The Topkapı Palace is undoubtedly among the most important landmarks in the city and a treasure trove of history. It not only overlooks the Bosphorus, Haliç and Marmara, but is home to some of the richest collections and most fascinating stories. For centuries it gave shape to political and social life in the Ottoman Empire, marking history as a palace of the Sultans and as a headquarter of the state. Built between the years 1460-1478 by Fatih Sultan Mehmet, it expanded over time. It was the home of the Ottoman Sultans and people of the palace until the mid-19th century, and in 1924, after the found of the Republic, Atatürk had it converted into a museum. The Topkapı Palace is atop the first hill of seven that endow Istanbul’s terrain. This palace is assembled on an area of 700 thousand square meters, with 7 gate and four courtyards. Furthermore, it is comprised of pavilions, sets, apartments and flower gardens. At its height, there were 4,000 people living in the palace, and it’s hard not to be struck by the magnificence of it as you explore. You can see the harem’s quarters and see what daily life would have been like for the women of the palace in the Ottoman era. Then move on to the treasury and take a look at the sultan’s thrones and incredible 86-carat Spoonmaker’s Diamond (Kaşıkçı Elması). In the palace kitchen, learn how and what the sultans ate before you wander through the other fascinating sections of this historical wonder.
Branching off from the series of older palaces, the Çırağan Palace, built in 1856, is one of the last structures of the Ottoman period. It was designed by Nigoğos Balyan and built by Sarkis and Agop Balyan. The building of the Çırağan Palace, which covers an area of 80,000 square meters, took a total of 4 years to complete. The garden of the palace was heavily damaged by a fire in 1910. Furthermore, it was decided that the trees be cut, and the area be transformed it into Şeref Stadium (Stadium of Honor). By 1980 the whole palace went under restoration and was turned into a hotel. The palace is made up of three sections – the main building, apartments and a harem. One of the masterpieces created by the Balyan family of architects, it’s still one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture along the Bosphorus.
The building of Dolmabahçe Palace (Dolmabahçe Sarayı) was completed in 1856, and it’s one of the many impressive buildings, located in Beşiktaş district, lining the Bosphorus’ European shores. The palace was built on the orders of Sultan Abdülmecid I, who commissioned the Balyan family to design and build it. It was built on land reclaimed from the bay where the Ottoman fleet once moored their ships, hence the name Dolmabahçe, which roughly translates as “filled-in garden”. Dolmabahçe Palace occupies 45.000 square meters of space and houses 285 rooms, 43 halls, 68 bathrooms ve 6 hamams or baths. In the main quarters of the palace, you can find; the Mâbeyn-i Hümâyûn (Selâmlık), the Muâyede Hall (Tören Salonu) and the Harem-i Hümâyûn which is split into three sections. Mâbeyn-i Hümâyûn, was where admistative state business was dealt with, the Harem-i Hümâyûn, was reserved for the Sultan and his family, the Muâyede Salonu; was where state ceremonies and the feast ceremony of the sovereigns of state took place. The Selamlık, Harem, Crystal Staircase, Süferâ Hall and the Red Room are must-see parts of the palace. The interior design was executed by a Frenchman named Sechen who also designed the Paris Opera. The palace is also home the world’s largest Baccarat and Bohemian-style crystal chandelier, and filled with beautiful trinkets, such as Serve and Yıldız porcelain and Hereke rugs. The exterior is made of sandstone in Baroque architectural style. While looking at the palace, the first feature that’ll capture your attention is the Gate of the Sultan (Saltanat Kapısı). This gate opening out onto the main road would only be used by the sultan himself, and in respect of that tradition, the gate is not in use today. Another of its most attractive features is its clock tower, which despite being built in 1895, still tells the right time. In addition to this, the clock collection which belonged to the empire is on display in a section of the palace garden. Apart from being the residence of the Sultan and his family, the palace was used for state functions, and hosted official visitors from around the world, and this hospitality continued after the Turkish Republic was founded. The French President Charles de Gaulle, King Faisal of Iraq and President Gronchi of Germany have been among the palace’s most illustrious guests. The fourth sea-facing room in Dolmabahçe Palace, once known as Muayede Hall, today known as Hususi Apartment. Atatürk passed away in this room, and it is now a museum that exhibits his possessions. If you are looking to examine every detail of Domabahçe, bear in mind that a tour of Selamlık takes an average of 1 hours and the Harem tour takes around 35 minutes.
As you cross the Bosphorus Bridge to the Anatolian side of the city, one of the most eye-catching things you’ll see is the Berlerbeyi Palace (Beylerbeyi Sarayı). The palace was commissioned by Sultan Abdülaziz I and completed in 1865 by Sarkis Balyan and his brother Agop Balyan. The architecture of this Ottoman-style summer palace is a blend of traditional Turkish residential architecture and classical Baroque. The main building of Beylerbeyi Palace, with its gardens and pools, was used both as a summer palace and also to host important foreign and Ottoman dignitaries during both the period of the Ottoman Empire and the first years of the Republic of Turkey. As you wander around, you’ll really get a feel for Sultan Abdülaziz I’s passion for the sea. Frescoes depicting the rough sea and maritime-themed candles reflect how much he adored the open waters. There are also rooms decorated with Japanese and Chinese art. There are English and Turkish-speaking guides available to take you through the palace, and after exploring, take a seat in the garden café and relax, enjoying the picturesque setting. The palace mosque sits just opposite, and nearby there are some excellent seafood restaurants too belonging to the lovely Beylerbeyi neighborhood.Explore the Byzantine palaces and wander the halls of the Ottoman dynasty by booking a flight to Istanbul.