Stately home to the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years with an array of Turkish design and foreign art.
The Topkapi Palace covers over 70 hectares at the place where the city was founded, and is surrounded by more than five kilometres of walls. Despite being a 15th-century building, it is excellently preserved, and was opened to the public in 1924 by Kemal Ataturk, the 'Father of the Turks'.
As well as the aesthetic pleasures of the architecture and art, the palace also boasts fantastic views over the famed Golden Horn, the Bosphorus Strait and the Sea of Marmara.
With its many high gates and pleasant, tree-filled courtyards, the Topkapi Palace is a enjoyable place to explore. These courtyards are also home to a wide-ranging collection of Turkish art and to numerous attractive features on the buildings' structure. Furthermore, a collection of over 12,000 pieces of porcelain from China and Japan are on show in the kitchens. There are a wide range of sultan's buildings, as each ruler in turn left their mark and added to the architecture on show.
A large section of the palace harem is open to visitors – this was the area where the sultan and his family lived, along with their concubines and eunuchs. Due to the fact that outsiders were not permitted to enter the harem, a shroud of myth and mystery came to cover it in the Western imagination. The 40-room section for the sultan's mother can be explored, as can the baths and domed hall where the sultan himself would relax.
The Hagia Irene, a former mosque, has been converted into a concert hall. It can also be visited as a museum, but special permission is required for entry.
There is no official guided tour service at the Topkapi Palace, but a large number of private tour guides offer their services outside the ticket offices. Open daily, except on Tuesdays.