Istanbul is one of those impressive capitals I visited many times, but always while on the road and never for the city itself. Despite the fact that I’ve already been to some of the most iconic sites (even went on a family vacation to Antalya) – Turkey is still one of the countries on the top of my travel bucket list.
Of course, the famous Cappadocia and Pamukkale are included into my future route. But what about Alanya and Ankara? The old city of Myra and Lycian rock tombs? The charming region of Çeşme? The blue waters of Izmir? – I bet you’ve never heard of those places. Anyway, I’m not even sure I´d be able to fit them all in one trip. In the meantime, let me share with you some highlights from my visit to the impressive Ottoman heritage site – The Topkapi Palace.
Visiting Topkapi Palace
As always, it all started for me with a layover in Istanbul. So, instead of having a rest in my hotel room, after checking in – I immediately took a cab to the Topkapi Palace. I was on the rush, cause there were only 2.5 h till the site would get closed and my hotel was on the other side of the city (my airline did a great choice for me).
By the way, if you plan to visit Istanbul, consider using Uber (or Careem) there – not all of the regular taxi drivers would attempt to scam you, but unfortunately, it happens quite often…
About Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace is one of Istanbul´s most popular sites (In fact, it even beat the famous Hagia Sofia in terms of visitors back in 2013).
Topkapi served as the main residence to the Ottoman Sultanes till 1856. Therefore, Topkapi halls house impressive collections of weapons, porcelain, portraits, caftans and other relics, which belonged to the Ottoman dynasty.
You are not allowed to take pictures inside the exhibition halls. The Palace has 4 courtyards and Harem section (where sultan´s mother, women, children and eunuchs lived).
According to the Topkapi museum official website the literal meaning of the word harem in Arabic language is, “a holy place that everyone is not allowed to enter”. In Muslim societies, it is a notion which defines intimate family life. In Ottoman tradition, the word “Harem” was used in two different senses. First, “the sultan’s harem” i.e. his family, and the second meaning would have referred to the space where his family lived.
Prepare for your visit
I loved that they had audioguides and you could explore the place at your own pace. Here, I should add that I was quite familiar with the Ottoman history (mainly from documentaries) and I’ve also watched several episodes of Muhteşem Yüzyıl (very popular in Turkey historical fiction TV series). All this made me better understand the meaning of certain places, decorations and traditions…
Another thing I absolutely loved – tiles and ornaments: predominantly painted with blue, green, red and black colors, and featuring lots of tulips and pomegranates. Quite different from my favorite Spanish and Portuguese tiles. I still regret I didn’t take my camera with me: some phone photos of mine still don´t reflect the variety of colors, shapes and glows (even after going through the editing process). Hopefully, I´d be able to visit Topkapi again any time soon and make more picture of its stunning interiors.
After visiting the 4th Courtyard, you can take a moment enjoy an amazing view of Bosporus from the terrace.
Read more about my day in Istanbul here.