Behold the imperial complex of Ottoman sultans at Topkapi Palace, the royal residence in Istanbul throughout the first 400 years of the Ottoman Empire. The palace contains myriad buildings and courtyards, including a treasury, harems, an armory, imperial halls, and royal chambers—all with intricate Iznik tilework and opulent architecture.
To understand the history of Turkey and the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul, explore the vast Topkapi Palace. The complex has elegant chambers, landscaped grounds, and small museum collections to admire, as well as a viewpoint over the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.
Guided tours, which can offer a more comprehensive experience of the palace, often allow you to skip the long entry lines with a guide, and usually include a visit to the palace’s harem section. Many Istanbul sightseeing tours combine Topkapi Palace with an exploration of the other top sights in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district, including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Museum (Ayasofya), and the Basilica Cistern.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Topkapi Palace is a must-visit for history and architecture buffs, and all first-time visitors to Istanbul.
- Book a skip-the-line ticket to save time and avoid long entry lines.
- The palace’s harem section requires a separate entry ticket.
- Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, as the palace complex is large and you will be on your feet.
- The complex is accessible to wheelchair users, though strollers are not permitted.
How to Get There
The entrance to Topkapi Palace is not far from Istanbul’s Sultanahmet tram stop and is easily accessible by public transportation. Stroll through Sultanahmet Square from the tram stop to reach the palace’s entrance. Alternatively, take a taxi or a short walk from the Eminonu ferry terminal.
When to Get There
Topkapi Palace is open Wednesday through Monday from 9am to 4:45pm October through March, and to 6:45pm April through September; last entry is 45 minutes before close. It’s also open on most of the major national and religious Turkish holidays, though occasionally with shorter opening hours. The palace is often quite busy, so arrive early in the morning to beat the crowds.
Architecture in Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace’s architecture features work from some of the most prominent Ottoman architects in Turkey, including Mimar Sinan. He designed the palace’s harem section, with its elaborate blue Iznik tiles. Purchase a skip-the-line tour to access the harem ahead of the crowds. Other sections of the palace feature work by architects from other Ottoman centuries, making the palace particularly fascinating for Turkish architecture enthusiasts.