Topkapi Palace
Gateway to Ottoman Era

Topkapi Palace is the right place for you to start if you are interested even slightly, in the exotic world of the Ottoman Empire Era.

Riots of the soldiers in the outer courtyards.. Intrigues of the wives and mothers of the Sultans.. Struggles between the viziers..Being home to amazing celebrations and ceremonies..

All happened between the gorgeus walls of this palace...

Gateway to the world of Ottoman Empire..

One should not be surprised that this palace has been the subject of;

  • An award-winning feature film (Topkapi, 1964, Peter Ustinow won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor),
  • An opera (“The Abduction from the Seraglio” of Mozart),
  • And a great number of books (including John Freely's “Inside the Seraglio”)...

Topkapi Palace served as the administrative seat of the Ottoman Empire and the residence of the Sultans for 400 years. It grew and expanded gradually in time, thus it represents different architectural styles.

There were the residence of the Sultan and a great number of buildings that served for government affairs behind the grand gates of this palace.

All of the affairs of the Ottoman Empire were dealt with between these walls.

And of course the “Harem”… These walls hid the “Harem” part of the palace which was as big as a neighbourhood.

Justice Tower in the 3rd Courtyard
Photo: By Sammytd / Flickr

Ottoman Empire grew enormously and the number of the palace buildings developed accordingly.

New buildings were added when they were needed, during different periods of time. That is why Topkapı Palace has a great number of parts and buildings.

You might get confused with the names of all the buildings and parts. Let's slice and dice it for you...

Topkapi Palace Courtyards, Satellite View

There are two main sections and 4 courtyards in these two sections. All buildings are around these 4 courtyards.

Palace was composed of
two main parts:

  • "The Birun": Birun is the public and semi-public part of the palace. It consists of several buildings around the 1st and 2nd courtyards, housing the administration, the government and services necessary for the palace.
  • "The Enderun": Enderun is the private part of the palace. It consists of several buildings around the 3rd and 4th courtyards. It was the private residence of the Sultan and his family.

Topkapi Palace basics:

  • It was initially built by Sultan Mehmed, the Conquerer, in 1462, nine years after the conquest over the ruins of the Byzantine "Great Palace". But it has changed tremendously in time.
  • The palace is on the first of the seven hills of Istanbul, at the starting point of the Historic Peninsula and overlooking a marvellous view of the Bosphorus Strait and the Sea of Marmara.
  • The land walls were added to the Byzantine Sea Walls as outer walls of the palace.
  • All Ottoman Sultans after Sultan Mehmed, the Conquerer were crowned and reigned in this palace until Sultan Abdülmecid moved the imperial residence to "Dolmabahce Palace" along the Bosphorus in 1856.
  • The buildings that consist the Topkapi Palace are different in size, shape and decorations because of this necessity of expanding at different periods.
  • The palace was home to 5000 people and 1000 people in the kitchens were working all day to prepare food for them.
  • Today these buildings are housing the collections of the precious treasures of the East and are open to public.

Important tip:

Be there to buy tickets before 9:30. It will save you time, because usually busloads of people arrive at 9:30 – 10:00.

Ticket booth: Just before you reach the gate, next to the Executioner's Fountain. Opens at 9:00.

In a hurry? Choose these:

  • "The Kitchens" in the second courtyard,
  • "The Harem" adjacent to the third courtyard,
  • "The Imperial Treasury" in the third courtyard,
  • "The Fourth Courtyard" at the Northern end of the palace, which provides magnificent views.

Where exactly?:

You can see it in Sultanahmet, behind the Hagia Sophia Museum. The main entrance, Imperial Gate is beyond the North-east corner of Hagia Sophia Church Museum.

Opening hours: 09:00 – 16:00 (closed on Tuesdays)

Entrance fee: for the Palace: 20 TL, for the Harem: 15 TL

Adress: Sultanahmet


Topkapi Palace is waiting for you!

Six hundred years of Ottoman Empire history is here, waiting to be discovered.

Now let’s go to the amazing parts of the Topkapi Palace:

You need at least half a day
to explore the palace properly...

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