Topkapi Palace in Istanbul is an amazing place to visit and is definitely recommended. The palace museum is very large and has a lot to offer visitors. The exhibits are very well done and informative. Make sure you allocate plenty of time when visiting. as you could easily spend 3-4 hours touring the grounds. The entrance fee is 30TL ($15), however, this fee does not include the entrance into the “Harem” portion of the grounds. If you would like to see the entire palace grounds the cost is 45TL ($22.50).
Sultan Mehmet “The Conqueror” took control of the city in 1453 and constructed the place in 1478. Over the next 380 years, various additional structures were added making up the grand palace that we see today. At its peak, the kitchen of the palace was serving nearly 5,000 meals per day to its inhabitants. This palace was eventually replaced by a newer palace built a bit further up along the Bosphorus. In 1924 the palace was officially converted into a national museum.
The palace is composed of two parts: Enderun and Birin. The Enderun was the private residence of the sultan, while the Birin was dedicated to government administration buildings. The palace complex has hundreds of rooms and chambers, but only the most important are accessible to the public today. That said, there are still dozens and dozens of rooms open to the visitor. It also has several gardens and places that one can see gorgeous vistas of the Sea of Marmars and the Bosphorus.
The palace holds many beautiful treasures. Jewels, royal garments, ornate porcelain, religious artifacts, and weapons are just a small list of the items you can see on display. The jewelry and weaponry were our personal favorites. There is an 86-karat diamond that is absolutely breathtaking, as well as a dagger that has emeralds the size of walnuts. Talk about gorgeous! The weapons were pretty awesome too. It was particularly interesting to see the sword of Stephan the Great, a Romanian leader from the 14-century. We have seen the replica of his sword in Romania, but as the Turks won the battle and killed him, they kept the sword and took the original back to Istanbul. We also saw a massive Hungarian two-handed sword that was at least seven feet long. Who could carry something like that? Someone with some serious biceps… Crazy.
One of my favorite rooms in the palace was the Circumcision Room. In 1640 Sultan Ibrahim I added the Circumcision Room, a summer kiosk dedicated to the circumcision of young princes, which is a religious tradition in Islam for cleanliness and purity. It’s interior and exterior is decorated with a mixed collection of rare blue tiles with flower motifs. The room also has large stained glass windows and huge sofas that the young men would use to relax and recover.
Another similar room was Sultan’s Turban room. This room was beautifully decorated with similar blue tiles that are seen in the Circumcision Room. It also has lavish couches and gorgeous windows. The main difference is that it has little cubbies all around the room to specifically store the sultan’s ornate turbans.
Another room of interest was the room used for public administration. Every morning on normal business days the Sultan would meet in a specific room with his advisors and senior government officials. However, the Sultan would actually sit in a separate room, just above the main hall that was connected by a screened window. From this vantage point, the Sultan could overhear the daily business proceedings and interject when needed. If the Sultan closed the window, the meeting was immediately over.
Visiting the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul provides context into how powerful the Ottoman empire was at one time. Many of the jewels and ornate pieces of art were either spoils of war or gifts sent by other world leaders. The size and scale of the palace, along with the lavish decor, really portray the wealth and power the empire once controlled. The palace is a great place to visit. A person can also learn a lot about the history and culture of Istanbul.
If you are planning a trip to Istanbul, we highly recommend you visit the Topkapi Palace.