During a trip to Istanbul, you certainly cannot miss a visit to the splendid Palazzo Topkapı.
It is one of the main tourist attractions of Istanbul, one of the most famous and important in all of Turkey, built in 1453, after the capture of Constantinople by Mohammed the Conqueror, was the home of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire until the th century.
The palace is located at the top of the hill on the Golden Horn, an enviable position, which allows you to have a spectacular view of the Corno inlet and the Bosphorus strait. Our advice is to dedicate the whole day to visit the Palace, which is simply beautiful, and deserves to be visited with due calm.
Here our tips for organizing your visit to the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul.
- Hours and prices
- Online tickets and guided tours
- Where is it and how to get there
- What to see and how to visit the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul
- Useful tips for visiting the attraction
- Historical notes, curiosities and practical info: what to know in brief
- User questions and comments
Hours and prices
- 09: 00-17: 00 (from mid-April to the end of October until 19:00, last entry at 17:30). Closed every Tuesday and until 12:00 on the first day of religious holidays
- Best time to avoid queues: at opening and at lunchtime
- TL 100,00 (around € 12,96) - Harem: TL 70,00 (around € 9,00)
- Free: under 12 (ID required) - Harem under 6
Online tickets and guided tours
- Topkapi Palace + Harem tour and ticket: from € 49,00 - book online
- Topkapi Palace Skip-the-Line Guided Tour: from € 21,00 - book online
- Guided tour of the Topkapi Palace + Tombs of the Sultans: from € 40,00 - book online
Where is it and how to get there
- On foot: starting from Sultanahmet, in about 10-15 minutes, proceeding towards the Golden Horn, passing in front of the Hagia Sophia - Get directions
- By tram: T1 tram (direction Kabataş), Gülhane stop
What to see and how to visit the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul
Topkapi Palace is one of the most important attractions in Istanbul. It is a fully-fledged museum, whose entrance costs 100,00 TL (€ 12,80, guided tour and admission ticket available online, also including the Harem). The Harem section requires an additional ticket: 70,00 TL (€ 9,00).
As far as the times, Topkapi Palace is closed on Tuesdays and is open 9: 00-17: 00 in winter (from October) and 9: 00-19: 00 in summer (from mid-April). The property is closed until 13:00 on the first day of religious holidays.
The complex is very extensive. For a good visit consider at least 4 hours, even more if you are a fan or an expert in the sector. The visit to the Harem alone takes at least an hour, both for the size and for the queue to enter. In high season the queues at the entrance they can be very long, therefore the purchase of the priority guided tour is recommended. Try to arrive early in the morning or around 12:30. The entrance is one but there is no obligatory visit route. You are free to visit the various sections in the order you prefer.
Below you will find a focus on the main areas of the building.
L'only access to the complex it is through the Imperial Gate (Bâb-ı Hümâyûn).
As an inscription on the arch above it attests, it was built by Mehmet the Conqueror. At one time, about fifty guards lived inside the gate, who scrupulously controlled all the entrances to the palace.
First Court - Court of the Janissaries
The Court of the Janissaries is the wider courtyard, which served as an enclosed park for the entire complex. It was also known as the Parade Courtyard and was passed through by officers in full uniform.
Developed in an area of steep slopes that slope down to the sea, there are several attractions here. The first is there Church of Santa Irene, one of the largest Byzantine churches in the city, built by Justianian, and one of the few Byzantine churches not to have been converted into a mosque after the conquest. You can then find the old one imperial mint (Darphane-i Âmire) of 1727 and various fountains that adorn the park. Dwell on small fountain near the ticket office. It is said that it was used to clean the executioner's swords after executions.
Second Court - Court of Ceremonies
The Court of Ceremonies was the place where the public life of the building took place and the most important political decisions were made. It is accessed from the monumental Gate of the Sultan (Orta kapi) inserted between two octagonal towers with conical roofs. This gate was built by the will of Suleiman the Magnificent but, in practice, it was built by the Hungarian prisoners. Only the ruler had the right to pass under this gate.
Until the th century, the Couch, the Imperial Council during which political and economic issues were discussed.
The harem consists of 300 rooms, but only about twenty are open to the public. Here lived a thousand women among whom the queen mother excelled, followed by the 4 or 8 favorites. With the exception of the sultan, his sons, the doctor, the musicians, the maintenance workers and the eunuchs, no one else had access to this area.
The Topkapi harem is due to the second favorite of Suleiman the Magnificent, following the fire of the Beyazit palace. The first apartments of the harem were built by Sinan, Suleiman's favorite architect, but all the current decoration that can be admired dates back to the th century. The guardians of the harem they were eunuchs: the whites guarded the outside while the blacks stationed in the interior.
Let's see the structuring of its main parts:
- to the left of the entrance courtyard where the eunuchs' guardsmen are
- in succession, the school of princes and the lodgings of the eunuchs
- you then enter a courtyard where the favorite rooms overlook
- the third court, in the center of the harem, was reserved for the queen mother who controlled the area as if it were her kingdom
- the sultan's hall stands out for its gilded wood gallery. Here there were concerts of female orchestras and women danced for the sultan to choose one of them for that night
- the "golden cage" was the prince's room since the young heir could neither go out nor even observe from the window the women strolling in the courtyard
- the fruit room has valuable paintings from 1705 commissioned by Ahmet II
It is a beautiful one Rococo style building surmounted by a beautiful canopy covered in gold.
The room on the left was reserved for the cabinet, or of the viziers. The affairs of the empire were discussed there, under the attentive gaze of the sultan who sat behind the gilded window looking towards his apartments.
The rooms, surmounted by domes and circular hoods, host the finest collection of Chinese porcelain in the world consisting of 10.280 pieces. THE fireplaces they are placed in the center of the rooms, under the hoods, to better control the preparation of food. Utensils, pots and cauldrons are located in the room used for the preparation of sweets. The dishes reserved for the sultan were prepared in a separate room.
Just imagine that in this rooms about 1.000 people worked. Every day they set 5.000 covers, 15.000 during the holidays. And each banquet included at least fifty courses.
Crossing the Door of Happiness (Bab-i-Saadet) one enters the third court which, guarded by the white eunuchs, was accessible only to the sultan and his intimates. Note the large Rococo canopy, supported by small columns and surmounted by a dome. Below, on the occasion of the holidays, the famous throne of Ismail was erected, taken from the kings of Persia by Sultan Selim I during the campaign in Azerbaijan.
inside the third courtyard there are some buildings to visit absolutely- First of all theArz Odasi, the first building covered in ceramics. It served as an audience hall; here the sultan received the ambassadors. The windows are protected by railings and it is in such a position that the constant sound of a jet of water could be heard so that strangers could not hear the conversations. Then the Ahmet III Library, built in the 6.000th century in white marble, internally it is decorated with bolserie in gilded wood and glazed ceramics. At one time there were kept about volumes between Arab manuscripts and unpublished Greek ones. Finally i old hammams, today they house an amazing wardrobe with antique clothes and a collection of carpets.
Lmost important and precious attraction of the entire palace. Four rooms full of joys and precious: armor, helmets, quivers studded with diamonds, furniture with ivory and mother-of-pearl inserts, jade plates ...
And again, solid gold candlesticks with 6.666 diamonds set, the throne covered with gold leaf and adorned with more than 950 gems. Among the most important pieces kept here we remember the famous Hancer dagger with gold sheath and diamonds; the handle has three emeralds set and a fourth is present on the knob.
The most prestigious piece of the Treasury is the Kasicki diamond: 86 carats and surrounded by 49 diamonds. From its history derives its nickname, "the diamond of the spoon merchant". In fact, it is said that the jewel was found in a pile of garbage and a second-hand dealer bought it for 3 spoons, hence the name.
Also known as the Apartment of Happiness, this is the area where people come to worship most precious relics of the Islamic world: Mohammed's cloak, his banner, a tooth, an imprint of his foot and a handwritten letter from him addressed to the Copts of Egypt. The beard of the prophet (actually a few hairs) is kept in a crystal case set gold.
There is an imam who constantly chants the verses of the Koran. Maintain an attitude of utmost respect when entering this area.
Room of Miniatures and Portraits
This room was the sultan's wardrobe. Today it houses a valuable collection of Turkish miniatures. Particularly worth seeing are the th century drawings and copies of the Koran. The Ottoman sultans favored the art of painting to leave a testimony of their figures and their exploits to posterity.
Miniatures peaked under Suleiman the Magnificent. Although not as refined as the Persian ones, the Turkish miniatures have the vigor and quality of simplicity. They are also distinguished from other Islamic paintings by the absolute absence of emotional expression on the faces represented. The result is the representation of executions and massacres attended by absolutely impassive faces.
Fourth Court - Garden of Tulips
The Fourth Court is also known as Tulip Garden, in honor of Ahmet III's favorite flower, whose epoch was defined as the Age of Tulips.
Various buildings overlook this garden and, above all, one belvedere terrace overlooking the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara and the Asian coast.
One he most interesting buildings entirely covered with blue Izni tiles. Rich in wooden objects with mother-of-pearl inserts, it is noted for the amazing dome that surmounts it. It looks like an octagonal construction surrounded by 22 columns and in the center there is a copper brazier brought as a gift to the sultan by Louis XV. It was built in memory of the conquest of Baghdad by Murad V and was completed in 1639, exactly one year before the death of the glorious ruler.
Il canopy of Sultan Ibrahim is popular for the Memory picture overlooking the Golden Horn. Next to the structure there is a marble basin surrounded by gushing and refreshing fountains. Here the sultan used to have his meal after sunset during Ramadan. On the opposite side from the tub is the Sunnet Odasi, the room where the circumcision rite took place. This building is also extraordinary as it is completely covered with glazed ceramics in all shades of blue and light blue.
Useful tips for visiting the attraction
- Get up early: Topkapi Palace is one of the most visited attractions in the city, we advise you to go there during the early hours of the morning, to avoid finding the long queues of tourists.
- Buy the city card: with the Istanbul Tourist Pass, valid for 3 or 7 days, you can save on the cost of admission tickets and avoid the long queues at the ticket office.
- Dress appropriately and comfortably: in some areas of the building it is not possible to enter in shorts, miniskirts and short tops. Wear comfortable shoes.
- Minimum time: the palace with its areas to visit are many, also given the amount of tourists present every day, the ideal would be to dedicate a whole day, or at least half a day.
- Prohibitions: in some rooms of the building, such as the Treasury, it is forbidden to enter with strollers, so we advise you to organize accordingly. Furthermore, taking photos inside is prohibited.
Historical notes, curiosities and practical info: what to know in brief
For about four centuries (from 1475 to 1855) Topkapı was the main residence of the Ottoman sultans, from Memhet II to Mahmud II. Of the 36 sultans of the Ottoman dynasty, 26 lived in Topkapi, and each of them contributed changes and improvements: kiosks-lookout points, a library, gardens, fountains and much more. Completed in 1478, it was built on the Serraglio Promontory, located between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. The harem, the Pearl of the entire complex, was the subject of continuous expansion works. In short, over the years the magnificence of the building has always grown.
In Ottoman times it was accessed from various ports entrusted to special armed guards. From the th century the Cannon Gate identified the whole Palace (Topkapı Sarāyı).
Unlike European castles, there are no opulent halls. The Ottoman palaces are mostly made up of a series of kiosks which, like tents planted on the ground, recall the nomadic origin of this people. Topkapi is therefore a kind of petrified nomad camp. Transformed into a museum in 1924, visitors can only visit a small part of what was, in effect, the imperial citadel.