Topkapi Palace Museum

History, architecture and parts of Istanbul Topkapi Palace Museum

Istanbul is one of the most beautiful tourist centers in the world due to its many historical buildings with unique architecture, which attracts many tourists every year. Istanbul Topkapi Palace Museum is considered to be both the largest and oldest palace in the world. This palace belongs to the period of Ottoman rule in Turkey.

The Topkapi Palace Museum undoubtedly has a fascinating history, having welcomed several sultans, ambitious courtiers, and concubines inside from the 15th through the 19th centuries. This palace served as both the Ottoman Empire’s capital and the Sultan’s primary home in the fifteenth century.

All of the structures from that era, including this palace, were added to the list of national works of this country on April 3, 1924, concurrent with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

History of Istanbul Topkapi Palace Museum

On the ruins of Byzantium, Topkapi Palace in Istanbul was constructed in the late 1950s on Sultan Mehmed II’s orders. This was just six years after Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, was conquered and taken in 1453.

Sultan Mehmed II moved into this palace in 1478, and while it was being built, he was residing in a smaller palace in Turkey’s Beyazt Square, which is now Istanbul University. This palace was rebuilt three years after his passing, and the Ottoman rulers subsequently extended and renovated it several times. During the 400 years and four centuries of the Ottoman Empire, almost 30 kings reigned at Topkapi Palace.

Top-view of Istanbul Topkapi Palace Museum
Top-view of Istanbul Topkapi Palace Museum

Topkapi Palace has undergone several reconstructions in a variety of architectural styles, including Islamic, Ottoman, and European designs. In the beginning, there weren’t many people living in this palace, but at certain times, it was home to between 1,000 and 4,000 people. Of those, only 300 lived in the Haremsera, and the majority of the infantry and royal guards (Janissaries) were stationed in the courtyard and at the palace’s first gate.

When it was first built, Topkapi Palace covered an area of 700,000 square meters, and its outer walls extended for almost five kilometers. There might occasionally be 10,000 people there during festivals. In actuality, Topkapi Palace had grown to become the largest palace of its day and a separate city within a city. Due to the development that has been done nearby, this palace covers an area of 80,000 square meters.

The architecture of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

Topkapi Palace has three distinct architectural styles: the exterior palace, the inner palace, and the harem. The inner palace and harem are where the monarchs’ private lives took place. Sultan Mehmed’s initial design for Topkapi Palace had four courtyards connected by high walls. Each yard had a particular purpose and was separated from the others by a gate; as one progressed to the third and fourth yards, the space got more private and restricted.

The foundation of Topkapi palace complex is founded on the existence of isolation and royal privacy. The major palace and the main gate, also known as the royal gate, were finished in 1472. Topkapi Palace’s ramparts in the second gate, which are influenced by medieval European design, were completed in 1478 AD.

The remaining buildings from the original layout are largely modest and have one or two stories, and their usage has varied throughout the ages, resulting in structures with ambiguous uses, particularly in the harem.

The architecture of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul
The architecture of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

The majority of the service buildings are single-story stone constructions topped by a massive dome. The residential constructions were made of stone and wood, with lead-coated domes.

Topkapi Palace’s interior and gardens are embellished with elements like fountains, ponds, and fountains. Topkapi gardens also have paved pathways.

Because the grandeur of its design, like Edirne, is affected by enormous courtyards encircled by buildings and gates, Topkapi Palace has been greatly inspired by the architecture of Edirne Palace. Edirne Palace was the Ottoman Empire’s previous palace when Edirne was designated its capital.

The Topkapi Palace’s structures suffered significant damage in the 1509 earthquake and the 1665 fire; following each rebuilding and restoration, additional structures were added to them, and the palace complex grew.

Different parts of Topkapi Palace

What has happened now with the passage of time and the expansion of Topkapi Palace in different historical times has produced a Labyrinth with diverse structures in the middle of which there is a vast courtyard.

First Courtyard

When you walk through the first gate, also known as the royal gate, you will enter the first yard, known as the Sepah yard. No one but the Sultan had the privilege to ride through this gate on horseback after this gate, and everyone else had to pass through on foot.

First Courtyard of Topkapi Palace Museum
First Courtyard of Topkapi Palace Museum

In this location, there is a beautiful park, a number of Byzantine remains, Hagia Irene Church, which is utilized in extraordinary circumstances to organize concerts and foreign exhibits, the Imperial Mint, and a historical museum. On your right before the second gate is ticket desks, a change office, and a few gift shops.

Second Courtyard

Salam gate is the second gate, which contains two guard towers. The reason for this is that everyone who entered this location had to welcome the Sultan before entering, and only the Sultan and his staff were allowed to pass through this gate; in other words, this gate was not designed for public use.

Nowadays, traveling through this gate requires passing through the security inspection center and the ticket-checking center before entering the palace’s second courtyard (Hayat Diwan). On the right, there are two small-scale models of the palace, as well as a big map depicting the founding and growth of the Ottoman Empire.

The royal kitchens are on the right side of the courtyard, where 800 to 1000 chefs were busy preparing meals for the palace’s 10,000 people.

Second Courtyard of Topkapi Palace Museum
Second Courtyard of Topkapi Palace Museum

Today, there is a distinct collection of Japanese silverware and china in various places of the kitchen. The Diwan, or palace of the Sultan’s counselors, is situated in the courtyard on the left side. This was where the minister and the chancellor discussed daily matters or overseas trips. In the side chamber, there was also the divan’s treasury, which is now a display of period weaponry.

Above these two structures stood a tower of justice, which was used to keep an eye on the shore. The harem’s entrance is situated in this yard, directly behind the courtroom.

Third Courtyard

The third gate is known as the Gate of Happiness because the Sultan and the inhabitants of the palace used to celebrate important events there. The Sultan sat on his throne in this position, and when he was pleased, everyone was happy. No one could enter through this gate without the Sultan’s permission, which was guarded by white eunuchs.

The first existing building, after entering the third courtyard, was the lecture hall where the Sultan welcomed foreign diplomats. This room was elegantly adorned with appealing décor. A library was behind the chamber.

Third Courtyard of Topkapi Palace Museum
Third Courtyard of Topkapi Palace Museum

Among the many attractive objects in this place are the 86-carat Kasikci diamond, the Topkapi dagger, a very large emerald, several thrones, very large candelabras made of gold, and the icon of (John St. John the Baptist) pointed out.

Topkapi Palace book collection includes rare manuscripts and early copies of the Quran that researchers can examine in the reading room.

Forth Courtyard

Following the third courtyard, a series of tunnels lead to the palace’s last courtyard and the Sultan’s personal garden (Sufi Humayun). There are numerous tulips and roses in this garden, as well as several rooms with a fantastic view of the city where you may enjoy coffee or tea. Baghdad chamber, Rovan chamber, and Sufi chamber are positioned on the courtyard’s left side and enjoy views of the Golden Horn. They were all constructed in the 17th century and are embellished with some of the finest tiles and enormous inlays of pearls on wood.

The king’s boys’ circumcision apartments and the Mecidiye chamber are also on the right side of the courtyard, with views of the Marmara Sea and the Bosphorus Strait. These products were all created in the nineteenth century. A modest mosque is also one of the yard’s appealing and lovely features. A café and a self-service restaurant have also been constructed just beneath the Mecidiye chamber.

Forth Courtyard of Topkapi Palace Museum
Forth Courtyard of Topkapi Palace Museum


The royal harem was housed in one of the Sultan’s private chambers. The harem comprised around 400 chambers. The Sultan’s mother, grandmother, concubines, spouses, and the harem were where the remainder of his family, including their offspring and household staff, resided. The harem is made up of a number of buildings and constructions that are linked together by corridors and yards.

Each hierarchy and service group that lived in the harem had its own private space, which drew the courtyard together. The number of rooms which were most likely greater than 100, although the precise number has not been determined. Only a few are accessible to the general public.

Harem of Topkapi Palace Museum
Harem of Topkapi Palace Museum

Conditions for visiting Topkapi Palace

Except on Tuesdays, Topkapi Palace is open to visitors during the week. In the spring and summer, you may visit this palace between 9:00 morning and 7:00 evening; however, in the autumn and winter, you have a restricted period and can only see this collection between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The Topkapi Palace Museum is closed to the public on religious holidays in the morning.

It is forbidden for children to use the carriages in the palace in Topkapi Museum. One of the other conditions for visiting this palace is to wear clothes, especially when visiting the religious and sacred artifacts section. Avoid wearing summer dresses or short skirts.

The Best Time to Visit Topkapi Palace

The best time to travel to Istanbul and visit historical buildings is Spring, including Topkapi Palace, because the garden and grounds of this palace are green and beautiful. Of course, if you want to travel cheaper, it is better to choose the cold seasons of the year. Because of less passenger traffic, it is possible to choose cheaper tours and plane tickets.

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