Topkapi Palace, the Imperial Palace of Istanbul

The thought of visiting a royal palace is always so exciting to me that the first thing I do when I decide on a trip to a city is to lookup for forts and palaces in that city. And when it comes to Istanbul it needs no introduction for its rich history and abundant architectural marvels. Although Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophie was on top of my list, I wanted to visit Topkapi Palace first.

Topkapi Palace was built by Sultan Mehmed II, the Ottoman emperor who conquered Byzantine Constantinople and choose to build his first palace on the site of a Byzantine acropolis. The Sultan ordered the construction of the palace in 1459 which was completed in 1478 and it was originally called as Saray-i Cedid-i Amire, which meant the Imperial New Palace. The emperor himself played a major role in laying out its design and architecture where he choose the highest point of the land to build his private chambers and other parts of the royal residence. Although it went through numerous alterations and renovations over the centuries the basic layout was kept unchanged.

During the reign of the Sultans of Ottoman empire this was their official residence from 15th to 19th century and housed their administrative offices, armory, official halls, served as a center for art and education and also a royal residence. After the Royals moved to their new residence Dolmabahçe Palace, this was converted to a museum in 1924 and it is one the oldest and largest palace museum in the world. In 1985, Topkapi palace was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the “Historic Areas of Istanbul”.
Topkapi Palace is the true treasure of the rich Ottoman style of architecture showcasing the Islāmic traditions and designs in various forms of gold and ceramic motifs with beautiful hues of white, red and blues adorning the walls and ceilings.

Gate of Salutation – Entrance to the second courtyard

The palace is divided into four main courtyards, with each courtyard being used for different purposes. After getting our entrance tickets from the visitor center in the first courtyard we started to tour the Imperial Palace of Istanbul. As we passed through each of the magnificent gates leading into the courtyards we were taken closure into the world the Sultans with its myriad gardens and elaborated decor, which was absolutely enchanting.

Administrative buildings inside the second courtyard

The second courtyard houses the palace kitchen, Imperial treasury and my favorite among these is the Imperial Council. This richly decorated building with huge pillars on the outside porch with multiple doors leading inside and once inside you are treated with an extravagant decor in rococo style is an absolute treat to your eyes.

Tower of Justice and Imperial Council
Front porch of the Imperial Council
Elaborate designs on the ceiling

Marble cladded rooms of the Council

The Gate of Felicity – Entrance to the third courtyard

The next courtyard (third) is the heart of the palace and houses all the important sections or chambers used by the royal family. The impressive Imperial Treasury collection is one of the must see along with Harem, which houses the lavish Sultan’s and Queen Mother’s private chambers, the throne room and the other rooms of the royal family, spanning over 6 floors with 300 rooms. The palace museum displays a wide range of collections from finest Ottoman carpets, Sultan’s clothing and caftans and scared coverings. One more important part of the palace, which you can’t give a miss is the Privy Chamber where the Holy Relics are displayed and the most treasured ones among them are the Holy Mantle of the Prophet, his footprints, Moses’s staff, Davis’s sword and also keys and the gutters of Kaaba and many more.

Audience Hall
The baldachin style throne with lacquered ceiling studded with jewels

View of Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus

And as we reached the end of the garden in the fourth courtyard we were greeted by the stunning view of Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus. Despite being a gloomy day, we didn’t get a clear view but still, it was all spectacular. This last courtyard has numerous gardens, pavilions, and kiosks which were mainly used by the Sultan and his family.

Inside the fourth courtyard
Revan Kiosk
Revan Kiosk
Baghdad Kiosk
Baghdad Kiosk

Iftaree Pavilion


Inside the Circumcision room

The walls of the circumcision room is covered with rare specimens of Ottoman tiles

Topkapi Palace has the most exquisite display of the artifacts from the Sultans of Ottoman empire and we spent around 1.5 hours exploring the different courtyards and opulent rooms and halls of the palace and I was beyond stunned by the magnificence of the palace.
The whole palace is exceptionally beautiful and to tour, this extensive complex one would take a good two hours of time so that you don’t miss out on any part of the palace.

Topkapi Palace is open for visitors on all days except on every Tuesdays and on public holidays. Entry to the museum costs 40 TL and you need to buy a separate ticket for Harem and Halberdiers which costs 25 TL. For more information please visit:

Hope you guys enjoyed reading our post, do leave us a comment on your thoughts on this ancient place!

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50 thoughts on “Topkapi Palace, the Imperial Palace of Istanbul”

  • Mind blowing architecture and amazing details. I’ve never heard of this palace, in spite of reading dozens of articles on Istanbul (needless to say, hope to visit this city one day). Thanks for posting so many pictures – I’m always hesitant when including more than 15-20 photos into a single blog post, but now I see that it really gives a better idea of a place.

    • Thank you Antonina! Even I had not heard of this palace in any article I had read about Istanbul but when I opened their official website I got to know about this… 🙂

  • Beautifully and widely written . I am amazed with the pictures and think the kings of each country were living in Luxury and this palace is proving but on the other hand it is a beautiful piece and well managed .

  • Been to Topkapi Palace 10 years ago, honestly didnt remember anything. This article bought back so much tonne. Well written and lovely pictures

  • It never fails to amaze me how opulent palaces are. Can you imagine living in a place like that? The ceilings are so amazingly crafted. I wonder how long it took servants to clean the castle?

  • Topkapi Palace looks incredible! It really reminds you how young we are in comparison. I love all the intricate detailing in the photos of the Imperial Council, as well as the rich history of the palace and Istanbul. Thanks for sharing!

  • What a gorgeous place! I love the architecture and all the colors used to build this place. I’d love to live in a place like this, so much room and such great views.

    • It would like living a dream of being a princess if ever we get to live in such a palace, isn’t it 😉

  • I love palaces and castles too (more than museums). I also love it when it’s not only a ruin and the Topkapi Palace looks like something I’d definitely enjoy exploring. I can see a bit of Asian design influence in the paintings but then I realized that Turkey is both European and Asian country. Lol. Love the view of the Bosphorus and Marmara Sea in the end, it really is a view fit for a King (or a Sultan). 🙂

  • Ottoman history is so interesting. It’s good to see this 15th century edifice still standing strong. I had read so many articles about Istanbul but I had never heard of this place. It sure is an offbeat gem.

    • Thats true Abhinav, although this palace is right next to the famous Hagia Sophie and equally attractive for its beauty and stunning architecture it is hardly mentioned anywhere…

  • Very impressive gilded interiors. Their tile designs and lay out impresses me a lot.
    Topkapi Palace seems to be a must visit kind of place. I have added it to my dream destination list. The weather there was dull but the pics do look great.

    • Thank you Indrani! Weather was very gloomy the day we visited, I tried my best to capture good pictures..:)

  • I skipped Topkapi when I stayed in Istanbul for a month, on account of too many people there. These photos and descriptions are perhaps the next best thing. Except now I feel like I have to go! It’s not something to miss for sure.

    • Yeah, it gets bit crowded inside but it is all worth it, do not miss this if you are Istanbul next time Peter! 🙂

  • This looks absolutely stunning. I love exploring history in places like this too- it’s so interesting to learn about this way. This palace looks like it’s one that’s shouldn’t be missed!

  • I love Topkapi Palace but then to be fair Istanbul wowed me. We stayed out of the town but had amazing views of the city from the rooftop deck

  • Istanbul is on our maybe list, but of late I have been seeing some stunning things to visit. I love a bit of history when exploring a new country and you have provided a great insight on the Palace. Stunning photos to match your story. Thanks for the read.

  • It is amazing how much you know about the history of this palace. It is beautiful, clean, and well-maintained. I like the interior designs of the rooms. They are intricate and colourful. I would love to visit this palace someday.

    • Since I am a bit of history buff I read few articles on the palace as I was very curious to know more about its history.. 🙂

  • I’m visiting Istanbul this winter and only really know about the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar. It’s good to read about something else before I go, the Topkapi Palace. As it’s a UNESCO site I will definitely add it to my Istanbul itinerary.

  • I love the architecture and the amazing intricate details of the inside and the ceilings – it’s so beautiful! I always try and visit UNESCO World Heritage sites when I travel as they are usually so interesting.

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