Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans from 1465-1856. Construction began in 1459 under orders from Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople. The palace was built on the original site of Byzantium, on top of the old Greek acropolis. Upon its completion, Topkapi Palace became the political center of the Ottoman Empire. As the empire continued to expand, so did the palace. Its growth was haphazard, which is clear when looking at the layout. The Topkapi Palace we see today emerged by the end of the sixteenth century. It remained the royal residence and administrative center until 1856, when the court was moved into the new, European-styled Dolmabahçe Palace.
Guests entered the palace from the outer courtyard through the Gate of Salutation. This led to another courtyard, which contained the palace kitchens and the harem. The Imperial Harem housed the family of the sultan and their servants, including his mother, wives, and concubines. It was legendary for the sultan’s Dionysian exploits, and is the highlight of visiting Topkapi Palace. Past the second courtyard is yet another courtyard. Here the sultan held court. There is also the royal library and jewel collection.
The Topkapi Palace should be a top priority of anybody visiting Istanbul, though during high season the crowds can be unruly. The palace museum offers an unbeatable collection of Ottoman artifacts, including imperial jewels, porcelain, armor, and weapons. The palace also holds several holy relics of the Prophet Mohammed, including his cloak and sword. Admission to the harem is separate.
Telephone: +90 212 512 0480
Hours: Open daily 09:00-17:00 during tourist season, closed Tuesdays.
20.00TL for the museum
15.00TL for the harem