Istanbul Palaces

Tour Details

Istanbul Palaces

Topkapı Palace, One of the most astounding and popular places to visit in İstanbul  is Topkapı Palace, the symbolic and political centre of the Ottoman Empire in between the 15th and 19th centuries. It stands on the tip of land where the Golden Horn, the Sea of Marmara and the İstanbul strait come together, and is a maze of buildings centered around a series of courtyards, typical of Islamic tradition. Such is the complexity of each building, it will take many hours in order to be explored properly.

It was built in between 1466 and 1478, a couple of years before the death of Fatih. Unlike any European Palace, its architecture is predominantly Middle Eastern in character. The initial construction was Cinili Mansion, a Glass Palace finished in 1472, and the imposing main gate facing Sultanahmet, Bab-I Humayun, and the Palace ramparts, were completed in 1478.

There were originally 750 residents of the Palace, during Fatih’s period, which became drastically more congested reaching 5000 during normal days and 10,000 during festivals. Extensions had to be built, and the harem was completed in 1595 during the third Sultan Murad’s era, after which the harem residents were moved in from the palace at Beyazit, with a total of 474 concubines. Special tours of the Harem are available. The Harem, literally meaning “forbidden” in Arabic, was the suite of apartments in the palace belonging to the wives, concubines and children of the head of the household.

Around the Harem there were, Circumcision Room, the apartments of the Chief Black Eunuch, and apartments of the sultan – in total over 400 rooms. Other highlights in the Palace are the Spoonmaker’s Diamond (the fourth largest diamond in the world), the Topkapi Dagger, (a gift from Mahmut I), a vast collection of paintings and miniatures, and the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle (including a footprint, a tooth and a hair of the Prophet Mohammed).
Opening hours: Daily 09.00 – 17.00, winter closed Tuesday.

Dolmabahçe Palace

Built in the reign of Sultan I Abdulmecit during the 19th century, this over-ornate palace lies along the European coast of the İstanbul strait. Dolmabahce Palace was constructed in between 1843 and 1856, mixing different European artistic influences and built by Abdulmecit’s architect, Karabet Balya. It was built over three levels, and symmetrically planned, with 285 chambers and 43 halls. It has a 600m long pier along the river, with two huge monumental gates. The palace is surrounded by well-maintained and immaculate gardens, with an immense 56-columned greeting hall, with 750 lights illuminated from 4.5 tonnes of crystal chandelier. The entrance was used for meeting and greeting Sultans, and opposite the ceremonial hall was the harem. The interior decoration, furniture, silk carpets and curtains all remain with little defect.

The palace has a level of luxury, which has not presented in most other palaces, with walls and ceilings decorated with gold, and European art from the period. Top quality silk and wool carpets, southeast Asian hand-made artifacts, and crystal candlesticks adorn every room. The men’s hamam (public bath) is adorned with alabaster marble, and the harem also contains the Sultan’s bedrooms and the women and servants’ divisions. One of the highlights is the throne room, which stands at an amazing 36-metres high – almost twice the height of the rest of the rooms. The east wing is home to the Museum of Fine Arts.

Çırağan Palace

The most picturesque spots along the İstanbul strait and Golden Horn were reserved for the palaces and mansions for the Sultans, and other important dignitaries, most of which have now gone. The huge palace was constructed by architect Serkis Balyan in 1871, as appointed by Sultan Abdul Aziz, from the ruins of the old palace.

The interior construction was rebuilt, at a cost of four million gold coins, beginning with covering the ceiling with wood and the walls with marble. The rooms were decorated with rare carpets, furniture, gold and silver. The sides of the building were decorated with coloured marble, and monumental gates connected it to Yildiz Palace, via a bridge, which is how the harem women went between the two, in total privacy.

It briefly housed the Turkish Parliament from 1908, but was destroyed by a fire two years later, and was only rebuilt in 1991. Now, it is İstanbul ’s premier luxury hotel, and has retained something of its former glory.

Beylerbeyi Palace

Beylerbeyi, in which the Asian Tower of İstanbul strait Bridge was constructed, is a beautiful district allotted for palaces since the Byzantium era. Sultan Abdulaziz built the Palace, to replace the older, wooden palace, between 1861 and 1865. Eastern and Turkish motifs are used with Western design elements, on the sides and for internal decoration, and the atmosphere is something resembling that of Dolmabahce Palace.

The building comprises of three floors, and contains 26 rooms and six halls, which includes the harem and men’s greeting rooms. The interior is decorated with Bohemian chandeliers, valuable tiles and ceramic vases. Silver-edged furniture and luxurious carpets add something to the beauty, and even till today the authentic furniture, carpets, curtains and other property have been well preserved.

A big pool, terraces and stables, face at the back of cliff. A road and tunnel, used until 1970, passed under the palace garden and were used by the most distinguished foreign dignitaries when visiting the palace.

Yıldız Palace

This vast park consists of mansions, gardens and lakes, the whole area surrounded by high walls, and all set in a superb hillside location. Popular at weekends and holidays with locals, it offers one of the few green areas within the city centre, and is a great place for walking, relaxing and eating. There is a steep walk up the hill from Ciragan Caddesi up to the first pavilion, but rewards are cooling breezes and sweeping views of the İstanbul strait.

It was in the centre of the Ottoman Empire for 30 years, during the reign of Abdulhamid II, and the second largest palace in İstanbul . The main structure of Yildiz Palace, was built in the old Ottoman style and the pavilions which are dotted around the park were transformed into a power base. The most important remaining building is Sale Koske, where receptions were held, and is the largest and most ornate and reveals the luxury in which the sultans lived and entertained. The first section was modelled on a Swiss Chalet, the second two completed in the late 19th century.

Some of the mansions are undergoing restoration, but Sale is open for visitors, and two have terraces serving food and drinks. Further along the path is a State museum, the Belediye Sehir Muzesi, and Yildiz Sarayi Theatre.

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Turkey Tour Guide
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