The thought of visiting a royal palace is always so exciting to me that the first thing I do when I decide on a trip to a city is to lookup for forts and palaces in that city. And when it comes to Istanbul city it needs no introduction for its rich history and abundant architectural marvels. Although Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia was on top of my list, I wanted to visit Topkapi Palace first.
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Topkapi Palace was built by Sultan Mehmed II, the Ottoman emperor who conquered Byzantine Constantinople and choose to build his first palace on the site of a Byzantine acropolis. The Sultan ordered the construction of the palace in 1459 which was completed in 1478 and it was originally called as Saray-i Cedid-i Amire, which meant the Imperial New Palace. The emperor himself played a major role in laying out its design and architecture where he chooses the highest point of the land to build his private chambers and other parts of the royal residence. Although it went through numerous alterations and renovations over the centuries the basic layout was kept unchanged.
During the reign of the Sultans of Ottoman empire this was their official residence from 15th to 19th century and housed their administrative offices, armory, official halls, served as a center for art and education and also a royal residence. After the Royals moved to their new residence Dolmabahçe Palace, this was converted to a museum in 1924 and it is one the oldest and largest palace museum in the world. In 1985, Topkapi palace was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the “Historic Areas of Istanbul”.
Topkapi Palace is the true treasure of the rich Ottoman style of architecture showcasing the Islāmic traditions and designs in various forms of gold and ceramic motifs with beautiful hues of white, red and blues adorning the walls and ceilings.
The palace is divided into four main courtyards, with each courtyard being used for different purposes. After getting our entrance tickets from the visitor center in the first courtyard we started to tour the Imperial Palace of Istanbul. As we passed through each of the magnificent gates leading into the courtyards we were taken closure into the world the Sultans with its myriad gardens and elaborated decor, which was absolutely enchanting.
The second courtyard houses the palace kitchen, Imperial treasury and my favorite among these is the Imperial Council. This richly decorated building with huge pillars on the outside porch with multiple doors leading inside and once inside you are treated with an extravagant decor in rococo style is an absolute treat to your eyes.
The next courtyard (third) is the heart of the palace and houses all the important sections or chambers used by the royal family. The impressive Imperial Treasury collection is one of the must-sees along with Harem, which houses the lavish Sultan’s and Queen Mother’s private chambers, the throne room and the other rooms of the royal family, spanning over 6 floors with 300 rooms. The palace museum displays a wide range of collections from finest Ottoman carpets, Sultan’s clothing and caftans and scared coverings. One more important part of the palace, which you can’t give a miss is the Privy Chamber where the Holy Relics are displayed and the most treasured ones among them are the Holy Mantle of the Prophet, his footprints, Moses’s staff, Davis’s sword and also keys and the gutters of Kaaba and many more.
And as we reached the end of the garden in the fourth courtyard we were greeted by the stunning view of Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus. Despite being a gloomy day, we didn’t get a clear view but still, it was all spectacular. This last courtyard has numerous gardens, pavilions, and kiosks which were mainly used by the Sultan and his family.
Topkapi Palace has the most exquisite display of the artifacts from the Sultans of Ottoman empire and we spent around 1.5 hours exploring the different courtyards and opulent rooms and halls of the palace and I was beyond stunned by the magnificence of the palace.
The whole palace is exceptionally beautiful and to tour this extensive complex one would take a good two hours of time so that you don’t miss out on any part of the palace.
Topkapi Palace is open for visitors on all days except on every Tuesdays and on public holidays. Entry to the museum costs 40 TL and you need to buy a separate ticket for Harem and Halberdiers which costs 25 TL. For more information please visit: http://topkapisarayi.gov.tr/en
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