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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 10 February, 2024
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, armour, 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.

Logistics

Price from: £17
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
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.

Who to go with: organised tours

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Destination guides

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