Topkapi Palace & Harem

History and Location

Topkapi Palace was the second and most used Palace of Constantinople after its conquest in 1453. The sultans ruled the mighty Ottoman Empire from this complex area during its most potent era. 

Topkapi Palace, located between Hagia Sophia and Sarayburnu, is one of the most famous palaces in the history of the Ottoman Empire built by Mehmet the Conqueror. Its construction began in 1460, and it finished in 1478. After Mehmed, some other Sultans added new structures. The Palace consists of four courtyards surrounded by small buildings and Harem. The names of these courtyards are Alay Square, Divan Square, Enderun Courtyard, and Köşkler Courtyard.

Topkapi Palace covers an area of ​​700.000 m2 surrounded by walls. Most of the community of buildings that make up the Palace are either one or two-story buildings. The collection of structures called the Inner Palace is generally around the courtyards.

topkapi palace
Topkapi Palace Interior

First Courtyard

The entrance to the First Courtyard (Alay Square) is from the main entrance of the Topkapi Palace. One of the most striking structures in this courtyard is the Hagia Irene Church, a 1500-year-old Byzantine church. The history of the building goes back to 330, the founding year of Istanbul, and Hagia Irene is the first church in Istanbul. Justinian repaired the building that burned in the Nika Revolt in 532. Other structures attract attention in the First Courtyard.

The Alay Square, which is the scene of the Sultan’s transition ceremonies, includes Babusselam, the ceremonial entrance gate where Ottoman and Western architecture blends, and Bab-ı Hümayun, another ceremonial gate that provides access to the second courtyard. The First Courtyard is the only public part of the Palace.

Second Courtyard

The second courtyard, formerly called Divan Square, is a government center. After the entrance to the courtyard, there are imperial stables on the left and palace kitchens on the right. The most important building of the second courtyard is the Divan. The imperial council is the area where the secretaries and ministers meet on imperial administration on behalf of the Sultan and discuss government affairs there.

Third Courtyard

From the Second Courtyard of the Topkapi Palace, the third courtyard passes through the imperial gate called Babussade. The third courtyard is the private area of ​​the Sultan, and Audience Hall, where the Sultan welcomes his visitors, is the first encounter. The Sultan rarely exits from the third courtyard. Treasury and Enderun, or school, are also located in this area. Furthermore, Sultan’s Harem gate is also in this area. There is a library built by Ahmet III in the middle of the courtyard. The treasury building, one of the oldest structures of the Palace, is located in the north-east area of ​​the third courtyard. There are Sacred Relics in the northwest of the courtyard.

Fourth Courtyard

The third courtyard passes through a corridor to the fourth courtyard, and the fourth courtyard has a magnificent tulip/rose garden and different mansions. The fourth courtyard is the place where the Sultan and his family spend time in the summer, and it is the most beautiful part of the Topkapi Palace.

There is also a Harem in Topkapi Palace. Sultan Suleyman The Magnificent built the Harem in the 16th century, and it is a private area where the family of the Sultan lived.

Topkapi Palace lost its importance, especially after the construction of Dolmabahçe Palace in the 19th century. Since 1924 after the proclamation of the Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it is a museum.

Topkapi Palace is open to visitors every day except Tuesday.