Visiting Dolmabahçe Palace – The Jewel of Istanbul

Dolmabahçe Palace is located in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul. It served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1887 and from 1909 to 1922.

History of the Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace was ordered by the Empire’s 31st Sultan, Abdülmecid I, and built between the years 1843 and 1856. Previously, the Sultan and his family had lived at the Topkapı Palace, but as the medieval Topkapı was lacking in contemporary style, luxury, and comfort, as compared to the palaces of the European monarchs, Abdülmecid decided to build a new modern palace near the site of the former Beşiktaş Sahil Palace, which was demolished.

The construction cost five million Ottoman gold lira, or 35 tonnes of gold, the equivalent of ca. $1.9 billion in today’s (2021) values. This sum corresponded to approximately a quarter of the yearly tax revenue. Actually, the construction was financed through debasement, by massive issue of paper money, as well as by foreign loans. The huge expenses placed an enormous burden on the state purse and contributed to the deteriorating financial situation of the Ottoman Empire.

The palace was home to six Sultans from 1856, when it was first inhabited, up until the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924. The last royal to live here was Caliph Abdülmecid Efendi. A law that went into effect on March 3, 1924, transferred the ownership of the palace to the national heritage of the new Turkish Republic. 

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, used the palace as a presidential residence during the summers and enacted some of his most important works here. Atatürk spent the last days of his medical treatment in this palace, where he died on November 10, 1938.

Where to find Dolmabahçe Palace

The site of Dolmabahçe was originally a bay on the Bosporus which locals used for the anchorage of the Ottoman fleet. The area was reclaimed gradually during the 18th century to become an imperial garden, much appreciated by the Ottoman sultans. It is from this garden that the name Dolmabahçe (Filled-in Garden) comes from the Turkish dolma meaning “filled” and bahçe meaning “garden.”

Various small summer palaces and wooden pavilions were built here during the 18th and 19th centuries ultimately forming a palace complex named Beşiktaş Waterfront Palace. The area of 110,000 m2 is confined by Bosporus on the east side, while a steep precipice bounds it on the west side, such that after the building of the new 45,000 m2 monoblock Dolmabahçe Palace a relatively limited space has remained for a garden complex which would normally surround such a palace.

Décor and equipment of the Dolmabahçe Palace

  • Whereas the Topkapı Palace has exquisite examples of Iznik tiles and Ottoman carving, the Dolmabahçe palace is extensively decorated with gold and crystal. Fourteen tonnes of gold were used to gild the ceilings. Over 100 kg of gold was used to decorate the palace which roughly translates to US$6 million.
  • The world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier is in the Ceremonial Hall. It has 750 lamps and weighs 4.5 tonnes. The chandelier was originally a gift from Queen Victoria in 2006.
  • Dolmabahçe has the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world. The famous Crystal Staircase has the shape of a double horseshoe and is out of Baccarat crystal, brass and mahogany.
  • The palace includes a large number of Hereke palace carpets made by the Hereke Imperial Factory. The Hereke carpet featured in the main hall happens to be the largest Hereke rug in the world. Also featured are 150-year-old bearskin rugs – originally a gift by Tsar Nicholas I.
  • A collection of 202 oil paintings is on display in the palace. A highlight of the collection are 23 paintings by Ivan Aivazovsky which he created as a court painter during his stays in Istanbul.
  • From the very beginning, the palace’s equipment implemented the highest technical standards. Gas lighting and water-closets from Great Britain, whereas the palaces in continental Europe were still lacking these features at that time. Later, electricity, a central heating system and an elevator were installed.

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Useful information about the place

When Dolmabahçe Palace is open for visitors?

The Dolmabahce Palace’s opening hours are from 9 am to 6 pm, and it is open every day except Mondays.

How much is the entrance ticket to Dolmabahçe Palace?

Dolmabahce Palace entrance fee is 450 Turkish Liras as of 2023. The combined ticket price of 450 TL covers the Main Building, the Harem Rooms and the Palace Collections sections of the palace.

When is the best time to visit Dolmabahçe Palace?

The best time to come is the morning hours – when there is less crowd. The entire duration of visiting Dolmabahce palace requires a minimum of 2 hours. The peak-hours to visit the place is from 10 am to 2 pm.

Other cool experiences in Istanbul

Istanbul has everything a visitor needs to have a great experience. Its natural beauty draws visitors from around the world- along with its numerous important sites and cultural heritage. As far as things to do in the place go, there are plenty of activities available for visitors.

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