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Topkapi is the first palace built by the Ottoman Empire after the conquest of Constantinople. Today it is the major center of attraction in Turkey and it warmly welcomes millions of tourists.
It is one of the most picturesque historical sites in Istanbul and symbolizes the power of the world’s largest empire.
Topkapi Palace served as the major residence for Ottoman families till the 19th century. The main highlights of the palace are the Sultan's harem and the Sultan’s treasury.
It also houses a museum that contains a huge collection of Islamic early Islamic relics. Due to its enormous beauty and breathtaking architecture, the palaces have been recognized by UNESCO among the World Heritage Sites.
Today, the palace is not only a fine symbol of Ottoman architecture but also contains some influences from Byzantine architecture.
Its construction started in 1459 and was completed in 1465. It was built by the order of Ottoman Sultan “Mehmed II”, six years after the conquest of Constantinople.
The palace has witnessed some major historical events during its 6 years of existence. Many notable people lived here and several global issues were tackled within the main hall of Topkapi Palace.
The Sultan Harem was built by Suleiman I, widely regarded as “Suleiman the Magnificent”. He dedicated this harem to his wife “Hurrem Sultan”.
1. Served as the primary residence of Ottomans for almost 400 years out of their 624 years of rule.
2. After the decline of the great Ottoman Empire, the number of concubines increased within the palace. During the region of Sultan Abdulaziz, the number of concubines rose to 800.
3. It is the world’s largest and oldest palace that survived till the modern era.
4. Apart from being the Empire's residence, Topkapi was the home to the administration center and educational institution.
5. There were more than 5,000 residents in this place during the Ottoman region.
6. It stands just a few distance away from the grand mosque of “Hagia Sophia”.
7. The place, where the palace stands were originally renamed from Byzantium to Constantinople by Roman Empire in 330 AD. A Roman gallery has been recently discovered beneath the first courtyard.
8. Was originally named “Saray-I Cedid-i Amire” meaning Imperial New Palace. The current name was given Sultan Mehmud I which literally means “Cannon Gate Palace”.
9. It went through several renovations over the years, especially during the region of Sultan Suleiman I. He expanded the palace area with an estimated size between 592,600 and 700,000 sq meters.
10. Even after the destruction of the original Fort of Constantinople, it still houses a church that belongs to the early Byzantine region. It is referred to as “Hagia Irene” and was the first church to be built on the land of Constantinople.
There are four courtyards throughout the palace with the first courtyard being the outside while the fourth courtyard is situated inside the palace. The courtyards differ from each other in terms of structure and features.
The First Courtyard is the largest as compared to other courtyards. It houses two of the major monuments such as Imperial Mint and Hagia Irene church.
Talking about the second courtyard, it serves more significance than other courtyards of Topkapi. The courtyard contains a notable treasure, the Gate of Felicity, and the Imperial council.
Situated inside the palace, the third courtyard consists of the Sultan's harem, Privy, a library of Sultan Ahmed II, and a treasury. This is the same place where the young prince used to learn the art of calligraphy and music.
Also referred to as “Inner Sofa”, the fourth courtyard houses the private rooms of the Sultan and his family members. There is a counter named “Yerevan” which was used for religious practices.
Another one is the Iftar kiosk where Sultan and his family used to break their fast during Ramadan.
The Harem complex is arguably the most beautiful yet the most mysterious part of the Palace. It was the private retreat center for Ottoman Sultans and their families.
Built by Sultan Suleiman, the Harem consists of 400 rooms. It has plenty of sections with each of them interconnected through passages or galleries.
The main entrance of the harem starts from the courtyards and leads towards the Queen mother’s courtyard
The other courtyard is where Sultan’s chief consorts used to live. It contains three finely built apartments that were specially assigned to Sultan’s wifes.
Other highlights include the imperial hall for entertainment, the private chamber of the Queen mother, and the baths for the Sultan and Queen.
Lies in the third courtyard, the Topkapi Palace Museum is divided into two dormitories. It displays a huge collection of the Sultan’s belongings including clothes, arms & weapons.
The most remarkable section is the Sacred Safekeeping rooms which contain some of the most important relics of Islamic history.
It has numerous relics that belong to Prophet Mohammad including his hair, tooth that fell down during the battle of Uhud, footprints, and sword.
There are other relics that belong to earlier Islamic prophets such as the Sword of Daud, Robe of Yusuf, staff of Musa, and Abraham’s tray.
Last but not least is the Privy Chamber which exhibits 36 portraits of Ottoman Emperors. It also displays the world map designed by famous Turkish admiral “Piri Reis”.
Also Read: 10 Most Beautiful Mosques In Turkey That Are Not To Be Missed
In order to visit Topkapi Palace, the tourists can either book online or purchase directly from the main entrance. However, there is no online ticket for Harem and the Hagia Irene.
For guidance, tourists may rent an audio guide that is available in multiple languages including English, Turkish, and others. Also, the tourists are advised not to take pictures within the main hall and museum.
The Palace is usually crowded, hence it is advised to come at least 15 minutes prior to opening hours.
Best Time To Visit: March to May | September to November
Visiting Hours: October 31 to Mid-April- 9:00 AM to 4:45 PM | Mid-April to October 30- 9:00 AM to 6:45 PM
Nearby Airport: Istanbul Airport which is 51 km away. It will hardly take you 40 minutes to reach here via Taxi.
Ticket Price: Palace(above 12 years)- 200 TL | Harem(above 6 years)- 100 TL
Location: Cankurtaran, Istanbul, Turkey
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