- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
Fodor's Istanbul's 25 Best
Dolmabahçe Palace (Dolmabahçe Sarayı)
Dolmabahçe Palace (Dolmabahçe Sarayı) Review
The name Dolmabahçe means "filled-in garden," from the fact that Sultan Ahmet I (ruled 1603–17) had an imperial garden planted here on land reclaimed from the sea. Abdülmecid I, whose free-spending lifestyle later bankrupted the empire, had this palace built from 1843 to 1856 as a symbol of Turkey's march toward European-style modernization. He gave father and son Garabet and Nikoğos Balyan—from a prominent Armenian family of late-Ottoman architects—complete freedom and an unlimited budget, the only demand being that the palace "surpass any other palace of any other potentate anywhere in the world." The result, an extraordinary mixture of Turkish and European architectural and decorative styles, is a riot of rococo: marble columns with gilt Corinthian capitals, huge mirrors, trompe l'oeil painted ceilings, inlaid parquet floors, rich brocade. Abdülmecid's bed is solid silver, the tub and basins in his marble-paved bathroom are translucent alabaster, and more than 200 kilos (420 pounds) of gold were used throughout the palace. European royalty helped contribute to the splendor: Queen Victoria sent a Bohemian crystal chandelier weighing 4½ tons (still the largest in Europe), while Czar Nicholas I of Russia provided polar-bear rugs. The result is as over-the-top and showy as a palace should be, and every bit as garish as Versailles.
Dolmabahçe is divided into the public "Selamlık" and the private "Harem," which can only be seen on separate, oversized guided tours, which together take about 90 minutes. The Selamlık is far more opulent, befitting its ceremonial purpose, while the Harem shows how traditional social hierarchies and living arrangements continued despite the outwardly European decor. Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, spent his last days here, and visitors are shown his deathbed in the Harem; all the clocks in the palace remain permanently stopped at 9:05 am, the hour of his death on November 10, 1938.
After the tour(s), take time to stroll along the palace's nearly ½ km (¼ mi)-long waterfront facade and through the formal gardens. Two small buildings set back from the palace can be visited without a tour: the ornate Crystal Pavilion, which boasts a crystal piano and glass conservatory with a crystal fountain, and the Clock Museum, which has some of the most elaborate clocks you have ever seen. The palace has a daily visitor quota, so call the reservation number, 212/327–2626 (open Mon.-Sat.), at least a day in advance to reserve tickets and to avoid lines of up to an hour long at the ticket booth.
- Address: Dolmabahçe Cad., Beşiktaş, Istanbul
- Phone: 212/236–9000
- Cost: Selamlık 30 TL, Harem 20 TL, joint ticket 40 TL
- Hours: Tues.–Wed. and Fri.–Sun. 9–4. Last tickets sold at 3
- Location: Karaköy and the Lower Bosphorus
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Fodor's Go List 2014: Where we are going in 2014
- World Cup Fever: Start planning your trip to Brazil!
- Fodor's 100 Hotel Awards: Check out the winners of 2013
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
It is 10:15PM in this part of the globe. Read more
My wife, Joanne and I (from London, Ontario, Canada) went on our first "Bus Tour" and our first tour organized by Gate 1 Travel through a recommendation of a friend, Larry (from North Carolina) in late Read more
I would love any information on advice on taking a night bus from Cappadocia to Pamukkale. Read more
· News & Features
With its glamorous waterways and millennia of history, Istanbul is a stunner in any season. ... Read more
Not far from Dolmabahce Palace, the Shangri La Bosphorous, Istanbul has opened at long last.... Read more
The curious and daring among you will discover the vibrant, gilded landscape of Istanbul, the city tha... Read more