Topkapi Palace Istanbul
It is the biggest museum in Istanbul. The location of the Palace is just behind the Hagia Sophia in the historical city center of Istanbul. The original use of the Palace was the house for the Sultan; today, the Palace is functioning as a museum. Important highlights in this Palace are; Harem , Treasury, kitchens, and many more.
Istanbul E-pass includes Topkapi Palace Tour with English speaking Professional Guide. For details, please check "Hours & Meeting".
What time does Topkapi Palace open?
It is open throughout the week except for Tuesdays.
Summer Time: 09.00-18.00
Winter Time: 09.00-16.30
Where is Topkapi Palace located?
The location of the Palace is the Sultanahmet area. The historical city center of Istanbul is convenient to excess with public transportation.
From Old City Hotels; Get the T1 tram up to Sultanahmet tram station. From the tram station to the Palace is just 5 minutes walk.
From Taksim Hotels; Get the funicular from the Taksim Square to Kabatas. From Kabatas take the T1 tram to Sultanahmet station. From the tram station to the Palace is just 5 minutes walk.
From Sultanahmet Hotels; It is within walking distance of the majority of the hotels in the area.
How long does it take to visit the Palace and what is the best time?
You can visit the Palace within 1 hour time if you go on your own. Guided tours are typically around 2-3 hours. There are lots of exhibition halls in the Palace. In the majority of the rooms taking pictures or speaking is forbidden. It may be busy depending on the time of the day. The best time to visit the Palace would be early morning. Around 9-10 am would be a quiet time in the Palace.
Topkapi Palace History
After conquering the city in 1453, Sultan Mehmed the 2nd ordered a house for himself. As this house would be hosting the royal family, it was a vast construction. The construction began in the 1460s and was over by 1478. It was just the core of the Palace in the early period. Every Ottoman Sultan that lived in the Palace, later on, ordered a new extension in this building.
For this reason, construction continued up until the last Sultan that lived in this Palace. The final Sultan that lived in this Palace is Abdulmecit the 1st . During his reign, he gave an order for a new palace. The name of the new Palace was Dolmabahce Palace . After the new Palace was constructed in 1856, the royal family moved to Dolmabahce Palace. Topkapiwas still functional up until the collapse of the Empire. The royal family always used the Palace for ceremonial occasions. With the declaration of the Turkish Republic , the status of the Palace became a museum.
General Information about the Museum
There are two entrances to this Palace. The main entrance is behind the Hagia Sophia near the beautiful 17th-century fountain of Sultan Ahmet the 3rd . The second entrance is lower the hill near the Gulhane Tram Station . The second entrance is also the entrance for the Archeology Museums of Istanbul . From both of the entries, you can proceed to Museum Ticket Offices. The second gate of the Palace is where the museum starts. To be able to pass the second gate, you either need the ticket or Istanbul E-pass guided tour. In both of the entry gates, there is a security check.
Before using the tickets, there is a final security check, and you enter the museum. In the second garden of the Palace there are several exhibition halls. After the entry, if you make a right, you will see the Ottoman Empire's map and the model of the Palace. You can admire the sheer size of 400.000 square meters with this model. If you continue towards the left from here, you will see the Imperial Council Hall . Until the 19th century, the ministers of the Sultan hold their councils here. At the top of the Council Hall, there is the Justice Tower of the Palace. The highest tower in the museum is this tower here. Symbolizing the Sultan's justice, this is one of the rare palaces of the Palace, which is visible from outside. Mothers of the Sultans would be watching their son's coronation from this tower.
Next to the Council Hall, there is the outer Treasury . Today this building is functioning as an exhibition hall for ceremonial costumes and weapons. Opposite to Divan and Treasury , there are the kitchens of the Palace. Once hosting nearly 2000 people, it is one the most significant sections of the building. Today the biggest Chinese porcelain collection outside of China in the world is in this Palace Kitchens.
Once you pass to the 3rd garden of the Palace , the first thing that you would see is the Audience Hall of the Palace . This was the place where the Sultan would be meeting with the heads of the other countries. The Sultan's place would be meeting with the members of the Council Hall was again the Audience Hall. You can see one of the Ottoman Sultans' thrones and beautiful silk curtains once were decorating the room in this room today. After this room, you can see the 2 highlights of the Palace. One is the religious relics room. The second one is the Imperial Treasury .
In the religious relics room, you would see the beard of Prophet Mohammed of Islam with the staff of Moses, the arm of St. John The Baptist , and many more. Most of these items are coming from Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem, and Egypt. As every Ottoman Sultan was also the Caliphs of Islam , these objects were showing the spiritual power of the Sultan. This is one of the rooms of the Palace that taking pictures is not possible.
Opposite of the room of religious relics is the imperial Treasury. The Treasury has 4 rooms, and the rule about taking pictures is the same as the room of holy relics. The Treasury highlights are Spoon-makers Diamond , Topkapi Dagger , the gold throne of The Ottoman Sultan, and many more.
Once you finished the 3rd garden, you can proceed to the final section of the Palace. The 4th garden was a private area of ??The Sultan. There are 2 beautiful kiosks here named after the conquests of two important cities. Yerevan and Baghdad . This section has a beautiful view of the Golden Horn Bay . But the best place to take pictures would be the other side. Opposite of the kiosks, there is one of the most beautiful views of the city from the Bosphorus . There is also a cafeteria that you can have some drinks. The restrooms are also available in the restaurant.
Harem Section of the Palace
Harem is a different museum within the Topkapi Palace; It has a separate entrance fee and a ticket booth. Harem means prohibited, private, or secret. This was the Palace that the Sultan lived with the family members. Other men outside the royal family were not able to go into this section. Only one group of men would be entering here.
As this was a section for the private life of the Sultan , there are no records about this section. What we know about Harem comes from other records. The kitchen tells us a lot about the Harem. We know how many women should be in the Harem from the records of the kitchen. According to 16th-century records, there are 200 women in the Harem. This section includes private rooms of the Sultans, Queen Mothers, concubines , and many more.
The Final Word
Topkapi Palace should be on top of your visit list if you are coming to Istanbul. The best time to visit the palace is early in the morning as soon as it opens as it becomes crowded with tour groups as the day passes. Are you planning on a thrifty tour? Istanbul E-pass can be a great save!