Topkapi Sarayi (Topkapi Palace) – Istanbul
Topkapi Palace was the residence of the Ottoman sultans from the 15th to 19th centuries. When Sultan Mehmet conquered Istanbul in 1453, he made Istanbul the capital of his empire. His first palace was set in the middle of the town. In the 1470s, he built his second palace and initially named it the New Palace. The palace was subsequently renamed Topkapi Palace.
After the move of the Sultans to Dolmabahce Palace in 1853, Topkapi lost its importance as the official royal residence. It was left to deteriorate for a period and finally regained its former beauty after fifty years of continuous restoration in the Republican era. Topkapi was converted into a museum in 1924. I’m sure the Sultans would have moved a lot of their expensive and magnificent treasures to the new palace, however Topkapi still has a breathtaking collection of jewels (to die for!), weapons, porcelain, etc. Most of the objects exhibited in the palace today are unique masterpieces.
Topkapi is one of the must see places on your visit to Istanbul and its possible to spend a whole day here. My favourite section is the Treasury, where you can see bowls of emeralds, saphire, diamond displays, etc. Each time we’ve been there, it was an opportunity to salivate at the remarkable pieces royal ornaments covered with precious stones and to hope that maybe someone would give me just one of the stones. Unfortunately too, photography is not allowed in the Treasury as it would have nice to share with you pictures of those stones that would obsess anyone.
The private palaces of the Sultans, have been transformed into a series of great museums at the request of Ataturk. Topkapi is a classical example of Turkish palace architecture. Tree-shaded courtyards with monumental gates open onto one another and each one serving a different purpose. The courtyards are surrounded by functional buildings, e.g. the First Court was the service area and the Second Court housed the divan and was flanked by the kitchen and stables, etc. Since its construction, the palace developed constantly with alterations and additions made by each sultan.
Our visit today started at the royal kitchen. The number of giant pots and utensils give evidence of the size of the community in the palace.