Palais de France, Istanbul

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The Grandest Beyoğlu Palace

François I of France was the first European monarch to establish formal diplomatic relations with the Ottoman sultan, Süleyman the Magnificent, in 1525. At that time this area of Pera/Beyoğlu was mostly vineyards (how appropriate!)

In 1570 the great Turkish astronomer Takiuddin set up a celestial observatory here, but a decade later, in 1581, the sultan gave the land to France for its embassy complex. Those old embassy buildings were destroyed by fire in 1831, and the present buildings constructed shortly thereafter.

The embassy buildings are among Istanbul‘s grandest, and also the most difficult to see. You can get this view through a heavy steel grate down at the end of Karaca Çıkmazı, off İstiklal Caddesi south of Galatasaray Square. Follow Postacılar Sokak downhill off İstiklal to Tomtom Kaptan Sokak(don’t you love that name?) for a view through the gates on the side of the palace and, across the street, the much smaller Palazzo de Venezia (Palace of Venice), once the Italian Embassy.

France’s Consulate-General is not here, but in the French Plague Hospitalat the northern end of İstiklal Caddesi, just out of Taksim Square.

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