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Topkapi Palace

The Sultans’ royal residence for four centuries, today Topkapi Palace is a spectacular museum.

TravelCurious Tip

Look closely at the ancient trees in the palace gardens: a fungal disease has left many of their trunks completely hollow, but they remarkably still survive, sometimes with new trees growing inside.

Truly palatial

Topkapi, meaning ‘cannon gate’ after a now lost feature, is a massive complex of buildings surrounding four main courtyards. Its hundreds of rooms once housed around 4,000 people; it contained bakeries, a mint, mosques and its own hospital. This was the seat of the Ottoman sultanate from 1465 to 1856.

The Sultans gradually lost interest in Topkapi after the 17th century, moving to palaces along the Bosphorus; after Abdül Mecid I moved court to the European-style Dolmabahçe Palace in 1856, Topkapi retained only the functions of imperial mint, treasury and library. With the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, it was - like the Hagia Sophia - converted to a museum.

Ottoman treasures

Today, Topkapi houses some of Islam’s most holy relics, including the sword and cloak of the Prophet. Visitors can admire vast collections of Ottoman miniatures, furniture, jewellery, armour and more; no less magnificent are its architectural features, including the crenellated Gate of Salutation with its two octagonal pointed towers, and the elaborate chamber of the Imperial Council.

The stunning Imperial Harem alone contains no less than 400 rooms. These private quarters housed the Sultan, his children, a staff of eunuchs, and his concubines: the concubines were not allowed to leave without the express permission of the Valide Sultan, the Sultan’s mother, who had the largest and most important apartments. Her dining room, reception room and bedroom are open to the public, as are the Harem’s courtyards, baths and Privy Chambers: you must pay extra to enter the Harem, but it is well worth it.

The Palace’s beautiful kiosks, mosques, libraries and gardens all add to an enchanting experience. Spend a full day here and be transported to the opulent centre of the mighty Ottoman Empire.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Istanbul
Blue Mosque
A beautiful and elaborate place of worship, the Blue Mosque is the most important legacy of a roguish Ottoman Sultan.
Süleymaniye Camii
Located on the Third Hill, Süleymaniye Camii is the largest mosque and one of the most distinctive sights in Istanbul.
The Bosphorus
Separating East and West, the dramatic Bosphorus strait is perfect for a fabulous cruise.
Sehzade Camii
Dedicated to Sultan Süleyman's son, this peaceful place showcases the early talents of Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan.
Galata Köprüsü
The famous bridge over the Golden Horn, with wonderful views of old Istanbul.
Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum
Once the palace of Ibrahim Pasha, this museum houses a unique collection of calligraphy, tiles and rugs.

Related Tours

The Ultimate Full Day Tour of Istanbul
With this full-day highlights tour of Istanbul, you will gain a culturally-rich experience of both European and Asian traditions.

  • Learn about Istanbul's sporting history at the Hippodrome of Constantinople.
  • Gaze at the exterior of the phenomenal Blue Mosque.
  • Photograph the Byzantine architecture at Hagia Sophia.
  • Pause for a traditional Turkish meze lunch (not included in price).
  • Hear stories of the Ottoman sultans as you wander through The Topkapı Palace.
  • Descend beneath the city to Basilica Cistern.
  • Conclude with the colours and scents of Grand Bazaar.

Beauty of Istanbul

In this full-day highlights tour of the great city of Istanbul, you will have the pleasure of visiting some of the most iconic attractions of the city, accompanied by your knowledgeable expert city guide. Starting with the the Hippodrome of Constantinople, once used as an ancient Roman running and chariot racing track, and the epicentre of Byzantine life. 

You will then head to the absolutely stunning Blue Mosque, one of the most beautiful buildings in Istanbul, which was the 17th century triumph of Sultan Ahmet I. Look for the mosque's unique undulating exterior, featuring myriad domes and six slender minarets. Gorgeous blue Iznik tiles adorn the interior, giving the building its unique name. 

Venturing forth to the Hagia Sophia, commissioned by the Byzantine emperor Justinian, consecrated as a church in 537, converted to a mosque by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 and finally promoted as a museum by Atatürk in 1935- you will find exquisite artistry of Byzantine architecture and rich history of the region than than this great temple.

True Turkish Experience

You will be pleased to pause for a delicious traditional Turkish meze lunch (not included in price), after which you will be immersed in the fascinating history of Topkapi Palace. Extremely opulent, it was once the residence of countless Ottoman sultans from the 15th to the 19th century. Look for the palace's fabulous pavilions, unbelievable Treasury and formal rooms.

You will then venture underground to the awe-inspiring Basilica Cistern, where you will learn about its impressive construction. You may even find two Medusa faces- just don’t stare into their eyes! Finishing off this once-in-a-lifetime tour, you will visit the colourful Grand Bazaar, which was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1461. Explore the narrow lanes to watch craftsmen and artists at work, whilst stopping for an obligatory cup of traditional Turkish tea. 

Travel Curious Tip: We recommend re-visiting the Blue Mosque in your own time, and going inside. Dress respectfully, as it is a religious place of worship. 

We built this tour because 
a walking highlights tour allows first timers and those short on time to see all the key attractions Istanbul has to offer. 
Explore the Bosphorus Tour
A cruise along the Bosphorus allows visitors to see Istanbul's beautiful sights from the comfort of a boat.

  • Learn about the European and Asian cultures, which merge to make Istanbul unique
  • Cruise along the Bosphorus in a group cruise tour (1.5 hrs)
  • Photograph the beautiful architecture as you pass

Unique View of Istanbul

Explore the great city of Istanbul from the comfort and convenience of an extensive cruise on the Bosphorus. You will have the pleasure of learning about the famous stretch of water that straddles both the Asian and European continents as you cruise past some of the best sights Istanbul has to offer. Look out for the stunning Dolmabahçe Palace with its ostentatious façade as well as the 15th century Rumeli Hisarı Fortress and Beylerbeyi Palace where Ottoman sultans spent their summers.  Make yourself comfortable on deck and take in the beauty of the Bosphorus.

Melting Pot of Cultures

During the cruise you will get the chance to truly experience the meeting of East and West, focused in the great city of Istanbul, as well as learning more about the important historical effects of the meeting of diverse cultures and traditions. While differences have been rooted within Turkish history, and have at times resulted in tension, the mix of different cultures and faiths in Istanbul has indeed fuelled the creation of the amazing, and utterly unique city that you see today.

Travel Curious Tip: Visit the Grand Bazaar before your cruise slot, and pick up some authentic Turkish snacks.

We built this tour because 
it allows Travel Curious users to explore Istanbul in a unique way.


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