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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 07 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros

Built in 1459 to become the 15th and 16th-century home of the Ottoman Sultans, this enormous complex became the centre of the Ottoman world. Now it’s a perfectly preserved time capsule of life at the top in this most exotic of empires.

Some parts of the palace, especially the harem and the sultans’ private quarters, rank among the finest works of Turkish architecture and art. The museum holds Ottoman clothing, weapons, armor, miniatures, religious relics, and illuminated manuscripts such as the Topkapi manuscript. The collections the sultans piled up over the centuries – from glittering jewels to Prophet Muhammad’s tooth – are beyond belief.

Don’t miss

Once the Sultans’ private garden, Gulhane Park is a great place to relax after seeing the palace. There’s also a pleasant café here with views over the Bosphorus.

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Price from: £17
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 8+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Take tram 1 to Sultanahmet and walk from there.

Buy tickets online first, then print them out and take them with you to avoid the worst of the queues. Allow around 2-4 hours to see the whole complex, and wear comfy shoes – there’s quite a bit of walking involved.

The harem (on a separate ticket) is the most beautiful part of the palace, but the number of visitors is limited to 3,000 per day – another reason to turn up early.

When to do it

The museum is open all year round, Wednesday to Monday. Closed Tuesday. This is the most popular site in the city, so turn up early – if you don’t, you could end up standing in queues all day.

Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace Half Day Tour

Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace Half Day Tour

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Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace Half Day Tour

Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace Half Day Tour

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Experience the main attractions of Istanbul, as well as the small but equally wonderful details of the city on this small-group tour. Your g...

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Topkapi Palace and Harem guided tour with skip-the-line tickets

Topkapi Palace and Harem guided tour with skip-the-line tickets

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Discover the history and myths of Ottoman Istanbul with a small-group guided tour from an expert guide Get priority admission tickets and a...

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Istanbul Classics and Highlights! Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi and more!

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This tour is a must in Istanbul with a small group! You will begin the day with the Roman / Byzantine Hippodrome, where the chariot races we...

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Sirkeci Mansion Hotel

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey[0.4 miles]

Convenient for the major sights and plugged into Turkish culture, this charming, historic hotel is ideal for families and first-timers.  

Official star rating:

Yasmak Sultan Hotel

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey[0.5 miles]

Close to Istanbul’s top sights, this friendly hotel with a spa and rooftop restaurant is a dream for first-time visitors. And good value too.

Official star rating:

Four Seasons Istanbul Sultanahmet

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey[0.6 miles]

Superbly staffed, relaxing oasis in an unbeatable location – the luxury choice in central Sultanahmet.

Official star rating:

Hotel Ibrahim Pasha

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey[1 miles]

This stylish, friendly and affordable boutique hotel is in sights-packed Sultanahmet, perfect for first-time visitors.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

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Exotic, inexhaustible and dynamic – East meets West head-on in this mesmerising city metropolis, famed for its extraordinarily rich history, superb food and shopping, and mind-blowingly magnificent, over-sized mosques.

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Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Hagia Sophia

Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey[0.5 miles]

A masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, this world-renowned 6th-century marvel encapsulates the essence of the lost Ottoman Empire. Initially a cathedral, it’s now a museum as well as a functioning mosque – and a must-see in Istanbul.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Round-ups that include this experience

101 World’s greatest historic buildings

Multiple countries

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