The wooded slopes of Yıldız Parkı once formed part of the great forest that covered the European shore of the Bosphorus from the Golden Horn to the Black Sea. In the waning years of the Ottoman Empire, the park was the private garden of the nearby Çırağan and Yıldız palaces, and the women of the harem would occasionally be allowed to visit, secluded from prying eyes as they wandered among acacias, maples, and cypresses. Today the park is still beautiful, particularly in spring when the tulips and other flowers bloom, and in fall when the leaves of the deciduous trees change color.
At the top of the park (a 15- to 20-minute walk from the entrance) is the relatively modest (by Ottoman standards) Yıldız Şale (Yıldız Chalet), where the despotic Sultan Abdülhamid II (ruled 1876–1909) spent most of his time. It also served as a guesthouse for visiting heads of state, from Kaiser Wilhelm II to Charles de Gaulle and Margaret Thatcher. The chalet, which can be visited
on a guided tour only (30–40 minutes), is often blissfully empty of other tourists, which makes a visit all the more pleasurable. From the ornate French-style furniture to the huge, gilded Rörstrand porcelain stoves, the European influence is perhaps more obvious here than at any other Ottoman imperial residence, yet the elaborate mother-of-pearl inlay work in the dining room and the enormous Hereke carpet in the Ceremonial Hall are distinctly Turkish. Also in the park is the Malta Köşkü, a late 19th-century Ottoman pavilion that now houses a restaurant with period decor and views of the Bosphorus.