Topkapi Palace is certainly the most important historical site to be visited in Istanbul. It is one of the most frequently visited museums of Europe and is the most visited one in Turkey. The Palace served as the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 400 years between the 15th and 19th centuries. Its principal parts were finished in 1478, then altered and enlarged by new additions in the reign of each succeeding sultan. The Palace was abandoned in 1855 when Sultan Abdülmecit I, 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, moved to the new Palace of Dolmabahçe. In 1924, it was turned into a museum upon the orders of Atatürk.
Topkapi Palace is a complex of buildings spread out over one of the seven hills of Istanbul. It consists of courtyards serving different purposes which are separated from each other by monumental gates. Pavilions, each used for different purpose, surround these courtyards. The total area of the Palace is twice the area of Vatican and half of Monaco in size.
Besides being the official residence of the Sultan, the Topkapi Palace served as the headquarters of the government. It also housed the state treasury and the archives. The mint, as well as the highest educational institution were located on the Palace grounds.
On exhibitions are the imperial collections of crystal, silver and Chinese porcelain; imperial handmade costumes worn by the sultans and their families, the famous jewels of the treasury; the richest collection of clocks in the world; the sacred relics of Islam including the swords of Muhammed, his bow and his mantle; priceless collection of miniatures and many other priceless objects. One of the largest diamonds in the world, the Spoonseller Diamond, is displayed in a special showcase in the hall. The rooms are exquisitely decorated and tiled.