Parts of Topkapi Palace:
Second Courtyard

Topkapi Palace has four courtyards. The second gate leads into the Divan Courtyard (Divan Meydani), second courtyard of the palace.

As we are getting deeper the courtyards are getting more private.

Divan Courtyard is a semi-public space. This is where all the affairs of the empire were carried out and citizens could enter this area to give their petitions. Buildings in this courtyard serve administrative and general purposes.

The Sultans would appear here only two times in a year, during the religious festivals.

The funeral ceremonies and accession rituals took place here. This courtyard is enormous with the sizes of 130 metres length and 110 metres width.

The Imperial Council Hall (Divan) where viziers of the Sultan gathered for meetings is over-looking delicate gardens.This courtyard is named after the meetings of the "Divan" meetings (the Imperial Council) that took place here.

A brick building covered by shallow domes, right around the Carriage Gate (entrance of Harem) is the former "Imperial Treasury", now housing an exhibition of armour and weapons.

A row of chimneys point out the Imperial Kitchens across the gardens. Today the building hosts a vast collection of ceramics, glassware etc..

All paths in the Second Court reach to the Gate of Felicity (Bab-üs Saadet) that gives access to the Third Courtyard.

You will encounter a crowd at the left-hand side of the courtyard, queued up to enter the Harem Section of the palace which is a labyrinth-like complex of approximately 300 well decorated chambers on different levels.

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Here is a list of these buildings:

1. Gate of Salutations (Bab-us Selam)

2. Carriage Gate

3. Tower of Justice (Adalet Kulesi)

4. Imperial Council Hall (Divan-i Humayun or Kubbealti)

5. Exterior Treasury

6. Palace Kitchens

7. Imperial Stables

Topkapi Palace, Second Courtyard Plan

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And detailed info about these buildings:

1. Gate of Salutations (Bab-us Selam)

This is the entry to the Inner Palace, through which only authorized people could pass during Ottoman Empire and they had to be on foot while passing it. Only sultans could enter through this gate on a horse.

This gateway is actually a building with a large central chamber between its two doorways and two octagonal towers on either side of the gate. It was added to the palace by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in 1524.

Second Gate of Topkapi Palace
Photo: By Sammytd / Flickr

The chamber here consists of the chief gate-keepers’ room and the cell of the prisoner waiting for the execution.

Fountain of the Executioner (Cellat Cesmesi) is situated on the wall, next to the gateway. The chief executioner used to wash his blade or sword after the executions here, at this fountain.

And the worst part is yet to come:

The heads of the victims were displayed on the columns that stand on each side of the fountain.

Thank God, those days are over and we can pass through it with peace of mind!

Where exactly?

The second gate is at the far north end of the first courtyard, leading to the second courtyard.

This is where you will buy your tickets to Topkapi Palace.

Buying tickets to the Topkapi Palace:

Tickets can be bought from the ticket-window on the right-hand side of the Gate of Salutations.

You will see it just before you reach the gate, beside the Executioner's Fountain.

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3. Carriage Gate

It is the entry to the Harem Section of the palace and the starting point of the guided tours of “Harem”.

Access to the Harem is severely limited. An official guide leads you through a dozen chambers. Each group leaves every 30 minutes.

Where exactly?

It is at the left-hand side of the courtyard, just before the Imperial Council Hall.

To be precise, it is right under the South side of the Justice Tower.

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4. Tower of Justice (Adalet Kulesi)

It is a watchtower dated back to 15th century. Justice Tower is one of the most important landmarks of the Topkapi Palace. This is the place where the Sultan decided about the most important issues and thus the tower has a symbolic meaning that Ottoman Empire respects the justice most greatly.

Where exactly?

It is at the left-hand side of the second court when you enter the gate.

It is a tower so it is really hard to miss.

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5. Imperial Council Hall (Divan-i Humayun or Kubbealti)

Imperial Council Hall was the main meeting place of the Imperial Council (Divan-i Humayun). The building takes its name from the Imperial Council meetings that took place in its main hall.

Sultans used to watch the Imperial Council meetings behind the gold glossed bars of the window which is called "Kafes-i Musebbek".

It is widely known as "Kubbealti" which means "under the dome", refering to the dome over the main hall of Imperial Council.

Imperial Council Hall is dated back to Sultan Mehmed II.(15th century), but it has been changed so much in time.

It has three chambers;

  • the first on the left is the Council Chamber,
  • the second is the Public Records Office,
  • and the third is Office of the Grand Vizier.

Where exactly?

It is at the North-west corner of the courtyard, adjacent to the Justice Tower.

It is hard to miss too, just look right under the tower.

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6. Exterior Treasury (Hazine-i Amire)

It is a hall built of stone and brick, covered with eight domes. Some of the treasures of the Ottoman Empire were kept here.

This treasury was used to finance the administration of the state. The janissaries were paid their quarterly wages from this treasury and other valuable objects were also stored here.

Today it houses an "Arms and Armour Display" which spans a period of 1300 years, starting from 7th century.

Most of the collection is manufactured by the Ottomans. The other parts are the weaponry gathered from foreign conquests or given as presents.

You can also see examples of Abbasid, Mamluk and Persian armoury like helmets, swords and axes. European and Asian arms are less in number but worth seeing.

Where exactly?

It is next to the Imperial Hall Complex, at the left-hand side corner of the Second Courtyard, close to the Third Gate.

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7. Palace Kitchens (Kubbealti)

Kitchens are at the East side of the Divan Courtyard. Three gates lead into this series of ten adjacent chambers with high domes and big chimneys on them. This was where all the delicious action took place.

Nearly all of the "Turkish Cuisine" dishes were created by the most talented chefs and a staff of 1000 people, under these domes. And the kitchens served as a catering center for 5.000 inhabitants of Topkapi Palace.

Sinan, the Architect reconstructed the kitchens, enlarged the space and added those big chimneys on the domes after the fire in the 16th century. There is still an original part of the wooden kitchen that survived from the fire, it is at the far end of the kitchens.

Today these domed buildings are housing the magnificent collection of Chinese porcelain, other china and glassware imported from Central Asia through the legendary Silk Route.

They were all used in the Topkapi Palace. The palace houses the third bigger and important collection of porcelain in the world, after Beijing and Dresden.

Besides these, a rich collection of silver products (coffee services, candelabras, mirrors), a collection of Venetian glass and Bohemian crystal and some kitchen utensils are on display too.

The earliest pieces of the porcelains are Chinese celadon, probably favorites of the sultans because they were supposed to change their colour when contacted with poison.

Where exactly?

It is at the right-hand side of the courtyard.

The brutal chimneys on the building will give away the location.

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8. Imperial Stables (Istabl-i Amire)

Imperial Stables of the Topkapi Palace housed the horses that only Sultan and high ranked people of Enderun rode.

The stables were built during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II and renovated during the reign of Sultan Suleyman.

A vast collection of harnesses is kept in the Imperial Stables.

Imperial Stables are located on the Golden Horn Side of the second yard, between Imperial Treasury and Imperial Council Hall.

Where exactly?

You can reach it through a sloping path which is at the left-hand side of the Gate of Salutations (Babu’s-Selam).

You might not see it from the courtyard, it is around five to six meters below ground level.

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Two more courtyards full of more private imperial chambers are still ahead!

Now let’s go and see the other amazing parts of the Topkapi Palace:

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Back to "Topkapi Palace" from "Second Courtyard"

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