The Dolmabahce Palace was built during the reign of Sultan I Abdulmecit during the 19th century; this over-ornated palace lies along the European coast of the Bosphorus. Dolmabahce Palace was constructed between 1843 and 1856, mixing different European artistic influences, and was built by Abdulmecit’s architect, Karabet Balyan. It was built over three levels and symmetrically planned, with 285 chambers and 43 halls. It has a 600m long pier along the river, with two huge monumental gates.
The palace is surrounded by well-maintained and immaculate gardens, with an immense 56-columned greeting hall, with 750 lights illuminated by 4,5 tones of the crystal chandelier. The entrance was used for meeting and greeting the sultans, and opposite the ceremonial hall was the harem. The interior decoration, furniture, silk carpets, and curtains all exist with little defect.
The palace has a luxury level not present in most other palaces, with walls and ceilings decorated with gold and European art from the period. Top-quality silk and wool carpets, southeast Asian hand-made artifacts, and crystal candlesticks adorn every room. The men’s Hamam (public bath) is adorned with alabaster marble, and the harem also contains the Sultan’s bedrooms and the women’s and servants’ divisions. Dolmabahce Palace has another special place in Turkish history; the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, passed away in Dolmabahce Palace on 10 November 1938. His room is open to the visitors as he left.
The east wing is home to the Museum of Fine Arts.
It was one of the Bosporus’s coves until the 17th century. In mythology, this is where the Argonauts’ ship, Argo, anchored so that they could search for the Golden Pelt; in history, it is where Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror beached his ships before crossing to the Golden Horn to conquer Istanbul.
From the seventeenth century on, this cove began to be filled in and transformed into one of the Bosporus’s most distinctive gardens, now known as Dolmabahce (Filled Up Garden).
Over time, different Sultans built villas and pavilions for Dolmabahce, which grew into what is now called the “Besiktas Waterside Palace.”
Besiktas Waterside Palace was demolished in 1843 during the reign of Sultan Abdülmedjid, who declared it to be a waste of time and money due to its wooden construction. In its place, the foundation for the present-day Dolmabahce Palace was laid.
In 1856, construction was completed in its entirety, including the exterior walls. Dolmabahce Palace was constructed on a site larger than 110.000 square meters, and its main building is just one of sixteen distinct sections. Stables, mills, pharmacies, kitchens, aviaries, a glass shop, a foundry, and a patisserie are just some of the buildings that make up those sectors. The Heir Apparent’s apartment gained a clock tower and lodges in the garden at the back during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II (1876–1909).
Karabet and Nikogos Balyan, two of the best Ottoman architects of the time, built the palace. The Harem-i Hümayun, the Muayede (Ceremonial Hall), and the Mabeyn-i Hümayun (Selamlik) make up the main block of the palace (Harem). Mabeyn-i Hümayun is where government business is done, Harem-i Hümayun is where the Sultan lives, and Muayede, which is in the palace’s central courtyard, is where official ceremonies and receptions are held.
Counting the basement, Dolmabahce Palace has three stories. While the building’s form, detail, and ornamentation are all clearly influenced by Western styles, they were expertly interpreted by Ottoman architects. The floor plan, on the other hand, is a modern take on the layout of a grand, traditional Turkish home. It has stone exterior walls, brick interior walls, and wooden floors. The Palace’s central heating and electrical systems were installed between 1910 and 1912, showing that it was willing to adopt modern conveniences. In all, the Palace’s 285 rooms, 46 halls, 6 hammams (Turkish baths), and 68 restrooms take up a total of 45,000 square feet of space. The 4.454 square meters of carpeting on the fine parquet floors were woven in the palace’s loom house and then in Hereke, which is well-known for its carpets.
Regarding its purpose and splendor, the most impressive part of the building is the mabeyn, where the Sultan conducts state affairs. The entry’s Medhal (entrance) Hall, the Crystal Stairs leading to the upper floor, the Süfera (ambassadors) Hall, the guest room for the ambassadors, and the Red Room where the Sultan received the ambassadors are all decorated and furnished to emphasize the historical splendor of the Empire. Zülvecheyn (two planned) Hall provides access to the Sultan’s personal quarters in the Mabeyn wing, which are located on the upper floor. In addition to classrooms and assembly halls, this district is home to an exquisite hammam decked out in Egyptian marble.
The Muayede (celebration) Hall, located between the Harem and the Mabeyn, is the highest and most magnificent part of Dolmabahce Palace. The hall’s 36-meter-high dome and 4.5-ton British-made chandelier set it apart from the rest of the Palace’s 15,000 square feet of floor space and 56 columns. Even on the chilliest of days, guests will be comfortable in the hall thanks to the central heating system that blows warm air from the base of the columns. The hall’s golden throne was traditionally used to host the Sultan as he received notables and members of the diplomatic corps during the celebrations commemorating the holy days. There were different galleries for the diplomatic staff, male and female guests, and the orchestra of the Palace.
Even though Dolmabahce was inspired by European palaces and was constructed in a Western-style, the Harem was designed as a distinct area, although the traditional division between public and private spaces was less strict than it is now. Unlike Topkapi Palace, where a separate building and compound house the royal family, this residence is part of the palace itself and accessible through the palace’s main corridors.
Two-thirds of Dolmabahce Palace is dedicated to the harem. As a reminder of the norm of racial separation, the passageways between Mabeyn and Muayede Hall and the Harem are guarded by iron gates and heavy timber doors. This section contains the expansive halls illuminated by the Bosporus’s reflections, as well as the bedrooms of the Sultan, his wives, concubines, sons, and daughters, as well as the study and lounge rooms. The most interesting and impressive features of the harem are the apartment of Valide Sultan (Mother Sultan), the Blue and Pink Halls, the rooms of Sultans Abdülmedjid, Abdülaziz, and Resad, the concubines’ section, the matrons’ rooms, the study and bedroom of Great Atatürk, and the many valuable artifacts, including furniture, rugs, and kilims, inscriptions, vases, chandeliers, and oil paintings.
Dolmabahce Palace is now fully restored and accessible to the public. Dolmabahce Palace’s main exhibition units include the two “Precious Items Exhibition Halls,” where the palace’s most prized possessions are on display; the “Internal Treasury Exhibition Building,” where examples of the National Palaces Yildiz (Star) Porcelain collection are on display; the “Art Gallery,” where selections from the National Palaces Painting collection are displayed for extended periods of time; and the “Abdülmedjid Efendi Library” in the Mabe
The “Cultural Information Center” now occupies the space formerly occupied by the “Furnishing Department” in the palace’s foyer. This is the nerve center for scientific research and public presentation activities that take place across the country in various national palaces. The library also has a reference section for researchers, which is primarily comprised of works published in the 19th century.
Cafeterias and souvenir shops have sprung up in the outdoor spaces between the Clock Tower, Furnishing Department, Aviary, Harem, and Heir Aperient apartment buildings. Various postcards, reproductions of paintings from the National Palaces Art collection, and introductory books about the National Palaces written by the Cultural Information Center can be purchased from these outlets. At the same time, national and international receptions are hosted in Muayede Hall and the gardens. As a result of these changes, the Palace is once again home to museums and cultural events.