5 Quirky Museums in Istanbul

Posted by - June 24, 2013 | Category: Escapes, Europe, Turkey

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.)


Miniaturk Istanbul Turkey

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

Nazi Germany Hitler Toys quirky museums in Istanbul

 “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

Florence Nightingale

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

Wax museum Istanbul Ataturk

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

Gazenfer Ağa Medresesi, Cartoon Arts and Humour Museum, Istanbul Turkey

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. 

Which of these quirky museums in Istanbul is your fave?

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17 comments - add one
  1. Perfect timing, thanks! I was searching for “odd Istanbul” and “bizarre Istanbul” (Google kept sending me to the Istanbul Bazaar) today looking for places just like this. Atlas Obscura had nothing.

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  2. That wax museum sounds kind of awesome. I know quite a bit about Madame de Pompadour and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I knew the information would come in handy one day!

  3. What crazy museums! The building of the Comedy Arts museums looks absolutely amazing, but I’ve got to say, the fact that someone thought it was a good idea to recreate the major landmarks of Turkey in miniature is amazing to me. If I had any extra time I would definitely be stopping there!

  4. Both the museum’s director, W. Michael Blumenthal, a former U.S. Treasury secretary whose prominent German-Jewish family fled Berlin in 1939 for Shanghai, and Ken Gorbey, the non-Jewish New Zealander Blumenthal hired to be the museum’s project director, are adamant about one point: Theirs is not a Holocaust museum. Even the exhibition’s section on the Holocaust will concentrate not on its horrors but on Jewish responses. “We don’t want to ignore the concept of perpetration, but to visit a guilt trip upon the German people is not the primary objective of this museum,” Gorbey says. Eva Söderman, a museum spokeswoman, underscores that the museum is determined not to read German-Jewish history through the lens of the Holocaust.

  5. ” Harder to get into than Occupied Tibet, The Florence Nightingale Museum is an exercise in bureaucratic paperwork.” –> Gave me the chuckles, that one. The Caricature and Humor Arts Museum is pretty interesting and even more with the mere mention of Schwarzenegger amongst the Dostoyevski, Ivan the Terrible, and the Madam Pompadour. It’s like Tabloid Fodder Central. Haha. Really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Last year, i came to Istanbul, and i did the tour the florence nightingale museum. really recommend this place, i want to encourage anyone who has the time and the interest to make the effort to visit the history Museum.


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