The Topkapı Palace (Turkish: Topkapı Sarayı ) is a palace in Istanbul, Turkey, which was the official and primary residence in the city of the Ottoman Sultans, from 1465 to 1853. The palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments and is a major tourist attraction today. The name directly translates as `Cannongate Palace`, from the palace being named after a nearby, now lost gate.
Initial construction started in 1459, ordered by Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Byzantine Constantinople. The palace is a complex made up of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. At the height of its existence as a royal residence, the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people, formerly covering a larger area with a long shoreline. The complex has been expanded over the centuries, with many renovations such as after the 1509 earthquake and 1665 fire.
Topkapı Palace gradually lost its importance at the end of the 17th century, as the Sultans preferred to spend more time in their new palaces along the Bosporus. In 1853, Sultan Abd l Mecid I decided to move the court to the newly built Dolmabah e Palace, the first European-style palace in the city. Some functions, such as the imperial treasury, the library, mosque and mint, were retained though.
After the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1921, Topkapı Palace was transformed by government decree on April 3, 1924 into a museum of the imperial era. The Topkapı Palace Museum is under the administration of 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 complex is guarded by officials of the ministry as well as armed guards of the Turkish military. Topkapı Palace is listed among those monuments belonging to the historic areas of Istanbul, added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.
The palace is full of examples of Ottoman architecture and also contains large collections of porcelain, robes, weapons, shields, armor, Ottoman miniatures, Islamic calligraphic manuscripts and murals, as well as a display of Ottoman treasure and jewelry.
At the far end of the First Courtyard is `Bab-us Selam`, the Gate of Salutations, better known as the `Orta Kapi`, Middle Gate. This was the entrance to the Inner Palace and the passage was only on foot for authorized people. The gateway is a typical military architecture of the Conqueror Mehmed II`s time, twin octagonal towers capped with conical roofs. Above the outer gate is the tugra, the imperial monogram of Suleiman the Magnificient and a calligraphic inscription reading `There is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet`. The chambers on the towers hosted the gatekeepers and one of them was for the visitors and ambassadors. The visitors were first taken to the room, served refreshments and then accepted by the Grand Vezir or Sultan. There was another small room for prisoners awaiting execution.
In the Second Courtyard, there are five paths radiating to different chambers of the palace. The second path from the left leads to Divan ,the advisory, judiciary and administrative council of the Sultan. The second path from the right leads to Palace Kitchens, which now serves as Chinese and Japanese Porcelain Collection. The enormously big chimneys give the idea about the population of the palace in the former times. On the opposite of the Porcelain Collection, the 18th-19th C. beautiful European and Ottoman Glass - Silverware Collection could be seen. On the left of Porcelain Collection, there are two different sections of Kitchen Utensils and Ottoman Vases - Porcelain Collection. In the latter, the coffee cups which the Ottoman Sultans are depicted on are worth seeing.
IMPERIAL HALL (HAREM)
The Imperial Harem (Harem-i H may n) is one of the sections of the private apartments of the sultan. The harem was home to the Sultan`s mother, the Valide Sultan the concubines and wives of the Sultan and the rest of his family, including children and their servants
The Imperial Hall (H nk r Sofası ), also known as the Imperial Sofa, Throne Room Within or Hall of Diversions, is a domed hall in the Harem, believed to have been built in the late 16th century. It has the largest dome in the palace. The hall served as the official reception hall of the Sultan as well as for the entertainment of the Harem. Here the Sultan received his confidants, guests, his mother, his first wife (Hasseki), consorts, and his children. Entertainments, paying of homage during religious festivals, and wedding ceremonies took place here in the presence of the members of the dynasty.
After the Great Harem Fire of 1666, the hall was renovated in the rococo style during the reign of Sultan Osman III. The tile belt surrounding the walls bearing calligraphic inscriptions were riveted with 18th century blue and white Delftware and mirrors of Venetian glass. But the domed arch and pendantives still bear classical paintings dating from the original construction. 
In the hall stands the Sultan`s throne. The gallery was occupied by the consorts of the Sultan, headed by the Queen Mother. The gilded chairs are a present of Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, while the clocks are a gift of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. A pantry, where musical instruments are exhibited and certain other apartments, opens to the Imperial Hall which gives access into the Sultan`s private apartments.
A secret door behind a mirror allowed the Sultan a safe passage. One door admits to the Queen Mother`s apartments, another to the Sultan`s hammam. The opposite doors lead to the small dining chamber (rebuilt by Ahmed III) and the great bedchamber, while the other admits to a series of ante-chambers, including the room with the fountain ( eş meli Sofa), which were all retiled and redecorated in the 17th century