Dolmabahçe Palace (Dolmabahçe Sarayı), Turkey’s largest mono-block palace, was commissioned by Sultan Abdül Mecit in 1843.
Built to belie the military and financial decline of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul’s first European-style palace was an opulent one, excessive in size and filled with gold and crystal.
Dolmabahçe Means Filled Garden
The area where the Dolmabahçe Palace now stands used to be a small bay of the Bosphorus. From the 18th century onwards, the bay was gradually filled to become an imperial garden by the Bosphorus. People referred to it as Dolmabahçe, literally meaning filled (dolma) garden (bahçe).
Since the sultans loved the site a lot, plenty of mansions (köşk) and pavilions (kasır) were built on that spot during the 18th and 19th centuries. Gradually this collection grew into a complex called the Beşiktaş Waterfront Palace, demolished by order of Sultan Abdül Mecit to make way for the Dolmabahçe Palace. He decided to move from Topkapi Palace to Dolmabahçe Palace since it would be able to provide ‘modern’ luxuries that Topkapi Palace lacked.
The true reason behind the construction of Dolmabahçe Palace was to cover up that the Ottoman Empire was in decline. Therefore, the new palace had to be lavishly decorated to impress the world. It also had to break with the Ottoman tradition of constructing a series of pavilions, so he ordered the leading Ottoman architect Garabet Baylan and his son Nigoğayos to build a mono-block Ottoman-European palace. The construction began in 1843 and was finished in 1856.
The result is a two-floor palace, covering an area of 45.000 m², containing 285 rooms, 44 halls, 68 toilets and 6 baths (hamam). The design is a mixture of Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Classic and traditional Ottoman art and culture. Fourteen tons of gold were used to gild the ceilings. It also has the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world. The price tag for all this: a staggering five million Ottoman gold coins, the current equivalent of 35 tons of gold.
Six Sultans and Atatürk
Starting with the move of the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from Topkapi Palace in 1856, until the abolishment of the caliphate in 1924, the Dolmabahçe Palace was home to six sultans. There was however a 20-year interval from 1889 to 1909 in which the Yıldız Palace was used.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, used the palace as a presidential house in the summer and enacted some of his most important works here, e.g. the introduction of the new alphabet. Troubled by health problems, he spent his last years in the palace until he died at 09.05 on November 10, 1938. In his honor, all the clocks in the palace are stopped at that exact time. The room in which he died is part of one of the palace tours.
Click here to read about the guided tours in Dolmabahçe Palace.
Dolmabahçe Palace (Dolmabahçe Sarayı)
Dolmabahçe Caddesi, Beşiktaş – Istanbul
(opposite the İnönü (Beşiktaş) football stadium)
Tel: +90 212 236 90 00
Opening Hours – Entrance Fees