Among Istanbul's most striking sights is the Dolmabahce Palace Complex, built on the shores of the Bosphorus in the mid-19th century by the 31st Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Mecid the First and still the largest palace in Turkey. Today it is one of the most visited tourist sites in Istanbul.
- History of the Dolmabahce Palace
- What to see in Dolmabahce
- Mode of the museum
- How to get to the DolmaBahce Palace
Dolmabahce Palace, built in the best European architectural traditions, belongs to the Baroque style and amazes with its size, rich decoration and the luxury of the park area. You can walk here for hours admiring, admiring and marveling at the amazing interiors, made in the European style, but with a characteristic oriental flavor.
Istanbul's most beautiful palace is on the shore of the no less beautiful Bosphorus
History of the Dolmabahce Palace
Istanbul owes the appearance of this magnificent palace complex, reflected in the blue waters of the Bosphorus, as already mentioned, to the 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abdul Majid the First, who came to the throne in 1839. This ruler is known for his modernizing socio-economic reforms aimed at aligning the polity with European standards.
Abdul-Medjid the First wanted his country to be more progressive
Abdul-Medjid the First, supported by a group of bureaucracy headed by Mustafa Reshid-pasha, issued at the very beginning of his reign an official document in the form of the Hatt-i Sherif, in which all Ottoman subjects received equal rights, and their lives and property no longer belonged to the Sultan. There were also reorganizations in legislation: the first Constitution was adopted, such attributes of statehood as the flag and anthem appeared, non-Muslims were allowed to serve in the army, etc. Changes in the life of the country associated with modern technology - there were innovations such as railway and telegraph.
Abdul-Medjid's taste for the European way of life did not match the surroundings of the Topkapi Palace, which was burdensome to the Sultan because of its medievalness. And then it was decided to erect a new palace complex in a more modern style. The site for the new modern palace was chosen on the very picturesque coast of the Bosphorus, and the architects were invited famous masters of the Armenian Balyan dynasty.
The main palace buildings were built right on the shore of the Bosphorus
The site chosen for the construction was on the site of a long-filled bay, and the Sultan's summer palace in a wooden form had already been built there before. However, it had already burned down by the time the construction of the stone palace complex began. And a reminder of the filled bay, into which the ships of Mahmed the Conqueror once entered, was the name of the new palace - "Bulk Garden" or Dolmabahce.
The construction of Istanbul's most beautiful palace went on from 1842 to 1853. It cost more than five million gold pounds to build, which really depleted the Sultan's treasury. But the palace was a success. All its 285 rooms were made with amazing elegance and were not inferior in this respect to the best European palaces.
Only the design of the ceilings is a separate subject for inspection
It took more than 14 tons of gold to decorate the Crystal Staircase and other interior items requiring gilding! Queen Victoria of Great Britain herself donated a four-ton Bohemian crystal chandelier for the decoration of the palace. And the known artist I.Ayvazovsky has received the order to write pictures for the palace interior, which he has written more than 40! The interior of the palace was created by the Frenchman Céchamp, who in his time decorated the Paris Grand Opera. The new palace became the pride not only of Istanbul, but also of the whole empire, and all the receptions of foreign ambassadors were held here. The reigning sultan with his family and court moved here from Topkapi as well.
The Dolmabahçe Palace served six more Ottoman sultans after the reign of Abdul-Medjid I. Although the next ruler, Abdul-Hamid the Second, who liked more secluded locations, built the Yildiz Palace for his residence, whose architect was also Balyan. But the following rulers returned to Dolmabahce. Even after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the Turkish Republic, its first president Mustafa Kemal Ataturk continued to live in the palace chambers, where he died. And his bed is today one of the most popular attractions of the palace, which became a museum in 1952.
The first president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal, also loved this palace.
In the beginning, the palace functioned as a museum only once a week, and then it was closed and reopened several times. Finally and irrevocably Dolmabahce became a museum complex in 1984. And today hundreds of tourists visit it as part of excursions, as well as on their own.
What to see in Dolmabahce
The palace complex that tourists can see today was not created at once. After the appearance of the first structure in the mid-19th century, over the following decades the palace was constantly expanded and gradually stretched out for almost 700 meters along the Bosphorus, and the total area of the complex was more than 45,000 square meters. Like the Topkapi Palace, the Dolmabahce, according to Turkish custom, is divided into male and female halves, which consist of separate architectural structures connected by a corridor.
From the corridor through the inner windows of the Selamlik, you can see some of the halls of the Harem
Thus, the main palace complex includes the front part together with the Throne or Ceremonial Hall and the areas of Selamlik and Harem. In addition, the palace grounds include the Clock Tower, the Crystal Pavilion, the Clock Museum and two park areas: Selamlik Park with the Swan Fountain and the Harem Park. Entrance to the palace grounds is through the Khazine Kapisa Gate, which is the main gate to the palace. The palace complex also includes the Dolmabahçe Mosque, which is also located on the banks of the Bosphorus, but outside the palace fence.
The territory of the palace is not very large, but it takes four hours for a leisurely tour.
In addition to the usual palace rooms, of which there are 285, there are luxurious halls (more than 40), more than 70 restrooms and bathing rooms. Of course, not all the rooms are open to tourists, but only the most interesting and significant ones. Some of the rooms are used as exhibition areas. But first things first.
The 27-meter Clock Tower, built in the mid-1990s under Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, is the first architectural object on the way to the palace complex. Sometimes the end of the line to the palace ticket booth begins there.
This beautiful neo-baroque structure is located in a small square and is guarded by two old cannons. On either side of the tower can be seen a decoration in the form of a tugra (sultan's monogram).
The Clock Tower is located between the Mosque and the Dolmabahce Palace
The first clock mechanism installed on the tower was made in France by Jean-Paul Garnier, and was installed directly on site by master watchmaker Johan Maier. Today, most of the movements in operation are electronic.
The clock on the tower shows the exact time with the help of modern mechanisms
Near the Clock Tower there is a ritual change of guards, which tourists love to watch. All the guards are very slender and tall and all of them are full of importance and responsibility. After walking past the Clock Tower and the guards to the ticket office, tourists finally purchase a ticket and enter the palace grounds through the Treasure Gate.
Khazine Kapysy (Treasure Gate)
The main gate, through which tourists enter the territory of the palace complex, impresses by its scale and splendor, a successful combination of European styles of Baroque and Rococo with Eastern motifs. In addition to the main gate, the palace complex has other, no less beautiful gates - the Treasury Gate, the Sultan's Gate, the five Bosphorus Gate (a total of 12). But tourists go to the palace exactly through the Treasure Gate.
All tourists enter the palace under the arch of the Treasure Gate
Immediately behind them, tourists find themselves in an oriental fairy tale, the interior of which is a beautiful park area with sculptures, lawns, flowerbeds. The central composition of this part of the palace park, called Hasbahce, is the Swan Fountain, which is not only decorated with a sculptural group of swans, but also in its waters swim real white swans, completely ignoring the tourists taking pictures of them.
Tourists pass the Swan Fountain through the park on their way to the main palace
Among the exotic plants of the park can be found Chilean araucaria and Korean pine, magnolia and cedar, there are many flowers and very bright and fluffy lawns. In addition to the beautiful landscaping that surrounds tourists on all sides, their attention is also attracted by the magnificent view of the Bosphorus Strait, the prospect of which approaches as they approach the palace entrance.
Before entering the palace halls, tourists do a photo shoot in the park
Dolmabahce Palace Complex
Leaving the light openwork fence on the right, tourists approach the entrance to the palace. Built in the shape of the Latin letter L, the palace complex has several distinct territories. First of all, these are the Sultan's territory (Selamlik), the territory of his women and children (Harem) and the Reception Hall.
The first thing tourists visit, both as part of tour groups and on their own, is the male half of the palace. You can wait until there is a group, and go on a tour with her (but this is subject to knowledge of Turkish or English), but you can take an audio guide and walk around the palace in his "company". In the latter case, there will not be a rush and crowds, but to ask questions that have appeared will not be anyone. But you can very carefully and slowly look through all the interiors and some of the exhibits. One more thing. It is necessary to bear in mind that photographing in the palace is forbidden! If you take out a camera or try to make a picture with your phone, you will be approached by a museum employee and asked not to do it.
Beauty and unique interior objects force tourists to break the rules
In the palace itself there are more than 285 rooms, rooms and chambers! For comparison, the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg has more than a thousand of them. But on the presence of luxury, gilding, volumes and decoration of halls, Dolmabahce is not inferior to the famous palace of the Russian emperors. Only the decoration of the ceilings for a long time draws the attention of tourists. The decoration of the palace on a whim of the Sultan "ate" almost the entire state treasury, because only gold took 14 tons, and silver three times more. The palace walls were decorated with expensive stones such as Egyptian alabaster, marble from Marmara, porphyry from Pergamon, etc.
And there is also luxurious furniture from France, many pieces of crystal, mahogany, unique candlesticks and chandeliers, paintings by the famous Russian artist Aivazovsky and much more. Of course, not all the rooms of the palace are open for tourist visits, but what you can see, and it is mainly the state rooms, is very impressive.
From the first halls tourists notice the European style of the palace
The most impressive and sumptuous room is the Ceremonial Hall, in which all the most solemn palace festivities and events were held. French and Italian masters worked on the decoration of this stunning space, surrounded by golden arched columned arcades and ceramic fireplaces.Since the early 20th century, the palace has been heated with these charming radiators
Also in this hall, where ceremonial receptions and events were held, tourists freeze in front of the magnificent 4-ton gift of Queen Victoria of England. This famous crystal chandelier consists of 750 candlesticks and hangs over the hall from a height of 36 meters. The floor of the Ceremonial Hall is covered by the largest carpet in the country, with an area of 124 square meters.
The luxurious Ceremonial Hall is decorated with a beautiful gift from Queen Victoria
The Ceremonial Hall is adjoined by the Hall of the Secretariat, also called the Ceramic Room. The main attraction of this room is a monumental 18th century painting depicting Istanbul pilgrims on their way to Mecca. This painting by Italian painter S. Ussi is a gift to the Ottoman ruler from Egyptian ruler Ismail Pasha.
A painting by the painter S. Ussi still adorns the Hall of the Secretariat today.
The two halls for ambassadors, where foreigners waited for receptions, where diplomatic negotiations were conducted, and where entertainment evenings were held for foreign delegations, are also luxuriously decorated. One of these halls is called the Sufer Hall, which also houses one of the largest carpets, with an area of 120 square meters. The second room for the ambassadors is the Red Room, decorated with thick portieres in red colors symbolizing the power and might of the Ottoman Empire. The Red Room is decorated with a painting of a view of Istanbul.
The Sufer Hall is one of the official halls for receiving foreign ambassadors
The Imperial Staircase, which connects the first and second floors of the palace, designed by N. Balian in the best traditions of Baroque style, is also striking in its splendor. The most remarkable part of this staircase is its banisters, which are made of crystal crystals produced in the French factory Baccarat.
And in one of the rooms of the palace you can see a black bear skin, which is a gift from the Russian emperor. The pelt was originally white, for it belonged to a white bear, but for practical reasons it was painted black. And, of course, walking around the palace halls one should pay attention to the abundance of handmade carpets, because more than 130 pieces of them were created by the Sultan's masters of Khereke!As you walk up the steps of the beautiful Crystal Staircase, you can feel like a sultan.
The exit from the sultan's palace grounds is on a small terrace, which is separated from the Beaufort by a light openwork fence. On the other side of the fence is a 600-meter pier, to which light rooks carrying the Sultan's guests once sailed, such as the German Kaiser who gave Istanbul the German Fountain, which is today at the beginning of the Hippodrome. Through this beautiful, truly fabulous gate they ascended to the palace.
A painting commemorating the arrival of the German Kaiser at the palace is in the Museum of Fine Arts
he coastal part of the palace is not just beautiful, it is mesmerizingly beautiful. You want to sit facing the strait and look at its flowing waters and the Asian side of Istanbul for hours. But we have to keep moving. And heading along the strait and the palace to the left and then left again, we reach the courtyard where the peacocks walk and where the entrance to the women's side of the palace, which is called the Harem, is located.
The road to the Harem goes between the palace building and the Bosphorus along park alleys
The women's part of the palace occupies about half of the palace grounds. This part of the palace was connected to the men's part by a long corridor. This is where the sultan's mother, Valide, his wives and, up to a certain age, all his children lived. The interiors of the harem halls are also very luxurious, and differ significantly from the interiors of the Harem of Topkapi Palace. It is spacious, European-style modern (all the same neo-baroque style) and eastern-style elegant. The most beautiful and functional halls were the Blue and the Pink.
One of the most beautiful and ornate halls of the Harem is the Blue Hall.
The blue hall, designed in the shades of the same name, served for festive religious events. All the female inhabitants of the harem could attend these events. Here the prayers were performed and the Koran was read.
The Pink Hall, also named after the dominant color of the decoration, was used to receive high guests, and they were of course received by the sultan's mother, who had private conversations with guests on various topics. From the windows of the Rose Hall Valide's guests could admire the beautiful views of the Bosphorus.
The panoramic windows of the Rose Hall allowed you to admire the Bosphorus day and night
In the women's area there were several bedrooms for Valide, separate bedrooms and salons for the main wives of the sultan, and the sultan's bedroom itself. For example, in the former bedroom of Sultan Abdulaziz there is a bed designed for a 150-kilogram body of the Ottoman ruler. There are bath rooms, boudoirs and a sacred room for the circumcision of the sultan's sons. Some rooms are decorated in Japanese style or in European style. In some of the rooms today there are various exhibitions. For example, an exhibition of 19th century chairs, etc.
Valide had several bedchambers with beautiful four-poster beds
One of the most revered rooms of the Harem is the room of the first president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal, who lived here for a long time and died here on a November morning in 1938 in the former winter bedroom of the Padishahs. After this sad event, time stood still here in the truest sense of the word, for all the palace clocks now show only the time of Atatürk's death - 9.05.
The interior of Ataturk's bedroom and office remained unchanged. Here the first president of the Turkish Republic stayed more than 30 times, during all his visits to Istanbul in 1927-1938. Here he received the kings of Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Iran, the crown prince of Japan and the French prime minister, and Douglas MacArthur, America's chief of staff, was also within these walls. Ataturk's bed, which became his deathbed, is now covered with a Turkish flag as a tribute to this historic figure.
The bedroom where Ataturk died is one of the sacred rooms of the palace
After a tour of all the rooms of the Harem, tourists return to the courtyard, where they can visit the Painting Museum, which has a separate entrance, as well as the Clock Museum and the Crystal Pavilion.
Museum of Painting and Sculpture
This very interesting museum is recommended for viewing even those tourists who are very far from this type of art. The fact is that many are sure that Muslims were not engaged in painting, that they were forbidden to depict people and therefore, it seems, about what painting can we talk. So, a visit to this beautiful museum will completely change this long-standing misconception. The museum of painting from the middle of the 30s of the 20th century occupies a part of the palace premises and has a separate entrance. So while looking at paintings we also look at part of the palace halls with perfectly preserved ceilings, walls and floors.
Despite the semi-darkness of the museum halls, the details of the interiors are clearly distinguishable
What are the must-see things to see in the Museum of Painting? First of all, there is a portrait gallery of all the rulers of the Ottoman Empire. It is very, very interesting. It is clear that many portraits are not painted during their lifetime, but only according to the verbal descriptions of their contemporaries, but, nevertheless, the characters and main portrait features of the Ottoman sultans are very interesting.
Every single ruler of the Ottoman Empire is represented in the portrait gallery
For tourists will be interesting to meet with the art of the most famous Russian marine painter Ivan Aivazovsky, whose paintings are given a very honorable place. The hall with his works is called so - the Aivazovsky Hall. This famous painter visited Istanbul in 1845 at the invitation of the reigning Sultan Abdul-Medjid I. Subsequently, the painter came more than once from his native Feodosia to the capital of the Ottoman Empire, where he received very solid orders from its rulers. For this palace alone, Aivazovsky painted forty pictures. His paintings decorate today not only the interiors and the Dolmabahce Museum, but are also found in some other museums in Istanbul.
Aivazovsky's Maiden Tower is one of his famous paintings of views of Istanbul
The most famous works of Aivazovsky in Istanbul are his painting "Venice" (1874) Also popular is his painting of the Maiden Tower. By the way, the artist not only left his mark on the art of Istanbul, but he also brought a piece of Istanbul to his beloved Feodosia in the form of the Ahmed Fountain, which is located in front of the entrance to the First Courtyard of the Topkapi Palace. True, the Theodosia fountain is much smaller in size, but in all other respects it exactly copies this Istanbul landmark.
Of particular interest are women's portraits, among which is the portrait of the famous Roksolana (Hürrem), the wife of Suleiman the Magnificent. Alas, they are not painted from life.
The most famous concubines often influenced the decisions of the Turkish sultans
The works of Osman Hamdi Bey, a famous Turkish painter of the 19th-20th centuries, archeologist and founder of the Archeological Museum in Istanbul, are also of interest.
Many of Osman Hamdi Bey's paintings depict everyday scenes of the harem
There are interesting still-lifes and landscapes by the first realist painter of the Ottoman Empire, Sheker Ahmet Pasha, who was an army general, but spent his whole life with a brush in his hands, and was promoted exclusively for his painting work. There is a small reconstructed studio of this artist in the museum's exhibition, where one can see his very realistic wax image at his easel.
Sheker Akhmet Pashi as if he had never left his favorite easel
In close contact with the Sultan, the artist was able to convince him of the need to acquire paintings by European masters, and as a result, the works of French painters Boulanger and Jerome, Arpigny and Dobigny can be found in the exposition today.
In addition to acquaintance with the paintings, the very design of the museum, in the semi-darkness of the halls of which only the paintings are illuminated, is also interesting. This, by the way, is how many museums in Istanbul are decorated today.
The Clock Museum, located in a small pavilion of the courtyard surrounded by fir trees, is a collection of gifts to the Sultan. This collection is very small, but quite unique, because each clock is a work of art.
Each exhibit of the Clock Museum has its own interesting history
This exhibition is part of the National Clock Collection. A few dozen of its exhibits can be found, for example, in the Topkapi Palace. There are over seven dozen watch pieces on display, many of which were the personal clocks of sultans, and some of which are the work of famous masters from distant times.
In the left corner of the park grounds of the courtyard is the small but very beautiful Crystal Pavilion. It was built as a resting pavilion for the sultans, from where they could admire the beautiful views, inhale the scents of the garden, and watch various entertaining events.
The Crystal Pavilion delights tourists with its fragility and oriental fairy tale
This light, openwork structure of glass seems airy and weightless. The sun's rays penetrate its walls and ceiling and shimmer in all kinds of colors, reflecting in the crystal chandeliers and other fixtures.
On the way to the Clock Museum and the Crystal Pavilion, tourists are sure to pass the Bird Gallery. In the time of the sultans, exotic and other birds were kept here, adding a heavenly mood to this beautiful garden. There were also other outbuildings in the neighborhood in the form of a pavilion for plants, the room of the chief eunuch, the kitchen area, the carpet workshop, etc. All these buildings were surrounded by greenery and connected by park alleys.
Many of the inhabitants of the Bird's Yard walk freely through the park grounds
Today the gallery houses partridges and peacocks, turkeys and pedigree hens and roosters, and there are other exotic inhabitants. Some of them are kept in barred aviaries, and some (mostly chickens and roosters) stroll along the park's alleys. Here, as in a real bird's yard, you can hear a variety of bird sounds, dominated by the familiar cockerel's "cock-a-doodle-doo".
On the way to the Dolmabahçe Palace Complex, not far from the pier, there is a small and very ornate building. It is the famous Dolmabahce Mosque, built here in the second half of the 19th century. It was initiated by Bezmialem Valide Sultan, the mother of the reigning Sultan Abdul-Medjid I, so this mosque is sometimes called after her. The architect of this beautiful example of Baroque was appointed a representative of the famous dynasty of Balian - Karapet, who was assisted by his two sons. And although the mosque is not located on the territory of the palace complex, it may well be attributed to it, both by design and by purpose.
The Dolmabahce Mosque is not far from the marina on the way to the palace complex
Unfortunately, Bezmialem did not live to see the full beauty of the temple structure. The mosque was more than beautiful. Its exterior decoration looks luxurious and elegant, and the interior is reminiscent of a hall for palace festivities, because, after all, this temple was practically a palace temple.
The mosque building is square at the base, where the length of each side is 25 meters. The big window apertures are executed in the form of arches in the image of peacock tails. On the outside they are decorated with a very openwork lattice, quite replacing the stained glass windows.The upward-looking mosque looks light, airy, and solemn
The main ritual parts of the interior in the form of mihrab and minbar are made of beautiful red porphyry, which takes us mentally to Cleopatra's residence or an ancient Roman palace. The two-tiered maksura in the front of the temple, an individual prayer place for the ruler, reminds us that the sultan himself prayed here. The sub-dome center of the beautiful hall is decorated with a magnificent chandelier hanging over the heads of the prayers.
The painting of the dome is more reminiscent of palace ceilings than temple ceilings
The exterior design of the mosque is also interesting and unusual. On both sides of the dome two slender and very graceful minarets, decorated with light balconies, rise up to a height of 40 meters. The mosque also has balconies for the rest of the sultan's family and a cozy courtyard with benches, paths and fountains.
During the initial period of the Turkish Republic, the Naval Museum functioned in this building, which had a very negative impact on the state of the mosque. But later the temple was returned to its original purpose.
Mode of the museum
You can visit the Dolma Bakhcha Palace any day except Monday, which is a day off. This museum starts working at 9 am, and the working day ends at 5 pm. And the palace closes at 16.00.
It is better to visit the museum in the morning
The price of a visit depends on the number of exhibits you intend to visit. If you have time and a desire to get acquainted with all the sights of the palace, it is better to buy a complex ticket. If you have a museum card, you can get a substantial discount.
How to get to the DolmaBahce Palace
The most beautiful palace of Istanbul is located in the European district of the city between the districts of Besiktas and Kabataş. The best way to get here from central Istanbul is to take the speed streetcar (T1 line). The stop you need is called Kabataş and from there you move forward along the Bosphorus, past the Dolmabahçe Mosque and the pier towards the tall Clock Tower.A visit to the magnificent Dolmabahce Palace is a must
The same pier can be reached by ferry from the Asian side. And from Taksim Square to the Kabataş stop there is a cable car. By the way, between the palace complex and the mosque building there is a small tea house, where you can rest after sightseeing and have a snack right on the shore of the beautiful Bosphorus, contemplating the silhouettes of the Asian part of Istanbul. The Dolmabahce Palace, like the Bosphorus, combined European and Asian cultures and became a one-of-a-kind beautiful and amazing monument of its era.