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Topkapi Palace (Istanbul, Turkey)

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    • More +
      16.10.2013 13:14
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      A must see in Istanbul

      One of my absolute highlights of my mini-break to Istanbul earlier this year was the Topkapi Palace. Situated just beyond the Hagia Sophia in the Sultanahmet district, it is about 5minutes walk from the tram stop. Mehmet the Conqueror built the initial part in the mid fifteenth century, from then on this was the place the Ottoman sultans lived until the 19th century, where they moved to more modern, European style palaces, although Topkapi remained important for certain state official events and contained a number of important relics and artefacts. President Ataturk converted it to a museum in 1924.

      FIRST AND SECOND COURTS

      You enter through the Imperial Gate (good luck getting a good photo without tons of people in the way) into the First Court first of all (unsurprisingly), and this part is free. I believe it is occasionally used as a parade ground, but in its heyday would have seen a lot of activity with gardens and support industries (bakery, wood) were prepared for the palace. The next part is the Second Court (are you seeing a pattern here?) and is where the gift shop is located (lovely and warm on a cold, windy day) and where you queue for tickets. Entry is TL25 (just over £9), and this allows you full access except for The Harem which you have to pay separately for. Although the Palace kitchens and Imperial Council Chamber are here (as well an entrance to The Harem) we decided to head straight through to the Third Court is as this seemed to be where most of the action was. I had my Lonely Planet Istanbul guidebook in my sticky paw, and used this to tell me where to go, and ensure I didn't miss anything important.

      THIRD COURT

      You enter through The Gate of Felicity and directly in front of you is the Audience Chamber where the Sultan of the day would greet ambassadors and other dignitaries, whilst sprawled on a divan bed with fancy embroidered and beaded cushions. Behind this is the eighteenth century Library of Ahmet III, it is a very pretty room, with lots of stained glass windows, wood detail and pretty tiles. This is a good introduction to the décor you will see throughout the rest of the palace, but sadly there are no books here. As you come out again, to your right are former barracks with now house a number of heavily embroidered fine robes and kaftans as worn by past emperors. You are not allowed to take photos of these robes (Oops). After this I explored the Treasury and Fourth Court (see below) before returning back to here. Also in the Third Court are the Sacred Safekeeping Rooms which had a long queue. At this point I was rueing the fact I hadn't had lunch before coming here, and was just about to join the queue when I spotted two members of our party coming out and they suggested that it could be missed if you were not too fussed about seeing one of Mohammed's saucepans. Weak with hunger I concurred and I missed this out as well as the room containing portraits of all the Sultans.

      IMPERIAL TREASURY

      This is situated in the Third Court, next to the barracks housing the robes, but I feel it is worthy of a section of its own. I had to queue for about 15 minutes to get in and I recommend keeping to the right as that is the way the queue moves around the rooms. It thins out in later rooms, but at first you may find yourself in a slow procession around the room, and by keeping right you will be able to see all the exhibits and read any labels without obstruction by other people's heads. In later rooms you will be able to move more freely and not worry about being stuck behind someone who reads slower than you.
      Overall there are four rooms, and again no photo. These rooms are basically the Turkish crown jewels. In various rooms you will see highly ornate daggers, swords and thrones decorated with jewels, other jewellery, and 86 carat diamond and a pile of emeralds. It wasn't to everyone's taste, but I found the exhibits generally impressive and worth the queue.

      FOURTH COURT

      As you come out of the treasury, there is a doorway taking you out to a terrace with views over the Bosphorus and the city. Here the area is more open to the elements as the previous courts had actually been a walled courtyard, so it was quite windy here. You could wander through the Tulip Garden, but in early March this didn't have a great deal to offer. There are a number of kiosks or pavilions here. Highlights include the ornate Baghdad Kiosk, built in the seventeenth century to commemorate Murat IV's victory over that city. There is also the Circumcision Room, which has some beautiful decorative windows and tiles. I am not sure how much of a comfort that is to those being circumcised....

      THE HAREM

      You have to pay separately for this. An extra TL15 (£5.50) is what they will rush you, and I think it is well worth it. This section is generally quieter than the rest of the palace and we wandered at leisure. I assumed the Harem was where the Sultan kept his concubines and got up to all sorts, but actually it was the private family quarters and I found it more ornate and attractive than the other parts of the palace. The Sultan did keep concubines, but many were ladies-in-waiting who had been educated in the skills ladies needed (embroidery, dancing, culture) since childhood within the Harem. If they were lucky they were promoted to concubine later. Life would have been fairly political as brothers squabbled for the rights of being the next Sultan (it didn't automatically go to the eldest son).
      The Harem wasn't built until later than the rest of the palace (about 1575) and you can only visit part of it. There are various courtyards and rooms that were assigned for various residents: eunuch guards, women servants, Sultan's wives etc. You will see modest laundry fountains, some gorgeous tiles and colourful glass windows. There seemed to be lots of laying around on sumptuous divans if you were a key family member.

      AMENITIES

      I didn't really plan my timings of my visit here very well and got over-hungry. They do have a café here, but I didn't eat here, preferring to meet some friends later and spend my time exploring. The café is in the Fourth Court, by the terrace and I believe it is quite pricey.. I didn't see any toilets but I assume they must have some. There is a modern gift shop as you leave via the Second Court, which was warm and had a variety of quality gifts. You could probably get some items cheaper elsewhere, but the goods looked of a better quality than those we spotted in the Bazaar.

      SUMMARY
      The Palace is a real highlight, and one I feel I could go back to also. My only regret is that I didn't plan ahead timings wise. I think we were there about two and a half hours, but ideally perhaps I should have allowed an extra hour maybe. This will depend on your personal level of interest though. There is not a great deal of signage and historical information available, so a guide book (either an official one, or a detailed city guide) would help you get the most out of this.

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      • More +
        10.09.2012 10:58
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        I love it - and recommend it highly.

        ~Perfectly Palatial~

        For me Istanbul has a 'Big Five' of world class attractions. There are two spectacular mosques - the Sultanahmet (or Blue Mosque) and the Suleymaniye - there's the mega-fabulous church-turned-mosque-turned museum called the Hagia Sophia (or Aya Sofia) and the two most visited palaces - the Dolmabahce and the Topkapi Palace. The last of these - the Topkapi - is probably my favourite of the lot and my husband and I spent a few hours there during our most recent visit to Istanbul, returning because we'd loved it so much the first time we'd been about 8 years earlier.

        The Topkapi Palace is the most visited museum in all of Turkey and a report I found online claimed 8.5 million visitors in the first 4 months of 2012. There are a number of reasons for its popularity; it's in the right place, tucked away on the edge of the Old City where most people tend to stay when going to the city for a holiday but more importantly it's absolutely amazingly spectacularly wonderful.

        Topkapi Palace sits on the Seraglio Point, a wooded hillside which overlooks the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara and sits on the 'nose' of the Golden Horn. The palace was home to the Ottoman sultans who ruled the city for over 400 years and originally commissioned by Sultan Mehmet II after he concquered Constantinople in the 15th Century. This spectacular set of buildings were constructed between 1459 and 1465 and are laid out in a series of courtyards which are thought to recreate the typical layout of a nomadic Ottoman camp. The palace was the main seat of the sultans until 1853 when Sultan Abdul Mecit I upped sticks to move down by the river in the Dolmabahce Palace. I can see the benefits of the river front location but at the same time it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to move out of such a beautiful spot as Topkapi.

        The palace has been open to the public as a museum for nearly 90 years, ever since the Ottomans were kicked out with the formation of the Turkish Republic. It's still really popular with school groups and you're likely to find lots of small children in matching uniforms running excitedly around the palace learning about what a high old time the Sultans use to have. You could probably go a dozen times and never see everything, if only because there's always some part of the place that's closed for renovations. On our first visit the entire 'Treasury' was off limits whilst this time we missed out on the much less impressive kitchens. Like painting a big bridge, they no sooner finish one bit than have to start work on the next.


        ~Layout~

        The palace comprises a collection of open courtyards with rooms around their perimeter and several 'pavilions'so beautiful that they're likely to have you yearning to totally redecorate your home in the style of the Ottoman sultans. IKEA it's not! The overall footprint is a large rectangle and the layout reminds me of a mixture between a Roman villa and an Indian Mughal palace whilst being uniquely different from either.

        The so-called First Courtyard actually lies outside the palace walls. This is where you can find the ticket booths, a small cafe and lots of nice green lawns as well as the Executioners Fountain where the man with the sword would wash his hands and his weapon after chopping off heads for a public execution. The first and second courtyards are separated by a wall with the entrance gate in the middle which looks distinctly Disney-like.

        The second courtyard is rather lovely with lawns and lots of mature trees offering shade and quite a few benches offering somewhere to sit down. If you want Harem tickets you can buy them at the office next to the Harem entrance - if you can't see the signs, just ask for directions. You'll find a rather limited and dull display of royal carriages which can be viewed through glass windows near the entrance. The kitchens are on the right of the courtyard but aren't currently open. The Harem is on the left side of this courtyard and a few very ornate public rooms just next to the Harem can be seen without a ticket and will give some hints of the opulence beyond.

        Passing into the third courtyard, you'll find a much smaller space with the library standing alone in the middle and the treasury standing to the right side. We passed into the courtyard through the 'Gate of Felicity' only to find a long queue and since we hadn't taken a map with us, we weren't sure what it was for and so decided to come back later when the line wasn't so long. I would advise not skipping the line since this is for the spectacular treasury room and it does move quite quickly thanks the the cattle prods used by the guards at the front (only kidding!)

        The fourth courtyard is my favourite as it's where you'll find most of the pavilions as well as the best views. The pavilions are a bit like exotic summerhouses decorated with exquisite tiles and paint work, with carved wood and fabulous old chandeliers. Their location slightly lower than the previous courtyards and overlooking the sea seems to suck cooler air into the buildings and create soothing breezes. The Bagdhad Pavilion is one of my favourites and looks like the perfect place for the Sultan and his friends to recline on cushions, sip their cool drinks and eat Turkish Delight (well, it is Istanbul, everyone should) whilst having a natter about how proud they were to have captured Baghdad. The nearby 'Circumcision Pavilion' probably had every visitor of the male sex crossing his legs and wincing rather than taking in the fabulous tiles and lavish gilding.

        The palace has several special collections available to view. I'll admit we didn't even attempt to see them all since this was our second visit and since I'm sure we'll go again at some time in the future and I always like to leave a few bits to come back to. The Treasury is a 'must see' and contains jewels that will have you salivating and wondering at how anyone could wear such things without falling over. There are thousands of fabulous precious and semi-precious stones, many of them set in unique or unusual ways. Somewhat disappointingly, some of the biggest diamonds are the least impressive (due to being cut to maintain size rather than to create brilliance) but there is one diamond - a massive 86 carat beauty. This is known as the 'Spoonmakers Diamond' and was allegedly found on a rubbish dump and swapped with its finder for a few spoons. It is quite simply one of the most awesome gems I've ever seen (and I do go looking for them!) There are bejewelled weapons, fabulous jewellery including some egg sized emeralds, carved decorative items and gifts passed between the various royal families with whom the Sultans came into contact, fancy tableware encrusted with jewels, a fabulous throne and even a cradle, heavy with gold and jewels. The security guys - who don't have tazers but look like they wish they did - will attempt to hurry you along but try to stand your ground and take things at a pace that will give you a chance to read the explanatory plaques as many of the items need some explanation and the stories can add to their impact.

        There are also collections of ceramics, arms and armour, imperial clothing, clocks and miniature paintings, each housed in different parts of the palace. If you are particularly interested in these collections, I suggest to take the time to get maps ahead of your visit and plan what you want to see since once you're inside the palace, it's really easy to just get completely overwhelmed by the place and forget what you were looking to see.


        ~The Harem~

        On this occasion we didn't see the Harem partly because we'd been before, loved it but not felt the need to see it again, and partly because we were being a bit mean. If the tickets had been sold alongside the main palace tickets, I think I'd probably have bought them but once inside we found plenty to see and opted to skip the Harem this time. If you're going for the first time, don't have a tight schedule to get round and on to your next attraction and you LOVE lavish ceramic tiling, then I suggest you do pay the extra to see these additional rooms. If you'll only ever go once, then don't miss it. You cannot just wander into the Harem; even with a ticket you'll have to wait for your allotted time and join a tour group. If you're lucky to get a good tour leader, try to stick close so you can hear what they're saying. If you get one who's completely incomprehensible, then hang on at the back so you can get some better photos when people are out of the way.

        At the Dolmabahce Palace, the guides are at pains to clarify that the Harem is just the name given to the private areas of the Sultan's family but I suspect this is a little bit of historical repositioning. Turkey's a modern country and not the type of place that likes to harp on about it's past of slavery and female exploitation. The Topkapi represents an earlier period than the Dolmabahce and the Sultans were men of eclectic and exotic tastes. According to my guide book many of the women of the Topkapi harem were concubine slaves, beautiful women brought from across the Ottoman empire to keep the Sultan entertained. It was of course also the place where the 'official' women of the family lived too - the wives and their children - all in purdah, unseen by men from outside the family with the exception of eunuch guards.

        If you think the public rooms of the palace and the pavilions are spectacular, then the level of décor in the Harem goes a step or two beyond. Whilst the women and children were effectively captive in this area, they were birds in very gilded and very beautifully decorated cages. The standard of the tiling, the carving and the painting in this part of the palace are absolutely jaw-droppingly awesome and the finest examples of their kind


        ~How long do you need~

        If you are Japanese in a tour group or from any nation on a cruise boat with just a half day to see all of Istanbul, you can do it in about 45 minutes but you won't see much. If you like to take your time, want to see EVERYTHING and don't mind sitting around soaking up the sun, pondering how life would have been in the days of the Ottoman sultans, and waiting for your entrance time for the Harem, you could spend 5 or 6 hours here and take a picnic. On this visit I think we were there about 3 hours and on our previous visit we were there for four or five. I'd say 2 hours is enough if you aren't massively interested and you skip the Harem and if the Treasury line isn't too bad. You'll never see everything and if you're anything like me, no sooner will you leave than you start wanting to plan your next visit.


        ~The Cold, Hard Financial Facts~

        You can very easily spend quite a lot of money (by local terms) on a trip to Topkapi Palace so it's worth knowing the facts before you go. The standard entrance ticket is 25 TL and the additional guided tour of the Harem Apartments is another 15 TL. You need to buy a timed entrance ticket for the Harem and if you are sure you want to see this part of the palace, it's best to buy as soon as you go into the palace or you could end up with a really late entrance and have to hang around all day. If you want an audio tour, that'll set you back another 10 TL and if you fancy a coffee in the only cafe inside the gates, it'll cost you an arm and a leg with a cup of Nescafe at over a fiver. If you want a proper sit-down lunch, you might want to consider selling your first born child in order to finance your meal. On the plus side, there's nobody checking to make sure you don't take your own food and drink so you can do that very easily. It will take a few hours to see the place properly so come prepared.

        If you are going to try to see a lot of attractions in a short time, then it's worth knowing that the Topkapi Palace and its harem apartments are included in the Museum Pass Istanbul which costs 72 TL for 72 hours. The other attractions include the Chora Museum, Hagia Sophia, Archaeological Museum, Mosaic Museum (currently closed for renovations) and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. Since Topkapi and the Harem plus Hagia Sophia would set you back 65 TL, any visits to the other museums are almost for free but could lead you to spend your holiday running around like crazy people trying to make sure you get value from your pass. Also keep in mind that most of the museums are closed on Tuesdays and the pass doesn't include other things that you'll want to see and which could cut into the 72 hour deadline.

        More usefully perhaps, the site which sells the Museum Pass (http://muze.gov.tr/museum_pass) also sells tickets for some of the big attractions including Topkapi Palace. You can buy these before you go to Turkey, print off your tickets and then jump the queue when you get to the place you want to see. Don't underestimate how much you'll wish you'd done this when you're standing in a really long line in blazing sunshine watching all the pre-booked tour groups walk straight past you and into the palace. For example on our first visit to Topkapi, we waited ver an hour to get tickets and even on our recent visit we were waiting for 20 minutes. At peak times queueing time can seriously cut into your holiday. Also take note that if you don't want to buy the audio tour, you can still download the map here: http://www.acoustiguide.com/tours/Topkap​i/Download_Map/Espro.Topkapi.pdf

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        • More +
          11.06.2001 02:44
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          The Topkapi Palace located at the extreme tip of the south-western peninsula of Istanbul was the principal residence for the Sultans of Istanbul from its construction in the 15th century, through to 1853. It's an essential part of a visit to Istanbul, and boasts some of the most impressive Ottoman architecture in the city. It also gets absurdly crowded, detracting more significantly from my enjoyment of the palace than the crowds at any of the other tourist attractions I visited in Istanbul. HISTORY Topkapi Palace was constructed between 1459 and 1465 by Sultan Mehmet II, shortly after his conquest of the city of Constantinople. The palace consists of several pavilions, contained by four courtyards, reminiscent of the structure of tented Ottoman encampments. For a century or so, the palace housed the Ottoman government, but in the 16th century, the government was moved out to Sublime Porte, located just outside the outer wall of the First Courtyard. In 1853, Sultan Abdul Mecit I abandoned Topkapi in favour of the Dolmabache Palace, a short way up the Bosphorus. In 1924, the Palace was opened to the public as a museum. FIRST COURTYARD The first courtyard of the palace covers a large area, and encompasses the Imperial Mint (now housing exhibitions on the history of Istanbul), the city's archaeological museum, and Haghia Eirene, an old Byzantine church, dating back to the 6th century. You can walk through the first courtyard free of charge, and surprisingly, the courtyard remains relatively free of street vendors. There are several small kiosks selling drinks and ice creams, and the tree-lined paths and green spaces of the first courtyard provide a nice place to relax. To proceed further into the palace complex, you have to buy a ticket from the ticket office, in front of the elaborate Gate of Salutations. This Gate is very imposing, looking out imperiously over the approach road. Tickets f
          or admission to the rest of the palace cost a substantial 7,000,000 Turkish lira (about £4.50) for adults. Admission to the harem incurs a further cost, and I'll go into this in the relevant section. SECOND COURTYARD Entering the second courtyard of the Topkapi palace is a bit of a chore. Just beyond the Gate of Salutations, you have to go through a security check, with all of your bags and your camera going through an X-ray machine. When I visited in May 2001, the palace was going through a modernisation procedure which will ensure that you only have to carry one ticket around the palace, and to gain admission to each section, you simply need to insert the bar-coded end of the ticket into various readers around the palace. At present, however, you get a pair of tickets and the bar-code readers weren't operational, so someone had to check the tickets by hand. On the east side of the second courtyard, are the palace kitchens, which have a series of large chimneyed domes on the ceiling, and contain an exhibition of Chinese ceramics ? reportedly the finest collection of Chinese porcelain outside of China itself. The palace's collection of Turkish and European glass and silverware are also on display in the kitchens. In the north-western corner of the second courtyard is the impressive exhibition of arms and armour from around Europe. There is a superb collection of formidable weaponry here, some of which has clearly seen much action, and some of which is purely ceremonial. Several swords belonging to Ottoman Sultans are on display, many of which have been intricately engraved with Arabic script. Some of the bows on display in the exhibition were made by Sultans themselves, and it's interesting to see how the shapes of the bows differ from European designs. Ottoman bows seem to curve more sharply in on themselves, producing a shape more like the letter "C" than the western European bracket shape "{"
          . There are several huge Crusaders' swords on display, which look absurdly crude, and ridiculously sized next to the Ottoman swords. Beside the exhibition of arms and armour is the Divan, where the viziers of the imperial council would meet. Within the Divan, you can see the window through which the Sultan could choose to watch the viziers' meetings covertly. The outside of the Divan has a truly impressive canopy, which has been beautifully painted with intricate designs using gold paint. Just next to the Divan, on the west side of the second courtyard, is the entrance to the Harem, and the ticket booth which sells tickets for the Harem tour. HAREM Tickets for the Harem tour go on sale fifteen minutes before each tour, and are sold until all of the places on the next tour have been filled. The ticket booth then closes until fifteen minutes before the next tour. It's worth getting there as early as possible, because coach parties will often buy up most of the places on individual tours. The first tour runs at 10am, and then at half-hourly intervals after this, until 4pm. Tickets cost 4,000,000 Turkish lira (about £2.50) for adults. There are sixty people in each tour, though once you've been admitted to the Harem, there's no obligation to go around in the main group. My advice is to hang back, and let the rest of the tour rush ahead of you. There is a guard who will follow the end of the group and ensure you take the right path around the Harem, but they're very unlikely to do much to encourage you to hurry around the tour, so take your time. If you've got a guide book, such as the excellent Dorling Kindersley guide to the city, you'll glean about as much information as you would from the guide anyway. The word 'Harem' comes from the Arabic for "forbidden", and was the residence for the sultan's many wives, concubines and children, who were guarded by black sla
          ve eunuchs. The Topkapi Harem was designed by Sultan Murat III in the late 16th century, and is a veritable labyrinth of twisting corridors. The Harem also boasts some of the most impressive chambers and architecture in the Topkapi Palace, and is easily the most interesting part of the palace complex. You enter the Harem through the courtyard of the Black Eunuchs, which lined with some incredibly beautiful blue and white tiling. From here, you pass through the courtyard of the concubines, and then through the chambers of the Valide Sultan (sultan's mother). Passing through the sultan's ornate bathroom, filled with its marble basins and gold fixtures, you enter the showy Imperial Hall, the largest room in the Harem. Some of the other rooms in this area of the Harem are truly amazing, with even more beautiful tilework, and some beautiful stained glass windows. The Paired pavilions, a pair of rooms built in the 17th century for the crown prince, are particularly impressive. From the Paired pavilions, you enter the courtyard of the favourites ? with a series of rooms belonging to the sultan's favourite wives and concubines looking out over the courtyard, and beyond to the Golden Horn. Leaving the Harem takes you out into the third courtyard. THIRD COURTYARD On the south side of the third courtyard is the palace throne room, which is not open to the public. Neither is the Library of Ahmet III, which is in the middle of the third courtyard. On the east side of the third courtyard can be found the palace's treasury and exhibition of imperial costumes. The treasury wasn't open when I visited the Topkapi Palace, but guidebooks claim it contains an outstanding collection of bejewelled treasures which once belonged to the sultans and viziers of the Topkapi. On the north side of the third courtyard are the exhibition of clocks and the exhibition of miniatures and manuscripts, neither of which were open when I vis
          ited the palace. In the north-western corner of the third courtyard is the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle, which holds an astonishing collection of some of the holiest relics in Islam. Many of these relics found their way to Istanbul thanks to the conquests of Egypt and Arabia by Sultan Selim the Grim. In the first room is a series of ornate locks and doors which were sent to the Ka'aba in Mecca, by successive Sultans. Off this room is a room containing a numerous important religious artifacts, including the turban of the prophet Yusuf, Moses's staff, a letter from the prophet Mohammed to a false prophet, and (most amusingly) the saucepan of the prophet Ibrahim. Another room in the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle holds the most sacred holy relics, however ? those belonging to the Prophet Mohammed. Night and day, holy men chant passages from the Koran in a small booth in the corner of the room. One display cabinet holds pieces of Mohammed's hair and beard, and another holds his footprint. However, the most important of the relics is a mantle, reportedly worn by Mohammed, which is kept in a gold chest in an anteroom that cannot be entered by visitors. You can look at it through the doorway, though, as well as a couple of Mohammed's swords. FOURTH COURTYARD The fourth courtyard offers the most impressive views from the Topkapi Palace. To the west side are the Iftariye and Baghdad Pavilions, from which you get outstanding views down onto the Golden Horn, and across to Beyoglu, as well as west along the coast towards the New Mosque. The Baghdad Pavilion is acknowledged as one of the finest examples of tilework within the palace, and was constructed to celebrate Murat IV's capture of Baghdad in 1639. It also boasts some impressive inlay work on its wooden fittings, with pieces of ivory, tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl. On the east side of the fourth courtyard, down some stairs, are the palace's restaurants. T
          here are three restaurants, one of which is exclusively for large coach parties. The Konyali restaurant is an exceptionally expensive waiter-service place, beside which is a perfectly pleasant (and more importantly, cheaper) self-service restaurant. ADVICE It is truly imperative that you get to the Topkapi Palace as early in the day as you can possibly manage, so that you can get there before the coach parties do. I insured that I reached the Palace at about 9am, when it opened, and after a quick look round, queued up for the Harem tickets at about 9.30am. By the time I finished touring the Harem, at about 10.40am, the palace was absolutely heaving with crowds of tourists. To see anything in the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle involved shuffling along with the hordes of pilgrims. The Palace becomes so unbelievably crowded after about 10am that it ceases to be any fun to actually tour it, so my advice is to see everything you want to see as early as you possibly can. Even trying to get out of the Palace is a hassle, as everyone has to queue up to go through a narrow corridor. CONCLUSIONS The Topkapi Palace is another essential place for tourists visiting Istanbul, particularly the stunningly impressive Harem, even though it costs a bit more to go round. The Palace does, however, get incredibly crowded, despite its size, so you really must get there as early in the day as you possibly can, otherwise, you're not going to enjoy it much. At least the Harem only has a maximum of sixty people in it at any one time!

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