Istanbul: Topkapi Palace

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace

We were awed by the harem at Topkapi Palace, and by the treasures on display there.

Photos aren’t allowed in the treasure rooms, which contain items that were either gifted to the sultans of the Ottoman Empire or captured by them. ¬†We saw an 86 carat diamond, an emerald-encrusted dagger, golden thrones, and so much more.

There’s an entire gallery devoted to the Sacred Trusts, religious artifacts including items that belonged to the Prophets. Remember that, in Islam, Muhammed was the final Prophet but not the only one. Muslims honor prominent figures from Judaism and Christianity as well. So, not only are there relics of Muhammed (a tooth, hair from his beard, and his beard, the Sacred Mantle, and many others) but Moses’ staff is on display, Abraham’s pot, Joseph’s turban, David’s sword, and so much more. Of course, it’s a matter of faith whether some of these figures even existed; drawing lines of provenance is another matter altogether. But it’s clear the museum believes they are in possession of sacred relics. The Q’uran is recited continuously in this space. It was an extraordinary place to visit.

I was able to get lots of photos of everything else, though, so I’ll show rather than tell you the rest.

Stopped on the way at a little “Doner Diner” where we got chicken doner, warm pide bread, and the most delicious salsa-like ‘spicy salad.’ This is our new favorite spot.
Topkapi Palace Entrance
A 2-mile walk, underground funicular train, and tram ride over a bridge brings us to Topkapi Palace! It looks like a place where a Disney princess might live.
Topkapi Palace detail
Inside the main gates are several large courtyards and many orante entrances.
Topkapi Palace Tiled Walls
As we entered the harem chambers, we were all charmed by the tilework and calligraphy on the walls.
Topkapi Palace eunuchs area
This is the area where the eunuchs had their chambers. The princes’ school was upstairs.
Topkapi Palace Prince's chambers
None of the rooms are fully furnished, but you can imagine people having tea here.
The Harem is both more mundane and more exciting than most people imagine it. Harem simply means ‘off-limits,’ because these are the areas where the women and children lived. But yes, there were concubines, and some of the sultans had more than 100 children.
Topkapi Palace Ceiling Detail
The celings in the various rooms were always stunning.
Topkapi Palace Fountain
Fountains are a common feature, and this one is especially elaborate.
Topkapi Palace Sultan's Bedroom
The private bedroom of one of the sultans, with two giant beds and a massive fireplace.
Topkapi Palace Sultan's Bed
Bed & fireplace. Q’uran verse on the walls in white against a blue background is a common theme in the Palace.
Topkapi Palace Mother of Pearl inlaid Wooden Doors
Each set of cabinet doors, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, is more ornate than the last.
Topkapi Palace Prince's Chambers
One of two chambers that make up the ‘gilded cage’ where the princes lived.
Topkapi Palace Exterior of Sultan's Rooms
The Sultans’ chambers from the outside courtyard.
Topkapi Palace Courtyard Concubines
An impressive open room in the harem with gorgeous views. I *think* this might be the concubines’ courtyard.
Restaurant near Topkapi Palace
We were intrigued by a restaurant that had two ladies in the window making these special pancakes, so we came back to the restaurant for dinner.
The handmade pancakes are more like a flatbread. We had ours stuffed with fresh spinach and cheese. It was delicious!
Istanbul Turkish Food Clay Pot Lamb
Our lamb was cooked in a clay pot sealed with a bit of dough, and brought to us in flames!
Istanbul Turkish Food Clay Pot Lamb
The waiter gently taps the collar off the clay pot.
Istanbul Turkish Food Clay Pot Lamb
…and spoons the delicious lamb, vegetables and gravy onto my mashed potatos.
Istanbul Turkish Food Clay Pot Lamb
YUM! When the potatos were gone, the lamb wasn’t, so he brought us lots of bread to sop up the delectable sauce. Wish I could remember the name of the restaurant, but the flaming clay pot full of lamb is typical in nice restaurants in Istanbul.


Topkapi was a highlight of our trip for sure, I highly recommend the tour if you visit. It’s within walking distance of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, but I’m glad we didn’t try to do that all in one day!

Published by Lauren

I'm a nomadic freelance writer, out enjoying the world!