Built between 1466 and 1478 by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, on top of a hill of a small peninsula surrounded by the Sea of Marmara, Golden Horn and Bosphorus strait, the colorful and enormous Topkapı Palace is another historically important site at the Old town, a district that is most visited in Istanbul.
Comprising of four courtyards and a 400,000 square meters of gardens, gates and fountains, Topkapı Palace is whatever you imagine a grand palace and a political center of a what once mighty Ottoman Empire should look like.
Located inside the first courtyard, also called as the “Courtyard of the Regiments”, is a small park, Archeological museum, Imperial Mint and the 6th century Hagia Irene church. The courtyard most beautiful area is the Tiled Pavilion, showcasing design influence of Persian Timurid style.
At the west entrance of the second courtyard is the palace most intriguing space. Requiring an additional entrance ticket and getting one is highly recommended, because this is the place that really puts the grandeur to Topkapı Palace.
Harem which translates to “private” or “forbidden” is a maze of rooms for every function and purpose.
Ornate fit for royalty, the colorful walls and golden interior is the living quarters for the sultan and his family, mostly his wives, concubines and children. Out of all the rooms in the harem, the Imperial Hall is the most impressive.
The exit via the Gate of Felicity, passing by the rose garden leads to the Third Courtyard, with fountains and decorated kiosks. Extending from the third courtyard is the fourth courtyard, of terrace gardens with a partial view of the sea and the two pavilions, Baghadad Paviliion and Yerevan Pavillion.
If time willing, it is best to maximize your day at Sultanahmet Square and visit Topkapı Palace with either Hagia Sophia or on my case with Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also popularly known as the Blue Mosque, attributing to the blue Iznik tiles surrounding its interior.
For visitors, it is important to enter via the allocated entrance and abide by the Muslim traditions of taking off your shoes when entering. Be reminded to wear modest clothes, no summer shorts allowed for men and women should wear head scarf.
The exterior of the Blue Mosque despite being under construction when I visited is quite impressive. The marble overlays of cascading domes and towering minarets is photogenic at any given day, especially under the blue skies.