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Topkapı Sarayı (Palace) Museum

Last Updated on January 12, 2024

Topkapı Sarayı (Palace) Museum

Home of the Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years, Topkapı Sarayı ("Palace of the Cannon Gate"—map) was the seraglio, the heart of the vast Ottoman Empire, ruled by the monarch who lived in Topkapı's hundreds of rooms with hundreds of concubines, children, and servants.

Completed in 1478 in present-day Istanbul, Topkapı Palace has opened its doors to countless visitors since being transformed into a museum in 1924. It was constructed after Istanbul was conquered by Sultan Mehmed II, also known as Fatih the Conqueror, in 1453. Since then it has been glimmering on the most significant spot of Istanbul, looking over the entire Bosphorus.

Located in the heart of the Sultanahmet district, the large palace complex features a harem, imperial treasury, courtyards, and several gardens and pavilions.

When to Visit Topkapi Palace

It's recommended to arrive just as the palace is opening so you can avoid crowds.

Topkapı Palace Museum is open every day of the week except on Tuesdays. The Palace opens its doors to visitors at 9 am and closes at 6 pm. Note that the ticket office closes 30 minutes prior.

It is also closed in the morning on the first day of the two biggest Islamic holidays, Ramazan Bayramı (Ramadan Feast) and Kurban Bayramı (Feast of Sacrifice).

Entrance Fee for Topkapi Palace

Ticket machines are located in Sultanahmet Square and near the Topkapı ticket offices.

Consider buying an Istanbul Museum Pass for your visit to Topkapı (even though the pass is not valid for the Harem and the Hagia Irene church). If you plan to visit Hagia Sophia and several other included museums (such as the Mosaic Museum or Chora Church), it'll save you time and money.

You can easily purchase your museum card at any entrance of a museum. There are different types of museum cards, each of which offers you different things. You can read what they include, and purchase the one that suits you the best, according to how long you will stay in Istanbul.

For the most updated pricing information, please refer to the official website. If you would like to book Topkapi Palace tickets and hire a guide, please fill out the form below to be connected with one of our top tour guides.

Topkapi Palace Harem

Immerse yourself in the captivating allure of the Topkapı Palace, home to the Harem, a sanctuary of exclusivity and intrigue. The Harem, an Arabic tradition, is the most enchanting and opulent section of the palace, housing the sultan's concubines in its 400 rooms. This sanctuary was a place of education and refinement, where young women were taught courtly etiquette and manners. Only a select few had the privilege of close contact with the Padishah, the Sultan himself.

One such individual was Hürrem Sultan, a concubine who captured the heart of Padishah Kanuni Sultan Süleyman, one of the most renowned Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. Her influence was so profound that she altered the course of history, securing her place as one of the most powerful Sultans in history.

Tickets to the Harem

Visiting the Harem requires a separate ticket, so plan accordingly. The grandeur of Topkapı Palace is vast, and some visitors may spend an entire day exploring its wonders. If time is of the essence, we recommend purchasing a ticket solely for the Harem. This allows you to bypass the lengthy queue and still experience the palace's most exquisite and glamorous section.

The Harem is open for self-guided exploration, but visitor numbers are limited at any given time. To avoid waiting, make the Harem your first stop. After your visit, feel free to meander through the palace's expansive grounds and four courtyards at your own pace. The Hagia Irene church (Aya İrini) is nestled within the First Courtyard.

Don't forget to visit the Treasury in the 3rd courtyard, a dazzling display of gems, gold, and artistic masterpieces. Topkapı Palace collection is a treasure trove of history and culture, waiting to be discovered.

Location of Topkapi Palace

Located in the historical Peninsula, Topkapı Palace is built on the most precious area of Istanbul. Having a view of the entire Bosphorus along with a sight of both the European and Asian Continents, is what makes Topkapı Palace so glamorous on its own.

There is plenty to see and visit in Sultanahmet district where Topkapı is located. When you're done at Topkapı, head for Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), right next door, and to the Byzantine  Hippodrome, steps away.

The famous Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern are also located within the same square. Just down the hill to the west of the palace grounds is the Istanbul Archeological Museum, and beyond it is the shady Gülhane Park, a fine place for a stroll or a soothing glass of tea.

Address: Cankurtaran Mh., 34122 Fatih / Istanbul

Phone: +902125120480

E-mail: info@millisaraylar.gov.tr

How to Get to Topkapi Palace

Nestled in the historic Sultanahmet district on the Peninsula, Topkapı Palace is a must-visit destination. The most convenient way to reach the royal palace is via the Bağcılar-Kabataş Tram line (T1). You have the option to alight at either the Sultanahmet station or the Gülhane Station.

  • The preferred route for many is to disembark at Sultanahmet Station. From here, the entrance to Topkapı Palace is conveniently located just behind Hagia Sophia. To reach the palace, simply navigate around the corner of Hagia Sophia, and you'll find the majestic Imperial Gate greeting you.
  • Alternatively, if you choose to alight at Gülhane Station, you can reach the palace by strolling through the stunning Gülhane Park, which was once part of the Palace Garden. While this route involves a bit more uphill walking, it offers a scenic journey that is my personal favorite.

History of Topkapi Palace

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the rich history of the Topkapı Palace, a testament to Istanbul's vibrant past. The palace's story begins nearly four centuries back with the Conquest of Istanbul. Following the city's capture in 1453 by Fatih Sultan Mehmet, construction of the palace commenced in 1460. After 18 years of meticulous work, the palace emerged as the royal residence for numerous Padishahs and Ottoman Sultans of the Ottoman Empire.

Keep in mind, when encountering the history of the Topkapi Palace, you'll encounter the name Fatih Sultan Mehmet. This is the title bestowed upon Mehmed II, the Ottoman Sultan renowned for his conquest of Constantinople in 1453. In Turkish, "Fatih" translates to "the Conqueror," reflecting Mehmed II's significant achievement.

For four centuries, the palace served as more than just a royal residence. It was a hub of education, administration, treasure control, and art, housing not only the Padishah and his imperial family but also serving as the heart of the empire. From the reign of the first Padishah, Fatih Sultan Mehmet, to the thirty-first Sultan, Sultan Abdülmecit, the palace was the epicenter of Ottoman power.

Topkapi Palace Architecture

The palace's grand design is the result of the collaborative efforts of several architects, with Fatih Sultan Mehmet taking a leading role in shaping its complex structure. Enclosed by a seven-door wall, the palace boasts a mansion, mosque, imperial council chamber, palace kitchen, dormitory, harem, and expansive garden. Spanning an area of 400,000 square meters, the palace was home to 4,000 people at its peak, including servants, workers, and guards.

In 1985, the Topkapı Palace earned its place on UNESCO's World Heritage List, a testament to its historical and architectural significance. The palace's interior design, adorned with intricate details and flamboyant wall decorations, is a blend of Baroque and Ottoman architecture. The Harem, with its captivating interior design, is one of the palace's most mesmerizing sections.

After exploring the Harem, take a leisurely stroll through the old palace's spacious grounds and four courtyards. The Hagia Irene Church (Aya İrini) is nestled within the First Courtyard, while the Imperial Treasury, home to an array of gems, gold, and works of art, is located in the 3rd courtyard. Among its treasures is the world's largest gem of 86 carats, the 'Kaşıkçı Elması'. The origin of this gem remains shrouded in mystery, with rumors ranging from it being purchased from Napoleon's mother to being discovered in a trash bin by a paper collector. Regardless of its origins, it is a sight not to be missed.

Conclusion

Topkapı Sarayı offers a unique journey into the heart of Ottoman history. From its inception following the conquest of Istanbul, to its transformation into a museum, the palace stands as a testament to the grandeur of a bygone era. Visitors are invited to explore the palace's many facets, from the opulent Harem to the expansive courtyards and the impressive Treasury. The palace's location in the historic Sultanahmet district, with its stunning views of the Bosphorus and easy access to other landmarks, further enhances its appeal. A visit to Topkapı Sarayı is not just a tour, but an immersive experience into the rich tapestry of Istanbul's past.

—by Tom Brosnahan, updated by Julide Koca

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