TOPKAPI PALACE: Istanbul's three top attractions are all close together in Sultanahmet. As you look out the gate to the grounds of the Topkapi Palace you can catch a glimpse of Hagia Sophia across the way. The Ottoman Sultans lived in splendid luxury in the Topkapi Palace 1453-1839. The complex grew and was redecorated over the years, evolving into something like the Forbidden City in Beijing, China: a fantastic world where autocratic rulers lived in splendid isolation from the subjects of their vast empire.