If you plan to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, you might look for things to do. Maybe you have the same problem as me, always little time and you want to see as much as possible. Is that you? Do you wonder if you should visit the Dolmabahçe or Topkapi Palace in Istanbul? Me too! I was debating on those two and ended up going to both so I can tell you all about them!
Main tourist attractions in Istanbul
Istanbul is a great place to explore! The Bosporus divides this city into two continents, Europe and Asia. It is packed to the brim with good food, shopping opportunities and clubs to dance the night away. The historical aspect of the city interests me more and I wanted to see the main tourist attractions.
Read more: Where to spend your beach holiday in Turkey?
The icon of Istanbul. This large mosque is a working house of prayer but also a tourist attraction. The name comes from the blue dome and tiles used. You can visit the Blue Mosque for free. You can find it in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul.
This ancient church turned into a mosque and is now converted in a museum. The building seems to crumble under the weight of the walls but renovation is ongoing to preserve it for future generations. Also an iconic landmark of Istanbul it is a true tourist attraction. You need to pay 40 TL to enter or you can buy the Istanbul museum pass for 85 TL. It is opposite the Blue Mosque in the Sultanahmet district.
I am actually not sure what makes the Topkapi Palace such a staple on everyone’s tour of Istanbul. One of the older palaces of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire from 1465 to 1853, the Topkapi palace is conveniently located near the other big landmarks of Istanbul. But, if you’re into palaces and love to learn more about the Ottoman empire, there might be a better palace in Istanbul to visit!
Dolmabahçe or Topkapi Palace in Istanbul?
If you like history and like to look at amazing things from the past, visiting a palace is a must do in every city you visit! But which to choose? The Dolmabahçe or Topkapi palace in Istanbul?
The largest palace in Turkey, the Dolmabahçe palace is situated between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. the sultans used it as a palace between 1856 to 1887 and 1909 to 1922. This makes it a far more modern palace and it was very European orientated.
Located in the Beşiktas district, the palace can only be visited on a guided tour. This is included in the entry fee. I visited the Dolmabahçe palace with a tour and we were given very little time. I would have loved to stay longer because I loved the palace.
Unfortunately, it is not allowed to take photos inside and huge parts of the palace were under renovation at the time of my visit but everything of the palace exudes grandeur and royalty. I loved the tapestries, the furniture, the drapes and especially the views from the palace interior outwards, overlooking the Golden Horn.
The garden surrounding the Dolmabahçe palace is also a real treat. Icons are the clock tower and the impressive gates.
The Topkapi palace is now a museum and consists of two parts. The 4 areas of the palace grounds and the haram. I loved the haram and only for this treasury it was worth the visit. The rest of the palace is massive with hundreds of rooms and spaces. In all fairness, I didn’t really like all the rooms. A tad dark and very much run down, they didn’t appeal much to me. They do give a good glimpse of life under the sultans though. I especially enjoyed the different courtyards and the gardens.
I can see why the sultan and his crew wanted to live here. It feels like a city within a city, without the massive crowds. Overlooking the Bosporus, you are very much part of Istanbul but it is very peaceful and tranquil inside the walls. (minus the hordes of tourists that is).
I visited the Topkapi palace on my own, without a tour guide or audio guide. It might had been more interesting with a guide, but now I had time to enjoy the grounds of the palace and because I arrived at 9 am sharp, I had the whole haram for myself for a good hour. Try to achieve that with a tour group!
Comparison Dolmabahçe and Topkapi Palace
The Dolmabahçe palace costs 40 TL and included a guided tour.
The Topkapi palace costs 40 TL and an extra 25 TL for the Haram. The Topkapi palace entrance fee is included in the Istanbul Museum Pass.
Dolmabahçe Palace is opened every day from 9 am to 5 pm except Monday and Thursday.
The Topkapi Palace is opened in summer from 9 am to 6.45 pm, in winter from 9 am to 4.45 pm.
Only 1 day in Istanbul? Which palace to visit?
If you only have one day and you have to choose between the Dolmabahçe or Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, it is hard to choose between the two.
If you do not mind guided tours, want to see grandeur and richness and have a true palace feel? Then visit the Dolmabahçe palace.
When you like to wander from room to room, take your time and see many interesting exhibits about Sultan life and Ottoman Empire, then visit the Topkapi Palace.
If you look for architectural significance, then the Dolmabahçe palace is more important. If you look for historical reference, then the Topkapi palace is more your cup of tea.
Do you travel on a tight budget and also want to visit the Hagia Sophia? Then consider the Istanbul Museum Pass. For 85 Lira, you basically get to visit the haram of the Topkapi palace for free. The Dolmabahçe palace is not included in the pass.
If you’re on serious time constraint, you can visit the Dolmabahçe palace in 1 hour and see a lot. If you have more time, you can explore the grounds of the Topkapi palace for hours on end. You easily get lost walking from room to room and a visit can take up anywhere from 2 to 6 hours!
Have you been to Istanbul? Did you visit the Topkapi palace? Which of the two palaces would you visit if you had limited time? Let me know in the comment section below.