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Topkapı Palace

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The Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı) in Istanbul, formerly the main residence of the sultans, impresses with its insights into ancient Ottoman architecture and the former life at the rulers' court. Guests can visit not only the museum but also the rooms of the Harem and the former Byzantine church Hagia Irene.

As a popular attraction in the iconic port city Istanbul, the Topkapı Palace draws in many tourists. So book well in advance and plan your visit well in advance.
Klaus KainzBy Klaus Kainz
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Istanbul Museum Pass

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Best of Istanbul: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Baslica Cistern
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6 Tips for Visiting the Topkapı Palace

Beautiful mosaic in the Topkapı Palace | Photo: Unsplash, Meriç Dağlı - CC BY 2.0
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Take in all the artTake a good look around the cathedral! The ornate ceilings are easy to miss, but are perfect for spectacular photos, especially in the Harem. On the other hand, the mosaic floors in bright colors and patterns are also an absolute highlight. A quick tour can be completed in about two hours. However, if all areas including the harem are to be visited in detail, half a day should be taken into your planning.
Entrance ticket to the palace | Photo: Unsplash, Ksenia Pavlenko - CC BY 2.0
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Plan your visit wellSince the palace is very popular with tourists, you should be there as early as possible in the day. So ideally you should put other sights in the back of the queue. If you already know that several museums in Istanbul are on the agenda for you, the Istanbul Museum Pass offers a good savings opportunity. It is valid for 5 days and includes admission to the Topkapı Palace, Hagia Sophia, Dolmabahçe Palace and many other attractions.
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Pay attention to the rules Photographing is not allowed in all exhibit areas, so pay attention to appropriate signs. The staff checks the rules very strictly. The Reliquary Exhibition and the Hagia Irene may also be visited only with the following dress code: covered shoulders and knees, in case of doubt you can cover these free body parts h with a scarf or a jacket.
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Try one of the many guided toursThere are no official tours, but licensed guides may offer tours of Topkapi Palace that provide background facts on the palace's history and architecture. If visiting on your own, on the other hand, it's a good idea to use an audio guide - available in 14 languages - simply download the app.
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Save with a combo-ticketThe Istanbul Card is a combo ticket for Istanbul's top sights, available in four options and valid for three to seven days. It includes fast-track admissions, city tours, an audio guide app, single-ride tickets for public transportation, boat tours, and 20% off on other attractions. The least expensive Classic Card includes the Bosphor boat tour and five single-ride tickets. The Saver Combo, Premium Card and Deluxe Card also include a visit to Topkapi Palace. Please note that no variant offers fast-track options to Hagia Sophia.
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What you should keep in mind when visiting with childrenThe exhibition areas do not offer any interactive attractions and children will have to hold back in some areas of the museum. However, older children who enjoy history should not be bored.
Gate to the Topkapi Palace | Photo: Unsplash, Haroon Ameer - CC-BY-SA 2.0

What is Topkapi Palace? History and facts

In Istanbul, the Topkapı Palace captivates lots of visitors. After all, this palace was the seat of the ruling family from the 15th century to the 19th century. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, guests were allowed to see the monumental palace as early as 1923.

The history behind the origin

The Topkapı Palace was built in 1459 by order of Mehmed II shortly after the conquest of Constantinople. Because the old palace in Constantinople was destroyed, a new building was needed. In addition to private chambers of the sultan, administrative offices and other officials also found their place here. Suleyman I expanded the Topkapi Palace between 1520 and 1560, as well as the harem, to express the power of the Ottoman Empire. Another name of the palace is Topkapi Serail , because there lived not only the family of the sultan, but also his concubines.

Development until the collapse of the empire

In the 17th century, the palace became less important after the sultans spent more and more time in their other palaces. Finally, in 1856, the entire court moved to Dolmabahçe Palace under Abdülmecid I. After the end of the Ottoman Empire, the Topkapı Palace was turned into the Palace Museum in 1924.
In the fourth courtyard of the palace | Photo: Unsplash, Meriç Dağlı - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The highlights of the Topkapı Palace

First of all, the impressive architecture of the palace speaks for itself: four courtyards, early Ottoman architecture with mosaics and murals, and impressive gardens. The Imperial Council met in a hall with a dome worth seeing. The Throne Room, where the Grand Vizier met with the Sultan to read decrees and foreign envoys were received, and the Baghdad Pavilion with views over the Bosphorus are other highlights.
The gloriously decorated Harem | Photo: Unsplash, Mert Kahveci - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The richly decorated harem draws visitors under its spell

Among guests, the harem is one of the most popular sights in the palace. The women of the ruling family lived there, including the concubines, who were guarded by eunuchs. In the harem there are private courtyards, apartments, baths (Hammamat), private rooms and a small mosque.

The impressive Relic Collection

The relic collection includes objects collected by Ottoman rulers, including the Prophet's Tooth, the Sword of David, and the Staff of Moses. The palace complex also houses what was once the second largest church in the Byzantine Empire after the Hagia Sophia, Hagia Irene, which was never converted into a mosque but was used by the Ottomans as an armory and then as a military history museum.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the palace barrier-free accessible?

Admission to Topkapı Palace is free for guests with disabilities and one accompanying person. Some areas are not accessible by wheelchair due to stairs, but the accessible parts of the palace include the weapons and clock exhibition, the checkroom, all courtyards, the treasuries, the relic collection and the harem. A disabled toilet is located in the second courtyard. Read more.

Are there any food options at the palace?

Cafés are located in the first and second courtyards and a restaurant in the fourth courtyard. Read more.

Is it allowed to carry bags and backpacks during the tour?

Due to increased safety measures, backpacks are not allowed to be taken into the palace. Strollers are not allowed in the Topkapi Palace Museum. A baby changing room can be found in the third courtyard next to the exit of the harem. Read more.

Is it allowed to carry bags and backpacks during the tour?

Topkapi Palace offers an audio guide in Turkish, German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Persian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Read more.

Is it allowed to take photos and videos of the palace?

Photography isn’t allowed in all exhibits, so look out for the signs when moving from one area to the next. Members of staff are strict about enforcing the rules Read more.

General Information

Opening Hours

The museum is open every day except Tuesdays. In the summer season (from April 1 to October 2), the museum, harem, and Hagia Irene are open from 9 am to 6.45 pm, with final admission to the museum at 6 pm. In summer the ticket office closes at 6 pm. In winter (from October 3 to March 31), the museum, harem, and Hagia Irene are open from 9 am to 4.45 pm with final admission at 4 pm. The ticket office closes at 4 pm in winter. Different opening times may apply during holidays and religious festivals. The complex is closed on January 1, National Sovereignty and the Children Day, the first day of Ramadan, the 3rd day of Eid al-Adha, and Republic Day (October 29).

Tickets

The Combo ticket I can be purchased on site for 500 TL and entitles admission to the museum as well as the Hagia Irene, residents of Istanbul pay only 110 TL. On site, the Combo ticket II costs 650 TL, which also includes the admission to the harem - residents of Istanbul pay only 140 TL. A single entry ticket to the Harem costs 225 TL, or 60 TL for locals, the single entry to Hagia Irene costs 180 TL, or 45 TL for locals.

Discounts

Children under 6 years old can visit the palace free of charge. Turkish citizens as well as citizens of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are entitled to free admission until the age of 18. Students of the same nationality between the ages of 18 and 25 will receive tickets at a reduced price on site: Combo ticket I for 35 TL, Combo ticket II for 45 TL, Harem ticket for 20 TL and Hagia Irene for 20 TL. Foreign students can also get a discounted ticket on site, but pay double the price. Please note that corresponding IDs must be shown.

COVID-19 measures

Covid related testings are no longer required to visit the Topkapi Palace, nor is it mandatory to wear a mask. However, it is recommended to wear a mouth-nose protection in all indoor public spaces or places accessible to the public.

Address

Topkapı Palace Museum
Cankurtaran Mh.
34122 Fatih/Istanbul
Turkey

How to get there

Topkapı Palace can be reached by taking the T1 tramway to Gülhane station, then following the signs through the park. There’s no parking available at the site, but there are private car parks available a short walk from Gülhane Park.
Klaus Kainz
Written byKlaus KainzAs a studied historian, Klaus is not only interested in historical sights, but also in their fascinating backgrounds. For TicketLens, he gets to the heart of the most interesting information about attractions and travel destinations.
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