The Topkapi Palace is the biggest and one of the most popular sites to visit in Istanbul. It was built in between 1466 and 1478 by the sultan Mehmet II on top of a hill in a small peninsula, dominating the Golden Horn to the north, the Sea of Marmara to the south, and the Bosphorus strait to the north east, with great views of the Asian side as well. The palace was the political center of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries, until they built Dolmabahce Palace by the waterside. The palace was opened to the public as a museum in 1924 by the order of Ataturk. The Istanbul Archaeology Museum consists of three museums: the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient and the Tiled Pavilion Museum or Museum of Islamic Art. The three museums house over one million objects that represent almost all the eras and civilisations in world history. As part of the core collection, on the second floor, they have spectacular collection of Greco-Roman sculpture from the 6th century BCE to the 2nd century CE. Since almost all the important eras of sculpture in this time period were on display, I have compiled a history of Greek and Roman Sculpture.
The Topkapı Palace is a huge palace in Istanbul, Turkey, that was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years (1465–1856) of their 624-year reign. Topkapı Palace was constructed between 1460 and 1478 by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The Topkapı Palace served as the home of the Ottoman sultans and their court until the middle of the 19th century. It was originally called the New Palace (Yeni Sarayı) to distinguish it from the previous residence. It received the name “Topkapı” (Cannon Gate) in the 19th century, after a (now lost) gate and shore pavilion. The complex was expanded over the centuries, with major renovations after the 1509 earthquake and the 1665 fire. After the 17th century, the Topkapı Palace gradually lost its importance as the sultans preferred to spend more time in their new palaces along the Bosphorus. In 1856, Sultan Abdül Mecid I decided to move the court to the newly built Dolmabahçe Palace, the first European-style palace in the city. Some functions, such as the imperial treasury, the library, and the mint were retained in the Topkapı Palace. Following the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, Topkapı Palace was transformed into a museum of the imperial era. The Topkapı Palace Museum is administered by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The palace complex has hundreds of rooms and chambers, but only the most important are accessible to the public today. The harem wing was only added at the end of the 16th century. Many of the rooms and features in the Harem were designed by Mimar Sinan. The harem section opens into the Second Courtyard (Divan Meydanı), which the Gate of Carriages (Arabalar Kapısı) also opens to. The structures expanded over time towards the Golden Horn side and evolved into a huge complex. The buildings added to this complex from its initial date of construction in the 15th century to the early 19th century capture the stylistic development of palace design and decoration. Parts of the harem were redecorated under the sultans Mahmud I and Osman III in an Italian-inspired Ottoman Baroque style.
Saint Irene is the greatest church of Byzantine. The ancient sources suggest that Saint Irene was built during the reign of Constantinus I (324 – 337) in the early 4th century on the ruins of the Roman temples of Artemis, Aphrodite and Apollo. Saint Irene, which is located within the same yard as Hagia Sophia, was burned along with Sempson Zenon, which was located adjacent thereto, during Nika Riots of 532. In the aftermath, Emperor Justinian had Saint Irene as well as Hagia Sophia rebuilt. Even though the construction was started in 532, the date of completion is not known definitely. The strong earthquakes, which occurred in the 8th and the 9th centuries, caused considerable damages on the church. Saint Irene, which was referred to as the Patriarchate's Chapel by the Byzantine, became a part of the domain inside the Imperial Walls, which surrounded Topkapi Palace, after the conquest of Istanbul. Thus, since it was not converted into a mosque, it did not undergo any significant architectural modification after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. It was used initially as the internal armory and subsequently as the arsenal of the Ministry of War. The first museum of the Empire was opened in Saint Irene in the 19th century when the weapons kept in the armory became antiques. The double-leaf stairs, which enable the access to the galleries, were constructed when the structure was turned into a museum. The Ottomans added the inscription, dated 1726, and the said stairs to the ancient church.
The Karokol Restaurant lies just inside the gate to the Topkapı Palace. The indoor area is housed in a building that used to be the palace’s exterior guard post during the Ottoman era, which was since renovated and is now decked out in chandeliers and black lacquer. Still, I would avoid eating inside since the terrace has such a beautiful view. This is essentially a museum café, arguably the best one I have ever visited, with a drop dead view of the Bosphorus and the entrance to the Topkapı Palace grounds, huge green lawns, the ancient Saint Irene church just next door and really good food. In fact, the restaurant serves as a research center and teaching lab for ancient, historical dishes and dining traditions from Ottoman Cuisine researches and practices.