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Top sights in Istanbul
Topkapi Palace's history is vibrant. The building served as the residential, administrative, educational and cultural building of the Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 of their 624 reigning years. Today it doubles as the Topkapi Palace museum.
Be sure to notice the Fountain of the Executioner next to the ticket windows before you head in. This is where the executioner would wash his hand and sword after a decapitation.
This impressive building of hundreds of rooms where the sultan and his family lived has been restored in lush ornate fashion. It’s a separate ticket, but definitely worth it.
The Topkapi Palace diamond is the pride of the palace. The riches in the Treasury are not purely aesthetics, they make up the complex Topkapi Palace history.
Relics from the Prophet Mohammed and Moses, among others, are collectively called the Sacred Trusts.
You’ll need at least half a day to explore the palace, but make a whole day out of it to really take it all in. Try to arrive at opening to avoid the crowds!
You’ll get denied entrance to the Sacred Relics Department if you’re showing some skin. No shorts, short skirts or sleeveless shirts are permitted. It is the holiest section of Topkapi Palace, Turkey.
Along with the harem section, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul houses four courtyards or “avlu.” Shade or eateries for resting aren’t too hard to find. There’s a café and a restaurant in the first courtyard, a second café in the third courtyard, and a second restaurant in the fourth.
- When should I visit?
- Open Wednesday through Monday. October 26 - April 15, 9:00AM to 4:45PM. April 15 - October 26, 9:00AM to 6:45PM.
- Is it expensive?
- Museum tickets start at 30TL (about $11), Harem tickets start at 15TL (about $5) and continue up with perks and tours.
- Will I need a guide?
- A guide will definitely add to the experience! Audio guides are also available for rent at the palace.
- How to get there
- Take the tram to the Gülhane or Sultanahmet stations, or the Marmaray to the Sirkeci Station. It's a short walk from any station.
- Additional information
- Cloths can be provided by onsite staff if you need to cover up during your visit to the Sacred Relics Department.
- Stroller and photography are not permitted inside, so please plan ahead.
What people are saying about Topkapi Palace
Thank goodness we booked the tour. Our guide took us on a route around the whole palace, including the harem, bringing each place to life as we passed through. It all took a good three hours. Imagine how long it would have taken us if we had tried to do it alone ! Much, much longer. Or, more realistically, we would have missed a lot of places and missed out on the stories and the descriptions our guide provided to really understand palace life. The guide spoke very good, well articulated, English. Ours was a small group of seven, so it was easy to keep together, hear the guide and have the opportunity to ask questions. Sadly, there are still inaccessible areas under renovation, but that didn't detract too much from the experience. Skipping the ticket queue was a great time saver as well. Just be aware that there is a lot of walking with some flights of stairs too. But it is well worth it for this fascinating attraction. Wear comfortable footwear and have a bottle of water in your bag.
The guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. He guided us through the palace, explaining major details and even interesting side stories related with the palace. He did not seem to rush us and took the time to explain what we should visit and answer any questions the group had. If you want to know more about the palace and its history, I recommend this tour. Although a bit expensive, I believe it is about right in terms of price/quality, as you would be paying around 10£ per hour + tickets. You also have the perk of skipping any queue (in our case there was none because we started early.
Kadir Kucekeren was absolutely fantastic. He is very knowledgeable and we saved lots of time enjoying Istanbul with him. He knows all the secrets to truly enjoy the city in a safe and efficient manner. He personalized our trip to fit our cultural interests - like Süleymaniye Mosque. He is very caring of his guests; he helped my mother up and down the old city steps. He is a true gentleman and I will always be grateful to him for his patience and understanding.
We had a great time with the tour, there where a few areas of knowledge the tour guide seemed a bit lacking (maybe we was the first to ask those questions! Or maybe a misunderstanding) but was courteous and professional and in general enjoyed every moment of it. However it would of been nice to have more of a tour of the bazar than left in it but still I feel it was value for money and would do again also the fast track was incredibly convent.
I don't know where to start! Everything was extremely well organised. Everyone was very polite, always on time and very pleasant to be with. The local guides were very knowledgeable (and I am an art historian), friendly, polite, genuine. I am a woman in her 60s, I travel solo and never felt lonely or scared. I met wonderful people who shared the same tours. I could not recommend this tour enough. An amazing cultural and human experience.