Istanbul art guide: how to see Biennial and everything else in one weekend
Returning to the city after a fun-filled summer is only as exciting as next weekend’s plans. Luckily, the first half of fall is filled with art events and new venue openings, leaving you with plenty of options from which to choose. To make the logistics easier, The Guide Istanbul put together a sample itinerary for the ultimate art weekend in Istanbul.

Entitled The Seventh Continent and curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, the 16th Istanbul Biennial by Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) opens from September 14 – November 20 at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University Istanbul Museum of Painting & Sculpture, Pera Museum, and Büyükada island.

The 16th Istanbul Biennial, MSGSU Painting & Sculpture Museum

Although entrance to the 16th Istanbul Biennial exhibits and parallel events is free, the organizers require all visitors to register online in order to get a personalized QR code to access the venues. In order to avoid stressing about it on the spot, fill out the form online one day before. Get your QR code here and find out all detail information on

The 16th Istanbul Biennial, MSGSU Painting & Sculpture Museum

Friday in Beyoğlu

You will want to get into the weekend mode as soon as you step outside the office. On Fridays, one of the Biennial venues—Pera Museum—remains open until 10pm, while nearby Meşher (born into the former Arter venue on Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoğlu), as well as SALT Beyoğlu, are open until 8pm. Thanks to this schedule and the close proximity to Şişhane metro station, you can easily incorporate dinner plans or happy hour into your itinerary. Also keep in mind that a visit to the Pera Museum will not be as time consuming, as the biennial exhibit only occupies three of the museum’s five floors. Visit to all venues on our list include estimated walking time and should take just under two hours.

The Beyoğlu location makes filling the rest of the evening easy, with a few trusted restaurants and bars just a short walk from the venues. Look no further than Loco de Pera for dinner and drinks next door to Pera Museum, and plan a visit to Galerist, upstairs in the same building. Thai Pera (excellent Asian cuisine at one of the most established restaurants in the city) or Firuze (mezze to share and a pre-dinner cocktail against a sunset view at the rooftop Monkey Bar above the restaurant) are also two sensational alternatives. Regardless of the choice, it would be wise to book a table in advance.   

Monkey Istanbul

Saturday from Büyükada to Karaköy

To continue exploring at the best possible pace, waking up early on a Saturday morning is crucial. Being a popular weekend destination even outside of art season, Büyükada is best visited before noon to avoid crowds both on the ferries and in other locations around the island. Check the schedule ahead of time, keeping in mind that local venues open to visitors at 10am. Plan to incorporate breakfast in your plans as well—with the Splendid Palace Hotel, located next door to the Biennial’s first stop at Anadolu Kulübü, offering the ideal setting for a morning break.

Although reaching the first stop on the itinerary requires a short climb up the hill, all other locations (five in total) are located within walking distance from each other. Renting a bike would not be necessary, unless of course it’s your preferred mode of transport. The entire tour at a relaxed pace takes approximately two hours, ending right in time for the midday ferry to Kabataş, transferring you to the next Biennial location near the port.

Walking around Büyükada

Mimar Sinan University had been working on the renovation of its museum space for several years. As the project was completed mid-2019, the new space is being introduced to art lovers during the 16th Istanbul Biennial. MSGSU Painting & Sculpture Museum has four floors, which require a minimum of three hours time, but are definitely worth a detailed visit.

Should you get hungry along the way, head to Karaköy for a quick break. Places such as Karaköy Lokantası, Paps Italian, and Leblon Burger are open for a late lunch or early dinner, plus some important local galleries, such as Artsumer, X-ist, Mixer, Sanatorium, and Pi Artworks will be on your way. For those who were looking forward to fish season, Karaköy fish market awaits nearby with the freshest daily catch of the season.

After a break, if you have energy left, head to nearby galleries in Galata: Anna Laudel (open until 7pm) and SALT Galata (until 8pm), or simply add them to next weekend’s plans.

Karaköy Lokantası

Sunday in Dolapdere

Arter’s new building in Dolapdere has been one of the most awaited openings in the city. With multiple exhibitions displayed on four floors of the complex, as well as a cafe, bookstore, art library, and workshop spaces, it features a diverse offering. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit free of charge during the first few inaugural months.

Many say that the Dolapdere neighborhood is on its way to becoming Istanbul’s new art hub, with several galleries having already moved into the area. Take a look at Dirimart and Evliyagil Dolapdere, and on your way out drop by Pilevineli Gallery in Mecidiyeköy for an impressive visual experience, and often—a long line. 

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