The majestic Topkapi Palace served as the administrative and educational center of the Ottoman Empire for about 400 years. Today, it is a museum and one of the most famous and visited tourist attractions of Istanbul.
Covering an area of around 700,000 square meters, the oriental palace resembles an open-air museum that showcases the glory of the Ottoman dynasty. A highlight is the legendary Harem section, filled with intriguing stories...
In this guide, find helpful information for your visit to Topkapi Palace, including its history, how to get there, tickets and entrance fees.
Entrance, Tickets & Tours to Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace Online Ticket Options
Buy the official Skip the Line Tickets to Topkapi Palace here:
TOPKAPI SKIP THE LINE TICKET
This is a skip the line tickets for Topkapi Palace, including an Audio Guide in 9 languages and a 30 minutes Guided Highlights Tour.
TICKET + HIGHLIGHTS TOUR
With fast track tickets and a personal guide by your side, you can enjoy a hassle-free experience of Istanbul’s finest attraction!
Things to do at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul
The magnificent Topkapi Palace is among the largest palace-museums in the world. It is divided into four courtyards, which are packed with history and outstanding exhibits.
You can easily spend half a day here wandering through the courtyards, exploring the palace's opulent architecture and discovering valuable Ottoman treasures, while getting an insight of how the sultans lived and ruled here. Visit nearly 500 years of eventful history and reward yourself with the magnificent views of the city and the Bosphorus, as the Sultans once did.
See here an overview of the four courtyards and their highlights:
1. First Courtyard
In the First Courtyard, the only part of the palace open to the public during the Ottoman period, ceremonies and processions took place. You can enter this courtyard even without a ticket. You will reach it by passing the beautiful Fountain of Sultan Ahmet III from 1729 and entering through the Imperial Gate, the main entrance to Topkapi Palace.
Of interest are the following structures:
- Garden: When entering the First Courtyard, you will be greeted by the beautiful palace gardens. A great place to soak up the heritage of this city on a stroll.
- Hagia Irene: The 4th century Byzantine church is the first church built in the city. During the Ottoman time, it was used as an arsenal and warehouse. Now, it is a museum and used for classical concerts.
- Fountains: There are several fountains, but the most interesting one is the Executioner's Fountain. It owes its name to the alleged ritual of executioners washing their hands here after an execution.
2. Second Courtyard
Through the second gate, the Middle Gate, you reach the heart of Topkapi Palace, where the administrative centers of the state were located. In this courtyard is also the Harem, which is of particular interest to many visitors, as well as the following remarkable buildings:
- Imperial Treasury: Visit the former treasury to marvel at the remarkable weapons and armor collection, one of the most important collections of its kind in the world. It includes 52,000 items covering about 1300 years. On display are weapons made especially for the sultans, as well as weapons from Turkish, Arab, Indian, Japanese and European cultures.
- Imperial Council Chamber: This three-story building sits on the edge of the second courtyard. This is where the imperial council met four times a week and governed the Ottoman Empire for most of its history. The room on the right displays the palace’s clock collection.
- Tower of Justice: On the left, see the striking Tower of Justice. Interesting is the fact that the Tower of Justice is connected to the Harem, which allowed the sultan to enter a small room from which he could eavesdrop on the meetings of the imperial council unnoticed.
- Palace Kitchens: On the right side of the courtyard you will find the imperial kitchens, which catered not only to the Ottoman royal family, but also to the thousands of palace employees. Today you can have a look at Ottoman kitchen utensils, the impressive Chinese porcelain collection, consisting of more than 10,000 exhibits and other objects belonging to the palace kitchens.
2.1. The Harem
One of the ultimate highlight of Topkapi Palace is the mysterious Harem, the most secluded and private section of Topkapi Palace. You can find the entrance on the western side of the Second Courtyard, beneath the Tower of Justice.
The legendary Harem is where the sultans, the members of the royal family, including the Queen Mother, the sultan's wives, the concubines and the sultan's minor children lived. During its greatest expansion in the 18th century, the harem consisted of over 300 rooms, dormitories, nine bathhouses, two mosques, a hospital, and a laundry. Today, a part of this secretive world is open to visitors. Due to restoration work, the visitor route through the Harem is subject to change.
Be sure to take time to enter this mysterious world. You can stroll through the labyrinth of corridors, courtyards and chambers that hide many intrigues and fascinating stories within their walls. Follow in the footsteps of beautiful concubines, scheming favorites, dutiful Eunuchs, and the powerful Queen Mother, imagining what life in the Harem might have been like.
Admire the extraordinary architecture that reflects various styles from the 16th to the early 19th century. Of particular note is the ornate Privy Chamber of Sultan Murat III, the Apartment of the Queen Mother, the Throne Hall and the Fountain Hall. Marvel at some of the most masterful Iznik tiles with floral patterns and verses from the Koran, as well as extraordinary cabinet doors with tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl inlays.
Please note that you will need to purchase a dedicated ticket to access this must-visit, but it is definitely worth it...
3. Third Courtyard
The Gate of Felicity will lead you to the Third Courtyard, the Sultan's private residence. The following attractions await you here:
- Audience Chamber: In this 16th century pavilion with beautiful facade, the Sultan received his viziers, important officials and foreign ambassadors to discuss state affairs. Interesting is the fact that inside there are faucets, which were all opened to prevent anyone from eavesdropping.
- Library of Sultan Ahmet III: This building, a gem from the Ottoman Tulip Age, stands out with its stunning interior. Marvel at the masterful tiles and doors and shutters decorated with mother-of-pearl and ivory inlays.
- Dormitory of the Expeditionary Force: This 18th century building consists of two chambers, which today display the palace's rich collection of Sultan's clothing. You can see imperial robes, uniforms and caftans woven with silver and gold threads.
- Sacred Safekeeping Rooms: This room, decorated with Iznik tiles, contains some of the most important treasures of the Topkapi Palace. On display are holy relics of the Prophet Muhammad, including the hair from the Prophet’s beard, the tooth he lost during the battle of Uhud, the footprints, his mantle and sword. More sacred relics attributed to other prophets are also exhibited, such as the staff of Moses, the sword of David, the tray of Abraham, and the robe of Joseph.
- Dormitory of the Privy Chamber: Next to the Sacred Safekeeping Rooms is the Privy Chamber, with an exhibition of portraits of the Ottoman sultans. A total of 36 portraits are displayed, as well as a collection of calligraphies and miniatures. Worth mentioning is the first world map by the Turkish admiral Piri Reis.
- Imperial Treasury: Another highlight is the15th century Conqueror's Pavilion with a total of six rooms, a covered courtyard with a fountain and an open patio houses that houses the Imperial Treasury, also known as the second or inner treasury. Marvel at the breathtaking collections and discover some of the most valuable palace’s exhibits, including precious jewels, heirlooms, and artworks. Don’t miss the famous Topkapi Dagger and the 86-carat Spoonmaker's Diamond, the worldwide 4th largest diamond of its kind.
4. Fourth Courtyard
Now it’s time to enter one of the most beautiful places of the palace that is filled with many lovely pavilions, terraces and gardens: the Fourth Courtyard. You can expect the following highlights:
- Baghdad Pavilion: Baghdad Pavilion with its magnificent facade of green and blue Iznik tiles is one of the masterpieces of classical Ottoman pavilion architecture. Admire the magnificent interior with colorful tiles, painted ceiling, stained-glass windows, mother-of-pearl and tortoise shell inlay, a fireplace and a silver grill, a gift from the French King Louis XIV.
- Circumcision Chamber: Pay attention to the rectangular room with the impressive facade, adorned with elaborate blue and white tiles. This chamber was used for the circumcision of the sons of Sultan Ahmed III. The interior is equally magnificent thanks to the 16th and 17th century tiles.
- Iftar Pavilion: Another pavilion that stands out with its tulip-shaped gilded roof and its four gold-plated copper columns is the Iftar Pavilion, located between Baghdad Pavilion and Circumcision Chamber. It is also an amazing photo spot.
- Yerevan Kiosk: When you enter this octagonal pavilion decorated with Mamluk-style marble slabs, you will be fascinated by its richly adorned interior with hand-drawn patterns of gold leaf, wooden shutters with mother-of-pearl and a gilded copper fireplace.
- Mecidiye Pavilion: Mecidiye Pavilion dates from 1858 and is the youngest building in the palace. You can see in its architecture influences of European style. Also, don’t miss the exceptional view of the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus.
- Chamber of the Chief Physician: This two-story building was once the physician's treatment room, serving the sultan and the royal family. Today, in the basement of the building, you can see an exhibition of pharmaceutical instruments and equipment.
- Gardens: A three-meter-long staircase will lead you to a picturesque Flower Garden with beautiful tulips, the Pavilion Hall and the Chamber of the Chief Physician.
- Outer Terrace: The Fourth Courtyard is also home to one of the most stunning viewpoints of Istanbul. Head to the lower level terrace, where the Mecidiye Pavilion is located, and enjoy one of the most beautiful views of the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. Don’t forget to take a breathtaking picture!
How to get to Topkapi Palace?
Topkapi Palace is located on the Historical Peninsula, in the Sultanahmet neighborhood of Fatih district, and therefore easy to reach.
From Sultanahmet: Topkapi Palace is just a 5-minute walk from Sultanahmet Square.
From Taksim: The easiest way to get from Taksim Square to Topkapi Palace Museum is to take the funicular F1 to Kabataş. At Kabataş Station, take the tram T1 and go 7 stops to Sultanahmet Station. From here, it is just a couple of minutes to Topkapi Palace.
Frequently Asked Questions about Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace is situated on the Historical Peninsula, in the Sultanahmet neighborhood of the Fatih district.
Construction of Topkapi Palace started in 1459, only six years after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans.
Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, ordered the construction of Topkapi Palace soon after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The first part of the building was completed in 1468. Until 1478 the palace was enlarged again and again. All Ottoman rulers endeavored to expand and enrich the complex over the centuries. The palace got its current appearance at the beginning of the 18th century.
For your visit of Topkapi Palace you should plan at least 2 hours. If you want to see all areas and collections, you should plan half a day.
The Topkapi Palace complex covers an area of about 700,000 square meters. This area is twice the size of the Vatican.
The Topkapi Palace complex with its numerous pavilions, gardens, baths, mosques and reception halls is definitely worth a visit for its unique architecture alone.
In addition, the palace is now a museum and holds impressive collections. The treasures of Ottoman rule can be admired in hundreds of rooms in Topkapi Palace. This includes the Arms and Weapons collection, silverware, Chinese and Japanese Porcelains collection, Clock collection, the Palace Kitchen Utensils, collection of sultans’ clothing and paintings; and more.
Especially worth mentioning is the Imperial Treasury, as well as the holy relics of the Prophet Muhammad and other prophets.
Another highlight is the Harem section, which draws the attention of many visitors.
Historical Facts & Info about Topkapi Palace
The name of the Topkapi Palace comes from the vernacular and literally means "Cannon Gate Palace". The mighty palace served as the former seat of government and at the same time as the residence of the Ottoman rulers.
Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror ordered the construction of the palace six years after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, choosing this strategic location not only because it offered a wide view over the Sea of Marmara, the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, and thus the best position for protection from enemies, but also because it was the exact spot where the Acropolis from the ancient city Byzantium stood. The walls built by the Byzantines protected against the dangers from the water, starting from the eastern corner of the palace along the coast of the Sea of Marmara to the Walls of Constantinople.
The first part of the building was completed in 1468. Until 1478 the palace was enlarged again and again. All Ottoman rulers endeavored to expand and enrich the complex over the centuries. At the beginning of the 18th century, the palace got its present appearance. When Sultan Abdulmejid I decided to build a new, European-style palace and eventually moved the court to the newly built Dolmabahçe Palace in 1856, Topkapi Palace lost its importance. Since 1924, Topkapi Palace has served as a museum. Today, it is part of the Historical Peninsula, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Topkai Palace is one of the most famous landmarks of Istanbul and a must-visit tourist attraction.
Best Audioguide to Visit Topkapi Palace
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