Topkapi Palace is among the most visited museums in Istanbul. In this article, you can find updated information about the Topkapi Palace entrance fee and opening hours. In addition, the history of the Topkapi Palace is also briefly noted.
During the high tourist season, it is possible to enter the Topkapi Palace with online tickets. You can join the guided Topkapi Palace tour by purchasing a skip-the-line ticket from this link.
History of the Topkapi Palace
The history of Topkapi Palace goes back 550 years, to the rise of the Ottoman Empire. It was built by Sultan Mehmed after the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans and remained the residence of the Sultans for nearly 400 years.
When the Ottomans captured Constantinople (in 1453), they realized that the condition of the buildings in the city was not good. The city never returned to its former glory after being sacked in the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The most important monuments of the city, such as the Great Palace, Hagia Sophia and Hippodrome, were in poor condition.
In 1204, the Crusaders led by the Duke of Venice sacked Constantinople and established a Latin Empire there. The Byzantines recaptured the city 57 years later in 1261. However, due to financial reasons, it was not possible to fully restore the city.
1. Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror
Sultan Mehmed was one of the best educated sultans in Ottoman history. When he conquered Istanbul, he was aware of the history of the city. According to Turkish historians, the first thing he did after the fall of the city was to see Hagia Sophia, which he was very curious about.
Sultan Mehmed, who watched the city from the roof of Hagia Sophia, was saddened by the neglected Great Palace. The Great Palace of Constantinople, where great emperors like Constantine and Justinian lived, had already become ruin. Due to this state of the Great Palace, the Byzantine emperors lived in the Palace of Blachernae in the last years of the empire.
2. Construction of the Old Palace
Sultan Mehmed first built a palace where today’s Istanbul University (and the Grand Bazaar) is located. This place, called the Old Palace, was the place where the sultan lived while the Topkapi Palace was under construction. The Topkapi Palace was built on the ruins of the Byzantium, the Greek acropolis, which was the pre-Roman settlement of the city.
3. The Harem Wasn’t Here Before
The Ottomans built the palace between 1461 and 1478. The architecture of the palace resembles a castle and contains all the buildings a small city needs. Sultan Mehmet built Topkapi Palace to work, relax and carry out state affairs. For this reason, there was no Harem section in the main plan of Topkapi Palace. The Harem moved to the Palace much later in the middle of the 16th century.
Although Topkapi Palace was a place where 25 sultans lived during the most powerful period of the Ottoman Empire, it draws attention with its simplicity. Visiting the Topkapi Palace offers views of the Bosphorus and plenty of outdoor walking.
Things to See in Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace is a palace consisting of four large courtyards. It has a very different architecture from European palaces. The most important historical monument to be seen in the first courtyard is Hagia Irene, a former Byzantine church.
After passing this beautiful church you will see the ticket offices on the right. After purchasing the Topkapi Palace tickets, you can enter the palace through the gate, which is surrounded by two big towers.
1. Divan-ı Humayun (Imperial Council)
The Imperial Council consists of two rooms. One of these rooms carries traditional Turkish decoration with blue tiles and pencil works. The neighboring room was damaged in a fire and rebuilt. The restoration was carried out during the period when the Ottoman Empire was under French influence. Therefore, it carries the inspiration of western architecture.
2. Collection of Clocks and Weapons
Next to the Imperial Council rooms there is a Collection of Clocks that were presented to the Ottoman sultans. And next to the Clock Room a Collection of Weapons with centuries-old swords and rifles can be seen.
3. Palace Kitchens
On the opposite side of the courtyard is the palace kitchens. You can see the traces of two different periods in Ottoman palace life in palace kitchens. In the early period of the Ottoman Empire, chinese porcelain was used on the ground table, while in the late period there was a western table setting.
4. Topkapi Palace Harem Rooms
The entrance of the Harem is in the second courtyard, right next to the Imperial Council. Since the Harem Rooms are under renovation for many years, the walking route changes constantly. The harem was not in the original plan of the palace and was confined to a narrow space because it was added later.
Sultan Mehmed, who had built the Topkapi Palace, had designed the Harem to remain in the Old Palace. However, during the Suleiman the Magnificent, the Harem moved to the Topkapi Palace at the request of Hurrem Sultan (also known as Roxelana).
The standard Topkapi Palace tickets does not include the Harem section. You will need extra tickets to visit the Harem. Istanbul Museum Pass is valid in the Harem Rooms.
5. Audience Hall
State affairs during the Ottoman period were discussed in the Divan (Imperial Council). These meetings were chaired by the Grand Vizier. The issues discussed in the meetings that took place almost every day of the week were conveyed to the sultan in the Audience Hall. This is the first section you will see in the third courtyard of Topkapi Palace.
6. The Library
The library is located in the middle of the third courtyard of the palace. When you exit the Audience Hall, the building in front of you is the library built by Ahmed III.
The library bears the traces of Classical Ottoman architecture and is decorated with Ottoman tiles, pencil works, mother-of-pearl and oriental carpets. Since the books in the library are under protection, there are a few symbolic books inside.
7. Sacred Relics
When you start to tour the third courtyard clockwise, you will first see the Portraits Section on the left. Here you can see hundreds of years old portraits of sultans. The most interesting part of the courtyard, especially for Muslim visitors, is the room with Sacred Relics. This room contains belongings of the Prophet Muhammad.
8. Imperial Treasury
The most visited section in Topkapi Palace is the Imperial Treasury where the jewels are exhibited. This is where the most valuable objects such as Spoonmaker’s Diamond and Topkapi Dagger are located.
The Treasury Section consists of four rooms and houses hundreds of objects. However, you may not be able to see this section, as the renovation in the treasury is still ongoing. (As of March 2022)
9. Mecidiye Pavilion
When you leave the Treasury Room you can go to the next courtyard. The most beautiful part of the fourth and last courtyard is where the Mecidiye Pavilion was built in the 19th century. Here you can photograph the magnificent view of the Bosphorus.
10. Baghdad Pavilion
In the northern part of the fourth courtyard with a view of the Golden Horn, there are the Baghdad and Revan pavilions. From the balcony of the Baghdad Pavilion, you can watch the view as the sultans once did.
The interior decoration of the Baghdad Pavilion is one of the last works before the Ottomans switched to western architectural style. The interior decoration of Baghdad Pavilion is a magnificent blend of Arabian, Persian and Turkish architecture.
Topkapi Palace Entrance Fee 2022
Topkapi Palace entrance fee is 320 Turkish Liras as of 2022. The ticket price includes the Hagia Irene Museum in the first courtyard of the palace and the audio guide. The price of the harem ticket alone is 150 TL. However, if you buy a combined ticket that covers all three sections, it costs 420 TL.
The Museum Pass covers all three sections of Topkapi Palace. If you buy Museum Pass Istanbul, you can also visit the Galata Tower, Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum and the Istanbul Archaeological Museum for free. However, Istanbul Museum Pass is not valid in Dolmabahce Palace and Basilica Cistern.
Topkapi Palace Opening Hours 2022
Topkapi Palace opening hours are between 09:00 in the morning and 18:00 in the evening. Ticket sales end at 17:00. Please note that Topkapi Palace is closed on Tuesdays.
Depending on Covid-19 measures, there may be changes in the entrance 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.
Buy Topkapi Palace Tickets Online
You can enter the palace faster if you buy tickets for Topkapi Palace online. These tickets are slightly more expensive than standard palace tickets but allow you to take a guided group tour. Thus, you skip the ticket lines in front of the Topkapi Palace entrance during the tourist season.
You may browse Skip The Line Topkapi Palace Tickets from here which is really reasonable! Tickets are sold under the guarantee of GetYourGuide, an international company. Easy cancellation with a FULL REFUND up to 24 hours in advance.
In conclusion, visiting Topkapi Palace is one of the top things to do in Istanbul. When planning your visit to the palace, you should take into account that this trip will take at least two hours.
Since Topkapi Palace is spread over a very large area, it takes a long time to even walk through its four courtyards. Moreover, there are indoor sections full of objects to be visited in these courtyards.
If you don’t want to waste time during your visit at the palace, you can buy the museum pass in advance. Museum Pass Istanbul is valid in all parts of the palace and saves you from waiting in line.
However, as an insider tip, I would recommend getting the museum pass from the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, which is a much less busy museum. Because Topkapi Palace ticket offices are very busy in spring and summer.
Written by Serhat Engul