Beylerbeyi Sarayı, 2.5 km (1.5 miles) northeast of Üsküdar (map), is a "small" Istanbul summer palace overlooking the Bosphorus from its Asian shore. It makes a delightful Bosphorus visit, perhaps along with the even smaller but similarly-ornate Küçüksu Kasrı, but not on Monay or Thursday, when both palaces are closed.
You can see both via Dentur Avrasya's Hop On - Hop Off Bosphorus cruise.
Built on orders of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz (1861-1876), Beylerbeyi is a delightful, if ornate, imperial residence with a fountain in the main salon, the usual sumptuous chambers, Bohemian crystal chandeliers, Sèvres and Chinese vases, and pleasant gardens.
The palace was often used as a guest house for visiting royalty. Empress Eugénie of France, Shah Nasruddin of Persia, Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia and other worthies enjoyed its comforts.
Sultan Abdulhamid II was deposed by the Young Turks in 1909, and spent the last years of his life (1913-1918) under house arrest at Beylerbeyi.
Much of the furniture in the palace was made by the sultan himself, who was an accomplished cabinet-maker.
Üsküdar and Beylerbeyi have many good waterfront restaurants just right for a pleasant lunch or afternoon snack during sightseeing, as does the village of Çengelköy, a few minutes' ride to the north from Beylerbeyi.
Best way to get there is on Dentur Avrasya's Hop On - Hop Off Bosphorus cruise. More...
Or you can take a ferryboat from Eminöü, Kabataş or Beşiktaş to Üsküdar (very frequent), or a Marmaray trainfrom Sirkeci or Yenikapı to Üsküdar, then any Bus 15 north to Beylerbeyi.
You can combine your visit to Beylerbeyi with one to the Küçüksu Kasrı, a smaller palace to the north of Beylerbeyi on the Asian shore. Both palaces are closed on Monday and Thursday. You may also want to visit the Khedive's Villa, farther up the Asian shore in Beykoz.
—by Tom Brosnahan