The Topkapi Palace one of the great architectural and historical treats of Istanbul, built over the remains of the ancient city where Byzas founded his new homeland. The Palace was the home of the all Ottoman sultans for four centuries until the reign of Abdulmecid I, who abandoned the palace for other palace on the Bosphorus.
The palace was built six years after of the conquest of the Roman City of Contantinopolis in 1453, when the Sultan Mehmed II (Al-Fatih) decided the construction of a palace to accommodate the Ottoman administration and royal household.
The palace was built years from 1459 and finished approximately in 20 years, since then it have been object of many extension and additions. New additions and alterations continued until the mid-nineteenth century, leaving traces of the characters and styles of Ottoman Architecture between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The palace boasts stunning gardens and pavillions contained by four enormous courtyards and surrounded by enormous high walls. After the abandon of Abdulmecid I, Topkapi Palace fell into disrepair and very damaged by the fire. After the establishment of the Republic in 1923 it was extensively renovated and transformed into a museum, and ever since has been one of Istanbul's most popular sights.
The complex is organised in four courtyards consists mainly of three groups of buildings.
The first courtyard lies in front of the palace which was once a service area, housing the Ottoman Mint, a palace hospital, firewood stores, carriage houses, stables and a bakery. The first courtyard opens to the second courtyard via the Gate of Salutations, the entrance to the palace.
The second courtyard, where the palace proper began is intermediary area separating between the throne, the Royal quarter and the outside. It accommodates mainly the army barracks, halls, stables and kitchens. To the east stand the immense palace kitchens; here stands the old kitchen that houses a wonderful collection of priceless Chinese porcelain and some huge ancient kitchen utensils. To the west stand the Kubbealti, where the Imperial Divan of vezirs and other statesman convened to discuss affairs of state, the Imperial Treasury and the Imperial Stables. In the northern corner of this courtyard there are domed offices of the divan. This is an administrative quarter served as the judiciary council of the sultan and it is here where the viziers held their meeting and discussions.
The Third courtyard is joined to the second by the Gate of Felicity. This area is the most architecturally rich as it accommodates the royal administration and residence and where the gold and jewelled treasures of the Ottoman Sultans are displayed. At the centre there is the throne room "The Hunkar Sofasi" built by Selim I, and behind it there is the library of Sultan Ahmet III. The Imperial Hall built by Mehmet IV with tiles and decorations was where the sultans spent their free time.
The Fourth courtyard was built in the nineteenth century with visible European influences in the design containing a series of beautifully decorated pavilions including the Baghdad Pavilion, decorated with blue and white tiles, and the gold canopy of the Iftariye Pavilion from where there are wonderful views over the Golden Horn. Indeed the views from the fourth courtyard over the Golden Horn, Bosphorus and the Sea of Mamara are quite stunning.
The Harem composed of a number of different buildings arranged around the four courtyards was the residence of the sultan's wives, concubines and children. It is entered through the Babusselam Gate and extends from the left side of the second courtyard into the interior of the third (Enderun) courtyard. It counts with a vast labyrinth of rooms and corridors, only a part open to the public.
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