Turbulent radiation flow is ubiquitous in many physical systems where light–matter interaction becomes relevant. Photon bubble instabilities, in particular, have been identified as a possible source of turbulent radiation transport in astrophysical objects such as massive stars and black hole accretion disks. Here, we report on the experimental observation of a photon bubble instability in cold atomic gases, in the presence of multiple scattering of light. A two-fluid theory is developed to model the coupled atom–photon gas and to describe both the saturation of the instability in the regime of quasi-static bubbles and the low-frequency turbulent phase associated with the growth and collapse of photon bubbles inside the atomic sample. We also employ statistical dimensionality reduction techniques to describe the low-dimensional nature of the turbulent regime. The experimental results reported here, along with the theoretical model we have developed, may shed light on analogue photon bubble instabilities in astrophysical scenarios. Our findings are consistent with recent analyses based on spatially resolved pump–probe measurements.