Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace which is located behind the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia should be at the top of your places to see list in Istanbul! It embodies the ultimate Ottoman architecture, treasures, culture and relics, it has very beautiful gardens and is located at the entrance of the Boshorus, hence amazing views of both the Bosphorus and the Marmara sea.

During 400 years, it was the center of state administration and residence of Ottoman sultans. At the order of Fatih Sultan Mehmet, construction began in 1460 and finished in 1478. Until the 1850s, it served as a home to Ottoman sultans. In the beginning of the 19th century, the palace became inadequate for sultans. While Ottoman sultans moved to Dolmabahce Palace located on the Bosphorus, Topkapi Palace never lost its importance. The royal treasure, the Holy Relics of the Prophet Muhammad, and the imperial archives continued to be preserved at the palace. Ataturk ordered its transformation into a museum diplaying the history and wealth of the Ottoman Empire. Compared to its size in the beginning, it is quite smaller, but still it is a huge building and there is a lot of to see, so you need at least half a day to explore it. Admission is 20tl(~ 10 euro), but if you want to see 'Harem' you have to buy seperate tickets which costs 15tl(~ 7 euro) Guides to the palace next to the main ticket office. A one-hour tour costs 20tl(~ 10 euro) per person or audio guide in English, French, Italian, Spanish or German are also available and costs 5tl (~ 2 euro). It is open from 9.00 am to 7.00 pm everyday except Tuesdays.

You enter Topkapi Palace through the Imperial Gate. Before you enter the Imperial Gate (Bab-i Humayun) , you can see the Fountain of Sultan Ahmet III built in 1728 by the sultan who was very fond of tulips. It perfectly reflects the architecture in the 'Tulip Period' of Ottoman Empire. (Tulip period is akin to France Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's let them eat cake period. It is when the sultans and his royal entourage was busy with growing tulips, the empire was crumbling)

After the Imperial Gate, you enter the First Court, known as the Court of the Janissaries. On your left is St. Irene (Hagia Irene) also known as Church of the Divine Peace. At first it was a pagan temple and then was converted into a church. Now it is an amazing concert hall, possibly one of the most interesting locations for a classical music concert.

The Middle Gate (Ortakapi or Bab-us Selam) led to the palace's Second Court, used for administration of government. Only the sultan and the queen mother were allowed to enter the Middle Gate.

The Second Court looks like a park. It includes the great Palace Kitchens where exhibition of Chinese celadon porcelain are located. These porcelains are famous for their colour change. If a poisoned food is put in them, they changed colour, because poisining related deaths of sultans were very common in Ottoman Empire. This court also includes Inner Treasury, which exhibits Ottoman and European armour.

Third Court, Gate of Felicity was the entrance into a private place belongs to sultans. Imperial Treasury is located in this court, which displays an amazing collection of objects decorated with expensive and rare materials.

Fourth court exhibits Topkapi Dagger where Kasikci (Spoonmaker's) Diamond, a teardrop-shaped 86-carat rock surrounded by 49 small diamonds is. It is the fifth largest diamond in the world.

You can also remember Topkapi Palace from wonderful films such as Jules Dassin's film of Topkapi. Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio centered on Topkapi Palace.

Since both the building and the relics are well preserved, you will feel like you are living in Ottoman era.

Topkapi Palace on Istanbul Map