Topkapi Palace was the administrative centre for the Ottoman Empire, for nearly 400 years, from 1465 to 1853. The palace was the setting for many royal entertainment events. Topkapi Palace is certainly the most important historical site to be visited in Istanbul and is one of the most frequently visited museums in Europe, with more than 2.5 million visitors per year. Topkapi Palace was also added to the World Heritage List in 1985.
In 1461, less than ten years after the Conquest, Fatih Mehmet ordered the construction of Topkapi Sarayi, a palace that would be known as Dar-us Saadet, the “House of Felicity”. Topkapi Sarayi remained the seat of the Ottoman Sultans until 1868, when Abdülmecit I moved to the European-style Dolmabahçe Palace, farther up the Bosphorus.
Dolmabahce Palace took Topkapi's place as the political centre in the 19th century, the newer palace is an impressive sight and can both sites can be visited with a Day Tour by bus or boat.
The palace is an extensive complex with an assortment of various low buildings constructed around courtyards, interconnected with galleries and passages, rather than a single monolithic structure. Almost none of the buildings are higher than two stories. Interspersed are trees, gardens and water fountains, to give a refreshing feeling to the inhabitants and provide places where they could repose. The buildings enclosed the courtyards, and life revolved around them. Doors and windows faced towards the courtyard, in order to create an open atmosphere, since at its height, it was home to as many as 4000 people. The palace was continually expanded, especially after natural disasters, such as the 1509 earthquake and the 1665 fire and now stands at around 593,000 square metres.