The Khedive’s Villa (Hıdiv Kasrı), 20 km (12.5 miles) northeast of Sultanahmet in Beykoz on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus (map), was built by order of Abbas II Hilmi Pasha (1874-1944), Ottoman viceroy in Egypt.
A king in all but name, the Khedive had access to the wealth of Egypt for his projects. He purchased an estate of 270 square kilometers (104 square miles) and, choosing a promontory overlooking the Bosphorus for its site, employed Italian architect Delfo Seminati in1903 to create a 1000 square-meter (10,800 squre-foot) Art Nouveaupalace for use during his visits to the Ottoman capital.
Today the Khedive’s Villa is a public garden and restaurant open to the public. You can visit to enjoy the shady groves, well-kept flower gardens, sweeping view of the Bosphorus, and perhaps tea and refreshments or a meal. (No alcoholic beverages are served.)
If you like Art Nouveau architecture (as I do), this is a building you won’t want to miss.
You enter to a circular hall graced by a ring of double marble columns, at the back of which is a brass and crystal elevator/lift:
Grand salons, each unique, open off the central hall. Upstairs (not usually open to the public) are bedroom suites equally grand—in fact, fit for a king.
In 1914 Abbas Hilmi was deposed by the British, the de facto rulers of Egypt, ending the khedivial period. The Ottoman Empire entered World War I allied to the Central Powers, and in 1923 the empire ended with the declaration of the Turkish Republic.
The Khedive’s Villa stood empty and forlorn, deteriorating until, in the 1980s, the Turkish Touring and Automobile Association under its visionary leader Mr Çelik Gülersoy, undertook the restoration of the villa. Beautifully renovated, it became a boutique hotel and restaurant. Now controlled by the Istanbul city government, it is used as a restaurant and tea garden.
The Khedive’s Villa is a favorite venue for wedding photographers who bring the happy couple here for a variety of fantasy poses in the gardens and salons.
—by Tom Brosnahan