The palace was given its current name, Topkapi, meaning Cannon Gate, only in the 19th century. Its construction was started 5 years after Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453. It was erected on the place of the old palace of Byzantine emperors.
It was just there that Turkish sultans lived for 400 years, until 1856, when the Dolmabahçe Palace was built. For 4 centuries the Topkapi Palace was repeatedly rebuilt and restored.
The palace complex is divided into 4 wall-enclosed courts. Going round the Hagia Sophia from the right, you come to a beautiful pavilion, which was built on the place of an ancient fountain in 18 century. The fortified wall is there. Going through the Imperial Gate you get in the first court of the Topkapi Palace called the Court of Janissaries.
Now a beautiful park with big sycamores is in the court. There remained the oldest church in Constantinople, the Hagia Irene, in the court. It was built in 4 century and, before the Hagia Sophia, was the main church of the Constantinople.
From the Court of Janissaries you can get in the palace properly through the Gate of Felicity. The gate built in 1468 is the most recognizable symbol of the Topkapi Palace. Beyond the gate you can see a building with a high tower. It was the building of the Imperial Council, the Divan. It was built in 16 century, in the reign of Sultan Suleiman I commonly known as Suleiman the Magnificent. The nearby building with 8 domes was the Treasury. Now it is a museum of weapons. By all means should you visit the seraglio, which is behind the inner wall of the second court.
The sultan’s chambers and the Enderûn Treasury are in the third court. Now it is a museum where the most valuable relics of the Ottoman Empire are stored. The fourth court is at the top of an elevation over the Bosporus Strait. There you can have a walk in the sultan’s garden, as well as enjoy wonderful views of the Bosporus from the marble terraces.