Topkapi Palace Harem

Topkapi Palace Harem

Topkapi Palace


Topkapi Palace, which was used as the administrative and domicile center of the Ottoman Empire for almost 400 years, is the oldest and largest palace that has survived up until today.

It was built by the conqueror of Istanbul, Mehmed II, between the years 1458-1478, and it was up until the 19th century that other extensions were made by other sultans who ruled after him.

During the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid, the Palace lost its primary importance as it was seen to be inadequate for the needs of the State protocols of the 19th century and therefore had moved to Dolmabahce Palace built on the Bosphorus in 1854.

However, the Sultanate’s treasures, the Holy Relics and the archives of the Empire were protected and certain traditional ceremonies and celebrations continued to take place at Topkapi Palace. Following the abolishment of the Ottoman Sultanate in 1922, Topkapi Palace was converted into a museum on the order of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on the 3rd of April 1924. The Museum, which also offers audio guidance services, is open to the public every day of the week except on Tuesdays.

Topkapi Palace Harem


The word “harem” is a noun derived from the Arabic verb “harama” —meaning “to prohibit, forbid, or make unlawful”—and means “that which is forbidden” or “that which is kept safe”. At Topkapi Palace, the Harem Apartments were where the sultans lived together with their families. Reflecting architectural styles ranging from the 16th century to the early 19th century, the entire complex is of the greatest importance in terms of architectural history. In this sense, the Topkapi Palace Harem Apartments can be said to take pride of place among all the similar harems that have survived in the palaces of the Islamic world. The Harem was initially established within the Second Courtyard and above the palace’s back gardens and expanded greatly over the centuries. The apartments were secluded with great care, by means of high walls, from the more public courtyards and sections of the palace where government business was conducted.

Soon after Topkapi Palace was constructed, the Old Palace —located in the Bayezid neighborhood of Istanbul—began to be used solely as the harem, while Topkapi Palace became the seat of government and of public functions, which together were called “selamlik“. However, there are also some sources stating that, during this same period, a small harem—the Girls’ Palace (Sarây-i Duhterân)—was also built beside the palace’s Golden Road. The Harem developed in four stages, with perhaps the most intense period of construction and organization occurring when Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520–66) moved into the Topkapi Palace Harem together with his Haseki (“favorite”) Hürrem Sultan—known as Roxelana in the West—and his family; this period continued until the 18th century.


The Harem contains more than 300 rooms, nine hamams, two mosques, a hospital, dormitories, and a laundry. The complex as it exists today was shaped over the course of time, through numerous restorations and expansions. The basic plan of the Harem consists of consecutive courtyards surrounded by and interspersed with living quarters, rooms, pavilions, and service buildings.

The Harem, which forms one of the most important areas of Topkapi Palace and where the sultans had resided with their families, is a very crucial complex in terms of historical architecture as it has reflected the attributes of different architectural styles belonging to the 16th century until the beginning of the 19th century. The Harem of Topkapi Palace, which is highly distinctive in terms of other Islamic palaces alike which are still existent today, has been built within the second courtyard and the backyard of the palace and has for many centuries expanded. This area has been meticulously circled by high walls separating it from the salutation area and the areas of administrative functions. The word “Harem” stems from the word ‘harim’ which means privacy, closedness in the Arabic language.


It is known that after Topkapi Palace was built, the Old Palace in Bayezit was used as the Harem, while the one in Topkapi Palace was used for administrative and other functions. However, during this time, there have also been information in relation to a small harem being built called the Women’s Palace, which was located next to the Golden Path. The intense structuring and organisation in the Harem, which has been analysed throughout its four structuring steps, had begun by Kanuni Sultan SuleymanHaseki Hurrem Sultan and his family moving into the Harem of Topkapi Palace and this structuring had continued until the 18th century.

There are more than three hundred rooms in the Harem, with nine bathhouses, two mosques, one hospital, wards and a laundry room. It had been severely damaged during a fire in 1665. The current state of the Harem has been attained by many years of renovations and additions. The general structure of the Harem is formed by courtyards following one another. The doors that separate these courtyards lead to the wards, rooms, kiosks and administrative service buildings.

Visiting Hours

Summer Opening Time
Summer Closing Time
Winter Opening Time
Winter Closing Time
Closing Day
09:00 17:00 09:00 16:00 Tuesday

Ticket booths are closing 30 minutes or an hour before the museum closing time.

Admission Fee

Admission fee is 15 TL. If you have Museum Pass Card, then admission is free.

Topkapi Palace Map

Contact and Address

Address : Sultanahmet, Eminönü
Web Site :
E-mail : [email protected][email protected]
Phone : (212) 512 04 80
Fax : (212) 528 59 91

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