Istanbul’s industrial heritage: museums worth visiting at the Golden Horn
Visit SantralIstanbul, Rezan Has Museum, and Rahmİ M. Koç Museum to understand the industrial and cultural importance of the Golden Horn in the past.

By Santiago Brusadin

The Golden Horn was of great importance during the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. This natural harbor was a strategic point to defend the city against naval attacks and a historically prosperous area with the entry of ships docking from the Silk Road. The twentieth century saw major pollution of the area. However, from the 1990s the waters of Golden Horn were cleaned up and the old and derelict industrial locations were re-purposed to become one of Istanbul’s most important cultural hubs. 


SantralIstanbul is located in the former Silahtarağa power plant, one of the first of its kind in the Ottoman Empire, which provided energy to the city for most of the twentieth century. The site was refurbished and renamed in 2007, and now features a Museum of Energy, a Bilgi University campus, a public library, cafés, restaurants, and open-air recreation areas. The architect Han Tumertekin designed the Museum of Energy. The exhibitions offer tactile experiences, while the building features remarkably well-preserved and evocative generators, turbines, controls, and engine rooms. 

Rezan Has Museum

The Cibali neighborhood used to house shipyards, slaughterhouses, and factories. The museum is housed in a former tobacco and cigarettes factory dating to 1884. The museum opened its doors in 2007 and has two main sections. The upper floor is a multifunctional area used for thematic exhibitions and the ground floor houses an archaeological collection. Currently, a unique selection of objects used in antiquity is on display. The small museum offers a great opportunity to walk among an old Ottoman building and the remains of a Byzantine cistern, on which the Ottoman structure was built—which can be seen through a glass floor.

The Rahmİ M. Koç Museum

The Rahmİ M. Koç Museum is a private industrial museum dedicated to the history of transport, industry, and communications. This old marine anchor foundry from the Ottoman period was built in the eighteenth century. The Koç Foundation bought the derelict building in 1991 and opened the museum in 1994. The museum now has more than 11,000 square meters of galleries. The displays include horse carts, 1976 Daimler limousines, fire engines, tractors, historic bicycles, and more. In the maritime section, the jewel in the crown is the possibility of visiting a submarine that served in the US navy in World War II against the Japanese. 

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