Topkapi Palace- The fantastic palace of the Ottomans

Topkapi Palace- The fantastic palace of the Ottomans

Table of Contents

What is the Topkapi Palace?

The Topkapi Palace was the headquarters of the Ottoman Empire from the 1480s to the 1850s. It is called a palace, however, it is simply a complex containing many buildings.

You can check the history of Istanbul in this post. After the conquest of Constantinople by Fatih Sultan Mehmed (Mehmed the Conqueror), they changed the name right after and selected Istanbul as the new capital of the empire. He thought that the empire needed a palace in this fantastic city. But, he didn’t like the Byzantine’s palace since it was in a bad shape which was exactly at the same location and ordered a new palace. So, this is the beginning of this fantastic complex.

Topkapi Palace is in the UNESCO World Heritage List which also explains its importance.

There are many hotels and restaurants having the same name in Turkey and in the world. If you are searching for a hotel close to the west and south coasts of Turkey especially in Antalya or a restaurant around the world, you are good to leave this page 🙂 Or you can keep on reading, it is for sure you will not regret it. Mainly, we will be talking about all the facts about this fantastic palace which is in Istanbul-Turkey.

Topkapi Palace Information

The Topkapi Palace is on the historical peninsula in Istanbul and covered by the Marmara Sea, Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. This location was selected because of strategical reasons. Since this spot is very dominant over Istanbul because of being in the middle of the Golden Horn and the Marmara Sea, the location is simply fantastic for a palace to manage. The location is at the heart of Istanbul. Additionally, we prefer to call Topkapi a complex rather than saying just a palace. This complex has many different buildings for different purposes and it is not one building at all.

The construction was ordered by Fatih Sultan Mehmed who conquered Constantinople. But, there are many buildings have been added by different Sultans. Till 1854, it was the headquarters of Ottomans. However, Sultan Abdulmecid wanted to have a modern palace and moved the headquarters to the Dolmabahce Palace. In 1924, the father of Turks- Mustafa Kemal Ataturk decided to convert this palace to be used as a palace-museum.

At least five different famous architects (can be more) have signatures on this complex. These are Acem Ali, Davud Aga, Sedefkar Mehmed Efendi, Mimar Sinan and Sarkis Balyan who have contributed to this fantastic city with different architectures.

The Architecture of the Topkapi Palace

To better understand the structure, here is the aerial view. Basically, the palace or complex has two main sections and four different courtyards.

Topkapi Palace- Aerial view
Topkapi Palace Plan

Section 1- The Birun

It is the public and semi-public sections of the palace. The Birun consists of first and second courtyards.

Section 2- The Enderun

It is the private section of the palace including the residence of the Sultan and his family. The Enderun consists of third and fourth courtyards.

You might see different classifications on the net, but there is no significant difference and it will definitely not change your tour. The other classification is the Birun (service and protection area), administration (Divan-i Humayun), the Enderun (education) and the Harem (private section). We will be talking about them in detail in the following sections.

In the centuries, Ottomans improved the palace, so that you can see different styles in this complex consisting of Iranian, Ottoman, and European. The renovation activities also took place because of natural disasters such as fires and earthquakes. In the beginning, the Harem section was in the old palace. The Harem section was transferred to the new palace completely after a century later by Sultan 3rd Murad. But, this transfer process started partially before this Sultan.

The palace is covered by Sur-i Sultani (Sultan’s wall). In some resources, it means only the wall connected to Sea Walls. Furthermore, it is sometimes referred to as whole walls around the palace. [1]

Moreover, the complex is definitely different than other palaces in the world. It is not just a building, it is a series of pavilions kiosks, barracks, schools, libraries and more on. So, this is why we will call it a “complex”, mostly.

What to See in Topkapi Palace?

Some of the rooms especially in the Harem section and the Inner Treasury are under restoration. We think that these restoration activities will never stop since the complex is very big and has many rooms, However, as a general rule, the restoration activities are mainly performed in accordance with the original structure.

There are various exhibitions in the complex. So, let’s start with the outside and 1st courtyard. Other than Hagia Sophia, you will see Sultan 3rd Ahmed’s fountain in front of the gate. The fountain was constructed by Mimar Ahmed Aga by the order of Sultan 3rd Ahmed. There was a Byzantine fountain exactly at the same location and replaced by this architecture.

Sultan 3rd Ahmed's Fountain
The Fountain of Sultan 3rd Ahmed

First Courtyard

Bab-i Humayun (the Imperial Gate) is the main gate that is between the Hagia Sophia and the 3rd Ahmed fountain built in 1728 [2]. It also means Sultanate Gate in Turkish. This gate was constructed by Fatih Sultan Mehmed.

After passing this gate, 1st courtyard starts which is also known as the Courtyard of the Janissaries [2]. This court is the passage to the palace. The Hagia Irene church is on the left. The Hagia Irene church was also used as “Arsenal” in Ottomans. Unfortunately, some of the buildings had been demolished and destroyed by fire in different periods in the 1st courtyard. So, there are not many buildings left in this courtyard.

It can also be thought that the Gulhane Park, the Archeology Museum and the Royal Mint are in this courtyard like the Hagia Irene church.

Second Courtyard

The second courtyard consists of:

  • Divan Square
  • Carriage Gate
  • Tower of Justice
  • Imperial Council Hall
  • Outer Treasury
  • Palace Kitchen
  • Stables

Bab-us Selam (the Middle Gate or the Gate of Salutation) is the main gate opening to the palace having two towers. On this gate, there are signatures of 3rd Mustafa and 3rd Ahmed.

This gate also had one more function. This is the execution place where the heads of guilty people exhibited on the columns. Moreover, the fountain was used to wash the blades of executioners.

The courtyard is the main location and the square that mainly had the ceremonies. These ceremonies included festival meetings, ambassador meetings, meeting with janissaries and more on. Moreover, the bonus from Ottoman Sultan during entering upon office took place in this courtyard which is a big event in the Ottomans period. Additionally, ceremonies of the accession to the throne held in front of the gate Bab-us Saade (or Saadet) which is the gate of the third courtyard.

The justice tower is on the left. This tower was used to watch Istanbul and ceremonies held in this courtyard.

The Justice Tower was constructed during the reign of Mehmed the Conqueror
Topkapi Palace Justice Tower

There are some rooms just under this tower and this new structure was ordered by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent for daily official councils. The ceilings are just amazing. “Divan-i Humayun” which means the imperial council was the meeting of upper management. Generally, Grand Vizier was facilitating these meetings.

The Topkapi Palace- Divan-i Humayun
The Topkapi Palace- The Imperial Council

So, the question is simple “Where is the Sultan?” The Sultan was rarely listening to the council behind this wooden window 🙂 The dome here represents the universe.

The Council- The Wooden Window

Outer Treasury

On the other side of this chamber, there is a treasury chamber where you can find Ottoman, Safavid, European and Mamluk armors. Since the Inner Treasury is under restoration some of the items have been moved to Outer Treasury.

  • There are many bows, swords, helmets, matchlocks, rifles.
  • Kasikci Diamond and Topkapi Dagger are currently shown here.
  • There are pretty big swords that are so hard to understand how a human could carry.
  • Mehmed the Conqueror’s, Suleyman the Magnificient’s, 2nd Selim’s, 3rd Selim’s, 1st Ahmed’s, Abdulmecid’s swords are also here.
  • Sultan 3rd Mustafa’s ceremonial armor is also fantastic.
  • There is a hologram room that greatly explains janissaries, archers, cavaliers, etc.

Next to this chamber, there is a Clock Museum. There is a lot of different size French, Austrian and English clocks.

The Harem

The Harem is both part of the 2nd and 3rd courtyards. And, there is a gate (the Carriage Gate) which is the passage to the Harem section.

Harem is one of the fantastic places in this complex. The word is Arabic and means “a holy place where not everyone can freely enter”. It has more than 300 rooms, 9 bathrooms, 2 mosques, 1 hospital, 1 laundry room, and many dormitories. The transition period was fully completed during the reign of Sultan 3rd Murad from the old palace to Topkapi Palace a century later.

This is the private living area of Sultan and Sultans’ families. Additionally, concubines and eunuchs also lived in Harem as well. These concubines were brought from different regions that the empire ruled. This was also an education center that those ladies got used to palace life.

Black eunuchs who were subjected to castration were brought from elsewhere such as Africa. These people were homeless and probably considered more trust-worthy. They had to learn Turkish and Quran. They were getting promoted to next ranks and they could directly be served to Sultans’ wives or Queen Mother. Black eunuchs were guarding the premises.

Moreover, you might be curious, if you are good at Ottoman history, you probably know Hurrem Sultan who was the wife of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificient. She also lived in this palace and Harem which is one of the important figures in the Ottoman’s history.

Chandeliers in the Harem are not bad but definitely can’t be compared with the Dolmabahce Palace.

First Part

Harem starts with “The corps of Palace Guards”. They were responsible for cleaning the Harem reserved for men, the Sultan’s security and the organization of royal funerals.

And then, you will see the Hall with Fountain and Mosque of Black Eunuchs. Tile Panels in the mosque shows the holy places. The court of Black Eunuchs had different purposes.

Queen Mother’s Apartment

The entrance of the Justice Tower is also in the Harem section. Concubines corridor and courtyard are before the Queen Mother’s apartment.

Queen Mother’s room is big and fantastic containing paintings, a fireplace and a sofa. There are a praying room and bedroom. The Queen Mother was ruling the Harem.

Sultan’s Bathroom and Apartment

Sultan’s bathroom has been constructed during the Sultan Suleyman the Magnificient period by the Architect Sinan. It sounds surprising that there is a golden fence around it. This was thought of as a mechanism that prevents the assassination of the Sultan.

Topkapi Palace- Golden Fence
Topkapi Palace- The Golden Fence around the Sultan’s Bathroom

Sultan’s room is also great. Sultans were having dinner with their children, meeting during festivals and more on.

Sultan's Apartment
Topkapi Palace- Sultan’s Apartment

3rd Murad’s room is also good and the tiles are very inspiring. There is a room which is called “Fruit Room” and it is believed that Sultans used this room. There are many paintings on the walls. “Cifte Kasirlar (Twin Pavilions)” is the room where Sultans’ sons (princes) used.

Other Sections

You will see the apartment of the Sultan’s favorites and the Mabeyn Courtyard which were constructed in the late periods. The view is just amazing.

Sultan's Favorites' Court
Topkapi Palace- Sultan’s Favorites’ Court

In the end, the mosque in the Harem, the goldenroad, Kushane kitchen and the staircase of Cevri Kalfa are final spots in the Harem.

The Golden Cage

Harem has a lot of sad stories too. The “Golden Cage” is in the Harem Section to retain the Sultan’s brothers by keeping in this room to prevent to overthrow the Sultan. At some level, assassinating the brothers by Sultan was obligatory to provide better and stable management, but this rule has been changed in the following centuries. However, putting them into this cage was not really different than assassinating.

The Palace Kitchen

On the right, you will see the Palace Kitchens. The architect Sinan decorated the kitchens after a big fire and the kitchen was not enough due to the increase in population. It was served to 10,000 to 15,000 people in some days. This is such a big number.

The palace kitchen contains a total of 10,700 Chinese pieces ranging from 13th to 20th centuries. These were either purchased or received as gifts. In the collection, up to 730 Japanese porcelains can be found ranging from 17th to 19th centuries. [3] Celadon from China is an important item in the kitchen because there was a belief that if the food was poisoned to assassinate the Sultan, the porcelain would change the color. [4] Moreover, there are a lot of great silver products you can see in the kitchens.

The palace kitchen is also long and has different sections as follows.

  • Imperial pantry: The pantry was the storage location of foods consumed at the palace. Moreover, there was an outer pantry for registration of foods before carrying the imperial pantry. So, you can see steelyards, storage vessels, sherbet jars in this pantry. There is also a Turkish bath.
  • Halvahane: This section is dedicated to sweety products. Of course, the most important one is “Sugar Candy”.
  • Mosque: There was a dedicated mosque for the cooks.
  • Palace Kitchen Staff Halls: The dormitory was constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries.

In other sections, you will see coffee cups, tobacco pipes, sherbet cups, pots, ewers, bowls, Turkish coffee grinders, pans, and Ashoura jugs. You know, Turks have a very deep history of Turkish coffee, Turkish delight, and desserts. So, you can understand these habits simply by checking these various items.

Third Courtyard

The third courtyard consists of:

  • Enderun Courtyard
  • Audience Room
  • Library of Sultan 3rd Ahmed
  • Inner Treasury
  • The sacred chamber of holy relics
  • Sultan’s costumes and portraits

The courtyard starts with Bab-us Saade (or Saadet) gate which means the Gate of Felicity opening to the empire’s heart. You will be seeing “Ottoman’s flag location” during the ceremonies.

The first room is “Arz Odasi (Audience Room)”. Sultans received the viziers to hear the report of imperial meetings. Moreover, this is the place where the ambassadors were welcomed, officially mostly by the viziers. Also, there is a golden throne here.

The library right after “Arz Odasi” has been ordered to construct by 3rd Ahmed. And, there is a fountain which is very shiny and has a beautiful design.

Topkapi Palace Library
The Library in the 3rd Courtyard

There is a hall about Sultan’s portraits. If you visit this hall, you can understand this complex family tree.

Inner treasury which is under restoration has many valuable pieces such as:

  • Kasikci Elmasi- the Spoonmaker’s Diamond
  • Sultan’s body armors
  • Medals, gifts, jewels, etc.
  • Emerald Dagger
  • Nadir Shah Peacock throne

Emerald Dagger, Kasiksi Elmasi, Sultan 3rd Mustafa’s ceremonial armor is currently in the outer treasury. Topkapi Palace is well known about moving objects due to restorations. Don’t be surprised if you see these items somewhere else 🙂

The Sacred Chamber of Holy Relics

The most important room is “the holy or sacred relics chamber” or “the sacred chamber of holy relics” which has many relics. The door has 3rd Ahmed’s signatures on both sides. And, there are many relics in this room such as:

  • Prophet Muhammad’s beard
  • Prophet Muhammad’s footprint
  • The swords of Prophet Muhammad’s companions
  • Prophet Muhammad’s swords, arrows, and signet
  • Caliph Ali’s and Osman’s (Uthman ibn Affan) swords
  • The staff of Prophet Moses and the sword of Prophet David
  • Prophet Abraham’s pot
  • The key of Kaaba and gutter: Sultan’s name and dates are engraved.
  • Repentance gate: Kaaba was repaired and the old door of Repentance Gate has been sent to Istanbul.
  • The hand and occipital bone of St. John the Baptist
  • An old Quran
  • And more relics

You will notice that Quran recitation is active the whole day. Considering the relics above and Quran recitation, the place becomes very spiritual.

Fourth Courtyard

The fourth courtyard consists of:

  • Circumcision room
  • Revan Pavilion
  • Iftar Pavilion
  • Baghdad Pavilion
  • Mecidiye Kiosk
  • Sofa Mosque
  • Tulip Gardens
  • A great Marmara Sea view

The courtyard is the most private area of the Sultans. And, there is no specific gate dividing the 3rd and 4th courtyards.

This courtyard has Sultans’ sons (princes’) circumcision room. As expected, these events were big in the Ottomans.

Topkapi Palace- Circumcision Room
The Tiles in the Circumcision Room

The Baghdad Pavilion was constructed in memory of Baghdad conquest by 4th Murad.

Revan Pavilion was built in memory of the conquest of Revan. The tulip gardens are pretty good that shows a brilliant view. Mecidiye kiosk was added to the palace as an imperial reception area during Sultan Abdulmecid. And, this is the final gift to the palace.

You can also see the Sofa Mosque which is active and the small Stone Throne.

But, the best thing about this courtyard is the view and balcony opening to Bosphorus. Is it amazing, isn’t it? The Bosphorus is welcoming you, just enjoy it and take some photos. Moreover, you will see the Iftar Pavilion that has a yellow cover just near the Baghdad Pavilion. It is believed that the Sultans were breaking their fasts here with an amazing view of Istanbul. This was constructed in 1640 during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim.

Topkapi Palace- View
The view from 4th Courtyard

Topkapi Palace- Interesting Facts

There are some interesting facts about the complex.

  • Some historians believe that the palace was pretty boring so that Sultans added new buildings such as a specific library etc.
  • Topkapi Palace administration has been recently transferred to the National Palaces Department which will not affect anything regarding your visit.
  • We all know that Harem was an amazing education center, however, the empire also subjected to game of thrones. Especially, Harem is the center of lobbying. Haseki Sultans were competing for their sons to become the next emperor. So, besides education activities, it is thought that Harem was full of secrets.

Uthman Quran

Sacred relics room had a Quran which was investigated by different theologists. At some point, it was believed that the Quran had been written during the caliph Uthman (or Othman and Osman in the Turkish) period. The further investigations revealed that this Quran was one of the oldest and can also be the oldest as the nearly complete text of the Quran in the world. However, the same investigations show that this can’t be coming from the caliph Uthman period. It is also worth briefly explaining how the Quran had been distributed to Muslim provinces.[5,6,7,8]

Caliph Uthman was the third leader of Islam after caliphs Abu Bakr (Ebu Bekir in Turkish) and Umar (Omer in Turkish). Muslim territories started expanding and this basically means new people, new Muslims and new thoughts about the Quran. During the Caliph Uthman period, this became an important topic. According to some resources, Caliph Uthman had been requested by Muslim provinces to send the original copies to prevent the discussion about the interpretations. So, Caliph Uthman had ordered to write a couple of copies and distribute them to the Muslim provinces.[8]

The Arm of St. John the Baptist

According to some resources, the arm of St. John the Baptist’s which is currently located in the palace were in Constantinople and moved to Rhodes and has been found in Cyprus before moving back to Istanbul. The bone is in the gold-embellished silver artificial arm.

The Kasikci (Spoonmaker’s) Diamond

The Spoonmaker’s diamond is 86 carats and one of the biggest in the world. But, it is still an unknown how this diamond was found, created and moved to the palace. The Kasikci (the Spoonmaker’s) Diamond has currently different stories in the public. Here you can find two of them.

The first story is about Pigot’s diamond. A French officer Pigot purchased a diamond and brought it to France. After a while, Napoleon’s mother purchased it. When Napoleon was sent to exile, his mother sold it and one of Tepedelenli Ali Pasha’s men bought it. However, Ali Pasha was killed because of rebellion rumors against Ottomans and his treasure was confiscated and moved to the Ottoman treasury. But, this story’s connection is missing why the diamond was named as spoonmaker’s even both diamonds (Pigot’s and Kasikci) sizes’ are matching.

The other tale is well accepted in the public. A poor man or a fisherman found this shiny stone in a garbage dump. This man exchanged this stone with three spoons with a spoon maker. And then, the spoon maker sold the stone to a jeweler for small money. Furthermore, the jeweler showed the stone to another jeweler and somehow they understood that this piece was very valuable. But they had a conflict about how to share it and chief jeweler of the palace heard it and bought it from these jewelers. And then, grand vizier wanted to buy, but this time the Sultan heard the story and he wanted to transfer the stone to the palace’s treasury. After cutting the stone, 86 carats diamond was created and transferred to the treasury. What a great story into this sequence 🙂

The Emerald Dagger

The Emerald Dagger which is the subject in the movie “Topkapi” is shown in the Outer Treasury room. Basically, the Topkapi Dagger was supposed to be a gift to Nadir Shah. Sultan 1st Mahmud sent a delegation to Iran with this precious gift including three big emeralds. When the delegation crossed the Iranian border, they received a piece of news that Nadir Shah had been assassinated. After a lot of troubles, they were able to return the dagger and other gifts to the palace which were supposed to be delivered to Nadir Shah.

Topkapi Dagger
Emerald Dagger in Topkapi Palace

Nadir Shah Throne

Nadir Shah also sent gifts and one of them is Peacock Throne. Iranian ambassadors learned the rebellion and Nadir Shah’s assassination as well and wanted asylum from the Ottoman government. Moreover, these treasures were also transferred to Istanbul. Thus, the Peacock Throne safely reached Istanbul and was moved to the Ottoman treasury.

Is the Topkapi Palace Worth Visiting?

That is a simple question to answer. There are definitely “must-do” activities in Istanbul. So, visiting this complex is a “must-do” activity in this beautiful city. You know, Ottomans ruled many regions for centuries and this was the headquarters of one of the most dominant empires in the world.

We also like to spend time around the palace. You can combine other locations such as the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern with this gigantic palace.

We observed that there are some comparisons exist on the net. These are “Topkapi Palace vs./or Dolmabahce Palace” and “Topkapi Palace vs./or Hagia Sophia

We also explained the first comparison in the Dolmabahce Palace post. From our point of view, both palaces worth a visit since the first one represents the first and mid ages of the empire. However, Dolmabahce Palace shows the modern face of the empire. So, this is not a fair comparison. Both of them are great, you will not regret to visit both Topkapi Palace and Dolmabahce Palace.

The second comparison is totally different. Hagia Sophia is an interesting spot served as a church and a mosque in different periods and currently is a museum. It doesn’t make sense to compare this temple or museum and this palace. Since they are close to each other, you can easily cover both spots.

Where is the Topkapi Palace Located?

Here is the official address of the palace. The palace is one the European side, however, it is also easy to go from the Anatolian side of Istanbul. It is easy to find, no worries.

Topkapi Palace Address: Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/Istanbul

The Topkapi Palace- How Much Time?

The palace is gigantic and there are many things to see. We generally recommend people to spend 1 day in this area including the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern visits.

Half-day would be enough for the palace. It really matters how long you will be in this complex. Because there are many things to see. But we all know that this is also driven by your time in Istanbul. So, just be careful, this is not a simple palace 🙂

Topkapi Palace- Dress Code

There is no specific dress code for the complex except the Sacred Relics Chamber and the Sofa Mosque. There are many religious places in this palace and we can easily state that the most important religious chamber is the Sacred Relics room. So, it would be good to wear properly. Furthermore, we saw some people were entering the Sofa Mosque with their shoes. This is not a correct behavior since this one is still active and people can pray in this modest mosque.  One more thing you should also be cautious, the Blue Mosque is very close to the palace, you may want to combine your visits.

If you are a woman, you need something to cover your legs. And your upper body should not be exposed. Due to hygienic conditions, we recommend you to carry your own scarf if possible to cover your head. Please note that covering your head is not really necessary in the palace, but will be for the Blue Mosque. Basically, as a man, you should wear at least shorts to cover your knee for the Blue Mosque.

Topkapi Palace Ticket Price

Unfortunately, the palace is not free. But, you can use the Museum Pass (for non-Turkish) or the Museum Card (for Turkish) in this museum. Find out more information in this post regarding this pass.

If you don’t have a pass or a card you should pay 72 TL to visit the palace-museum. You should get another ticket for the Harem Section and it is 42 TL. Museum pass covers Harem, however, museum card for Turkish people does not include Harem section. You can’t visit Harem only without the palace.

To visit the Hagia Irene Church, you should pay an extra 36 TL, again the museum pass covers it. however, the museum card for Turkish people is not valid for the church.

Fast Track is 105 TL for the palace, but we are not sure you really need it. Think about if your time is very limited. By the way, we have never seen a queue for the Harem.

If you have a museum pass, you can directly skip the line and enter the palace. The ticket queue can be challenging, but we still think that there is no need to buy an online ticket or search for the other options. Moreover, you can pay the fee with your credit card.

Topkapi Palace Opening-Closing Days & Hours

The palace is open every day except Tuesdays. During the feasts, it is closed till 1 p.m on the first day only. The museum is fully open on the other eid days except for Tuesday.

There are two different times for the Winter and Summer seasons.

Winter Season: October-April

In this season, the palace museum, the Harem, and the Hagia Irene Church can be visited from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. where you can buy the tickets till 4 p.m.

Summer Season: April-October

In this season, the palace museum, the Harem, and the Hagia Irene Church can be visited from 9 a.m to 6:45 p.m where you can buy the tickets till 6 p.m.

The Topkapi Palace- English Tour

Unfortunately, the audio guides are not free and it is costly compared to other palaces. Find out the prices below.

  • Topkapi Palace: 45 TL
  • Harem: 30 TL
  • Palace + Harem: 70 TL

According to our experience, we really like it. The tour is very long and you can lose your concentration and motivation and miss some valuable information while randomly visiting the places. So, we recommend you to take the audio guide to get the direction from the guide and understand the details about the complex. If this is not your first time in the palace, it is not really necessary to take it. Moreover, the audio guide may not be available after a while in the top hours. Do keep in mind.

One negative thing about the guide is that it is very hard to use it in the Holy Relics Chamber because of crowdedness.

Otherwise, you can still prefer to read this post line by line or have easy access to this post during your tour 😉

How to Reach the Topkapi Palace?

Sultanahmet Square or Blue Mosque to the Palace

You can reach Topkapi Palace by walking 3-4 minutes only. As we mentioned, they are both in the same area.

Hagia Sophia to the Palace

You can reach Topkapi Palace by walking 3-4 minutes only. They are both in the same area.

Basilica Cistern to the Palace

By walking 3-4 minutes only. They are both in the same area.

Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar to the Palace

You can both walk from these bazaars to the palace. But, please keep in mind that it would take 15-20 minutes. They are both 1.5 km away from the palace. Spica Bazaar is close to the Eminonu pier. T1 is the best option. Furthermore, Grand Bazaar is close to the Beyazit-Kapalicarsi tram stop. You can still catch this one to go to the palace.

Taksim Square to the Palace

It would be good if you can go there by railways, however here are the options. You know traffic jam in Istanbul is one of the biggest problems.

  • You can go there in 20 minutes by taxi.
  • If you like walking, this can take an hour to reach the region. This can be very tiring, however, this is also a good route. Furthermore, you can check Beyoglu, Karakoy, the Galata Tower, Eminonu, Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar on the route and finally reach the palace.
  • If you prefer the metro, you can catch F1 (Taksim-Kabatas funicular) and then transfer to T1 (Bagcilar Kabatas tramway line). You can get off from the train at Sultanahmet stop. It is just 3-4 minutes from Sultanahmet square. Another option is you can directly walk to Kabatas by walking from the Taksim square, skip F1- the funicular and then catch T1. It is just 15 minutes by walking.

Galata Tower to the Palace

Other than walking we explained above, you can both catch T1 from Tophane tram stop or taxi to go to the palace.

Dolmabahce Palace to the Palace

It is easy to go from Dolmabahce Palace. You can simply catch the T1 from Kabatas.

Kadikoy to the Palace

The most feasible two options are as follows.

  • You can go to Eminonu by city line or Turyol ferries. And then, you can directly catch T1 or walk from Eminonu.
  • You can also go by M4 metro from Kadikoy to Ayrilik Cesmesi and transfer to Marmaray and go to Sirkeci. It is just 10-15 minutes after Sirkeci.

Ataturk Airport to the Palace

Ataturk Airport is not active anymore for commercial flights. The distance from this airport to the palace is around 20 km or 32 miles. The best option is definitely to catch a taxi rather than transferring the metro lines if you have huge suitcases.

New Istanbul Airport to the Palace

New Istanbul Airport is pretty far away from the city center. You can catch the bus Yenikapi-Sirkeci from the new airport. And then, you can get off from the bus at the nearest station to the palace. Actually, since it is above 50 km, the taxi option might be costly.

Havaist is the operator. So, you can check their site for the latest updates.

Topkapi Palace- the FAQs

What does Topkapi Mean?

After the conquest, Mehmed the Conqueror used a palace in Beyazit square. They called “New Palace” for centuries and changed the name Topkapi Palace in the 19th century. Topkapi means Cannon Gate or Gates of Cannon.

Where is the Topkapi Palace?

The palace is in Istanbul-Turkey. It is in Fatih district. Moreover, Topkapi Palace’s latitude and longitude coordinates are 41.011574, 28.983269.

What is the Best Time to Visit?

Since the complex has many open areas, sunny and warm spring and fall may be the best options. However, you can definitely enjoy the palace regardless of the season. We would recommend you to be at the complex early mornings because queues can be challenging during the day.

As a bonus, you can check this post to find out the best time to visit Istanbul.

How old is the Topkapi Palace?

It is currently around 540 years old.

How big is the Topkapi Palace?

This is huge. The total area is around 700,000-meter square or 7,535,000 feet square. So, this is not like a simple one building.

Why was the Topkapi Palace Built?

The Ottomans conquered Constantinople and wanted to have a real palace to rule the empire.

Why is the Topkapi Palace Important?

It is simple. This palace was the headquarters of one of the most dominant empires in the world. Since this is a gigantic complex in Istanbul and it is 540 years old, it definitely worths a visit. You can smell the history, see the holy relics and enjoy the fantastic view over the Bosphorus.

Which Tram Stop is Closest to the Topkapi Palace?

T1 line Sultanahmet tram stop is the nearest one to reach the palace.

How to Pronounce the Topkapi Palace?

It is easy to pronounce. Check out this link. But, don’t underline “p” a lot like the sound in this video and pronounce it quickly. Btw, it is “Topkapi Sarayi” in Turkish.

Where to Eat or Rest near Topkapi Palace?

Gulhane Sark Sofrasi is a good place to eat. You can prefer to eat seafood, kebabs and there are some gluten-free options. Moreover, Olive Anatolian serves also different options and has a fantastic view to spend time. And, Constantine’s Ark is a good place to enjoy a delicious meal. Seafood is good, but we would recommend kebabs in this restaurant. As a bonus, Mesopotamian Terrace Restaurant is another good place to enjoy specific Turkish foods, but enjoying the Bosphorus and Hagia Sophia views are just amazing. You can also prefer to start the day with a good breakfast.

We don’t prefer to eat at Konyali Restaurant which is in the palace, but the view is perfect.

Emirgan Sutis is a good cafe close to the entrance in the 1st courtyard where you can have a rest. Btw, Emirgan Sutis is a chain you may see at different locations in Istanbul and prefer to have a meal or drink Turkish coffee or Turkish tea.

The museum cafe is next to the gift shop which is also a good place to have a rest, but we don’t prefer to eat any food here. But, you can drink Turkish tea in this cafe, it is not the best but not a bad option.

What to Do after the Topkapi Palace Tour?

It is easy to visit the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern. There are great restaurants around the palace that you can enjoy lunch or dinner. Outside of the palace is also fantastic.

What is the Official Website of the Topkapi Palace?

The Official website is topkapisarayi.gov.tr which is not reachable frequently. It may not be available since the palace administration has been transferred to National Palaces.

You can refer to this site for further info.

https://www.millisaraylar.gov.tr/saraylar/topkapi-sarayi

The Topkapi Palace- Toilets and Baby Stroller, Buggy and Wheelchair

Istanbul is not a plain city and has many ups and downs. So, using a baby stroller and a wheelchair is generally not an easy thing to do. The city improved the conditions recently, but one of the biggest challenges is to survive in this crowdedness. Istanbul is too crowded considering its territories.

Considering Topkapi Palace only, you can use baby strollers, buggies and wheelchairs. The palace area is too big and it would be OK to use them comfortably. But, there are a few steps, just be careful. This article is very useful, check out for wheelchair question. [9]

Moreover, there are some rooms that responsible people would request to leave your strollers and there are also signs at the doors if they don’t permit. One of the reasons is the palace gets very crowded especially in the summertime and around noon and there is not enough space in these rooms. So, we would suggest you visit the palace early in the mornings.

Toilets are really easy to find, however, we find it clean whenever we visit the palace. But again, there is always a queue 🙂

Movies related to the Topkapi Palace

There are many movies about Istanbul. James Bond’s “From Russia with Love” and “Skyfall” can be the most popular among all. These are both great movies but don’t have a direct link with the palace.

The movie “Topkapi (1964)” is regarding the palace and Emerald Dagger that you can watch.

Topkapi Palace Online Guides

Lonely Planet’s [2] and Britannica’s [4] posts are good guides except our post 🙂

The Topkapi Palace Gift Shop

You can prefer to buy souvenirs from the gift shops located in the palace, however, we think that the prices are really high. Other than stuff directly regarding the palace such as t-shirt, bags, keyrings or mugs, we recommend you to check Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar and the shops around the palace if you think to buy jewelry and Turkish coffee or tea sets.

The Topkapi Palace- Gift Shop

The Topkapi Palace- Best Districts for Hotels

There are pretty cool hotels around the Sultanahmet region. Other than this, Karakoy, Beyoglu, and Besiktas are good regions on the European side which is also close to the Sultanahmet.

We are not sure that staying around the square is necessary. We assume you will be spending enough time around the square since this is the top tourist attraction in Istanbul.

The Topkapi Palace- Ground Rules

  • You can’t visit Harem only. Palace and Harem should be combined.
  • Don’t speak, don’t eat and don’t drink at exhibitions.
  • Don’t take photos at the rooms where there is a specific sign (e.g. holy relics chamber)
  • You shouldn’t touch any of the items.

The Topkapi Palace Visiting Tips

We have some tips that can be beneficial for your visit.

  • Definitely combine your tour with the Hagia Sophia museum, the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern. They are very close to each other. The Suleymaniye Mosque is not very far away. Check out this mosque if you are interested.
  • Especially in the summer season, there are many people here. Be early in the morning.
  • To fully understand the complex, half-day would be enough. 1-2 hours can be challenging.
  • Have an audio-guide to focus on the details and places. The complex is too big, don’t walk randomly. The captions are not perfect in the palace, can be confusing at some locations. If you don’t want to pay to audio guide, have easy access to this post and follow it.
  • Museum pass makes sense if you want to visit many museums. Buy one if you plan this way. Check out this post for more information.
  • Don’t jump from the first courtyard to fourth. Visit the courtyards into a sequence.
  • Regardless of your tour, Topkapi Palace at night is fantastic because of the great lighting system. Especially, you can take great pictures if you take a ferry trip to Kadikoy from Eminonu during the evenings. If you are interested in photography, we would recommend it.
  • In case you have big trouble in the palace, you can talk to the guards at the entrances. You can also find out the Consulates’ information in this post.

Conclusion

It is for sure you will not regret visiting the complex; you will smell the history, you will enjoy the view over Bosphorus, Golden Horn, and the Marmara Sea and you will feel the spirit. As we mentioned, the complex was the headquarters of one of the most dominant empires in the world for centuries. We recommend you to read a couple of articles before visiting the palace about Ottomans and palace in order not to miss anything. This is important.

It is great that you also have many options to do right after the tour in the palace. Combine your tour with the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern. By the way, we are not missing Istanbul Archaeological Museums and Hagia Irene church. We will cover them in different posts and these are great options to see depending on your available time in Istanbul.

In summary, Topkapi Palace is fantastic and visiting the complex is a “must-do” activity in Istanbul. Please make sure the complex is on the top of your “to-do” list in Istanbul.

References

  1. https://kvmgm.ktb.gov.tr/TR-133537/topkapi-sarayini-cevreleyen-sur-u-sultani-projelendiril-.html
  2. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/turkey/istanbul/attractions/topkapi-palace/a/poi-sig/402212/360887
  3. http://kilyos.ee.bilkent.edu.tr/~history/porcelain.html
  4. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Topkapi-Palace-Museum
  5. https://themuslimtimes.info/2015/07/22/topkapi-manuscript-of-the-holy-quran/
  6. http://www.oldest.org/religion/qurans/
  7. https://kuran-ikerim.org/hz-osman-ra-doneminde-kuran-i-kerimin-istinsahi-cogaltilip-nesredilmesi
  8. http://isamveri.org/pdfdrg/D02420/2002_2_1/2002_1_ALTUNDAGM.pdf
  9. https://www.sagetraveling.com/Disabled-Access-at-Istanbul-Topkapi-Palace
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