Topkapi Palace is located in Sultanahmet, the most touristic district of Istanbul. Built in the 1400s, the palace is one of the most important works of Classical Ottoman architecture.
Topkapi Palace is visited by an average of 3 million people a year. Consisting of four large courtyards, the palace promises a trip in touch with nature. There are also structures such as “Hagia Irene Church” and “Istanbul Archaeological Museum” in the palace.
You can find information about the history and architecture of Topkapi Palace in this article. Topkapi Palace entrance fee and opening hours are also noted. (The ticket price of the palace has been revised as of July 1, 2023)
If you want to get fast access to the palace with a guided group, you can buy Topkapi Palace skip-the-line tickets from this link. These online tickets can save you from waiting at the ticket booths during the spring and summer months.
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Short History of Topkapi Palace
The history of Topkapi Palace goes back to the 15th century. It was commissioned by Mehmed the Conqueror in 1460 and Ottoman sultans and royal family lived there until 1856.
Topkapi Palace, which is the most beautiful representative of Classical Ottoman architecture, lost its importance in 19th century. Sultans moved to Dolmabahce Palace with its Neo-Classical and Baroque architecture on the shores of the Bosphorus. However, Topkapi Palace, the ancestral residence, was not completely abandoned.
When the Ottoman Empire was stretched to three continents and reached its widest borders, strong monarchs like Suleiman the Magnificent was accommodating in this humble palace. The Palace consists of four large courtyards and a structure immersed with nature. A visit to the palace takes 3 hours on average.
Things to See in Topkapi Palace Museum
Things to see in Topkapi Palace include collections of watches, weapons, and jewelry, and rooms decorated with tiles and gilding. During the palace tour, you can take excellent photos with the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn in the background.
Entrance to the first courtyard of Topkapi Palace is free. It is necessary to buy a ticket at the entrance to the second courtyard, which is the core of the palace. You can find useful tips for your palace visit in this step-by-step guide to Topkapi Palace.
1. First Courtyard of the Palace
The first courtyard of Topkapi Palace includes Hagia Irene Museum, Konyali Restaurant, Topkapi Palace Museum Shop and Ticket Offices. You can find a detailed explanation of these sections in the following lines.
Hagia Irene Museum is the most important historical monument you will encounter in the first courtyard. Hagia Irene Church was built by Justinian, the most famous ruler of Byzantium. You can see Hagia Irene in the picture above and Hagia Sophia in the background. The history of the two buildings is very similar.
Konyali Restaurant served under the Mecidiye Pavilion in the 4th courtyard for many years and has now been moved to the old Police Station Building in the 1st courtyard. You can experience the traditional Ottoman Cuisine in this famous restaurant.
Topkapi Palace Museum Shop is a gift shop where you can find many things about the history of Istanbul. If you come here after visiting the palace, you can buy souvenirs about the things that affected you during the palace visit.
Ticket Offices are quite crowded during the summer months. Istanbul’s tourism season starts in April and continues until November. Thus, long queues are formed in front of the ticket offices in the spring and summer months.
In order to avoid waiting in line to buy tickets, you have two options: First, you can buy the Museum Pass Istanbul. Second, you can buy Topkapi Palace skip-the-line tickets. You can buy tickets online for Topkapi Palace in advance using this link.
In addition, there is a pathway that provides direct access to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum from the first courtyard. If you want to go directly to the archaeological museum without visiting the palace, you can reach the museum from the road next to Hagia Irene Church.
2. Second Courtyard of the Palace
The second courtyard of Topkapi Palace includes Imperial Council, Clock Collection, Weapon Collection and Palace Kitchens. Now let’s give brief information about these sections.
Imperial Council (Divan) is the most impressive building you will see in the second courtyard. Decisions regarding the administration of the Ottoman Empire, which once ruled over three continents, were made here.
When you carefully examine the two neighboring rooms of the Imperial Council, you will see two different architectural styles. Early Classical Ottoman Architecture includes oriental motifs, while late architecture includes European influence.
The first room is the meeting room decorated with Iznik tiles and intricate motifs. The second room is the waiting room, which contains Baroque and Rococo influences and reflects the late Ottoman architecture.
Clock Collection includes pieces presented to the Ottoman Sultans from European countries. These unique works designed by royal clockmakers are really impressive. You can see clocks made in England, France, Russia and Austria.
Weapon Collection is located in a room built with red bricks. Inside you can find examples of all the swords, arrows, shields and rifles used during the 600 years of the Ottoman rule.
Palace Kitchens have a distinctive architecture that can be seen from all sides of the courtyard. Kitchens with giant chimneys feature one of the world’s largest Chinese Porcelain collections.
You can have an idea about the history of Turkish cuisine in the kitchen section. The reason why Turkish cuisine is so rich is that it melts the Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Eastern European cultures in the same pot.
It should also be noted that the entrance to the Harem Rooms is only from the second courtyard. Harem’s entrance gate is on the side of the Imperial Council. If you enter the Harem from here, you will reach the third courtyard at the end of the tour.
3. Third Courtyard of the Palace
The third courtyard of Topkapi Palace includes Audience Hall, Sultan Clothes Collection, Imperial Treasury, Sacred Relics and Portraits of Sultans.
Audience Hall is the big room at the entrance of the third courtyard. This room was the place where the sultan received his guests. In addition, when the meetings at the Imperial Council were over, the viziers (ministers) would come here and submit the decisions taken to the Sultan’s approval.
Sultan Clothes Collection is the section where clothes made of silk fabrics are exhibited. You can see the caftans used by the Ottoman sultans between 1460 and 1856, when they lived in Topkapi Palace.
Imperial Treasury is by far the most interesting part of Topkapi Palace. The treasure consists of four rooms and houses a very large collection. The most popular pieces are Spoonmaker’s Diamond and Topkapi Dagger.
Various thrones, swords, ornaments, earrings and rings can be seen in the treasure. Most of these items are covered with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. You can see one of the most spectacular views of the Bosphorus from the balcony of one of the treasury mansions.
Sacred Relics is one of the most visited places of Topkapi Palace. Visitors from other Muslim countries of the world are especially interested in this collection. Because there are personal belongings of the Prophet Mohammed inside.
In the Portraits of Sultans section, you can see the images of 36 sultans who ruled throughout the Ottoman history. Some of the sultans can be seen in their private portraits, while others are seen in family portraits in the form of medallions.
In the middle of the Third Courtyard is the library built by Ahmed III. Reflecting the classical Ottoman architecture, this building is adorned with beautiful tiles and ornaments. The library’s priceless manuscript book collection has been preserved elsewhere.
4. Fourth Courtyard of the Palace
The fourth courtyard of Topkapi Palace includes Mecidiye Pavilion, Wooden Sofa Pavilion, Baghdat and Revan Pavilions.
Mecidiye Pavilion is the most striking structure of the fourth courtyard with its baroque structure. You can take souvenir photos with the Bosphorus in the background on the viewing balcony in front of this mansion.
Wooden Sofa Pavilion is located in the middle of the fourth courtyard and overlooks the area where sports activities used to be held. The Sultan used to watch the competitions of the Enderun school students from here. The imperial school called Enderun was located in the palace and educated students who would govern the state in the future.
Baghdat and Revan pavilions were two summer buildings built during the reign of Murad IV. These buildings on the west side of the fourth courtyard have a view of the Golden Horn.
In the Fourth Courtyard, Baghdat Pavilion stands out with its magnificent interior decoration. The most distinctive elements of Ottoman classical architecture are all represented here.
Topkapi Palace Entrance Fee 2023
Topkapi Palace entrance fee is 750 Turkish Liras as of 2023. This ticket includes the Main Parts of the palace and the Hagia Irene Church. If you want to see the Harem Section, the ticket price is an extra 350 Turkish Liras.
The cheapest ticket that can be purchased to visit Topkapi Palace is 750 TL, but the combined ticket that includes all parts of the palace (Palace, Harem Rooms and Hagia Irene) is 950 TL. The information on the ticket prices were last updated on September 24, 2023.
After purchasing your ticket, you can receive your free audio guide from the other box office in the courtyard. The audio guide is included in both the standard ticket and the combined ticket.
One of the things that visitors wonder most when buying tickets is whether it is worth paying the extra fee for the Harem in Topkapi Palace. As a local guide, I strongly recommend you to visit the Harem. The Imperial Hall in the Harem can be seen in the picture above.
Skip The Line Topkapi Palace Tickets
The 7-month period from April to November is Istanbul’s high tourism season. During this time, there are long ticket lines in front of museums. For this reason, I recommend you to buy a fast track Topkapi Palace tickets in advance.
Those who have skip the line Topkapi Palace tickets meet with their guides at the gate and enter with the group. Thus, you can listen to the history of the 550-year-old palace from a professional.
For fast track entrance to Topkapi Palace, you can buy online tickets from this link. These tickets are sold with the guarantee of GetYourGuide, an international travel platform.
Topkapi Palace Opening Hours 2023
Topkapi Palace opening hours are between 09:00 in the morning and 18:30 in the evening. Ticket offices stop selling tickets at 17:30. Please also note that the museum is closed on Tuesdays. Information on visiting hours was last updated on September 24, 2023.
There may be changes in the visiting hours of the museums in Istanbul. Before going to the museum, I recommend you to visit the official website of the palace and review the latest situation.
How to Get to The Palace?
Topkapi Palace is located in Sultanahmet, one of the most touristic districts of Istanbul. For this reason, it is very easy to reach the palace.
In order to go to Topkapi Palace from Taksim Square, you must first go to Kabatas with Funicular F1. If you take the Tram T1 from Kabatas Tram Station, you can reach Sultanahmet in 15 minutes. It will take only 10 minutes to walk from Sultanahmet Tram Station to Topkapi Palace.
In the vicinity of Topkapi Palace, there are the most visited museums and historical places of Istanbul such as Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Istanbul Archeology Museum and Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum.
Topkapi Palace is my favorite museum in Istanbul as a local guide. Spread over large courtyards, the palace promises to take you on a journey through history as well as a walk among the trees.
When you consider that Topkapi Palace has 6 separate sections, it will take you all day to visit every place properly. The Palace, which consists of four courtyards, and its Harem Rooms are must. However, if you have time, I definitely recommend you to visit other places.
Within the palace complex are the Hagia Irene Church, the Four Palace Courtyards, the Harem Section, the Istanbul Archeology Museum, the Museum of the History of Technology in Islam. Each of these five sections requires separate tickets.
In addition to all these, there is also Gulhane Park, which can be visited free of charge. This park, which is a very long walking path, connects the Sultanahmet district to “Sarayburnu” on the coast of the Marmara Sea.
It is recommended to visit the palace with guided tours in order to learn the history of Topkapi Palace properly and to grasp the flow of life that had continued here for 500 years. You can make a reservation from this link to join guided skip-the-line tours.
Written by Serhat Engul