We can give you our top 5 reasons to visit the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul but after you visit you will probably have many more reasons. The Topkapi Palace is one of the top attractions in Sultanahmet, Istanbul.
It is worth getting there early in the day, as the queues start well before the opening time of 9 am. Any later and you will find that once the buses arrive it can become quite congested. Even if you have only one day in Istanbul it is worth a visit.
Editor update 2019
To assist in visiting the Topkapi Palace the bestseller from Amazon “The Palace of Topkapi in Istanbul“ is well worth the read. You can wander around in awe within the palace grounds itself and the buildings, and you don’t want to miss anything.
We would recommend that you pre-purchase your tickets and tour. Click here for more information.
The Museum is closed on Tuesdays and hours differ between summer and winter.
Short History of the Topkapi Palace
In 1478 Mehmet the Conqueror constructed Topkapi Palace to be used as the administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire and the residence of the Sultans for 380 years.
Over the centuries the palace undertook renovations after the devasting effects firstly of the earthquake in 1509 and then later a fire in 1665. There are 4 main courtyards and several smaller buildings. The harem was the home for the women in the Sultan’s family.
Sadly the Topkapi Palace lost its importance during the 17th century when the Sultans preferred to build along the Bosphorus instead.
In 1923 at the end of the Ottoman Empire, the Topkapi Palace became a Museum. In 1985 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Harem means ‘ a place forbidden’. It is where the mother of the Sultan lived with the concubines and wives of the Sultan. The Topkapi Palace Harem has 300 rooms, 9 Turkish Baths, 2 Mosques and 1 hospital. Only certain people could enter the Harem:
- the Sultan
- the Queen Mother
- the Consorts
- the Princes
- the concubines
- the eunuchs who guarded the harem
When you are in the Harem in the Topkapi Palace ensure that you always look up towards the ceilings – the tiles, design, colour and gold inlay are incredible. How much is all that gold worth?
Inside the Harem do not miss visiting the private chamber of Sultan Murat III. (The photos do not do the rooms justice).
As you wander from building to building, room to room, the colourful tiles impress even those who normally do not consider tiles of importance. The Summer Pavilion was built by Sultan Ibrahim in 1640. It was used for the circumcision ceremonies of the Crown Princes. The walls are covered with rare specimens of Ottoman Tiles. The most important of these are the blue and white panels influenced by Far Eastern ceramics on the chamber facade which dates back to 1529.
The magnificent entrance into the Inner Court dazzles you with the gold and tile decorations of the walls and columns. This Gate was used by the Sultans when holding special ceremonies.
The Library of Ahmed III was built in 1719 for the use of the officials of the Royal Household. Today the books of the library are kept in the Agalar Mosque. When you walk into this room, there is a sense of peacefulness.
Sultan Murat III originally commissioned the Apartments, they are located in the centre of the Harem.
Entrance Costs as of 2019 to the Topkapi Palace
The museum is open every day except Tuesdays.
Skip the line and guided tour tickets can be purchased on line – click here.
Hours of Visit
Winter Season: Between October 30th – April 15th
Museum, Harem and Hagia Irene can be visited between 9:00 AM – 4:45 PM as last entrance to the Museum 4:00 PM
Attention: Ticket booths close at 4:00 PM
Summer Season: Between April 15th – October 30th
Museum, Harem and Hagia Irene can be visited between 9:00 AM – 6:45 PM as last entrance to the Museum 6:00 PM
Attention: Ticket booths close at 6:00 PM
Museum Ticket: 40 TL
Ticket Price for one person for the main entrance is 30 TL except for the Harem Section
Harem Ticket: 25 TL
If you want to visit theHarem you will have to buy a separate ticket from the ticket booth in front of the Harem entrance.
Rules for Your Visit
- No taking photographs inside the exhibition halls
- Prams are prohibited
- You will need to wear appropriate clothing, if not, suitable clothes will be provided by the staff at the Sacred Relics Department. Shorts, mini-skirts, tank tops or strapless clothing are not allowed.
- If you want to use a tripod you will have to ask for permission
- There is not a guide service available only audio guides available from the booths inside.
If you enjoyed our article you can now download it and take it with your when you travel to Istanbul.
Other Things To Do in Istanbul
Ideally you want to give yourself 7 nights in Istanbul to be able to see all the sights at a leisurely pace and not rush.
We have put together some recommended tours for you:
We spent 5 hours just wandering around the Grand Bazaar haggling over the prices of Turkish Delight, scarves and a gold engraved tea service. Crazy, how on earth are we going to travel with this without breaking it.
The Spice Market is also worth a few hours. The aromas and the colours of the spices, well you will just have to visit to feel the essence yourself.
You can’t leave Istanbul without a boat ride on the Bosphorus. The sunset cruise is spectacular. The Bosphorus separates Asian Turkey with European Turkey and it is the narrowest used strait for international navigation by shipping vessels. Over 48,000 vessels sail every year down the strait.
Some of Istanbul’s famous hotels are:
The stunning Four Seasons Hotel:
The most famous hotel is The St. Regis Hotel:
For more hotel options click our link below:
There are a variety of Airbnb properties throughout Istanbul, the most popular area being Sultanahmet Istanbul. If you have not booked an Airbnb property before we have a special $$$ saving when you use our link below.
The best times to visit Istanbul is between March and May and September and November. It is not as busy and the weather is pleasant.
There are many options to search for the cheapest flights in and out of Istanbul. We are great fans of using the search engine Skyscanner, where we find the cheapest options in most of our searches.
Travelling by bus throughout Turkey is easy and safe. We spent one-month using buses, it was certainly a cost-effective method of transport.
You can book a private airport transfer to your hotel click here.
You may enjoy our other articles on Turkey:
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Insurance is highly recommended every time you travel. We are using World Nomads who have been excellent when we have had to make a claim for delayed travel and health issues whilst on the road.
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