Museum of Innocence

Top choice in Beyoğlu

The painstaking attention to detail in this fascinating museum/piece of conceptual art will certainly provide every amateur psychologist with a theory or two about its creator, Nobel Prize–winning novelist Orhan Pamuk. Vitrines display a quirky collection of objects that evoke the minutiae of İstanbullu life in the mid- to late 20th century, when Pamuk's novel The Museum of Innocence is set.

Occupying a modest 19th-century timber house, the museum relies on its vitrines, which are reminiscent of the work of American artist Joseph Cornell, to retell the story of the love affair of Kemal and Füsun, the novel's protagonists. These displays are both beautiful and moving. Some, such as the installation using 4213 cigarette butts, are as strange as they are powerful.

Pamuk's 'Modest Manifesto for Museums' is reproduced on a panel on the ground floor. In it he asserts: 'The resources that are channelled into monumental, symbolic museums should be diverted to smaller museums that tell the stories of individuals'. The individuals in this case are fictional, of course, and their story is evoked in a highly nostalgic fashion, but in creating this museum Pamuk has put his money where his mouth is and come out triumphant.

Hiring an audio guide (₺5) provides an invaluable commentary and is highly recommended.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Beyoğlu attractions

1. Firuz Ağa Mosque

0.16 MILES

Local life in Cihangir gravitates around this 19th-century green-and-white mosque, with plenty of cafes, teahouses and eateries in the immediate area. It…

2. Galatasaray Lycée

0.17 MILES

Off limits to visitors, this grand school building dates from 1907 and is one of the major landmarks along İstiklal Caddesi. The school is one of the most…

4. SALT Beyoğlu

0.21 MILES

With a brief to explore critical and timely issues in visual and material culture, the İstiklal branch of the SALT cultural centre is one of the city's…

5. Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University

0.21 MILES

One of the city's best art and design schools occupies a number of buildings in Tophane, including the elevated 1803 tophane (arsenal) that gives the…

6. Christ Church

0.23 MILES

The cornerstone of this Gothic-style Anglican church was laid in 1858 by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, known as 'The Great Elchi' (elçi meaning ambassador)…

7. Ağa Hamamı

0.23 MILES

The oldest hamam in the city, this Çukurcuma landmark was built in 1454 and renovated by order of Sultan Abdülmecid I in 1844. We don't recommend that…

8. Yapı Kredi Kültür Sanat

0.23 MILES

Towering over Galatasaray Sq, this sleek cultural centre affiliated with a major Turkish bank stages art exhibitions, hosts classical-music concerts, and…