Palace on the European
shore of the Bosphorus in Istanbul is
a fitting symbol of the magnificence and decadence of
the 19th-century Ottoman
just as a sultan's palace should
be: huge and sumptuous,
rooms, 43 large salons,
a 4000 kg (4-1/2-ton) Bohemian
glass chandelier, and a Bosphorus-shore
façade nearly 500 meters
(1/4 mile) long. It's the grandest
of Ottoman imperial palaces.
cheapest, most comfortable way to
get there is by the Bağcılar-Kabataş
tram which runs from Sultanahmet
Square down to Eminönü,
across the Golden
Horn to Karaköy (Galata),
then north to Kabataş, whence it
is less than a 10-minute walk
north along the Bosphorus shore to the palace.
Square, take the Füniküler downhill
then walk north to Dolmabahçe; or walk down İnönü Caddesi right to the palace.
palace was designed by Ottoman Armenian
architects Karabet and Nikogos
Balian for Sultan Abdulmecit (1839-61).
When it was finished in 1856, the
imperial family moved out of medieval Topkapı
Palace to live in European-style
As with every traditional Ottoman grand residence (or
palace), Dolmabahçe consists of two distinct parts:
the Selamlık, or "public" area,
and the Haremlik, or family quarters.
The Selamlık was where the Padişah (known
in the English-speaking world as the "Sultan") greeted
and met with top government officers, diplomats and
other important visitors. Its sumptuously-appointed
chambers were designed to impress, especially the
great Ceremonial Chamber ("Throne
Room") with its Corinthian columns and 4-1/2-ton
Bohemian crystal chandelier lit by 660 electric lights.
The Haremlik was the imperial family's
private quarters, where the sultan, his wives and
children, and their servants lived.
The palace is open daily except Monday, Thursday,
and the first day of Islamic
holidays. On other days, here
are opening hours and admission
fees. Visitors must pass through an
airport-type security inspection (metal detector,
x-ray of bags.) Large purses, bags, briefcases and
backpacks must be checked at the checkroom (no charge).
No photography or video is allowed within the palace
itself, although you are welcome to photograph the
exterior and grounds.
You can enter and enjoy the palace grounds for only
a few liras, but to visit the palace interior, you
must buy a ticket for the Selamlık, the Haremlik,
or a combination ticket for both. No tickets are
sold after the daily quota of 3000 visitors has been
met. In high season, it is normal for this limit
to be met well before the palace closes for the day.
You can supposedly reserve your places on
tours by telephoning +90 (212) 327 2626.
in English and Turkish leave periodically throughout
the day, lasting about 45 minutes for each section
of the palace. You may wait in line, perhaps standing
in the sun or rain, for 20 to 60 minutes or more,
on the day and the crowds. Your ticket may bear a
particular time for your tour's departure.
Before entering the palace, you put plastic-bag galoş (wrappers)
over your shoes to lessen damage to the palace floors,
The tour of the Selamlık begins with anterooms,
then a climb up the crystal staircase,
where the supports for the balustrade are all of
pure glass. Fancy decoration, heavy with gold, abounds.
The succession of magnificent rooms, large and small,
leaves you dizzy.
After the Selamlık, you can walk around to the back
of the palace to the entrance of the Haremlik,
where the succession of ever more sumptuous rooms
continues. One room of special interest is that in
Atatürk (1881-1938), founder of
Republic, died at 09:05 am on November 10,
1938, while on a visit to Istanbul.
Dolmabahçe Palace has a café behind
the Haremlik, and the Saat
Kulesi Kafeterya, a cafeteria
near the palace Clock Tower, with views
of the Bosphorus.
Milli Saraylar Daire Başkanı
Tel: +90 (212) 327 2626 (Reservations)
—by Tom Brosnahan