Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace is one of the most preferred tours when planning a visit to Istanbul. It was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985 and is one of the most important works in the Historic Peninsula of Istanbul. Topkapi Palace was one of the humble palaces of the Ottoman Empire with its rich collections which makes Topkapi Palace important. If you are wondering about how big Topkapi Palace is, it was built on an area of 80 thousand square meters and the most important parts of the building include two main structures; Bîrun and Enderun. Topkapi Palace has three gates named Bâb-ı Hümâyun, Bâbüsselâm, and Bâbüssaâde. The Harem, part of Enderun, and the Hasbahce garden (Gulhane Park) are also on this side. Topkapi Palace was built by famous architects of the period: Mimar Sinan, Davut Aga, Sarkis Balyan and Acem Ali.

Four centuries of Ottoman Empire history took place here. You must be wondering when Topkapi Palace was built. The palace was built between 1460-1478 by Sultan Mehmet the Second.  If you are wondering who lived in Topkapi Palace, we can say Ottoman sultans and the people of the Palace lived in Topkapi Palace until the middle of the 19th century, If you ask what Topkapi Palace was used for, the answer is for state protocols and ceremonies. However, in the early 1850s it was decided that the palace did not meet the needs of the 19th century and was moved to Dolmabahce Palace. If you want to know what to see in Topkapi Palace, the sultanate treasury, Holy Relics, and imperial archives are preserved in here. The palace was converted into a museum on 3 April 1924 by the order of M. Kemal Atatürk.

Topkapi Palace is located in Sultanahmet. It's a short walk from Topkapi Palace to Grand Bazaar. The Bab-I Humayun gate is the closest gate to the Grand Bazaar. This area is a tourist zone with historical monuments and museums. The best time to visit is spring and summer as you can visit the gardens and courtyards. It is an amazing part of Istanbul old town. 

Before the conquest of Istanbul by Sultan Mehmet The Conqueror, the Ottoman sultans have resided in the Bey Palace, which was built by Orhan Gazi in Bursa in 1326. Then, they started residing in the Old Palace (Saray-ı Atîk) which was built by Sultan Murad Hüdavendigar in Edirne. After the Old Palace, Ottoman sultans resided in the palace known as Saray-ı Cedid-i Amîre. The construction of the New Palace was completed during the reign of Sultan Mehmet. After the conquest of Istanbul, the first residence of the sultan was the Old Palace, where the current Istanbul University Central Building is located. After a short time, the construction of the Topkapi Palace was started by Sultan Mehmet The Conqueror. 

The construction of Saray-ı Cedîd-i Ma’mure started in 1465 and ended in 1478. There used to be a wooden palace where this palace was located. The reason why this building was called "Topkapi" is that one of the doors of the old wooden palace was called “Top Kapısı" meaning Canonball Door in Turkish. The “Topkapi Palace Tower of Justice” in the Second Courtyard is the highest structure seen by the whole city. Well, you might ask why Topkapi Palace is important, it is because this structure shows the grandeur of the Empire. 

About Topkapi Palace Museum

Topkapi Palace, which was converted into a museum in 1924, is the first museum of the Republic period. The architectural structures, collections and nearly 300 thousand archival documents of the palace make the Topkapi Palace Museum and courtyards one of the largest palace-museums in the world.

Harem Division

If you ask about the Harem in the Topkapi Palace, let’s have a closer look. Harem means "Protected". It is the secluded part of the palace where sultans and their families lived. Built in the second courtyard and in the back gardens, this part is separated from the rest of the palace and carefully hidden. This division is accessed by an entrance named "Topkapi Palace Gate of Felicity (Babüsselam)". It contains more than three hundred rooms, nine baths, two mosques, a hospital, many wards, and laundry facilities. The sections that are open to visit are Karaağalar Taşlığı, Bondwoman Corridor, Sultan's Feast Table, Has Oda of Sultan Murad The Third, Crown Prince Room, Masjid of Harem, Gözdeler Taşlığı. Even just for seeing these beautiful Courtyards, Topkapi Palace worth visiting.

Holy Relics Division

The conquest of Egypt by Yavuz Sultan Selim shows an important historical stage such as the passing of the Caliphate to the Ottoman sultans. After this event, the holy relics of the Prophet, known as the caliphate manifestation, including the Cardigan (Hırka-i Saadet), were transferred by Mutawakkil The Third, The Abbasid Caliph to Yavuz Sultan Selim. In the Division of Holy Relics, there are all these relics and many valuable objects that are brought and stored in later periods.

Collections in the Museum

The museum has 10 main collections of tens of thousands of pieces, including the Holy Relics. Also, there are European, Chinese, Japanese and Istanbul Porcelains and Glasses, Copper and Tombak Kitchenware, Silver Collections, Imperial Treasure which includes Spoonmaker's Diamond, Dresses of the Sultans and Dynasties, Collections of Portraits, and the Weapons Collection which includes 52 thousand pieces. Especially Topkapi Palace paintings are worth seeing.

Topkapi Palace And Harem tickets are sold separately. Museum entrance fee is 60 TL. The entrance fee to Harem and Zuluflu Baltacılar Ward is 35 TL. The Museum Card does not apply to the Harem Division.

Topkapi Palace Visiting Hours

Now let’s talk about Topkapi Palace visiting hours. It is up to you to choose the best time to visit the Topkapi Palace depending on your plans. The museum is open everyday of the week except for Tuesday. Topkapi Palace is open from 9:00 to 16:45. During the winter season (October 30- April 15) the museum is open between 09:00 and 16:00 while it is open between 09:00 and 18:00 during the summer season (April 15-October 30). Topkapi Palace is closed at 18:45 in the summer season.

Topkapi Palace Visiting Tips

It is forbidden to take photos inside the palace and to enter with a baby stroller. At the entrance to the Holy Relics Division, you must be dressed appropriately for a holy place. There is a nursing room at the Harem exit in the third courtyard - Enderun Courtyard of the museum. You can hire an audio guide within the museum.

Knowing how far Topkapi Palace is from the Istanbul Airport is very important when planning your trip.Topkapi Palace is 48 km away from Istanbul Airport. In normal traffic conditions, this distance takes up to 1 hour by car. You can make an enjoyable Istanbul old city tour with our experience and good service.

The Topkapi Palace Museum is worth visiting if you are wondering about the history of the Ottoman Empire. 

Frequently Asked Question

What is Topkapi Palace, and where is it located?
Topkapi Palace, also known as the Cannon Gate Palace, served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Sultans during the 15th century. It is situated in the historic peninsula of Istanbul, between the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus.
What is the historical significance of Topkapi Palace?
Topkapi Palace was the heart of the mighty Ottoman Empire for over 400 years. It witnessed the rule of influential sultans and served as a center for governance, art, education, and culture, leaving behind a profound legacy of Turkish history.
What are the must-see sections of Topkapi Palace?
The palace boasts several must-see sections, including the Harem, the Imperial Treasury, the Justice Tower, the Relics Chamber, and the Courtyard of the Eunuchs, each offering unique insights into the opulent life of the Ottoman Sultans.
Can I skip the long ticket lines at Topkapi Palace?
Absolutely! You can opt for a skip-the-line guided tour that grants you direct access with a tour group, saving you precious time to explore the palace's wonders without waiting in ticket queues.
How long does it take to visit Topkapi Palace?
While it ultimately depends on your pace and interest, we recommend dedicating at least 2-3 hours to explore the various sections and fully appreciate the historical richness of the palace.
Are guided tours available at Topkapi Palace?
Yes, guided tours with professional English-speaking guides are available. These knowledgeable guides will lead you through the palace, providing captivating narratives about its history and culture.
Can I take photographs inside Topkapi Palace?
While photography is allowed in most areas, please note that photography is not permitted in certain sections, especially where precious artifacts are on display. Respect the rules to preserve the historical treasures.
Is Topkapi Palace accessible for people with disabilities?
Topkapi Palace is partially accessible for people with disabilities, though some areas may present challenges due to cobblestone-covered paths and uneven terrain. Wheelchairs are not available, so plan accordingly.
What are the best times to visit Topkapi Palace to avoid crowds?
To enjoy a more peaceful experience, consider visiting early in the morning or during late afternoon hours when the crowds are generally smaller.
Is the Imperial Harem included in the guided tour?
Please note that the guided tour does not include the Imperial Harem. However, there's still an abundance of intriguing sections to explore and learn about the Ottoman Empire's fascinating history.