Visit the Ottoman Sultans' Original Home
A visit to Topkapi Palace requires at least half a day -- no wonder, as you stroll through nothing less than the former center of the Ottoman Empire. For more than four centuries, this was the seat of the government and the residence of the sultans and their followers. In all, as many as 5,000 people use to bustle within the palace walls at any given time. Today, that number is probably higher -- only not subjects but tourists.
The area is divided into four houses. Inside the first courtyard (entrance through the "Imperial Gate") was once the Court of the Janissaries (elite corps of the Sultan) -- on the left hand side you can see the armory. Court 2 provides the access to Divan Square, where, during the Ottoman period, the Cabinet held its meetings. From here you can also enter the harem, for which a separate ticket is required (for the Treasury too). No other attraction of the palace has as long a wait as the former private wing of the Sultan (entry to the harem happens every half hour). No other man was allowed in the ruler’s spa area, in which hundreds of women lived.
In the third courtyard is the Sultan’s Audience Chamber, in which his magnificent throne is on display. In other rooms most precious treasures and the rarest weapons (including the famous Topkapi Dagger) are on display. You can also marvel at all sorts of relics, such as the beard of the Prophet and Muhammad's footprint.
After all the pushing throngs, the fourth and final part Palace (Court 4) will feel just right -- an idyllic outdoor garden with several pavilions. In combination with a magnificent view of the Bosphorus, the Islamic palace architecture is completely enchanting. Here one can have a drink on the terrace café with gorgeous panoramic views.