extant Byzantine imperial
palace, 5 km (3 miles) northwest
of Sultanahmet in
City Walls (map), is
just a shell, but it's being restored, and it gives a fine
idea of what the emperor's residence
might have looked like in Byzantine
Built into the city
walls only a short walk
from the Kariye
Museum (Chora Church),
this late Byzantine palace (called
in Turkish Tekfur Sarayı,
'Emperor's Palace') dates from the late 12th or early 13th century. It was part of
the larger Blachernae Palace complex, used as the imperial residence during the last days of the Byzantine Empire.
It was constructed for Constantine
Paleologos, son of Michael VIII Paleologos. As heir to the throne, Constantine was know as the Porphyrogenetus ('Born
to the Purple,' that is, to wear the
color reserved for the emperor).
It suffered damage during the cannonades of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (1453), and later served as part of the sultan's menagerie,
later as a brothel, then as a pottery
workshop and a poorhouse before being
abandoned in the later 1700s.
It was closed
in 2006, is still closed in 2013, and
is now actively under restoration, to be opened later, probably as an exhibition space and conference center.
As you will be right in this area visiting the Kariye
Museum, the City
Walls and the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, it's worth taking a look.
On Sunday mornings there's a lively pet bird market at the Altınay Spor Kulübü field on the southwest side of the palace—an interesting affair, particularly for pigeon fanciers.
Other sights to see in this area include the Eyüp
Sultan mosque, Pierre
Loti café and Ecumenical
Patriarchate. You can see them all easily on an Istanbul
city tour. More...
it filled with Byzantine courtiers,
or elephants, or pots,
or poor people, or (ahem) prostitutes.
At various times it was!