The First Courtyard (I. Avlu or Alay Meydanı) spans Seraglio Point and is surrounded by high walls.
This First Courtyard functioned as an outer precinct or park and is the largest of all the courtyards of the palace. The steep slopes leading towards the sea had already been terraced under Byzantine rule.
The First Courtyard contained purely functional structures and some royal ones, many of which don’t exist today. The structures that remain are the former Imperial Mint (Darphane-i Âmire, constructed in 1727), the church of Hagia Irene and various fountains. The Byzantine church of Hagia Irene was never destroyed by the conquering Ottomans and survived by being used as a storehouse and imperial armory.
This court was also known as the Court of the Janissaries or the Parade Court. Visitors entering the palace would follow the path towards the Gate of Salutation and the Second Courtyard of the palace. Court officials and janissaries would line the path dressed in their best garbs and waiting. Visitors had to dismount from the horses between the First and the Second Courtyard.