Lonely Planet review
This Ottoman palace on the western edge of the Hippodrome was built in 1524 for İbrahim Paşa, childhood friend, brother-in-law and grand vizier of Süleyman the Magnificent. It's now home to a magnificent collection of artefacts, including exquisite examples of calligraphy and a collection of antique carpets that is generally held to be the best in the world.
Born in Greece, İbrahim Paşa was captured in that country as a child and sold as a slave into the imperial household in İstanbul. He worked as a page in Topkapı, where he became friendly with Süleyman, who was the same age. When his friend became sultan, İbrahim was made in turn chief falconer, chief of the royal bedchamber and grand vizier. This palace was bestowed on him by Süleyman the year before he was given the hand of Süleyman’s sister, Hadice, in marriage. Alas, the fairy tale was not to last for poor İbrahim. His wealth, power and influence on the monarch became so great that others wishing to influence the sultan became envious, chief among them Süleyman’s powerful wife, Haseki Hürrem Sultan (Roxelana). After a rival accused İbrahim of disloyalty, Roxelana convinced her husband that İbrahim was a threat and Süleyman had him strangled in 1536.
The museum’s exhibits date from the 8th and 9th centuries up to the 19th century. Highlights include the superb calligraphy exhibits, with müknames (scrolls outlining an imperial decree) featuring the sultan’s tuğra (monogram). Look out for the exquisite Iranian book binding from the Safavid period (1501–1786). And whatever you do, don’t miss the extraordinary collection of carpets displayed in the divanhane (ceremonial hall) – it includes Holbein, Lotto, Konya, Uşhak, Iran and Caucasia examples. The lower floor of the museum houses ethnographic exhibits. Labels are in Turkish and English throughout.
While here, be sure to enjoy an expertly prepared Turkish coffee at Müzenin Kahvesi in the courtyard.