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Forget about fairytale castles, grey towers, and stone buildings; they might be fit for a king, but Turkey’s Topkapi Palace was built for a sultan. Expect nothing less than grandeur; this lavish complex is made up of 4 courtyards and a harem, all sheltered within the Imperial Gate.
Opened (in its entirety) to the public in 1960, the former royal residence is now a museum; it’s located in Sarayburnu, along the Bosphorus, Golden Horn, and Marmara Sea. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in the 15th century, and housed the Ottoman sultans of Turkey.
In the first courtyard, or Alay Meydani, you'll find the Gate of Salutation; the sultans’ signatures are inscribed on the doors. Let’s hope there aren’t any ghosts; in the past, officials were strangled to death here. Within is Hagia Eirene, which used to be a church, and is now the setting of art, musical, and cultural festivals.
In the second courtyard, or Divan Square, the weaponry and treasury are located; the 10-room kitchens are here too, now showcasing porcelain from Japan and China. The Palace Archive is accessible, only with consent from the General Directorate for Cultural Heritage and Museums, but it’s worth a visit, with its numerous documents that span centuries.
In the third courtyard, or Enderun Courtyard, you'll find the Agalar Mosque, the Palace Library, the Chamber of Sacred Relics, the Imperial Wardrobe, and Kilerli Kogusu, where the sultan’s meals were prepared.
In the fourth courtyard, or Imperial Sofa, the Circumcision Room, flower garden, and the Revan, Baghdad, Sofa, and Evening Meal of Ramadan Pavilions are located. The Harem was home to the eunuchs, the black chiefs, and the concubines.
Don’t miss the Topkapi Palace on your Turkey holiday!