Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

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  • Museum Shop at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, TR
    Museum Shop at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul,...
    by TrendsetterME
  • Museum Shop at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, TR
    Museum Shop at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul,...
    by TrendsetterME
  • Museum Shop at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, TR
    Museum Shop at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul,...
    by TrendsetterME
  • Donna_in_India's Profile Photo

    The Best of Topkapi: The Harem

    by Donna_in_India Updated Mar 16, 2014

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    Imperial Hall, Harem, Topkapi Palace
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    For me, the highlight of the entire palace complex was the Harem. The harem is a maze of exquisite rooms where the sultan’s wives, concubines, and even his mother, lived. The entire harem consists of 400 halls, terraces, rooms, wings, and apartments that are grouped around the sultan’s private residence. Only about 40 have been restored and opened for viewing. There is a hierarchy within the harem. Surprisingly (I thought), it was presided over by the sultan’s mother. Next in order of importance were the sultan’s daughters, then his 4 wives or favourites, then the girls who “caught his eye”, and lastly, the ones he’d already slept with.

    With the exception of the sultan’s family members, all of the women entered the harem as slaves. The first compound housed about 200 lesser concubines and the palace eunuchs. As you move further into the harem, the rooms become larger and more opulent as the concubines moved up in “status”. The dream was to become a favourite of the sultan and bear him a son which could lead to marriage. The tile work, the furnishings, mirrors, etc. were beautiful, but you realized that this was not a life of luxury, but a life of enslavement.

    My favorite rooms in the harem were the:

    Imperial Hall - it's the largest room in the Harem and was used for entertaining. The sultan's throne sits against one wall from where he could watch the proceedings.

    Sutlan's bedroom - gold bed, fireplace, stained-glass windows, beautiful tiles.

    Paired Pavillions - built for the crown prince, this pair of apartments has stained-glass windows and stunning tilework.

    Of course once we reached the end of the harem, it prompted an interesting discussion between my husband and me of the whole lifestyle. I only wondered why a woman wasn’t the ruler with her own harem of men!!

    The palace complex is huge so wear comfortable shoes and bring some water. You can easily spend 3-4 hours here, more if it's very crowded.

    The ticket office is located just outside the Gate of Salutations. You can hire a guide at this point if you so desire. Cost is 10 YTL per person/per hour for 3-4 hours (total 60-80 YTL). Guides are able to go to the head of the line to purchase your entry tickets so it helps when the lines are very long. We used the audio guide which was 10 YTL per person for the day. We really enjoy the audio guides as it lets us go at our own pace.

    After getting your tickets and going through the Gate of Salutations, head to the right to get an audio guide. Then head immediately to the Harem. It is very popular and will get very crowded. We were told that you had to take a guided tour of the Harem, but this is not true.

    Admission 20 TL
    Extra fee for entry to Harem 15 TL
    Audio Guide 10 TL
    Guide 10 TL per person/per hour

    Palace opens at 9 a.m. Either get there very early or early afternoon to avoid the crowds as much as possible (in high season).

    Hours: Wed - Mon 9-7 in summer and 9-5 in winter. Closed Tuesdays.
    Harem is open Wed - Mon 9:30 - 3:30 year round.

    The Palace is within walking distance of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

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    Loved This Palace!!

    by Donna_in_India Updated Mar 16, 2014

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    Gate of Salutations, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
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    In a word, the Topkapi Palace is, magnificent. It is definitely one of the highlights in Istanbul. Topkapi Palace was the residence of sultans and their harems from the 1450's until the middle of the 19th century. It was also the seat of the Ottoman rule. The original palace was built by Sultan Mehmet II shortly after his conquest of Constantinople. Over the next several hundred years, subsequent sultans added their own elaborate touches. The completed palace has four courtyards and quarters for 5,000 residents including slaves, concubines, and eunuchs. The palace was abandoned in favor of Dolmabahce Palace in 1853. It wasn't until 70+ years later that it was opened as a museum.

    From the outside the palace looks very plain in comparison to the palaces of Europe. Once inside, especially the Harem, it’s completely different.

    Some of my favorite buildings/rooms:

    The Baghdad Pavilion - built in 1639 by Murat IV to celebrate his capture of Baghdad. Beautiful blue and white tilework!!

    The Circumcision (yes, really) Pavilion - stained glass windows, fireplace, and beautiful ceiling.

    The Treasury (no photos allowed) - smaller than I thought and not much on display compared to other (European) treasuries. A highlight was a stunning 86 carat diamond. Very long lines into the treasury and people were 2-3 deep peering over each other to see the displays.

    However for me, the highlight of the entire palace complex was the Harem. Please see my separate tip on the Harem.

    Besides the treasury, other collections in the palace include: ceramics, glass, and silverware, arms and armor, imperial costumes, miniatures and manuscripts, clocks, and pavillion of the holy mantle (holy relics of Islam).

    The palace complex is huge so wear comfortable shoes and bring some water. You can easily spend 3-4 hours here, more if it's very crowded.

    The ticket office is located just outside the Gate of Salutations. You can hire a guide at this point if you so desire. Cost is 10 YTL per person/per hour for 3-4 hours (total 60-80 YTL). Guides are able to go to the head of the line to purchase your entry tickets so it helps when the lines are very long. We used the audio guide which was 10 YTL per person for the day. We really enjoy the audio guides as it lets us go at our own pace.

    After getting your tickets and going through the Gate of Salutations, head to the right to get an audio guide. Then head immediately to the Harem. It is very popular and will get very crowded. We were told that you had to take a guided tour of the Harem, but this is not true.

    Admission 20 TL
    Extra fee for entry to Harem 15 TL
    Audio Guide 10 TL
    Guide 10 TL per person/per hour

    Palace opens at 9 a.m. Either get there very early or early afternoon to avoid the crowds as much as possible (in high season).

    Hours: Wed - Mon 9-7 in summer and 9-5 in winter. Closed Tuesdays.
    Harem is open Wed - Mon 9:30 - 3:30 year round.

    The Palace is within walking distance of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

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    Topkapi Palace

    by xaver Written Jan 9, 2014

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    The Topkapi palace was built to be the first residence of the first Ottoman Sultan in Istanbul, after that the city was conquired and from Costantinopoli, because Istanbul.
    The complex include four main courtyards and many smaller buildings, it used to host up to 4000 people.
    It started to lose its importance during the 17th century as the Sultan moved to the new palaces built along the Bosphorus.
    Today it is a mueum.
    http://www.topkapisarayi.gov.tr/

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    A visit to Harem

    by magor65 Written Jan 1, 2014

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    Harem was a maze of almost 400 rooms and corridors arranged around small courtyards. It was divided into three parts: the females' apartments, the eunuchs' barracks and the private rooms of the sultan. There were also hammams, mosques, a hospital and laundry. The interiors were richly ornamented and colourful, which makes the impression of joy and light-heartedness. Yet, taking into account the role of this place, one can't help comparing it to a golden cage.
    Today we can only visit a small part of the original structure but it's enough to give us an idea what it was like in the past. Visitors enter the Harem through the Gate of Carts, as did the women in the past. Just behind the gate is the part which was resided by black eunuchs who were bought in Sudan or Egipt and castrated on the way to their destination. Then there is the main gate to Harem separating the courtyard of eunuchs from a residential part for women. There's a small but charming Courtyard of Concubines surrounded by kitchens, hammams and apartments where most of Harem residents lived and spent time. Close to it, we can see a Courtyard of Queen Mother and her apartments. Considering her significance in the palace, it is not surprising how lavishly these rooms are decorated with beautiful tiles, mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell ornamentation.
    The most magnificent part of Harem is naturally occupied by sultan's apartments. The Imperial Hall is a big domed room where a sultan used to receive artists, dancers and wise men. Other rooms worth mentioning are the Dining Hall ( of Ahmed III) with a stucco fireplace and painted decorations of fruit and flowers . The chamber of Murad III has a beautiful marble fountain, the tiles from Iznik and the windows of coloured glass.
    It's interesting to know that Harem was a place of confinement not only for women, but also for Sultan's younger brothers, cousins and nephews. In Kafes, which is literally translated into Englis as a cage, young princes could have spent many years, some growing old and dying there. Probably the longest confinement was that of Sultan Mehmed VI, who came to the throne at 56 and before that had first stayed in Harem (till his puberty) and then was kept in Kafes. No wonder some of the men developed mental disorders.

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    Harem - general reflections

    by magor65 Written Jan 1, 2014

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    " If the sun had not been a word which in Persian takes the feminine article, even the sun would not have been admitted to the Harem."

    Harem is commonly associated with mystery, lust and love and it is about all this plus much more. Throughout the centuries it changed from the way of protecting sultan's wives and concubines by keeping them under guard into a whole institution which had a great cultural, social and even political significance in the country.

    The women of harem weren't Muslim, as Islam didn't accept enslaving its followers. So they were foreigners bought as slaves in the villages of Georgia, Armenia, etc. The girls had to be schooled first and their education included Turkish language and culture, music, arts, dancing and make-up. The highest in rank was "Valide Sultana" - the mother of the sultan. Then came "Hasseki Sultana" - the first wife of a sultan, followed by "Hasseki kadins" - other wives. According to Koran, a sultan could have four wives, so others were his mistresses. Of course, not all women in the Harem were bedded by him, many were just servants, often hoping to be noticed by their master and change their status.
    The women of harem were guarded by eunuchs. Castrated in their young years, they weren't sexually active, so they posed no threat for the females. There were two groups of eunuchs: the black and white ones.

    Topkapi Harem is a must-see attraction and is definitely worth the extra money for admission.
    Entrance fee is 15 TL and tickets are sold just outside the entrance to Harem. In some guidebooks and on the Internet, there's information that Harem can be only visited on guided tours.Yet we didn't join any group and were able to visit the place at our own pace.

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    Topkapi Palace Tour

    by magor65 Written Jan 1, 2014

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    We enter the grounds of Topkapi palace through the Imperial gate. Once it was guarded night and day by 50 men and it was here that the heads of traitors were displayed.

    Within the first courtyard there is Haghia Eirene which was one of the oldest churches in Constantinople. It used to be a cathedral prior to Hagia Sophia. The church was burnt down in the Nika Rebellion and then rebuilt by Justinian. What's interesting, the church was never converted into a mosque; it used to be an armoury, a military museum and now it is a concert hall.

    The second courtyard is called the courtyard of Divan (the sultan's council). This spacious square is covered by lawns and overshadowed by trees. In the past wild gazelles used to graze here. The paths crossing the square lead to palace kitchens ( closed at the time of my visit), Divan pavillions, stables, Harem and the Gate of Felicity. This gate takes us to to the private areas of the palace. Only the sultan was allowed to pass through the gate on horseback. Even passing on foot was limited to a few trusted advisors and statesmen.

    The third courtyard comprises such buildings as Audience Chamber, Library and the famous Treasury with jewelled thrones, inlaid daggers and one of the biggest diamonds in the world, commonly known as the Spoonmaker's Diamond. This 86 carats pear-shaped diamond is considered the most valuable exhibit of Topkapi. Another interesting display within the third courtyard is the exhibition of clocks and watches, which were usually the gifts from European rulers. And there is of course the Apartment of the Holy Mantle, built especially for the holy relics brought from Mecca by Selim I.

    The fourth courtyard resembles a multi-layer garden dotted with pavillions. There's a Tulip Garden of Ahmed III, a ruler known for his love of art and passion for tulips. He imported millions of bulbs from Holland and organised annual tulip festivals. Around the garden mirrors were placed to enhance the impression. At night hundreds of tortoises carrying candles on their backs were let into the garden illuminating the display.
    The steps at the end of the garden lead to a marble terrace and several pavillions.

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    Topkapi Palace - general info

    by magor65 Written Jan 1, 2014

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    Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi) for almost four centuries was the residence of sultans who ruled the Ottoman empire from here.
    The palace is not a single building but groups of pavilions built around four courtyards. The construction of Topkapi was started in 1462 by Mehmet the Conqueror. The next sultans expanded it to the size of a little town with mosques, libraries, stables, schools, treasury, office buildings and audience halls. At its height, the complex was inhabited by 4000 people.
    The palace was the sultan's residence till 1853, when Abdulmecid moved to a newly built Dolmahbahce Palace. In 1924, by the order of Attaturk, Topkapi Palace was converted into a museum.

    Topkapi is one of the greates tourist attractions in Istanbul, so it is recommended to start sightseeing as early in the morning as possible to avoid the crowds.

    The museum is open every day except Tuesdays between 9.00 a.m. and 5.00 p.m.

    The entrance fee is 20 TL ( tickets to Harem must be bought separately just outside the entrance to this part)
    The best thing to do is to visit Harem first, because later during the day the queues get longer and the number of visitors per day is restricted.

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    Sultan's baths

    by solopes Updated Dec 26, 2013

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    Topkapi - Istanbul
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    The Baths of the Sultan and the Queen Mother, dating from the late 16th century, and decorated in Rococo style in the 18th, consist of multiple rooms - a caldarium, a tepidarium and a frigidarium. The ceilings were conceived to allow natural sunlight in. There is marble and golden artifacts everywhere, even in the golden lattice to protect the sultan or his mother from murder attempts.
    There was a fire 1574, and the actual look comes from the reconstruction by Sultan Ahmed I.

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    Paintings in Harem

    by solopes Updated Dec 26, 2013
    Topkapi - Istanbul
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    One of the wonders in Harem is the intricate decoration, where paintings combine with tiles, in a visual harmony that turns impossible with a close look to understand what is what. The gracious decoration, refusing the geometric simplicity common in Muslim art, helps to identify the feminine identity of the space.

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    Furnaces

    by solopes Updated Dec 26, 2013
    Topkapi - Istanbul
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    One of the interesting details in the palace is the eating system. Each room has a fireplace, with different models but all of them well decorated, matching the room. Those in the Harem are particularly beautiful.

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    Salutation Gate

    by solopes Updated Dec 26, 2013
    Istanbul - Turkey

    The entrance to the second yard is made through a beautiful gate. It was the place where the foreigner visitors should dismount and be allowed to enter thus justifying the name.

    It is not dated, but it comes from the 16th century or earlier.

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    Ahmet III Library

    by solopes Updated Dec 26, 2013
    Istanbul - Turkey
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    In the centre of the third yard there's a square building built in the 18th century to house the sultan's library. It's a very harmonious building, with a domed large space and porches all around, embellished with a fountain.

    There's a low basement to avoid moisture in the books.

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    Topkapi Palace

    by Dabs Written Jul 21, 2013

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    We visited Topkapi Palace on Monday and we spent 3 1/2-4 hours here

    Closed on Tuesday, current admission is 25TL for the Palace, 15TL additional if you want to visit the Harem. Children 12 and under are free. Included on the Museum Pass.

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    Museum Shop at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, TR

    by TrendsetterME Updated Jun 18, 2013

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    Museum Shop at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, TR
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    This new vision for museum stores is especially clear at venues managed by Bilkent Culture Initiative (BKG in Turkish), whose diverse product line-up includes decorative pieces, textiles, accessories, stationery, children’s items, books and other publications.

    BKG took over the operation in 2009 of shops in dozens of state-owned museums and historical sites around the country, including the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace and Kariye Museum in Istanbul. The result is modernised stores offering good-quality products and a wider range of items.

    Here you can read my "Topkapi Palace" Review .... :
    Topkapi Palace

    Providing a more enriching experience for visitors, museum stores are becoming an increasingly common fixture at cultural venues across Turkey.

    The Topkapi Museum Store displays replicas of many priceless pieces of art, including the Kasikci (Spoonmaker’s) Diamond. The store also carries a wide variety of resource books.

    Strongly adviced to give a try as you visit the Topkapı Palace .... :)

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    Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, TR

    by TrendsetterME Updated Jun 10, 2013

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    Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, TR
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    Thats a real "must see" spot of Istanbul, whether you are a tourist or a local ...

    As being the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years (1465 - 1856) of their 624-year reign, Topkapi Palace is an amazing combination of architecture and history.

    Construction began in year of 1459, ordered by "Sultan Mehmed II", the conqueror of Byzantine Constantinople. The palace complex consists of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. At its peak, the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people and covered a large area with a long shoreline.

    There is a nice "Museum Shop" located at the Garden Courtyard of the Topkapi Palace, here you can read my Review of the "Museum Shop" ... :
    Museum Shop

    The complex was expanded over the centuries, with major renovations after the 1509 earthquake and the 1665 fire. The palace contained mosques, a hospital, bakeries, and a mint.

    Here you you can see more "Garden Courtyard" photos of this beautiful Palace on my "Travelogue" ... :
    Garden Courtyard of Topkapi Palace Travelogue

    The palace complex is located on the Seraglio Point (Sarayburnu), a promontory overlooking the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara, with a good view of the Bosphorus from many points of the palace. The site is hilly and one of the highest points close to the sea. During Greek and Byzantine times, the acropolis of the ancient Greek city of Byzantion stood here. There is an underground Byzantine cistern located in the Second Courtyard, which was used throughout Ottoman times, as well as remains of a small church, the so-called Palace Basilica on the acropolis, which have been excavated in modern times.

    Here you you can see more photos of this amazing Palace on my "Travelogue" ... :
    Topkapi Palace Travelogue

    The nearby Church of Hagia Irene, though located in the First Courtyard, is not considered a part of the old Byzantine acropolis.

    Here you can read my "Hagia Irene" review ... :
    Hagia Irene

    Enjoy your "Topkapi Palace" visit ... :)

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