The Topkapı Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years (1465-1856) of their 624-year reign.
As well as a royal residence, the palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments. It is now a major tourist attraction and contains important holy relics of the Muslim world, including Muhammed's cloak and sword.
Construction began in 1459, ordered by Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Byzantine Constantinople.
The palace complex consists of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. At its peak, the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people, and covered a large area with a long shoreline.
The complex was expanded over the centuries, with major renovations after the 1509 earthquake and the 1665 fire. The palace contained mosques, a hospital, bakeries, and a mint.
From the end of the 17th century the Topkapı Palace gradually lost its importance as the Sultans preferred to spend more time in their new palaces along the Bosporus.