Unique, Unusual & Offbeat Museums in Istanbul
Hugging both Asia and Europe, split in two by the Bosphorus, the city of Istanbul is in itself a quirk of nature. But the quirkiness doesn’t stop there. This former “Umpire of the Ottoman Empire” offers a handful of surprisingly offbeat museums for those whose tastes run from the wacky to the quacky (with maybe just a dash of tacky.)
If you’re keen on seeing all the major sites on your trip to Istanbul, but are short on time (or just couldn’t be bothered) then a trip to Miniaturk is definitely in order. Everything from the Blue Mosque to Hagia Sofia to the Easter Island-like statues of Nemrut Dagi have been painstakingly recreated in miniature at this outdoor museum. Added bonus: you’ll save a wad on admission fees if you skip the real ones and come here instead.
Istanbul Toy Museum
“Papa, can I get the Nazi SS Action Figure Set complete with Sieg Heil‘ing Hitler for Christmas this year? Bitte? Pretty bitte?” Hard to believe some child ever uttered those words, but if they did, they wouldn’t have been disappointed. These Nazi Germany toy soldiers share the shelves with antique dolls, Disney memorabilia, and over 4000 other specimens on display at The Istanbul Toy Museum.
Florence Nightingale Museum
Harder to get into than Occupied Tibet, The Florence Nightingale Museum is an exercise in bureaucratic paperwork. You’ve got to fax a copy of your passport at least 48 hours in advance, select the time you would like to visit, and then someone will call you back if it’s a go. Those that make the cut can check out a room in the Selimye Barracks filled with some of her personal belongings, her bed, and other tributes to the “Lady with the Lamp” — widely regarded as the pioneer of modern-day nursing. (Phone: 215 556 8161, Fax: 216 310 7929, don’t forget to leave a number where they can call you.)
Jale Kushan Wax Museum
What do Ataturk, Attila the Hun, Baron Munchausen, and Stalin have in common? They’re all had wax jobs. More Madame de Pompadour than Madame Tussaud, the privately owned Jale Kushan Wax Museum concentrates more on literati than glitterati — figures from literature and history trump trashy celebrities. Okay so there may be one Michael Jackson figure (and an even odder Arnold Schwarzenegger one), but the bulk of space here is reserved for the likes of more eclectic figures such as Dostoyevski, Ivan the Terrible, Casanova, and yes…even Madame de Pompadour. Whoever that is.
Caricature and Humour Arts Museum
Home to Turkey’s only “Humor Library,” the Caricature and Humor Arts Museum houses a collection of cartoons, caricatures, and various other Hee-hees and Ha-has. The building it’s housed in is itself worth the trip — it’s a stunning 16th century medrese, or Islamic school. Now that’s funny.