The Imperial Council Hall at Topkapi Palace

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Türkiye) — These three chambers, between the Harem and the rest of Topkapi Palace, are where Ottoman Sultans met with their imperial councils to conduct affairs of state.

Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall

The Ottoman Empire was run from here. These three chambers, between the Harem and the rest of Topkapi Palace, are where Ottoman sultans met with their imperial councils to conduct affairs of state. It is also called Kubbealti (Kubbealtı), which means “under the dome”, and is located in the northwestern corner of the courtyard next to the Gate of Felicity.

The meetings here were surprisingly regulated, convened four times a week after the dawn prayers. A special golden window high on the wall of the main council chamber allowed the Sultan to observe the Imperial Council discussions. Accessible through the Tower of Justice, it was both symbolic of the role of justice in affairs of state and practical because it was easily accessible from where the Sultan and his family lived in the Harem.

For the Ottoman equivalent of a parliament or senate forum, the rooms are surprisingly small. These are very much about providing a venue; functional considerations were minimal. Long sofas line the walls for sitting, but the only other piece of furniture is a small hearth in the middle of the room. Hanging from the center of the dome is a golden ball that signified the earth.

Two of the chambers are lavishly decorated, with distinctive Ottoman domes. Kütahya tiles line the walls and add the sense of occasion that the rooms deserve for their role in maintaining the mighty Ottoman empire. This isn’t the original council chambers building. It was replaced during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (Sultan Süleyman) in the mid 16th century.

Photos of the Imperial Council Hall at Topkapi Palace

Tourists at the Imperial Chamber
ISTANBUL, Turkey (Türkiye) — Tourists take a break outside the ornately decorated Imperial Chamber of the Topkapi Palace, the Ottoman palace in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district.
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall Golden Window
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall Golden Window
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall Golden Window
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Gold doorway to the Imperial Council chamber at Topkapi Palace
ISTANBUL, Turkey (Türkiye) — Ornate decorations of the Imperial Council building (in Turkish: Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn) inside the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. This was the chamber in which the ministers of state, council ministers (Dîvân Heyeti), the Imperial Council, consisting of the Grand Vizier (Paşa Kapısı), viziers, and other leading officials of the Ottoman state, held meetings. It is also called Kubbealtı, which means “under the dome”, in reference to the dome in the council main hall. It is situated in the northwestern corner of the courtyard next to the Gate of Felicity.
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall
ISTANBUL, Turkey (Türkiye) — The interior of the Imperial Council Hall in Tokpaki Palace. The Imperial Council (Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn) building is the chamber in which the ministers of state, council ministers (Dîvân Heyeti), the Imperial Council, consisting of the Grand Vizier (Paşa Kapısı), viziers, and other leading officials of the Ottoman state, held meetings.
Gold decorations at Topkapi Palace
ISTANBUL, Turkey (Türkiye) — Ornate decorations on the ceiling of the Imperial Council chamber at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall
ISTANBUL, Turkey (Türkiye) — The interior of the Imperial Council Hall in Tokpaki Palace. The Imperial Council (Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn) building is the chamber in which the ministers of state, council ministers (Dîvân Heyeti), the Imperial Council, consisting of the Grand Vizier (Paşa Kapısı), viziers, and other leading officials of the Ottoman state, held meetings.
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall Golden Window
ISTANBUL, Turkey (Türkiye) — The interior of the Imperial Council Hall in Tokpaki Palace. The golden window in the Imperial Council is accessible through the Tower of Justice, thus adding to the importance of the symbolism of justice. The Imperial Council (Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn) building is the chamber in which the ministers of state, council ministers (Dîvân Heyeti), the Imperial Council, consisting of the Grand Vizier (Paşa Kapısı), viziers, and other leading officials of the Ottoman state, held meetings.
Gold gates of Imperial Council chamber at Topkapi Palace
ISTANBUL, Turkey (Türkiye) — Ornate decorations of the Imperial Council building (in Turkish: Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn) inside the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. This was the chamber in which the ministers of state, council ministers (Dîvân Heyeti), the Imperial Council, consisting of the Grand Vizier (Paşa Kapısı), viziers, and other leading officials of the Ottoman state, held meetings. It is also called Kubbealtı, which means “under the dome”, in reference to the dome in the council main hall. It is situated in the northwestern corner of the courtyard next to the Gate of Felicity.
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall Golden Window
ISTANBUL, Turkey (Türkiye) — The interior of the Imperial Council Hall in Tokpaki Palace. The golden window in the Imperial Council is accessible through the Tower of Justice, thus adding to the importance of the symbolism of justice. The Imperial Council (Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn) building is the chamber in which the ministers of state, council ministers (Dîvân Heyeti), the Imperial Council, consisting of the Grand Vizier (Paşa Kapısı), viziers, and other leading officials of the Ottoman state, held meetings.
Ornate domed ceiling of the Imperial Council chamber at Topkapi Palace
ISTANBUL, Turkey (Türkiye) — Ornate decorations of the Imperial Council building (in Turkish: Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn) inside the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. This was the chamber in which the ministers of state, council ministers (Dîvân Heyeti), the Imperial Council, consisting of the Grand Vizier (Paşa Kapısı), viziers, and other leading officials of the Ottoman state, held meetings. It is also called Kubbealtı, which means “under the dome”, in reference to the dome in the council main hall. It is situated in the northwestern corner of the courtyard next to the Gate of Felicity.
Dome of the Imperial Council chamber at Topkapi Palace
ISTANBUL, Turkey (Türkiye) — Ornate decorations of the Imperial Council building (in Turkish: Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn) inside the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. This was the chamber in which the ministers of state, council ministers (Dîvân Heyeti), the Imperial Council, consisting of the Grand Vizier (Paşa Kapısı), viziers, and other leading officials of the Ottoman state, held meetings. It is also called Kubbealtı, which means “under the dome”, in reference to the dome in the council main hall. It is situated in the northwestern corner of the courtyard next to the Gate of Felicity.
Topkapi Palace Imperial Council Hall
ISTANBUL, Turkey (Türkiye) — The interior of the Imperial Council Hall in Tokpaki Palace. The Imperial Council (Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn) building is the chamber in which the ministers of state, council ministers (Dîvân Heyeti), the Imperial Council, consisting of the Grand Vizier (Paşa Kapısı), viziers, and other leading officials of the Ottoman state, held meetings.

What to Know Before You Go

  • The Imperial Council Chambers are part of the Topkapi Palace and are included in the standard ticket price (unlike the Harem, which requires a specific add-on).
  • As you walk up the main walkway through the courtyard towards the main part of the palace, the Imperial Council Hall is on your left under the Tower of Justice. The entrance to the Harem is right next to it.
  • You can find logistical information about visiting at the museum’s official website.

Want to Read More About Istanbul?

Istanbul is a city of extraordinary depth and history. If you’re looking to dive deeper, here are some books worth a look. (Some are also available as audiobooks—great for a long flight or train ride.)

Istanbul: Memories and the City, by Orhan Pamuk

In this memoir, the Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author reflects on his childhood and youth in Istanbul, offering a rich portrayal of the city’s history, culture, and ever-changing landscape.

Istanbul: Memories and the City (Paperback)
  • OrhanPamuk (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain

This classic travelogue follows Mark Twain as he journeys through Europe and the Holy Land, including a visit to Istanbul, which he captures with his trademark wit and humor.

The Innocents Abroad: Original Illustrations
  • Twain, Mark (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City, by Hilary Sumner-Boyd and John Freely

This comprehensive guide and travelogue takes readers on a historical and cultural journey through Istanbul, detailing its most famous landmarks and hidden gems.

Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City
  • Sumner-Boyd, Hilary (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Bridge on the Drina, by Ivo Andrić

This historical novel, by a winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, is set in the Ottoman Empire. It tells the story of the construction of the famous Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the lives of the people who lived around it. While not set in Istanbul specifically, it offers a window into the wider region’s history and Ottoman influence.

The Bridge on the Drina (Phoenix Fiction)
  • Andric, Ivo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

A Fez of the Heart: Travels Around Turkey in Search of a Hat, by Jeremy Seal

This travelogue follows the author’s journey through Turkey, including a visit to Istanbul, as he explores the country’s history, culture, and politics, all while searching for the once-iconic fez hat.

A Fez of the Heart: Travels around Turkey in Search of a Hat
  • Seal, Jeremy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Birds Have Also Gone, by Yashar Kemal

In this novel, set in Istanbul, the author tells the story of three boys who capture and sell pigeons in the city, offering a unique perspective on the city’s rapidly changing landscape and the challenges faced by its inhabitants.

The Birds Have Also Gone
  • Yaşar Kemal (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Towers of Trebizond, by Rose Macaulay

This satirical travelogue (i.e., a novel) follows the narrator as she embarks on an eccentric journey to Istanbul and the ancient city of Trebizond, exploring themes of love, religion, and the clash of cultures.

The Towers of Trebizond: A Novel (FSG Classics)
  • Macaulay, Rose (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

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Travel Advice for Turkey (Turkiye)

You can find the latest U.S. Department of State travel advisories and information for Turkey (Turkiye) (such as entry visa requirements and vaccination requirements) here.

The British and Australian governments offer their own country-specific travel information. You can find the British Government's travel advice for Turkey (Turkiye) here and the Australian Government's here.

Health & Vaccinations

The CDC makes country-specific recommendations for vaccinations and health for travelers. You can find their latest information for Turkey (Turkiye) here.

General Information on Turkey (Turkiye)

The CIA's World Factbook contains a lot of good factual information Turkey (Turkiye) and is updated frequently.

  • Official Name: Republic of Turkey (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti)
  • Location: Southeastern Europe and Southwestern Asia (the Anatolian Peninsula), bordered by eight countries: Greece and Bulgaria to the northwest, Georgia to the northeast, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to the east, and Iraq and Syria to the south
  • Coastline: Mediterranean Sea to the south, Aegean Sea to the west, and Black Sea to the north
  • Capital: Ankara
  • Largest City: Istanbul
  • Population (2021 estimate): 85 million
  • Ethnic Groups: Predominantly Turkish (70-75%), Kurds (19%), and other minorities (including Arabs, Circassians, and Laz)
  • Official Language: Turkish
  • Religions: Islam (predominantly Sunni), with small Christian and Jewish communities
  • Government: Unitary parliamentary republic
  • President (as of 2021): Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
  • Prime Minister (as of 2021): Not applicable (the position was abolished in 2018)
  • Area: 783,356 square kilometers (302,455 square miles)
  • GDP (2021 estimate): $771 billion (nominal)
  • GDP per capita (2021 estimate): $9,042 (nominal)
  • Currency: Turkish Lira (TRY)
  • Time Zone: GMT+3 (Turkey Time)
  • Internet TLD: .tr
  • Calling Code: +90
  • Major Industries: Textiles, food processing, automotive, electronics, tourism, mining, steel, petroleum, construction, lumber, paper
  • Natural Resources: Coal, iron ore, copper, chromium, antimony, mercury, gold, barite, borate, celestite, emery, feldspar, limestone, magnesite, marble, perlite, pumice, pyrites, clay, hydropower, arable land

Turkey vs Turkiye vs Türkiye

The country's name has traditionally been Anglicized as Turkey, and that's how most of us have always known it. But the country's government has been pushing for adoption of the Turkish-language name, Türkiye. Since that doesn't always work well on Anglicized keyboards, you also often see it rendered as Turkiye. You can find more information on this here.

David Coleman / Photographer

David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my gear reviews and tips here. More »