While Turkey is considered to be one of the top summer destinations due to the princely service of all-inclusive Antalya hotels, Istanbul scores winning points for the historic culture it is filled with. Namely, Istanbul boasts with a royal palace so rich it could buy half a world centuries ago. Topkapi Palace is the most popular Ottoman site in the world.
This gigantic complex used to be a crucial structure in Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of present-day Turkey. Basically, if the enemy managed to capture Topkapi Palace, they would capture the powerful empire.
The construction of Topkapi Palace began in 1453. The majority of Ottoman sultans and their numerous wives used to live here. You will need at least 3-4 hours for a short tour. You should reserve around 6 hours for a more detailed visit. There are mosaics, tiles, wall paintings, cushions, precious stones, and much more.
The main charm of Istanbul’s number one palace is not the size or architecture (the latter is pretty majestic), but the cloud of legends and feminine intrigues related to the name. If only walls could retell the stories and gossip, thousand and one nights wouldn’t be enough to hear them all. The most popular one is an unprecedented love story about Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and his gorgeous concubine Roxelana, a slave sold to Topkapi Palace. This is the best and the wittiest “career development” story you will ever hear. The concubine Roxelana rose up from slavery to the status of Sultan’s favorite wife. If you want to picture the old pleasures, a few episodes of Turkish “Magnificent Century” historic soap opera can be a good guide. I guarantee your motivation to see the Topkapi Palace will drastically increase after watching this film.
Topkapi Palace consists of four courts. The first court used to be open for simple folk. The further you go, the more confidential the courts become. Must-see sights include the Harem, the Treasury, the collection of Imperial Carriages, the Chamber of Council (similar to the present-day parliament) with a secret room for Sultans to eavesdrop on the council meetings.
The Harem is an important stop. Centuries ago no one, except the family members of Sultan and selected servants, could enter the Harem. It became home for beautiful girls, who were brought to Istanbul from different parts of the world. They would try to integrate into the Ottoman reality, later to compete for the attention of the Sultan and the hope to give birth to a son.
Further on, the palace contains sacred relics, like the clay footprint of Prophet Mohammed, royal jewelry, precious stones, porcelain, paintings, and much more. Women with a deadly habit of shopping should beware; an “imagination trauma” can be caused by so many sparkly stones and gold. The next stop is at the Gate of Felicity, an even more sacred part. It marks entry to the private territory of the Sultan.
Countless rooms are available for a tour, so a good deal of walking will be required. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. Make it the first point in your traveler’s checklist, Topkapi is waiting for you!