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Topkapı Palace

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Topkapı Palace (or Topkapı Sarayı) was built in 1459 as the main residence for the Ottoman sultans and served as a home for the royal family until 1853. It was also known as the Seraglio as it housed the female members of the royal family and the Sultan’s concubines. Since the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, the building has been used as a museum displaying clothing, manuscripts, and other artifacts from the Ottoman Empire. Visitors can see the museum, the rooms of the Harem, and the Byzantine church, Hagia Irene, which was used as an armory by the Ottomans.
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Istanbul Museum Pass

Combine your visit with tickets to other museums included in the Museum Pass.
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Istanbul: 5-Day Guided Museum Pass

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Guided Tours

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6 Tips for Visiting the Topkapı Palace

Topkapı Palace Harem | Flickr: Jorge Láscar CC BY 2.0
1
Keep looking up! The buildings of the palace, especially the Harem, have beautifully decorated ceilings that are just begging to be photographed.
The elaborate interior of the Topkapı Palace.
2
Don’t forget to look down! In addition to the stunning ceilings, many rooms also have elaborate mosaic floors in bright colors and bold patterns.
3
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.
4
If you know you want to visit multiple museums during your visit to Istanbul, consider buying the Museum Pass. It’s valid for five days and covers Topkapı Palace, Hagia Sophia, the Dolmabahçe Palace Museum, and many more attractions.
5
The Sacred Relics department and Hagia Irene church both have a dress code to enter. Shorts, short skirts, tank tops, or strapless tops aren’t allowed to be worn inside, so make sure to dress appropriately or bring a scarf or jacket to cover up on hot days.
6
Topkapı Palace is a popular tourist spot, so arrive early in the day to miss the busiest time of day.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Topkapı Palace?

The Topkapı Palace was built in 1459 by Mehmed the Conqueror shortly after the conquest of Constantinople that ended the Byzantine empire. Since the old palace of Constantinople had been ruined, a new building was necessary, with private quarters for the Sultan, rooms for court officials, and administrative offices. Suleyman the Magnificent expanded the palace between 1520 and 1560 in order to expand the Harem and to ensure that the palace reflected the growing might of the Ottoman Empire. The palace gradually lost relevance in the 17th century, with the Sultans spending less and less time there than in their other palaces. Eventually, the entire court was moved to Dolmabahçe Palace by Sultan Abdulmejid I in 1856. The palace has been a museum since 1924, after the end of the Ottoman Empire.

What will I see on a visit to the palace?

First, you’ll be treated to the stunning architecture of the palace, with four courtyards, early Ottoman architecture featuring mosaics and wall paintings, and beautiful gardens. You’ll see where the Imperial Council met in a domed chamber, the Audience Chamber where the Grand Vizier would meet with the Sultan to present the decrees agreed on by the Imperial Council and where the Sultan would meet with foreign ambassadors, and the Baghdad Pavilion which looks out over the Bosphorus. The Sacred Relics collection includes many relics collected by the Ottoman Emperors over their reigns, including the Prophet’s tooth, hair from his beard, and items attributed to other prophets and religious figures, including the sword of David and the staff of Moses. The palace complex also includes the church of Hagia Irene, the second-largest Byzantine church after the Hagia Sophia. Hagia Irene was never converted into a mosque. Instead, the Ottomans used it as an armory and then a military history museum. One of the most popular areas to visit is the Harem, which was inhabited by the women of the Imperial family, including concubines, and the eunuchs who guarded them. On a trip to the Harem, you’ll see private courtyards, apartments, baths (hammams), privy chambers, and a small mosque.

Should I take a guided tour?

There are no official tours provided by the palace, but licensed tour guides are allowed to give guided tours of the palace complex. These tours will offer you a more structured visit, with plenty of historical and architectural detail to make your experience richer. Alternatively, you can explore by yourself and let yourself simply get carried away by the atmosphere. If you would like more information but don’t want to take a guided tour, then an audio guide is available in 14 languages from the booths inside the palace.

How long should I plan to spend at the palace?

Some visitors try to race around the palace in under two hours, but if you want to see all the sections, including the Harem which has a separate ticket, then you should plan to spend at least half a day exploring the palace complex. There are cafés in both the first and second courtyards and there’s also a restaurant in the fourth courtyard, so you have plenty of options if you want to take a break or grab a snack before continuing your visit.

Will children enjoy a visit to the palace?

The exhibits aren’t interactive, and there are areas of the museum where children will have to be on their best behavior, but kids who are excited by history or who enjoy visiting castles and palaces should still enjoy a trip to Topkapı Palace. Parents should note that strollers or pushchairs aren’t allowed inside the exhibits. There is a nursing room available for parents of small children in the third courtyard, next to the exit from the Harem.

Is it accessible?

Admission to the palace is free for disabled visitors and one companion. Some areas aren’t accessible due to stairs, but visitors in wheelchairs will still be able to see the Arms and Armor exhibition, the clocks on display, all of the courtyards, the Imperial Wardrobe Collection, the Treasury rooms, the Sacred Relics department, and the Harem. A disabled restroom can be found in the second courtyard of the palace.

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:

Tickets to the museum cost TL 60. Entrance to the Harem costs TL 35, and entrance to Hagia Irene costs TL 30. Entrance is free for Turkish citizens aged 18 or younger or aged 65 or older. Entrance is also free for non-Turkish citizens aged 8 or younger, and disabled visitors of all nationalities. Children under the age of 6 can enter all areas of the complex free of charge with a paying adult.

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.
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