Topkapi Palace vs. Alhambra

Upon arriving in Istanbul I started researching things to see and do in this incredibly amazing city.  Topkapi Palace was highly recommended and featured on every travel guide’s must-see list.  In fact one guidebook referred to this Istanbul attraction as a rival to the Alhambra.  As I LOVED my visit to Andalusia this year, I was so excited to visit it’s “rival”.

However, after a three-hour visit, I’m not sure I agree.  So in a “who wore it best” kinda style, let me  explain why.


Always a fan of a party, whether planning or attending, my venue of choice would the Lion’s Court at the Alhambra.  So elegant and pristine. While open space at Topkapi was beautiful, and I can imagine a more relaxed party and ambiance, it just can’t compete in my eyes.

Who wore it best? Alhambra


Ok, so I know I’m about to be homeless (I gave up my house in Marrakech and don’t yet know what I’m going to do!), so I shouldn’t be too picky, but I’d rather wake up in a sunny chamber with carved stucco and views of the surrounding area at the Alhambra.  While I’m sure sleeping next to a fireplace would be divine on a cold winter morning in Topkapi Palace, I much prefer the natural light!

Who wore it best? Alhambra


Views of the Bosphorus from Topkapi and views of the surrounding city and mountains at the Alhambra.  Hmmm…

Who wore it best? Alhambra AND Topkapi


I’m a huge fan of tiles and zellig as wall decor. Especially if it involves turquoise, which both palaces did.  Both styles are unique to their respective countries and oh so beautiful.

So when it comes to tiles, I can’t decide which palace “wore it best”.  Readers?

Restoration works  

Topkapi Palace is undergoing several renovations project, yet still open to the public.  While I was certainly grateful that I was still able to see most of the site, walking along wooden planks or imagining what was behind an impromptu wall as construction continued on certainly took away from the experience.

Whereas at the Alhambra, it seemed to be more discrete.  And perhaps because I visited on a Sunday, works were not happening that day, creating a peaceful environment.

Who wore it best? Alhambra


Both palaces has amazing collections.  In fact the Alhambra was so big I didn’t visit many of the private collections. Topkapi Palace has amazing collections, including David’s sword (from David and Goliath).  Unfortunately several exhibition halls had extremely long line-ups so I didn’t see everything I wanted to.

Who wore it best?  I don’t know. 

Overall experience

Bus loads of tour groups and school children with teachers trying to quieten the children, on-going restoration works disturbing the peace and quiet, and rude staff made for an overall unmemorable visit at Topkapi Palace.  Several rooms were off-limits in the Haram (although that was my favourite part of the visit), the kitchen, and more for various reasons.
While I was rather unimpressed with having to wake up early to get to the Alhambra for my 8:30 a.m. entrance on a Sunday morning (those who know me best know I don’t exactly move fast in the morning, and certainly NOT before coffee), but I now understand. Limited entrance means greater enjoyment.  And as the sun shone all day, I was amazed at every turn.  Being there with a very close friend who shares my interest in history, architecture and design also helped as I had someone to discuss and share the experience with.
Who wore it best? Alhambra 
Have you been to either or both sites?  If so, what were your impressions?

2 thoughts on “Topkapi Palace vs. Alhambra

  1. Love the article Mandy and love the way you wrote it. Love to visit both as they both seem to have their own magic but you definately made alhambra feel that much more special

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