It is at the tip point of the Historical Peninsula; in a location where the Bosporus, Golden Horn and the Marmara Sea meet. Main entrance of the place is Bab-i Humayun, behind Hagia Sophia. It was a large complex where sultans were living with their family and staff as well as the administrative center of The Ottoman Empire.
First structures of Topkapi Palace were made by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror (1451-1481). The palace was expanded by constructing many new parts in later periods. It is a Classical Turkish Palace with courtyards opening to each other by big doors and structures surrounding them.
It protected the identity of the administrative center till the 19th century, and after the completion of Dolmabahce Palace it was abandoned and became the residential area of retired staff. After the proclamation of the Republic, it was converted into a museum by the orders of Atatürk in April 3, 1924.
Topkapi Palace consists of four courtyards. First Courtyard (Alay Meydanı) is entered from Bab-i Humayun. The first notable structure in the First Courtyard is the Byzantine church of Hagia Irene on “the left when entered which was used as an armory for a period of time. Istanbul Archeology Museum is located at the west side of the courtyard. Second Courtyard (Divan Square) is entered from Gate of Salutation (Bab-üs Selam). Official sections of the palace start from here. Doors opening from the riwaqs at the right wing of the courtyard go to the kitchen section of the palace. In these sections, hosting porcelain collections belonging to 13th and 19th centuries, also exhibits several examples of Chinese and Japanese ceramic art.
Tower of Justice draws attention in the left of the courtyard. Under the tower, there is Kubbealtı with widely fringed, golden gilded decorations. Here is the meeting place of the Imperial Council (Divan-i Humayun), the highest decision making body.
In Imperial Treasury (also called Outer Treasury) next to Kubbealti, which is covered with double row of domes, taxes were kept. Today, approximately 400 arms and armories from time between 7th and 20th century are exhibited.
The Gate of Felicity (Bab-üs Saadet) at the end of the second courtyard, which was carried by elegant pillars, is the entrance to the Third Courtyard. Visitors who want to visit the Harem can enter Harem from ticket offices next to Kubbealti and enter the Third Courtyard from the gate of Kuşhane after the tour of this section is finished.
The Audience Chamber, where sultan meets foreign ambassadors and high rank officials, is located across the door where leads to the Third Courtyard (Inner Palace / Enderun Meydanı). Library of Ahmed III (Enderun Library) which is an 18th century structure is behind the Audience Chamber. Enderun which is also in this courtyard is a palace school educating civil and military administrators.
The Dormitory of the Expeditionary Force (Seferli Koğuşu) houses the Imperial Wardrobe Collection with a valuable collection of about 2500 garments, the majority precious kaftans of the Sultans at the right-wing of the Third Courtyard. One of the most important structures is the Imperial Treasury also known as The Conqueror’s Pavilion (Fatih Köşkü) which is next to the Dormitory of the Expeditionary Force. Precious treasures of the palace are exhibited in this structure which consisted of four rooms. “The most eye-catching jewel in the third room is the Spoon maker’s Diamondy, set in silver and surrounded in two ranks with 49 cut diamonds, and the Topkapı Dagger which is ornamented with three large emeralds, topped by a golden watch with an emerald lid.
Marble road going to the left wing of the courtyard at the west of the Library of Ahmed II leads to the Imperial Portraits Collection. At the end of the Imperial Portraits Collection, the painting of Sultan Selim III (1789-1807) in an enthronement or bairam drew by Constantine Kapıdağlı is worth seeing.
There are Mosque of the Ağas (Ağalar Camii) used as a library on the south, and the Chamber of the Sacred Relics (Kutsal Emanetler Dairesi) on the north of the Imperial Portraits Collection. This section is made by Selim I (the Stern) for the purpose of preserving the sacred relics from Egypt Expedition in 1517. Various items belonging to Prophet Muhammad constitutes an important exhibition group.
The Grand Kiosk in the Forth Courtyard serves as a restaurant today. The Terrace Mosque (Sofa Mosque) is on the right of the courtyard. In the terrace which is entered by the stairs in the west of the courtyard; Baghdad Pavilion, the Yerevan Kiosk, the Circumcision Room is places that can be seen.