Three days in Istanbul: Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace (named after a now lost Cannon Gate) stands on an acropolis overlooking the Bosphorus and Sea of Marmara, and close to both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque

After the 1453 conquest, this site was chosen as the location for Sultan Mehmed’s new palace complex, with construction beginning in 1459.  It remained the chief residence of sultans and their families until the middle of the 19th Century.

It’s a magical blend of courtyards offering visual feasts of architecture; sacred relics;and a treasure trove including gold-encrusted thrones, jewellery from Persia, India and even Britain. Sadly, no photos in most of those exhibits. And, given its location, it’s not surprising to find stunning views across the Bosphorus to Asia, and across the Golden Horn to Galata and the modern city centre of Istanbul.

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The tower below is the highest point in the complex, and is known as the Tower of Justice.  When built, it was intended to be visible from across the Bosphorus, and a symbol of the sultan’s presence. 

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Gardens that once housed peacocks and other exotic animals now house richly decorated pavilions.



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With the Istanbul Museum Pass, we got two visits for the price of one as entrance to the Harem (meaning forbidden) was also included. That was a fascinating warren, and offered only a glimpse into the closed world of eunuchs, Queen Mothers. wives and concubines. From baths to swimming pools, their every need was catered for.

 

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