Where the Sultans hung out…
The primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans and their courts, Topkapi Palace overlooks the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. Construction of the palace dates back to 1459, 6 years after Sultan Mehmet II conquered Istanbul. The complex was extended over the following centuries and today consists of many buildings spread around four courtyards and the Harem.
First Courtyard functioned as the outer park and is the largest among the four courtyards. The Mint and the church of Hagia Irene, which dates back to the 6th century, are located in this courtyard.
Sultans used the second courtyard mainly to dispense justice. The kitchens, the Harem, janissary quarters, hospital and the stables can be found in the second courtyard.
It was the third Courtyard where the Sultans spent most of their time outside the Harem. This courtyard was surrounded by the quarters of the Agas, namely boys serving the Sultan.
Fourth Courtyard served as a private sanctuary of the Sultans and their families. And the mysterious Harem with its more than 400 rooms where the Sultan and his family spent most of their time was home to Sultan’s mother, wives of the Sultan and the concubines.
The palace fills up quickly so try to go there early in the morning and buy a ticket for the Harem (sold separately at its own entrance inside the palace).
Allow at least three hours for the palace and do not miss the Topkapi SoUL Walk to get an insider’s view of what life was like during the Ottoman days and listen to the love story of a concubine in the Harem.
For more detailed information on Topkapi Palace please visit the Topkapı section of our guide.
Open 9am to 5pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
We like: Harem very much and of course the Treasury.