The objectives of the Istanbul Seismic Risk Mitigation and Emergency Preparedness Project are to improve Istanbul's preparedness for a potential earthquake. Within this framework "Risk Assessment of Cultural Heritage Buildings" was designed to address the vulnerability of cultural assets, specifically buildings with global cultural heritage value. One of the components of the project was the vulnerability and risk assessment of 170 historical buildings. After a discussion of the choice of the most appropriate earthquake scenario, the methodology used for assessing the effects of local site conditions on the seismic performance of selected cultural heritage buildings is presented. The purpose is to estimate the earthquake characteristics on the ground surface based on the earthquake characteristics on the engineering bedrock outcrop obtained from the probabilistic and deterministic hazard studies. The site specific elastic design spectra for each site are then further manipulated to obtain site specific non linear displacement spectra, so that these can be directly compared with capacity curves for the buildings obtained by using plasticity based limit state analysis. The procedure for obtaining the capacity curves is described and the choice of the most appropriate level of ductility and the equivalent reduction coefficient are discussed. A procedure to evaluate performance points and to define safety factors based on lateral acceleration, drift or expected damage level, is presented. The process of arriving at a risk evaluation and hence recommendation for strengthening or otherwise, is finally highlighted with respect to two comparable case studies.