A trip to Istanbul isn’t complete without a visit to Topkapı Palace. For those who don`t know much about it, we share all the ins and outs of what was once the home to Sultans of the Ottoman Empire.
Originally called the “New Palace,” Topkapi Palace is a fascinating attraction located within walking distance of other city favourites, like the Museum of Turkish Archaeological Finds. It has been a museum since 1924, and many original features and objects remain today.
When was the Ottoman Era?
The Ottoman Empire had power throughout South-western Europe, Asia and North Africa from the 14th to the early 20th centuries.
However, it wasn`t until 1453, while being led by a very young but experienced commander, Mehmed II (aged 21), that the Ottoman army defeated the Byzantine Empire. This cemented their presence in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) and changed history forever.
In 1460, Sultan Mehmed started the construction of Topkapi Palace, and after 18 hard-working years, it was finally completed. For centuries, the Palace was home to the Sultan, his family, harem and workers until Sultan Abdülmecid, the 31st Sultan, moved to Dolmabahçe Palace.
Get your Ticket to Topkapı Palace
To delve deep into the history of Topkapi Palace, book your ticket to the Palace and get ready to explore, admire and be amazed for at least 3 hours.
There are 3 ticket options available:
- Buy a direct entrance ticket for the Topkapi Palace. These range from a no-frills €20 up to €40 for a VIP Tickets with Audio Guide (Includes Harem Ticket & Intro Tour). If you love history, go for the latter.
- If you are going to be visiting lots of other attractions, consider an Istanbul Welcome Card. The Saver Combo includes multiple attractions, which you can see over three days and cost €49.
- Book a full-day tour around Istanbul, including a stop at the Topkapi Palace. Viator offers a Full Day: Classic Istanbul Tour Including Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Palace from €50.
What to expect at Topkapı Palace?
The Topkapi Palace comprises 4 central courtyards, which can be entered through impressive gates.
Without writing a massive essay, it is impossible to provide you with all the details of Topkapı Palace as there is so much to see. Plus, spoilers are the worst. Let’s leave something for your visit.
Here is a summary and some of the unmissable aspects of Topkapı Palace.
First Courtyard of Topkapı Palace
To visit the first courtyard, pass through the impressive Imperial Gate made from marble. As you pass through, know that you are stepping in the footsteps of the previous Sultan`s as they would also use this palace entrance.
Once inside, there are a few notable buildings and features:
- Imperial Mint, built-in 1727 to produce coins
- Church of Hagia Irene, used for storing weapons
- Fountains, one of which was used by the executioner to wash his hands
Second Courtyard of Topkapı Palace
Once you walk through the Gate of Salutation, which looks like a medieval castle entrance and is engraved in religious words and emblems of sultans, you’ll be in the second courtyard.
The second courtyard is believed to have been built as part of the original construction, whereas the first may have been a later addition, it features:
· The former palace hospital, stables, bakery and kitchens
· Janissary quarters, the base for top army officials
· The Imperial Harem, where the Sultans wives, young children and female servants spent their time
· Imperial Council, for informal official meetings
Third Courtyard of Topkapi Palace
The domed Gate of Felicity takes you through to the third courtyard, the heart of the Palace. Here is where you`ll find lots of fabulously decorative rooms, buildings and smaller squares. This area where the Sultan bathed kept his concubines and even his mother. Some features are:
- Imperial Treasury, home to the magnificent Ottoman heirlooms
- Imperial Hall, similar to a reception hall, where the Sultan would meet officials and family
- Privy Chamber, which displays the Sacred Relics
Fourth Courtyard of Topkapı Palace
The final courtyard is deep into the Palace and was used as the private area for the Sultan and his family. Expect lavish and intricate details on walls, floors and ceilings!
Topkapı Palace Gardens
If you love nature, you will enjoy the gardens and trees surrounding the courtyards. You`ll notice lots of trees have hollow trunks; this is due to a fungus infection. Some of these trees have become fused with another tree, which grew within the hollow. While it is peculiar, it is fascinating to see.
Best Time to Visit Topkapı Palace
The museum is open daily, except for Tuesdays and a few festivals, from 9:00 am to 6:00pm. The final entry is 45 minutes before closure.
Your experience can vary depending on the time of year you visit, as you`ll be spending some time outside. For example, it gets pretty hot in the summer, so you`ll want to wear sunscreen and protection like a hot. With this also being the busiest time, it can be quite stressful for some as you navigate through the crowds in the heat of the day.
Therefore, if you prefer cooler temperatures and smaller groups of people, consider planning your trip between November and March. Istanbul rarely sees snow, so you should be pretty comfortable walking through the courtyards in boots and a coat.
Tips for Visiting Topkapi Palace
Finally, some tips for your visit.
The most important thing to note is the dress code. There are enforced rules to follow regarding clothing. For instance, when visiting the Sacred Relics, don´t wear something that shows your shoulders or thighs. Respect this rule to avoid being turned away.
In addition, you can’t take any photos in the exhibition halls. Be warned now to avoid disappointment upon arrival.
Stay at the 5-star Limak Eurasia Hotel. In addition, to luxurious rooms and suites, the hotel has excellent facilities such as a swimming pool, spa and fitness centre. It is conveniently located to explore Bosporus, a memorable part of Istanbul.
Topkapi Palace is super close to Hagia Sophia, don’t miss it on your adventure in Istanbul.
Enjoy your trip to Istanbul!