Topkapi Palace is huge! And still very crowded!! It was a cold, rainy, and all around dreary day-in the slow season and tourism down due to ‘recent’ terrorist attacks- but the palace was still full of people. I would really dread a visit during normal tourist season. 😦
Pass through the impressive gates and security screening, and you’ll enter the First Court- the Court of the Janissaries. Aya Irini is to your left. It’s a large, old (540’s), Byzantine church. There’s nothing inside but pigeons, but the building itself is picturesque.
Walk along the pathways towards the Middle Gate and the Second Court (and another security screening). You’ll pass the turnoff to the Archaeology Museum about halfway down, on the left. IMHO, it’s much more interesting than the palace.
The kitchens will be to your right, they’ve got some beautiful examples of china and silver. No photos allowed in there (or in most other exhibits).
Walk through the ‘Gate of Felicity’ into the Third Court and you’re getting to the heart of the palace. This part was much more private in the past (but still loaded with tourists today).
There is a room full of ‘sacred’ items. Things like hair from the beard of Mohammed, his footprint, cloaks his important followers wore, models and gilded rainspout of the Kaaba (from Mecca).
The Watch Room was full of all kinds of intricate, gilded and decorated clocks. From large standing grandfather clocks, to tiny pocket watches. Most still working. All of them exquisite.
Another room full of beautiful arms and armor. Bows, spears, guns and suits of armor, inlaid with precious stones, marked with beautiful calligraphy. Swords of all shapes and sizes, including one huge sword that I can’t imagine how any normal sized person could use. It was longer than I am tall!
The famous Topkapi Dagger- studded with huge emeralds)- and all the other really good stuff- is kept in the Treasury, which was closed for reconstruction. If I had known that, I would have skipped the whole deal.
The gardens were pleasant and the architecture was impressive, with the pretty blue tiles and delicate paintings covering most interior walls. The view over the Bosphorus Straits was fantastic from the restaurant in the Fourth Court.
If you haven’t been before it’s worth spending a couple of hours (especially once they re-open the Treasury). I wouldn’t bother going twice.