Chora Museum (Kariye Müzesi in Turkish); is a great example of Byzantine Architecture. Bigger than its neighbor Pammakaristos, much smaller than Hagia Sophia, but it undoubtedly contains Istanbul’s finest mosaics and frescoes. Chora Museum stood in Edirnekapi, its name, Chora, referring to Church’s location, means “outside of the walls” in Greek. It was constructed outside of city walls in the early 5th century. With expansion of city walls in 413 AD, contrary to its name, Chora became an in wall church. After the conquest of Istanbul, it was also converted into a mosque, named Kariye Camii. Mosaics and frescoes were covered with plaster because of Islamic beliefs related to iconic image ban, for four centuries, Kariye remained as a mosque. In 1945, Chora opened to public as a museum, and between 1948 and 1958, a restoration program was carried out, sponsored by Byzantine Institute of America.
The building you see was constructed in the 11th century, most of mosaics and frescoes are dated from 14th century. Chora was divided into three areas, the entrance hall, church’s main body, and side chapel. In total, there are six beautifully decorated domes crowning the museum.
Only 5 days valid Museum Pass allows you to enter without buying a ticket.
Just next to Chora Museum, Asitane Restaurant serves one of the best Ottoman cuisines in town. Pricey but worth every lira you pay. Dishes are prepared with original ingredients from the palace kitchen’s recipes.