The main reason for a visitor to come to Harbiye, the continuation of Elmadağ along Cumhuriyet Caddesi north of Taksim Square, is to see the Askeri Müzesi (Military Museum). Otherwise the only things to admire are some of the fine 19th and early 20th-century apartment blocks that stand on either side of the road.

Askeri Müzesi (Military Museum)

The museum (closed Mondays and Tuesdays, admission TL6) started life as the Mekteb-i Harbiye (Military Academy) in 1841 but had to be rebuilt in 1853 after one of Constantinople’s many lethal fires. It wasn’t until 1993 that it completely shed an active military role in favour of presenting the country’s military history to the public.

Military hardware is not really my thing although of course there are many who will be enthralled by the collections of armour and weaponry. But even if you’re like me you will probably still appreciate the superb tents in which the sultans would live while on campaign. It’s almost an insult to call them tents given their splendour, and it’s tragic to think that they were often erected as a prelude to the shedding of blood in battle.

Like the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Military Museum turns out to own a fine art collection that often goes overlooked. Particularly worth looking at are the paintings of the prolific Üsküdar-born war artist Hasan Riza (1857-1912) who died trying to protect some of them during the First Balkan War.

Finally, many people head to the museum specifically to listen to the Ottoman Mehter Band go through its noisy paces every afternoon. Today it’s much easier than it used to be to see the Mehter Band at city festivals but this is the one place where you can be guaranteed to see it, playing outdoors in summer and indoors in winter.

A Mehter Band used to precede the Ottoman army on its campaigns and was renowned for the terrifying volume of its kettledrums, but band members usually belonged to the Janissary corps so when that was abolished by Sultan Mahmud II in 1826 the bands too effectively vanished. Now they’re very much back in fashion and worth seeing not just for their colourful traditional costumes but also for their unusual instruments, some of them rarely played in any other context.


Gallery Residence. Tel: 0212-291 7710

Transport info

Buses from Taksim Square run along Cumhuriyet Caddesi to Harbiye or you can catch the Metro and get out at Osmanbey station, a short, flat walk from the museum.

Nearby areas




Taksim Square




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