At the center of the Mandalay royal city was the Royal Palace, raised on a platform to be above all the rest of the houses. The palace itself had apartments for 140 members of the king's immediate family. At the front of the palace was the throne room, containing the elaborate Lion Throne, now on display in the national museum in Yangon. Above the throne room rises a seven tiered gilded roof.
Behind the throne room are royal apartments, baths, chapels and even an observation tower. Climbing to the top of the tower gives you an excellent view of the palace, as well as Mandalay Hill in the distance. From here, you'll notice small shacks perched on the peaks of many roofs. During the days of the monarchy, guards would be posted in the shacks to watch out for vultures, since it was thought to be very unlucky for one to land on the roof.
The palace was destroyed by fire at the end of World War II when the British shelled Mandalay Fort to try and dislodge some Japanese soldiers they thought were inside. The palace was re-constructed many years later. Although impressive enough on the outside, it's largely a stage set with plain empty interiors, and the details don't bear close scrutiny.
In one of the buildings near the rear of the palace is a small museum displaying a few artifacts from the former palace. Near the throne room is a small shop offering costumes for rent. For just 1,000 Kyats (about US$1) you can pretend to be a king, queen, prince or ambassador.