One of the gems of Istanbul, this delightful small pavilion was built for Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in 1472 and probably originally served as a pavilion for watching cirit tournaments.
Its design, with the exterior walls papered with colorful tiles and the huge entry eyvan, shows the influence of what was Timurid Persia (now Iran), probably filtered through the medium of Karaman in Central Anatolia. It’s the only building of its type the present day. The marble portico was added 18th century after an earlier wooden version burnt down.
The pavilion contains a beautifully displayed collection of tiles and ceramics dating from the Selcuk period through to the 18th and 19th centuries when Kutahya and kitsch Canakkale wares were fashionable, the highlights being the pieces dating back to the 15th and 16th century when iznik tiles ruled the roost. Look out in particular for the star-shaped Selcuk tiles that once adorned the Kurabad Palace in Konya, and for the glorious 15th century mihrab taken from the ibrahim Bey imaret (soup kitchen) in Karaman. More local items include wonderful 16th century Iznik panels that used to adorn the outside of the Haseki Hurrem Sultan Medrese in Cerrahpasa, and 18th century ceramic lamps that used to hang in the Sokullu Mehmed Pasa Mosque in Kadirga.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the room on the left at the far end of the pavilion whose walls are decorated with navy and turquoise tiles patterned with what is sometimes called “gold embroidery”. More importantly it contains an exquisite 16th century fountain set into the wall. This appears in Osman Hamdi Bey’s painting “The Fountain of Life”, created in 1904, which is reproduced on the wall facing it.