Topkapi Palace

We visited the palace and the harem, which is extra. We found the harem portion the most interesting and well worth the extra admission fee.

We bought tickets in advance to avoid any lines. Different combinations were available and it was challenging to find tickets for entry to the palace and harem without a guided tour. 

The palace is organized around courtyards, each with its own gate. 

palace entrance with towers

Our first stop was the harem, which has its own separate entry. This was our favorite part because it provided a glimpse of what life was like in the palace. The first section is more servant and working quarters. It was interesting to see the ancient equivalent to a cafeteria, where food was set out for workers during their breaks. 

The family living quarters were obviously more lavish. The style reminded us of the alcazar in Seville and the Alhambra

We saw many examples of bathrooms. The sultan’s was more secure than others. 

Ingenious bathroom skylights. We saw these in Spain also.  

I don’t know how much heat these fireplaces provided but they’re certainly pretty. 

Some examples of stained glass in the palace. Every inch of each room was embellished. 

There’s tile everywhere. These are two of the more unique murals we saw. 

Mother-of-pearl was everywhere. Here are a couple of the elaborate doors. 

More tilework, including an internal fountain. 

The exteriors were also decorated, like this elaborate soffit. 

Outside the harem, palace buildings act as mini-museums. One holds holy relics and requires women to wear head coverings. I brought a shawl to wear and discovered that a hood can also work. (There were also loaner scarves available.) These objects are Moses’ staff, David’s sword, Muhammad’s footprint, and a case for Muhammad’s sandal. 

I don’t know if this sword is famous but it’s pretty. We saw several examples of bookstands. 

There are views over the city and surrounding area from one of the back courtyards. 

Some other examples from the museum displays. It was interesting to see non-Western armament and ornaments. 

Human here for scale, to show how HUGE these caftans are. We wondered how people wore these. 


The grounds are open and there are many old trees. We spent a good three hours at the palace. 

Here's a palace courtyard. One of these (a similar size to this one) contained a swimming pool.