Topkapı Palace sits at the entrance to the Golden Horn, an inlet of water that splits the European side of Istanbul. It is located quite close to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. It was the Ottoman ruler’s humble abode for part of the time they ruled the empire (the rulers eventually moved to a different type of palace of a more European style further up the Bosphorus). This palace is where the Empire was managed from – an empire that at peak included, more or less, Southeast Europe, Western Asia, part of North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. A Muslim empire that was quite tolerant of other religions. And an empire feared in Christian Europe. Eventually the empire disintegrated over a period of a few decades finally ending its life after World War I.
The palace is strategically situated high on a promontory on the tip of Istanbul (Seraglio Point) west of the Golden Horn which affords great views of the Karakoy/Galata area, the Bosphorus and the Asian side of the city. It consists of many buildings and gardens so it was not a massive building as were more European-style palaces like Versailles or El Escorial. The most important buildings sit up high with the rest of the complex working its way down to the shores of the Bosphorus where the complex is walled with some parts of the walls going all the way back to what was then the acropolis of Byzantium.
An interesting part of the palace is its imperial harem where the sultan kept his many wives, concubines but also where the women of the royal family lived – and schemed. It must have been an interesting place with all the intrigues, jealousies and power fights. The mother of the sultan ruled the roost so it surely must have been a fun place! You may picture the harem as a big room with women just laying around (I did, anyway) but it really is a series of buildings consisting of over 400 rooms! Of course, space was allocated according to rank. Oh, and this also included the eunuchs (slaves especially trained –and castrated- to serve in the harem) who guarded and took care of the harem.
Today, the palace is a museum, letting the visitor get a glimpse of some of the spaces, enjoy the vistas, and see some of the collection of important artifacts in the gallery. I enjoyed learning more about the sultans and Ottoman Empire, especially in such an incredible location in such an incredible and unique city.
Below is a gallery of photos of the buildings, rooms, grounds, and vistas of the Topkapi Palace, a must-see in Istanbul!
Click on the pictures to enlarge and view.