Our first day out in Istanbul is a visit to Topkapi Palace which is less than 10 minutes walk from Star Holiday Hotel. On the way, you’ll walk through Sultanahmet Park and walk past the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The main entrance (Imperial Gate) by the side of Hagia Sophia fronting the non functioning Sultan Ahmet III fountain, will take you to the Palace first courtyard. No entrance ticket is required yet.
Construction of the Topkapi Palace started in 1460 and completed in 1478. It became the administrative centre and residence of the imperial Ottoman court. About 30 Sultans ruled from the Topkapı Palace from 1478 to 1856. After the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, Topkapi Palace, was transformed into a palace-museum in 1924. It is reputed for its architectural structures, antique collection and approximately 300,000 archive papers.
Once you pass the main entrance, you’ll be in the first courtyard. It is the largest of the courtyards. Hagia-Irene, formerly a church served as an armory during the Ottoman period and the other service buildings like the Mint, Oven and Hospital are located here as well.
The entrance fee to Topkapi Palace is 40₺. Tickets can be bought from the ticket office inside the first courtyard else, e-tickets are available here. You scan your ticket upon entering the second courtyard after security check. Topkapi Palace has four courtyards, each serving different purpose with passages connecting each other. It is surrounded with greens and gardens for which, the Gulhane Park, now open to public was once part of the palace grounds.
The second gate has two guard towers called “Gate of Salutation”, which leads to the second courtyard. This was the administrative centre of the palace. The Tower of Justice, to the left is a watchtower dating back to the 15th century, is the tallest structure within the palace. The Imperial Council Hall where the Ottoman Empire was literally govern from, is in-front of the Tower of Justice. The palace kitchens and confectionaries among others, are located here too.
All paths in the Second Court will lead to the “Gate of Felicity” that gives access to the Third Courtyard. It houses the private residence of the Sultan and the palace school. This is the Sultan’s private domain where he spent his days. The Chamber of Holy Relics located here, consists of repository for Islāmic relics, including the mantle, sword, and bow of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Housed in the Pavilion of the Conqueror, is the palace’s most famous collections of imperial jewels. The Library of Sultan Ahmed III, is situated behind the Audience Hall.
The fourth and last courtyard of the palace consists primarily of private terraced gardens and pavilions of the Sultan. From here, he has a great view of the city overlooking the Golden Horn, Bosphorus Straits and Marmara Sea. Many of the Ottoman Sultans had an interest in flowers and gardening, and the fourth courtyard gardens are filled with tulips or roses depending on the season.
This was our second visit to Topkapi Palace, the first being 2013. Nothing much has changed since. You wouldn’t miss much thus, you might want to utilise the 40₺ entrance fee for other attraction elsewhere.