There are four courtyards to the palace. Only the first is accesible without a ticket, and there is really nothing to see here. The second court contains the Inner Treasury, with gold leaf ceilings and a peep-hole the Sultan used to spy on arriving VIP’s. Off this court you will also find the Imperial Kitchens, and a collection of silver and European procelain. Some of these rooms might be closed, it depends on when you go.
The third court contains the Library of Ahmet III (closed), the School fo the Expeditionary Pages (costumes and kaftans, and the first baggy trousers – isn’t it amazing how style comes full circle! ) As well, you will find the entrance to the Palace Treasury, and the Hall of the Treasury, with 37 portraits of 37 sultans. If you’re not tired and moving at about 10 sultans a minute by now, you’re doing better then we did. The treasure dormitory houses Islamic works of art, although it was closed when we were there. Or maybe we’d just had enough. The Pavillion of Holy Relics was probably beautiful, but we were really tired by then. I remember the soundproof glass cubicle from which the muezzin made the call to prayer.
The fourth courtyard has a beautiful Tulip Garden (or whatever happens ot be blooming when you’re there.) There is another Iznik (blue) tiled pavillion, the Circumcision Room (where young princes would be snipped), and more upliftingly, a beuatiful view of the Bosphorous.
Oof. I get tired and dizzy just thinking about the amount of stuff in that museum.
The Harem now requires you to take a guided tour. You must first line up to buy a ticket (it is not available in the main ticket booth). Then, you are herded through the narrow corridors of the Harem (we counted 50 tourists in a group that was only supposed to have 30) with your tour guide so far ahead you have no chance of being able to follow. Make sure you bring your own guidebook – especially if you want the time to take pictures. A security guard brings up the tail of the pack, and prods you on if you fall behind in the tour, so that you dont get mixed up in the group coming right up behind you. It wasn’t a pleasent experience, and they were making a LOT of money off it!That being said, however, the Harem has some magnificent rooms. See our photos for some examples of the splendour that your $10 will get you.
The Treasury features the Spoonmaker’s diamond (7th largest in the world), as well as the Topkapi Dagger. The diamond is truly a sight to behold – the other displays of unthinkable wealth also make this a worthwhile experience. There are golden thrones, amazing chain mail, a diamond-encrusted anchor, and a silver hand with reportedly John the Baptist’s bones.