The Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul
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Topkapi Palace

The main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans

Best Known for
Harem and treasury

Built
1478

Civilization
Ottoman

Suggested Duration
2 hrs

A tour of the hilly cross-continental city of Istanbul isn’t complete without exploring one of its most valuable treasures; Topkapi Palace. Once the administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Empire, the palace is overloaded with archeological and historical collections that attract visitors from all over the world.

Today, Topkapi Palace is among the world’s top historical sites whose visit gives visitors a first-hand experience of Ottoman royalty extravagance. The glamour and splendor within the palace’s walls blow the mind of guests so much that it is not uncommon to hear a visitor sing praises of its breathtaking beauty long after their trip is over.

Inside, the building’s structure and organization take you back to times when the palace was bustling with life and activity. It has four chambers and numerous other rooms, although its main highlights are the Harem, imperial hall, breathtaking pavilions, and the treasury.

Here is everything else you need to know about Topkapi Palace.

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A tour of the hilly cross-continental city of Istanbul isn’t complete without exploring one of its most valuable treasures; Topkapi Palace. Once the administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Empire, the palace is overloaded with archeological and historical collections that attract visitors from all over the world.

Today, Topkapi Palace is among the world’s top historical sites whose visit gives visitors a first-hand experience of Ottoman royalty extravagance. The glamour and splendor within the palace’s walls blow the mind of guests so much that it is not uncommon to hear a visitor sing praises of its breathtaking beauty long after their trip is over.

Inside, the building’s structure and organization take you back to times when the palace was bustling with life and activity. It has four chambers and numerous other rooms, although its main highlights are the Harem, imperial hall, breathtaking pavilions, and the treasury.

Here is everything else you need to know about Topkapi Palace.

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Planning a trip to Istanbul soon? Answer this trip planner and get your FREE quotation within 24 hours.

The History

The Courtyards

The Interior

The Harem

Tips & Etiquette

A few years after conquering Constantinople, Mehmed II ordered the construction of Topkapi Palace. This new palace was to act as the royal seat of the Ottoman Empire Administration. He moved into the newly built castle in 1478, and after his death in 1481, successive sultans worked on its expansion and incorporated their custom decoration.

This went on for the entire 600-year reign of the Ottoman Empire, during which around 30 sultans ruled from the place. The resulting influences on the palace are mixtures of tastes of the Ottoman, European, and Islamic architectural styles and decorations.

In 1924, a year after Turkey became a republic, Topkapi Palace became a museum.

Topkapi Palace’s original layout consisted of four consecutive courtyards, each serving a different purpose. The design remains to this date, with each courtyard surrounded by high walls and separated from the adjacent one by a gate.

The surviving buildings like the Harem in the palace are low with one or two stories. These buildings continuously changed functions over the centuries.

The First Courtyard (Outer Courtyard)

This is the largest and only courtyard accessible to the public during ancient times. It has a large open space that made it ideal for hosting various ceremonies and processions. Visitors of Topkapi palace can see traces of workshops that belonged to artists and artisans who carried out exhibitions in the courtyard.

In the first courtyard, you will also get a glimpse of the different architectural styles used throughout the place.

Second Courtyard (Divan Square)

The Gate of Salutation opens up to this courtyard, which served as the palace’s administrative center. During the Ottoman times, only official visitors and courtesans were allowed into the yard. It is home to the Domed chamber, where council members held meetings to discuss state affairs.

The palace’s tallest structure, the Tower of Justice, can also be found in this palace. This tower has a Neoclassical lantern that gave the Sultan a complete view of the palace. The palace kitchens and confectionaries (displays the imperial porcelain collection) also sit in the second courtyard.

Mehmed II and all the other Sultans gave keen notice on the detailing and improvement to Topkapi Palace’s interior; it was a world full of itself. There was a church, bathhouses, a kitchen, the Harem, horse stables, libraries, memories, and much more. The four courtyards surrounded the Harem with a long perimeter wall for safety.

Topkapi Palace is now a museum with most military, jewelry, and other collections on display for visitors to view. Mehmed himself had a distinct taste for art, paintings, and jewelry, all displayed at Topkapi Palace.

On a typical day during visiting hours, unending lines of curious tourists shall be found accessing the Harem, which sits at the center of the 173 acres of land. It was private to the Sultan and the other members, mostly women and male slaves.

The Harem was special and served to show the Sultan’s sexual prowess and train sub-kingdom couple leaders; however, not all women in the Harem had sex with the Sultan. Today, you can access the Harem’s then private partitions and see the beautiful art prints and designs in it.

Before you set your foot into Topkapi, there are a few pro tips that you should have for a smooth experience.

  • There are places like the Islamic history section where taking pictures is prohibited.
  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are social distancing rules in place. Therefore, you have to mask up and prepare relatively longer queues.
  • The Harem’s breathtaking tile patterns and the military and kitchenware are worth waiting for at long last.
  • The prices of the surrounding shops, cafes, and restaurants might be a little bit higher than usual, so prepare adequately.

Topkapi Palace is a complex that covers an area of 173 acres of land.

Topkapi Palace Facts

  • After six years from the Constantinople conquest, Mehmed II ordered the construction of Topkapi Palace in the year 1459 and would move into the palace in 1478. Mehmed II made a detailed and classic palace, but the construction never ended as all the subsequent Sultan’s made improvements as per their caste, religion, and cultures. So, the construction continued in the form of progress even after 1478.
  • The palace housed around 5,000 residents, and this number could double when festivals were held.
  • Both Topkapi Palace and Suleymaniye Mosque share aspects of the Ottoman architectural achievements. The two complexes were built in Istanbul under the Ottoman Empire’s rulership. However, the Suleymaniye Mosque also has elements of Islamic architecture; being a mosque, this had to be represented.
  • The Forbidden City in China shares a lot of aspects with the Topkapi Palace. The prime factor is that the restrictive nature of both palaces’ architectural designs installed an authoritarian rule over the populace that caused limitation of rights and privileges. For instance, the ordinary people were not allowed to attend high-end partitions in Topkapi and the Forbidden City.
  • The Topkapi Palace was used as the Ottoman Empire’s central administration from the time it was completed in 1478. The Sultan also lived and did all their operations from Topkapi Palace; it was common for the populace to visit only provincial courts when submitting complaints and issues. Topkapi was also used as an armory and a treasure keeping area where presents and high-end treasures of the Sultan were kept. Topkapi was a symbol of the overall authority and power of the Ottoman Empire.
  • Topkapi palace is made of many materials. Outstanding are the rare high-end tiles used for the final furnishings such as those in the Haram; the windows are made of stained-glass panels while the interior had a good portion of woodworking Sofas, the cupboards, and other woodworks.
  • Despite commissioning the palace’s construction, Sultan Mehmed II died three years after moving into the Topkapi.

Istanbul Tours

What is Nearby

Istanbul is among the world’s most detailed and most extensive cultural and historical cities. Therefore, Topkapi is surrounded by other interesting places and historical sites you can check out during the visit. These include the breathtaking Hagia Sophia, the grand Basilica Cistern, the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Irene, Galata Bridge, and so much more.

Therefore, as you explore Topkapi Palace, don’t forget to tour these other magnificent sites. The best way to enjoy all of these sites is to book a day tour of Istanbul’s top highlights.

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