Overlooking the Hippodrome, the museum occupies the restored 16th-century palace of Ibrahim Paşa. A Greek convert to Islam, Ibrahim was the confidant of Süleyman I and in 1523 he was appointed Grand Vizier. When his palace was completed the following year, it was the grandest private residence in the Ottoman Empire, rivalling any building of the Topkapı Palace. When Süleyman fell under the influence of the scheming Roxelana, he was persuaded that Ibrahim had to go, and the vizier was strangled in his sleep.
The palace was seized by the state and has variously been used as a school, a dormitory, a court, a barracks and a prison, before being restored as a museum. The well-planned collections, all housed in cool rooms around a central courtyard, include carpets, manuscripts, miniatures, woodwork, metalwork and glasswork. Items range from the earliest period of Islam through to modern times, all presented chronologically and geographically, with full explanations provided.
On the ground floor, a gallery showcases modern Turkish and foreign artists. There's an interesting ethnographic section, including a recreation of a kara çadır or 'black tent', the residence of choice for many of the nomadic Anatolian tribes who developed the art of the kilim. Upstairs, the Great Hall contains what is reckoned to be one of the finest collections of carpets in the world.
There's also an excellent café in a shaded courtyard, with a covered terrace overlooking the Hippodrome next to it.