These elite infantry contributed to the Ottoman expansion over the course of 300 years. Westernization began in the Ottoman army after the 1700s. Modernization of the Ottoman army accelerated during the period of reformer Mahmud II.
10. Tents Room
The Tents Room symbolizes the tents used in the army since the 17th century. Tents were an indispensable part of Turkish history just like the horses. Turks immigrating from Central Asia lived in tents for many years before settling down.
The fact that Turkish carpets are so famous in the world is related to the nomadic life. For the masses living in tents and constantly migrating, the carpet was the floor of the room.
Janissary Band in Istanbul Military Museum
It is possible to watch the Janissary army band at the Istanbul Military Museum. The army band, tasked with motivating the Janissaries as they progressed through the battlefield, has served for centuries.
The Janissary band, which makes a very high volume music with drums and wind instruments, arouses enthusiasm in the audience. You can watch the military band called Mehter Team in the local language every day at Ataturk Hall.
Istanbul Military Museum Entrance Fee 2022
Istanbul Military Museum entrance fee is 6 Turkish Lira as of 2022. If you have a student ID, you can visit the museum for free. Istanbul Museum Pass is not valid for this museum.
Istanbul Military Museum Opening Hours 2022
Istanbul Military Museum opening hours are between 09:00 am and 5:00 pm. The museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Also, it is closed on the first days of religious holidays and the first day of the new year.
Visiting hours of museums in Istanbul may change due to various restorations and national holidays. For this reason, before going to the Istanbul Military Museum, you can call the information desk on 0 (212) 233 27 20 and check the latest status of the museum.
How to Get to Istanbul Military Museum
In order to get to the Istanbul Military Museum from Sultanahmet, you can take the tram to Kabatas and reach Taksim Square with the Funicular connection. From Taksim Square, you can reach the museum in 5 minutes by taxi and 10 minutes by bus.
The Military Museum is very close to Nisantasi, one of the most important shopping districts of Istanbul. You can even go to the museum on foot from hotels around Taksim Square, Macka and Sisli.
Those who stay on the Asian Side can come to Besiktas or Kabatas by ferry and reach the Military Museum. It is very easy to reach Taksim Square from these two districts.
Istanbul Military Museum by Serhat Engül
Nicholas Searle says
Will the museum be open in the summer (July)?
Serhat Engül says
The status of museums in Istanbul is completely dependent on the Covid epidemic. For this reason, it is very difficult to know what will happen on a specific date.
Raymond Collantes says
Greetings. We are planning to watch the Mehter band in our upcoming trip to Turkey and have a follow up question.
You mentioned in your blog that “You can watch the military band called Mehter Team in the local language every day at Ataturk Hall.”. You also mentioned that “the Istanbul Military Museum opening hours are between 09:00 am and 5:00 pm. The museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Also, it is closed on the first days of religious holidays and the first day of the new year.”
My question is if the band is plays every day in the Ataturk Hall even if the Military museum itself is closed. Thanks for the very helpful website. Keep it up!!
Serhat Engül says
Hi Raymond, the official website of the Harbiye Military Museum in Istanbul is not updated very often. Since I go there very rarely, I have to update only by looking at the comments of those who have been there recently.
According to the latest information I reached, the museum entrance fee was 25 Turkish Liras in 2022 (it may be revised again this year). The museum is only closed on Mondays. You cannot watch the mehter band on days when the museum is closed.
According to a local guide who went there recently, the mehter band performs every day (except Monday) between 15:00 and 16:00. The museum closes at 17:00. An average visit to the museum takes 2-3 hours.