Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace - In 1478, Mehmet the Conquerer, the first Ottoman sultan, built Topkapi Palace, also called the Grand Seraglio. Topkapi Palace was the government center for the Ottoman empire, as well as the residence of the sultan, his wives, many children, plus hundreds of concubines.
In the palace, walls were richly covered with brilliant red and blue tiles, floors were paved in gold, ropes of pearls hung from the ceilings. Rose bushes and luxuriant tulips bloomed in the gardens. At the palace dinner parties, tablecloths were embroidered silk, gold knives were set with diamonds, coffee cups were covered with emeralds. The sultan himself perched on a golden throne and slept in a silver bed with crystal lions.
Tip: Topkapi Palace is closed on Tuesdays. To visit the Harem, it's a guided tour, lasts 1+ hour - buy your tickets for the Harem when you first arrive.
There are four big parts of the palace complex - the Harem, Second, Third and Fourth Courtyards.
Harem -
The Harem, which has over 400 rooms, was home to the sultan's wives, his mother (the Valide Sultan), children, concubines, eunuchs and servants. The sultan's mom was very important, and her rooms were beautifully decorated. The Harem is a dazzling fantasy, the Imperial Hall for entertainment, dining room, bedchambers, baths, and private apartments.
Second courtyard -
Around the second courtyard is the Divan, where government officials met and important visitors were entertained. In the Inner Treasury is a boggling arms and armor collection - curved swords decorated with gold, helmets and chain mail, maces, Turkish bows, matchlock and flintlock guns.
Third courtyard -
In the Imperial Treasury you'll see the palatial jewel collection, including the Topkapi Dagger, decorated with three humongous emeralds on the handle, the Spoonmaker Diamond, a huge oval diamond surrounded by forty-nine more sparkling diamonds, emeralds, pearls and rubies galore, and a golden cradle.
Chamber of Sacred Relics - In the past only the sultan and his family could view these holy relics - a hair from the beard, tooth, mantle, sword, and footprint of the Prophet Mohammad.
Hall of the Campaign Pages (Seferli Kogusu) - Check out the imperial costume collection, with different silk kaftans in brilliant red and gold (some are fur lined), and clothing for kids!
Fourth Courtyard -
The fourth courtyard has open terraces and views of the Bosphorous (watch the large ships go by). Kids can imagine the sultan and his ladies relaxing around the beautiful reflecting pool under the colonnades.
Gulhane Park - After you've visited the Palace, take a stroll through the shady walks in the park, past fountains and flower beds of tulips (tulips were favorites of the Ottoman sultans, and cultivated in Turkey before becoming famous in Europe). Bring a picnic lunch to sprawl out on the grass, or stop into a cafe for a snack or cool drink, with views overlooking the water.
Archeology Museum and Museum of the Ancient Orient - Some of the best goodies from antiquity are in these two museums. The Archeology Museum has the Greek and Roman stuff, the Museum of the Ancient Orient focuses on the Near East, including a super "Istanbul Through the Ages" exhibit. Highlights include a wooden replica of the Trojan horse to climb on, gold jewelry and other artifacts from Troy, dioramas of early life in Anatolia, the Alexander Sarcophagus with amazing battle scenes, reconstruction of a Roman tomb, and statues from Ephesus and Aphrodisias. Museum is closed Monday.
Museum of the History of Islam, Science, and Technology - Out in front you'll see a huge globe, a map of the ancient world in the 9th century. Inside the museum are models of Islamic scientific and technological inventions from the 9th - 17th centuries, e.g. water pumps, a large water clock, celestial globe, early astrolabe, etc.

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