Topkapı Palace (Sarayı)
A visit to Topkapı Palace is one of the most popular things to do in Istanbul. The first and most famous of the Ottoman Sultans’ residences and administrative centers in Istanbul, it was built in 1465 during the reign of Sultan Mehmet II and was in use for approximately 400 years of the 624 years of Ottoman rule. Topkapı’s heyday ended in 1852, when Sultan Abdülmecid moved to the newly-built Dolmabahçe Palace; Topkapı itself was converted into a museum in the 1920s, and contains various Islamic relics which have made it a place of pilgrimage for the devout.
The palace consists of four courtyards, a set of gardens (now forming part of Gülhane Park), and scattered buildings, which include the entrance halls and assembly rooms for the government of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the Sultan’s private apartments. After the Imperial Gate, the first courtyard features the church of Hagia Irene, gardens, and several fountains. Through the Gate of Salutations, you will get to the second courtyard, where you can find the kitchens, The Tower of Justice and the Divan, the Harem, and the Imperial Hall. The heart of the palace is the third courtyard, consisting of the Throne Room, the Library of Ahmed III, the Treasury, and the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle. The fourth courtyard was the private garden of the Sultan and contains pavilions, gardens, and terraces.
-In the winter season (October 30 to April 15) the museum opens at 9am and takes in the last visitors at 4pm (visitors leave at 4.45pm). In the summer season (April 15 to October 30) the museum opens at 9am and takes in the last visitors at 6pm (visitors leave at 6.45pm).
- Be aware that the museum is closed on Tuesdays; it is open to visitors six days a week from Wednesday to Monday.
- Buy a ticket online in advance to avoid having to queue- and guarantee yourself a free coffee at the museum's atmospheric café
- Touring the Topkapı Palace can take at least half a day, so it’s better to head there as early as possible, especially if you’re the kind of traveler who doesn’t like to rush things.
- Keep in mind that the Harem’s opening hours are different than the Palace hours (closing time is 4pm during winter and 5pm during summer). So make sure to ask about the closing time when you arrive at the Topkapı Palace.
- Make sure you check out the amazing views of the Bosphorus through the terraces and gardens!
- If you don’t have too much time, start with the Harem and the Treasury.
- Topkapı Palace is also a sales point for MüzeKart (available only to Turkey residents) or Museum Pass, which can significantly reduce ticket prices if you plan on visiting several of the city's attractions. For more details, visit their website.
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