Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Yesterday, I did a bit of research on the Museum Pass. On the web site, a lot of museums in different regions of Turkey were listed so I had the impression that the Museum Pass would cover all those sites. That’s perfect for us since we’re visiting Cappadocia where there is the Goreme Open Air Museum.
So while queuing for Haghia Sophia, I told mom that we should just buy the Museum Pass. I forked over 144 Turkish Lira to the man in the van and received our two black passes.
I was rather devastated when I read the pamphlet. It only listed a few museums in Istanbul and none that were out of the city. I looked at the pass again and realized that it’s actually Museum Pass Istanbul.
Worst thing was that we would be leaving Istanbul almost 25 hours after the pass’s first use. *sad music*
Anyway, I decided to make the most of it and cram 72 lira worth of sites into 24 hours so we wouldn’t be wasting our money.
This is also a list of “How to see the most of Istanbul’s museums in 24 hours”
Site 1: Haghia Sophia (Day 1 5pm) [25 lira]
We checked off Haghia Sophia around 5pm on Day 1. This is the one site that everyone must visit while in Istanbul. It was even featured in ARGO where Ben Affleck’s character walked with an U.S. agent who worked in Turkey.
This church/mosque/museum will take about 1.5 hours of careful looking and posed photographs. When inside, the space looks smaller than it does from the outside.
Some renovation work was going on so we saw a bit of scaffolding on one side of the hallway.
The mosaic on the second floor was probably the most impressive among everything on display. You could see each tiny mosaic tile when you stand close. When you stand further, the tiles blend together into a stiff representation of Jesus and gang.
Unfortunately, by the time we finished Haghia Sophia, most of the other sites included in the museum pass was closed so we ended today’s sight seeing.
Bonus site: Blue Mosque (Day 2 8:30am) [0 lira]
We learned the hardway about the Blue Mosque’s visiting hours. It’s best to visit here in the morning as visiting hour streches from 8:30am to 12 noon. The timing’s much shorter in the afternoon and evening.
Heading to the Blue Mosque earlier means it won’t take up the time for other paid sites that uses the Istanbul Museum Pass.
Unlike the other sites, the queue for the Blue Mosque is much faster as there is no second queue that you need to go to. Just be sure to wear modest outfits.
Site: Istanbul Archaeological Museum (Day 2 09:40am) [10 lira]
We needed to check out of the hotel by 11:00am so I scheduled a visit to the Archaeological Museum in the morning and Topkapi Palace later in the day.
The museum is not very big so it’s easy to fit this place in an hour’s visit. We did it in less than that.
One of the best exhibit in the museum is the Alexander Sarcophagus, which wasn’t Alexander the Great’s actual coffin but one that had carvings of the guy at war.
There are a few mummies around if you’ve not seen one.
BONUS TIP: There is a free shuttle service on a golf kart from Gulhane Park (the beginning of the slop to the museum and Topkapi Palace). The service is FREE and saves a bit of time walking up or down the slopes.
SIte: Cheap boat ride across the straits (Day 2 11:30am) [extra 4 lira not included in Museum Pass]
After we stored our luggage at the tour agency, we head out to explore. As we weren’t hungry, I suggested that we take a boat ride (since mom seemed to desperately want to ride the boat).
There are packages for 2-hour Bosphorous Boat Tours which cost about 10 euro. We didn’t have 2 hours in our day’s schedule so we took the public transport boat from the Old City to the Asia part of Turkey.
With our Istanbulkat (public transport value card), we paid about 2 lira each for each way. It’s not exactly a long tour by the coast but we did see parts of the shores and the many houses and buildings crammed on the small land.
Across the straits, food seemed to be cheaper as we bought a doner for 2.50 lira (while it’s usually 4 lira at tourist places).
Site: Topkapi Palace and Harem (Day 2 1:45pm) [25 lira + 15 lira]
We waited for the Topkapi Palace shuttle but it didn’t come in 5 minutes. As we walked up the slope, the shuttle went past us. We waited at the Archaeological Museum for it to come back up. There was only a seat so mom got in and I walked up to the top. It was torturous.
The Topkapi Palace was bursting with tourists. It was a Sunday so it seemed like many locals were there as well.
The Palace has nice exhibit items. The most memorable was Prophet Muhammad’s multiple beards in multiple small beautiful cases. There was also a really really big diamond that was about the size of a chicken egg.
Besides the exhibit, the palace’s gardens is great for relaxing. Roses were in full bloom while we were there.
The museum pass also covers the harem so we headed there last. I had read that it was the best building in the Palace but I thought it was a little underwhelming since some walls of the palace were decorated more lavishly.
Remember, the Topkapi Palace is closed on Tuesday, as noted by an angry user on Foursquare.
Did fitting 72 hours into 24 hours work?
By the time we finished Topkapi, we were quite tired. If I was travelling alone, I might have forced myself to walk to the Mosaic Museum. Since I was with my mom, we took it easy and went for a tea break instead.
We only used about 75 lira of entrance fees in the end but the pass was still very helpful since we did not have to queue for tickets.
If you are in Istanbul for a similarly short period, the pass is helpful to help you cut down on queue time. Think of it as Time Equals Money and the few minutes count as 1 lira, or something like that.