How to Visit Topkapı Palace – What to See in Topkapı Palace?

You have come to Istanbul, a city that was once the capital of three great empires. The Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. Naturally, all great empires that once ruled this magnificent city had built great palaces for their rulers. And so did the Ottomans. 

After the Conquest of Constantinople in 1453, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II. made “Konstantiniyye” the empire’s new capital. Shortly after the conquest, he ordered the construction of the Topkapi Palace. Opened its imperial gates for the first time in 1478, Topkapi Palace became the seat of the Ottoman throne and served as the administrative palace for centuries. The Ottomans used Topkapi Palace for almost 400 years out of 600+ years of the empire’s existence. Thus, Topkapi Palace is historically the most important palace Ottomans ever built. 

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topkapı palace

Naturally, such an important place should not be missed if you’re into history. Moreover, there are many other reasons why you should visit the Topkapi Palace:

Without a doubt, the most curious part of Topkapi Palace is the “Harem.” Harem, meaning “forbidden place,” was the “forbidden” part of the Topkapi Palace. This part of the palace was only accessible to the royal family, their concubines, and eunuchs. Only they knew and experienced the secret life of Harem. Once beautiful concubines roamed its dim corridors decorated with colorful ceramic tiles with flower patterns and caligraphy, gracefully danced and sang songs in its golden plated halls, and bathed in its pearly white marble hammams. 

Wandering in the mysterious Harem of Topkapi Palace, which gave inspiration to countless books, series, and movies, you will peek into the once glamorous lifestyle of the Ottomans and experience being present in the same luxury halls that once belonged to Sultans, Sultanas, and concubines, filled with romance, envy, and intrigue.

topkapı palace

The Exhibitions in Topkapı Palace

Topkapi Palace is more than just a palace with courtyards and rooms. It has plenty of exhibitions which are half of the Topkapi Palace experience.

  • Kitchen Exhibitions
    You can find beautiful porcelain from China, Europe, and Ottoman in the kitchen exhibitions. You’ll find tableware, cutlery, giant cauldrons, silverware, and much more in five different rooms.

Side note: Topkapi Palace has the second-largest Chinese porcelain collection in the world after China with over 12,000 pieces.

  • Armory and Weapons Exhibition
    Swords, ceremonial banners, and body armor of Sultans are exhibited in the Armory section. Here you’ll find sultans’ swords, including Sultan Mehmed II’s, the Conqueror of Constantinople. Here you can also find the swords of fallen European kings, such as the sword of Stephan Cel Mare. Don’t be surprised if you even see Japanese katanas, as some are royal presents.
  • Clocks Exhibition
    This exhibition is dedicated to clocks, watches, and astronomical devices built by or gifted to the Ottomans. The collection consists of priceless items covered with gold and jewels. Also, check the descriptions below the articles; you might see familiar names like Cartier or Fabergé.
  • The Best 5 Tips to Visit The Palace

The Treasury Exhibitions in Topkapı Palace

This is the most visited exhibition in the Topkapi Palace. The treasury exhibitions consist of dozens of gleaming, glamorous, and expensive items. You’ll not believe how much gold and jewels they used to decorate these items! Golden-plated Qoran covers, baby cribs decorated with jewels, precious gems the size of an apple, and much more. You might need sunglasses to protect yourself from the shiny glamour 🙂

Those who know, know The Holy Relics and many people visit the Topkapi Palace mainly to see The Holy Relics exhibition. If you don’t know The Holy Relics, let me explain: 
Over 500 years ago, the Ottoman Empire took over the Mamluk Sultanate, which then protected the Holy Relics. Sultan Selim I. brought the Holy Relics from Egypt to the Ottoman capital, Istanbul. Sultan Selim I. reserved a special room for the preservation of these relics. This is a collection of holy relics consisting of items such as the personal possessions of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. There are the swords of the first four khalifas (Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali), possessions of the family members of Prophet Muhammad, and even other possessions of Prophet David, Joseph, Abraham, and Moses (including Staff of Moses).

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The Clothes and Robes

This collection is a two-floor exhibition of the clothes, robes, and dresses of the Sultans and their family members.

The Caligraphy Exhibition

This exhibition is yet another two-floor collection of beautiful Ottoman handmade calligraphy art. The collection includes a special section for the imperial signatures of Sultans.

Hands down, one of the best views of Istanbul can be seen from the end of Topkapi Palace. After all, it was a view for the Sultans. From the terrace of the Topkapi Palace, you can see the stunning view of the blue Bosphorus. Moreover, you can see the Bosphorus Bridge, the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, and the Princes’ Islands. And from the other side of the terrace, you can see the Golden Horn, Galata Tower, and Suleymaniye Mosque. 

With all these reasons to visit Turkey’s most visited museum, you cannot miss out on the opportunity to visit this magnificent place. Also one of the biggest tourist attractions, with a surface area of over 80,000 square meters, Topkapi Palace can easily fill your entire afternoon or day if you’re interested. 

What time is the best to visit to Topkapı Palace?

Tips from Tipstanbul:

Book a guided tour to avoid waiting in long ticket lines and learn about this palace’s incredible history. You can book a private or group tour. Tour prices range from 35 euros per person to 200 euros for a private group. Tours are bookable online and via tour agencies. Booking a guided tour, whether it is a group tour or private tour, will ensure you skip the ticket lines. Tour agencies and guides have the privilege to pre-purchase the tickets. This way, you will save your precious time during your visit to Istanbul. 

We have inspected numerous possible online tours for Topkapi Palace and saved you some time by finding the best tour in terms of rating, price vs performance ratio:

Click here to book a 3-hour-long guided Topkapi Palace tour.

Click here if you’d like to book the cheapest skip-the-line entry option.