Topkapi Palace – Istanbul, Turkey
I can only assume Napolean was standing high at Topkapi Palace, with its commanding eastern European views, when he famously said “The one who has Istanbul rules the world. If the world were a single state, its capital would be Istanbul.”
The palace’s magical setting and proximity to all that is Istanbul, make it as hypnotic as it is magnificent.
For over 500 years, since the original construction six years after the conquest of Constantinople, Topkapi Palace has stood proud on the hilltop overlooking the Golden Horn, where the Bosporus Strait meets the Marmara Sea.
Open throughout the year, the palace remains one of the city’s must-see venues, allowing visitors an opportunity to delve into the previously exclusive world of the Ottoman Sultans, who presided over this sumptuous palace complex.
Pleasantly set out across four main courtyards, with smaller buildings, and dominated by centuries of lavish decoration and ancient artifacts, Topkapi (‘Cannon Gate Palace’) along with its large museum, library and famous Harem, is surrounded by high walls and seafront views.
I love it.
Maybe it’s because of the palace’s history, which has always retained an inner-sanctum vibe created by observing silence and secluded courtyard tranquillity. So much so that when the later Sultans modified its layout during the reign of Suleman the Magnificent (1520-1566), the palace remained focused on providing maximum privacy and discretion. Between lush gardens and commanding structures run secret passageways.
Entering via the Imperial Gate, from the nearby Grand Bazaar, and neighbouring Blue Mosque and Sultan Ahmet regions, the calming open gardens and mid-sized courtyards take you by surprise. Presenting ample opportunity to chill in the shade, wander through the low-level building constructions, and explore the various palace buildings down to the Gate of Felicity.
From here, exquisite Islamic carvings, marbled gold-leaf pillars and endless mosaics festoon the swathe of palace interiors – including Imperial Council, Council Chamber, Imperial Treasury, Arms Collections, Audience Chamber, Mosque of the Agas, Privy Chambers, Dormitory of the Royal Pages, Hall of the Ablution Fountain, Harem, Courtyard of the Sultan’s Consorts & the Concubines, Passage of Concubines, Courtyard of the Queen Mother, Baths, Kiosks, Courtyard of the Favourites and Imperial Hall … and much more.
Equally, the spreading outer gardens, impressive kitchen areas and array of commanding views, give one the impression of being high above and far away from the ever-exuberant hustle and bustle of the city’s markets, streets and busy waterways.
A perfect place to palace-relax, while soaking up one of the most impressive historic sites in the Arab-Ottoman world.