Saturday, 2 May 2009

The Rahmi M. Koç Museum, Istanbul

One of the less well-known attractions of Istanbul, the Koç Museum is definitely worth a visit. If you are only in the city for a short time, then there will obviously be more important sites to see, but, if you are there for a longer period, if you have children with you, or if this is a return visit to Istanbul, then you should add the Koç Museum to your ‘to do’ list.

Located on the shores of the Golden Horn, the best way to get to the museum is to take the ferry from Eminönü, and get off at Hasköy. The ferry leaves from the north side of the Galata Bridge (just beyond the bus station) every hour (50 minutes past the hour at the time of writing).

The museum is open every day except Mondays from 10am to 5pm (7pm on Saturdays and Sundays), and costs just 9TL to get in (4.5TL for children). There is plenty to see, and you should allow at least 4 hours for your visit (longer if you choose to have lunch in one of the fabulous restaurants on site).

The museum was founded by the head of the Koç industrial group, one of Turkey’s most prominent conglomerates, in 1994, and is an eclectic collection of industrial artefacts from all over the world, as well as from Turkey. Rahmi Koç himself lived and studied in both England and America, and you get a real sense of this not being your typical Turkish museum. The Koç family have bought many items at auction in Western Europe and America, and had them restored to their former glory in their own workshops. They have also had a myriad of other items donated by individuals or companies. The result is a massive collection of stuff which is displayed in an interesting and informative way, with explanations in both Turkish and English.

The museum is housed in two separate buildings – a new one on the water side of the road, and a superbly restored and converted Byzantine forge on the opposite side. The entrance is in the new building, but your ticket gives you access to both. Unusually for Istanbul, the museum is fully accessible to disabled people, with ramps and lifts to all floors.

Many of the exhibits are to do with transport. There is a wonderful collection of cars, including everything from ugly Turkish Anadol models to a glorious pink Cadillac and a majestic 1965 silver Rolls Royce. There are trams and railway locomotives and carriages, including Sultan Abdül Aziz’s ornate railway coach, which was fitted out in England using duck-egg blue silk. Outside of the building, there are aircraft, such as a DC3, which you can climb on board, tractors, machinery, a ferry, a U.S. tugboat, and, even, a London Routemaster bus. There is also a submarine moored in the Golden Horn, for which there is an extra, small, entrance fee. Back inside, there are large collections of boats, horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, motorbikes, and steam powered vehicles, many of which originated in the UK. There is also a series of old-fashioned shops, fully fitted-out, including a toy shop, a cobbler, a ship’s chandler, a chemist, and an optical instrument maker.

Other attractions include a Microsoft-sponsored display of computers (you will be shocked to be reminded of how far we have moved on in such a short time!) and a really interesting, interactive display called ‘How Things Work’. There are dozens of buttons to push which children of all ages will love.

In the old building, there are huge collections of model trains, cars, ships, and steam engines, as well as exhibits about astronomy, photography, and navigation.

Currently, there is also a fabulous exhibition of miniature rooms created by Henry Kupjack. This temporary display will continue until 15th September, 2009.

With or without children in tow, this is a great day out!

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