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Topkapi Palace Istanbul

The Topkapi Palace Istanbul is located on the European side in the Fatih district (historic city district) in the center of the old Constantinople, near the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

It overlooks the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara, a breathtaking view.

History of Topkapi Palace Istanbul

The Topkapi Palace Istanbul was built in 1459, on the acropolis of ancient Byzantium, spanning the bagatelle of 700,000 m2 (the part that can be visited over 400,000m2).

It was inhabited between 1465 and 1853 by the Ottoman sultans, their family, the eunuchs, the cariyes (women of the harem), the close guards of the sultans, dormitories for the HALLEBARDIERS (people at the service of the Topkapi Palace, all professions combined) who stood out by making two braids on their hair.

At Topkapi Palace Istanbul 4,000 people lived daily.

Inside the Topkapi Palace Istanbul, there was a school called ENDERUN, which was attended mainly by non-Muslim children, coming from different countries under the domination of the Ottoman Empire. Enderun transmitted an advanced school education so that these children become employees in the service of the Ottoman Empire, civil servant, soldiers or leaders.

From 1853, Sultan Abdulmecid I left the Topkapi palace Istanbul with all his family and his court, to live in his Dolmabahce palace which he had just built.

In 1924 It will be transformed into a museum by the order of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, for our greatest pleasure today.

The palace was listed as a UNESCO heritage site in 1985, where it is described as an incomparable set of buildings built over 4 centuries, unique in architectural quality.

Opening hours of Topkapi Palace Istanbul

Open in winter from 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. in summer from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., closed on Tuesday.

Entrance fee to Topkapi palace Istanbul

The entrance to Topkapi Palace Istanbul will cost you 72 TL.

You can visit the armory, the sofa, (the jewelry, the imperial treasure – closed for the works), the clock industry, the audience hall, the clothes of the sultans (closed for the works), the paintings of the sultans , relics, courtyards, pavilions (Circumcision kiosk, Yerevan kiosk, Baghdad kiosk, Terrace kiosk), gardens, a small mosque (terrace mosque).

The visit to the harem is optional, it can be paid indoors at the harem or at the ticket offices of the palace.

The price for the harem is 42 TL.

There are also occasional exhibitions at Topkapi Palace (free entry).

Some general information about Topkapi Palace

There are 2 entrances on the first court of the Topkapi Palace Istanbul (a door on the side of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum and another on the side of the Hagia Sophia). It is best to return to the palace through the Imperial gate, the one through which the Sultan passed (on the side of the Hagia Sophia) so as not to miss the magnificent fountain of Ahmed III.

Passing the palace gate, on your left, there is a church “Sainte-Irene church” dating from the 4th century (first cathedral of Constantinople well before Saint Sophia basilica) and open to visitors. The entrance is 20 TL (or €2.5). Occasional large concerts of classical music are held there. The survival of this monument in the Palace shows the respect of the Sultans for art.

Before arriving at the counters of the palace, you will cross a wooded park (the first courtyard) where there is nothing special to visit (except the Church of St Irene).

Possibility to visit Topkapi Palace Istanbul with an audio system in several languages or to request a guide.

That’s it, you have your tickets in hand! You should then pass the control of the bags like at the airport, at the gate of the Palace.

Passing through the door of salvation (door leading to the second courtyard) through which only officials, foreign diplomats could enter is a honor. Only the Sultan alone could pass there on horseback.

Once in the courtyard on the right: the kitchens in Topkapi palace Istanbul are the largest in the entire Ottoman Empire

In these palace kitchens in the 16th century, 1000 cooks prepared food for the whole palace (4000 people, up to 15,000 people during the holidays). The kitchens of the Topkapi Palace were composed of 10 sections, the one of the Sultan where no one could enter / that of the Harem / that of members of the interior and exterior services. In the kitchens of Topkapi Palace Istanbul also had dormitories / baths and mosques for employees.

Exhibition to visit in the palace kitchens: tableware / silverware collection / kitchen utensils / blue and white Chinese porcelain / celadon figurines (10,700 pieces, the second largest collection in the world).

On your left the Divan room of the Topkapi Palace Istanbul (imperial council)

Imperial Council was composed by the Grand Vizier, the Viziers, the military leaders of Muslim justice, the Minister of Finance, the Head of the Treasury, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, officials (clerk / drafting ..), the place where the Ministers of State and their council, the debates focused on political, religious and administrative affairs 4 days a week after morning prayer.

Entering the Divan room of the Topkapi Palace, opposite a screened window, draws our attention, the sultan could monitor the discussions of the viziers without being noticed, passing directly from his apartments to this grid, never did anyone know if he was there or not.

The room next to the Divan is a clockwork exhibition (gold, silver, tortoiseshell)

In the red brick building, exhibition of the armory. Room where part of the treasure was kept, why screened and massive, allow time for this visit (clothes, armor, horse clothes, weapons, very beautiful collection covering a period of 1300 years) in the 400 weapons collection of very great value.

The Tower of Justice of the Topkapi Palace Istanbul

It is located between the council room and the Harem, it symbolized the eternal vigilance of the sultan against injustice, visible from afar, it reminded everyone of the sultan’s presence (cannot be visited). It was also for the latter an observation point from where he could see the whole city and its straits.

The Harem of the Topkapi Palace Istanbul

The harem of the Topkapi Palace was not built until the end of the 16th century. Most of its elements were designed by Mimar Sinan. This part of the palace opens into the second courtyard (Divan Meydanı) through the carriage door (Arabalar Kapısı). It has grown over time along the Golden Horn.

The harem of Topkapi Palace has become a huge complex. The buildings which were built there between its erection in the 16th century and the beginning of the 19th century are representative of the stylistic developments of palace art. Following a major fire in 1665, parts of the Harem were redecorated under Osman III and Mahmoud II in a style inspired by the Italian baroque. These decorations contrast with those of the classic Ottoman age.

The imperial harem of Topkapi Palace Istanbul is a large collection of rooms that are part of the sultan’s private apartments. The harem was the residence of the sultan’s mother, the sultan’s concubines and wives, the rest of his family, including children, and of their servants.

It consists of a series of buildings and structures connected by corridors and small courtyards. Each hierarchical nucleus or service group residing in the harem had its own living space grouped around a courtyard.

The harem includes more than 300 pieces, of which only a small part is open to the public. These apartments were occupied respectively by the eunuchs, the chief eunuchs of the harem, the concubines, the queen mother, the wives of the sultan, the princes and the favorites.

It was forbidden to enter the harem of Topkapi Palace. It is estimated that the harem housed 400 people: 300 women and 100 eunuchs to monitor them. Despite their slave status, there was a hierarchy between them. At the top, the all-powerful Valide sultana, the queen-mother, then the favorite, the titular concubines, those who had had the sultan’s children, the occasional concubines and finally the novices who came in around 12-15 years old and took care of household chores.

Women lived in complete seclusion, but they did enjoy immense power of influence. They knew how to play the weak means they had at their disposal. Their daughters, the princesses, were married to the grand viziers or important figures and often took on the role of double agent, just like their eunuchs, who were in contact with the outside world.

The door of Bliss of the Topkapi Palace

(Capped with a dome which marks the presence of the Sultan in the Topkapi Palace Istanbul). Entrance to the third courtyard, where the sultan’s private apartments are located. An authorization from the Sultan was required to cross it.

In front of this Palace gate, during special ceremonies, the Sultan sat on a throne specially designed for celebrations while these subjects remained standing. The sultans’ funeral also took place outside this door.

On the ground in front of the door a plinth, place where was placed the banner of the prophet MUHAMMED for the solemn ceremonies at the departure of the grand vizier and the commander of the armies for the war.

The third courtyard was the heart of the palace, where we found the quarters of the Agas (young boys in the service of the Sultan, they learned the arts, music, painting, calligraphy, they could become an officer or high ranking official).

The audience hall of Topkapi Palace is located just behind the door of bliss, it is a square building surrounded by 22 columns supporting a large roof. Sitting on a four-poster throne, the sultan received there personally viziers and officers and ambassadors of foreign countries.

Little story: The people who entered, could be covered with gifts or could be strangled by castrated, deaf and dumb eunuchs, it was up to the sultan’s choice.

This place is adorned with emeralds, diamonds and rubies, a jewel in itself! This room is like a secret box where the sultan talked about confidential matters.

To the right of this audience room, in the former dormitory of the Expeditionary Force, an exhibition of the sultans’ clothes is presented, made up of 2,500 costumes.

The exhibition of the sultans’ costumes is closed for the works.

With an exceptional view of the Marmara Sea; in the 4 adjacent rooms, is exposed the armor inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory of Sultan Mustafa III and his weapons, the ebony throne of Murad IV, the diamond of spoon of 85.8 carats, the dagger of Topkapi inlaid of 3 large emeralds, 2 large gold candlesticks 48 kg each and mounted with 666 diamonds, and many other objects…

Opposite the treasure and clothes, on the other side of the courtyard, the gallery of portraits of sultans located in the old dormitory of the royal pages of the palace of Topkapi (servants).

The facade covered with earthenware is: the private room, which has always housed Muslim relics. In this room is exposed the holy coat of the Prophet Mohammed, his sword, a tooth, a coat of his beard, a battle saber, a letter and other relics still sacred, brought by the sultans to conquer countries like Egypt.

* the stick of Moses and the turban of Joseph are also exposed

INCREDIBLE: The only place in the world (even in Mecca this does not happen) where you can read the Koran 24 hours a day without interruption since 5 centuries. 12 meticulously chosen imams take turns for this honor. Visits or not, the prayer continues, never interrupted; Muslim faithful from all over the world come to meditate there. But remains open to visitors for all.

For centuries, this room has been washed in rose water, in which we collect the dust, which is kept preciously.

Library of Topkapi Palace

In the middle of the third courtyard, just behind the audience hall there is the AHMED III library dating from the 18th century where the sultans were reading. Inside, superb decoration of woodwork inlaid with mother-of-pearl and beautiful Iznik earthenware.

From the third courtyard, there are 2 passages to go to the fourth (last courtyard to visit).

The fourth courtyard is the most intimate place of the Sultan and his family, where there is a set of pavilions / kiosks / gardens and terraces.

In this courtyard of the Palace, a circumcision room, the Yerevan kiosk (which was used for 4-day religious retreats) the Baghdad kiosk (where the sultan rested there), Iftar pavilion meaning “the meal of the fasting”(place where the Sultan used to eat Ramadan meals after sunset), gazebo on the terrace where the Sultan attended sports and entertainment events organized in the garden.

THE LARGE PAVILION built in the 19th century by Abdulmecid I in western style (the Sultan who built the palace of Dolmabahçe) he was the last sultan of the palace of Topkapi. Currently in the palace, there is a cafe/restaurant “KONYALI” in which you can have a simple coffee or eat there, with a view of the Bosphorus. MOHAMMED ALI, RICHARD NIXON, JACKIE KENNEDY or ELISABETH II .. came there.

Next to the large pavilion of Topkapi Palace Istanbul, a 19th century mosque (Terrace mosque) can be visited

* Toilets (free) on all courtyards of Topkapi palace Istanbul.

To visit the Topkapi palace Istanbul, plan at least a good half day for the visit, put on comfortable shoes.

Enjoy your visit to Topkapi palace Istanbul in Istanbul!

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