The best way to absorb the Ottoman opulence of old Istanbul is to take in some Topkapi Palace Views. Located in the historic district close to Hagia Sophia, the Palace (a museum since 1924) is a reminder of those grand times. It is interesting to note that although Istanbul or Constantinople as it was then known, was the capital of the Ottoman Empire it has never been the capital of Turkey.
topkapı sarayı or Topkapi Palace is Turkey’s most famous (ex) palace.
Established in 1478 the Topkapi (Gates of Cannon) Palace, was the political heart of the Ottoman empire until the building of the Dolmabahce Palace, also in Istanbul, in 1853.
The spacious first courtyard of the palace with it’s large trees is freely open to the public. Arriving from the Hagia Sofia end of Sultanahmet, access is through the impressive Imperial Gate.
For those arriving by tram from Eminonu or Galata, stop at Gülhane Station and follow the signs through the Park and Gülhane gate. We used this option, arriving at the ticket office at 9 a.m. and exiting three hours later to Sultanahmet and Hagia Sofia.
The courtyards open successively to each other with the fourth taking up prime position on the tip of the peninsula.
The Gate of Felicity opens to the inner or third court. It belongs to the initial 15th Century construction with it’s timber dome and four marble columns added in 1775. On special occasions the Sultan would sit on his throne in front of this gate. It was the main doorway to his private domain and only he could authorise entry.
Inner or Third Court.
Topkapi Palace Harem.
In this inner or third court is the ottoman harem where the Sultan lived a secluded life with his mother, wives, concubines and eunuchs. Although access is from the third courtyard, tickets are purchased at the main ticket office. I would suggest visiting the Harem as early in the day as possible, ideally immediately after the 9 am opening.
Harem Courtyard of the Favourites. There is a large rectangular pool off this courtyard which lies empty awaiting restoration.
Audience Hall – Throne Cover.
Hall of the Conqueror’s Pavilion/Treasury.
Still in the inner court, the Conqueror’s Pavilion, is one of the original buildings dating to 1460. It is home to the Imperial Treasury and houses artworks and jewellery from the Ottoman dynasty. Exhibits include armoury, thrones, jewelled daggers and the 86 carat Spoonmaker’s Diamond. The diamond is the fourth largest of it’s kind and has a history full of intrigue. Needless to say – photography is not allowed in the Treasury.
Topkapi Palace Views.
Standing beneath these towering columns is a spectacular experience with views to match the occasion.
The fourth and final courtyard, this was my favourite.
Topkapi Palace Terrace with Pool and Fountain
The interiors are not plush in the way of European palaces. Instead they are characterised by a myriad of adjoining rooms, coated with distinctive tile and glasswork, Koranic verses and screened windows.
topkapi palace map.
Topkapi Palace Views over the Golden Horn (disappearing left), Bosphorus Strait and Bridge (ahead left) and Sea of Marmara (right).
The restaurant Konyali Locantasi Topkapi Palace, is situated here and worth visiting for the wonderful views.
Julian Stockwin, while researching his historical adventure novel Pasha here saw the same:
To the left is Europe, to the right Asia. Directly in front is the Bosporus leading to Russia. Turn around and there’s the Sea of Marmara leading to the Mediterranean and western world. And at your feet the Golden Horn…
Topkapi Palace sprawls impressively along a promontory ruling the meeting of these waterways. See the view of the palace from the Kadikoy Ferry here.
Istanbul is an incredibly romantic city. Every day is a chaotic mix of shisha pipes, turkish tea glasses, piles of dates, throbbing ferries, giant seagulls and dubious carpet salesmen. The palace – in effect a closed town for the Ottoman rulers and their servants for 400 years – retains a definite whiff of exoticism.
Marvelling over stories of harem life and palace intrigue – rooms bedazzled with Iznic tiles – gardens framed by Eunuch’s buildings – these Topkapi Palace Views add an extra sprinkle of romance to an already intriguing city.
Things to know.
The palace never has all the rooms open at once. The kitchens were closed during our visit and the Treasury is closed for restoration from the end of July 2017. Not being able to see the treasures is a blow, but even so, this is a huge complex with a lot to see.
Sarayı is the Turkish word for Palace.
The expansive palace grounds receive more than 3 million visitors each year.
Where is Topkapi Palace?
It is in the Sultanahmet district near Hagia Sofia on Istanbul’s historic peninsula.
Topkapi Palace Entrance Fee.
- 40 TL plus 25 TL for the Harem.
- Hagia Irene 20 TL
- Museum Pass Istanbul can be purchased at the gate for 25 euro or 85 TL (excludes Harem) but the line can be long. Buy on line if your arrival will coincide with the crowds. Read about it here.
- Current Prices here.
- There are now mobile ticket machines. Look for them near Hagia Sophia and near the Topkapi entrance.
Topkapi Palace Hours.
- Winter – 9 am to 4.45 pm.
- Summer – 9 am to 6.45 pm.
- Ticket Booth closes at 4 and 6 pm respectively.
- Closed Tuesday.
- The Palace has over 3 million visitors per year. Arrive at 9 a.m. to experience a little crowd free time – it worked for us.
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