Listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, Topkapi Palace happens to be the largest and oldest palace in the world to survive to this date. It holds major historical significance as the palace is a repository of the rich historical and cultural lineage of Ottomans. Expanded over the centuries, Topkapi Palace is now a major tourist attraction and contains important holy relics of the Muslim world, such as the Muhammed’s cloak and sword.
Topkapi Palace is spread over an enormous area of 700,000 sq. m. Surrounded by 5 km long walls, Topkapi Palace is situated on the site of the first settlement in Istanbul, called Seraglio Point and commands an impressive view of the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara. Though Topkapi Palace is not as popular as some of the other monuments in the world, however, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that visiting Istanbul without touring the Topkapi is like visiting Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower.
Topkapi Palace served as the official residence of Ottoman kings till 1853. Other than being the private residence, Topkapi Palace also functioned as the seat of the supreme executive and judiciary council. It was also home to dormitories, schools, gardens and libraries. Mehmet the Conqueror commissioned the construction of the palace in 1459, shortly after his conquest of Constantinople in 1453. In 1924, Topkapi Palace was converted to a museum with the order of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
As per travel experts, the best months to visit Istanbul, where Topkapi Palace is situated are September to November. This is the time when the crowds are limited and the weather is at its best in Istanbul. It is best to avoid the months of December and January when planning a visit to Topkapi Palace, Istanbul. This is because the winter months tend to get rainy and chilly.
Tourists planning to visit Topkapi Palace ought to note that it opens from 09:00am in the morning till 05:00pm in the evening. Also, the palace remains closed on Tuesdays. As regards the tickets, they can be purchased in the gateway to the Second Court. The cost of the entry ticket is approximately 9 euros and is slightly on the higher side. Also, the Harem section needs a separate admission fee. Queues tend to get long, so tourists are recommended to arrive early.
The important attractions of Topkapi Palace are:
• First Courtyard: This is Topkapi Palace’s basic four-courtyard plan which has been a constant since its foundation stone was laid. One can also find the first building in the palace complex, the Tiled Pavilion, and the Archeological Museum here.
• Second Courtyard: This was the administrative center of the Turkish state. Only the sultan and his wife were allowed here. The only tower in the palace is also located here.
• The Harem: Strictly closed to outsiders, this space was occupied by the female members of the royal family. The sultan’s mother was the sole ruler in the harem. Courtyard of the Black Eunuchs and the Courtyard of the Concubines are must visits here.
• The Treasury: This treasure trove has the richest collection of its kind in the world. The the famous Topkapi Dagger can be found on display here.
For a glimpse into Turkish history and architecture, plan a visit to Topkapi Palace !!