The Topkapi Palace is one of the landmarks of Istanbul, which hides the rich history of the empire at that time. Built by Mehmet II the Conqueror in the 15th century, the magnificent palace on the Bosphorus was where the sultans of the sprawling Ottoman Empire lived and ruled.

Mehmet II designed the palace as a system of four very large courtyards with numerous pavilions separated from the city by massive walls. Each subsequent sultan rebuilt the building and it got its present form in the 19th century. For more than 400 years, Topkapi served as the residence and seat of government for 24 sultan families.

The area near the sea walls with cannon protection was the power center of the empire until the 19th century.

The palace is located on a hilly promontory strategically located at the meeting point of the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus, and the Sea of Marmara.

During the Byzantine period, monasteries and public buildings were located in this area. The palace was entered through a beautiful gate, the so-called „The Imperial“ in the direction of Janissaries Courtyard. The courtyard was also accessible to certain groups of residents, the first part to all residents. The complex housed servants’ quarters, as well as bakeries, hospitals, and other services.

The sprawling complex is a dazzling display of Islamic art, with grand buildings, courtyards, and gardens lined with intricate hand-painted tiles, connecting a tangle of sumptuously decorated rooms, all bordered by battlements and towers.

Among the many attractions, the most popular are:

The Harem complex (where many of the sultan’s beautiful concubines and their children lived);

The Second Courtyard, where you can stroll through the vast palace kitchens marveling at the dazzling interior of the Imperial Council Hall;

The third courtyard, where Sultan’s private rooms are also located.

The third courtyard also displays an impressive collection of relics of the Prophet Muhammad in a sacred vault and is home to the Imperial Treasury, where you will see stashes of glittering gold objects and precious gems.

If you want to see Topkapi Palace in its full glory, you will need at least half a day. It’s worth it though!