Dolmabahce Palace

Located on the Europe side of the Bosphorus, the incredible Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul is one of the most beautiful structures in the city and one of the most exquisite palaces in the world. Istanbul boasts a number of lovely palaces, most of which are today museums like Dolmabahce Palace and Yildiz Palace.

This palace in Istanbul was built from 1843 to 1856 and was commissioned by Sultan Abdulmecid I who moved his court and administrative offices from Topkapi Palace, which was the previous royal residence. The Topkapi Palace was built during the fifteenth century and was a true Asia Ottoman palace, actually a complex of buildings. But it lacked the modern stylishness and luxuries of the day. Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul was the first truly European palace in the city, with a sumptuous blend of rococo, baroque, and neo-classic architectural features.

This palace in Istanbul glitters with a staggering amount of gold ornamentation, with magnificent examples of Iznik tiles and massive crystal chandeliers. In fact, Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul has one of the world's largest collections of baccarat crystal from the famous factory in France and Bohemian crystal from the Czech Republic. You will see your first example of this in the Medhal Hall (main entrance) where visitors first arrive for guided tours.

Guided tours provide the only way to see the palace interior. However, visitors are free to roam the beautiful lush gardens (Dolmabahce means “filled garden”), where you can view the grand Gate of the Sultan with its incredibly intricate carvings. You will pass under a massive Bohemian crystal chandelier (the world’s largest, weighing in at 4.5 tons) and up the famous crystal staircase during your tour. The staircase itself is made of mahogany, but its graceful balustrade is made of baccarat crystal. The chandelier was a “housewarming” gift from Queen Victoria of England. Other gifts included bearskin rugs from the Tsar of Russia.

During your tour of the dozens of Dolmabahce Palace rooms, you will see wonderful blue Iznik tiles, priceless Hereke carpets of pure silk, beautiful period furniture, and exquisite Ottoman porcelain. You will also see the personal collections of the six sultans who lived here, including china dinner services and jewelry. You can buy souvenir examples of all of these while shopping in the bazaars of Istanbul and nearby Bursa. Visitors also pass through the maze of harem rooms, and will see the room where the President of the new Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, died in 1938.

In addition to being more modern and sumptuous, Dolmabahce Palace also commanded a more favored location on the Bosphorus. Breezes from the water made this location cooler than the older palaces, and allowed the royal families to embark on Bosphorus river cruises for pleasure, something the modern visitor is able to enjoy today. The Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul covers more than eleven acres. It has 285 rooms and 44 halls. It also boasts six baths and 68 toilets—rather remarkable modern facilities for the time. It is open for tours daily except Mondays and Thursdays.

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