Dolmabahçe Palace was the last administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire. Built between 1843 and 1856, its stunning location on the banks of the Bosphorus is best enjoyed from a boat; for a prime view of its exterior, take a Bosphorus Tour or make your way to the Asian side by ferry.
Dolmabahçe Palace gained its importance when Topkapi Palace was abandoned by the Sultans in favour of a more European style modern residence. In stark contrast to the traditional Ottoman style of Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahçe embraced neoclassical, baroque and rococo styles, although the functional elements of the Palace still adhered to Ottoman tradition. The name ‘Dolmabahce’, meaning ‘Filled garden’ is taken from the fact that the Palace’s now spectacular gardens were built on reclaimed land.
Situated on an area of 45,000m², Dolmabahçe Palace is Turkey’s largest palace, with 285 rooms, 43 halls, a ballroom, six Turkish baths and 43 toilets. An incredible fourteen tonnes of gold leaf was used in the construction of the Palace.
There are two possible itineraries for seeing the Palace, with separate entrance fees for each and a discounted price to see both. The Palace can only been enjoyed by guided tour. The first is the Selamlik (ceremonial suites). The Selamlik, an area which was reserved exclusively for men, contains extravagantly decorated ceremonial rooms containing a vast array of carpets, porcelain and silver and gold items. The Selamlik’s crystal is particularly impressive; highlights include a crystal staircase and the world’s largest crystal chandelier, weighing a hefty 4.5 tonnes.
The Harem-Cariyeler (harem and concubines quarters) - the private quarters of the Sultan and his family- is connected to the rest of the palace by corridor. The Harem consists of several bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways, which housed the Sultan’s mother, wives and concubines.
Also located within the Harem section are the rooms where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk studied and slept. It’s worth knowing that the founder of the Turkish Republic died here on 10th November 1938 at 9.05am. The clock in his bedroom is permanently frozen at this time.