Topkapı Palace, Gülhane
Tel: 90 212 512 0480
Concierge.com's insider take:
You'd expect the centuries-long family home of one of the world's foremost ruling dynasties and command center of an entire empire to be pretty impressive, and you shouldn't be disappointed by the Ottoman residence at Topkapı Palace. Avoid going on weekends or during peak periods of the day so you miss the busloads of people who move in flocks around the grounds in a veritable babel of chattering languages. The ticket system is irritatingly segmented: You have to pay supplements on top of your entrance fee to see the entire complex. If you're stuck for time, limit yourself to the main palace and the harem, the most intimate and personal rooms used by the sultans and their many, many women. Other highlights of the palace include the exhibition of generations of Sultans' portraits, the infamous jewel-encrusted Topkapı dagger, and a range of old relics collected by the Ottomans in accordance with the history of Islam—including the old doors of the Kaaba in Mecca and items said to be from the Prophet Mohammed himself, including one of his teeth, a lock of his hair, and a letter penned in his own hand. Shake off the crowds when you're done with a cooling stroll through the cypress groves of Gülhane Park, set below the palace.
Open Wednesdays through Mondays 9 am to 6:30 pm.