All About Turkey

Palaces of Istanbul

Topkapi

Topkapi PalaceTopkapi was the first Ottoman palace to be built (1466-1478) in the newly conquered capital of the Empire by Mehmet II. Located on the spot where the foundations of the city were first laid in ancient times by Megarian Chief Byzas in the 7th century BC, the palace boasts one of the most beautiful views of Istanbul, incorporating the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, the two shores and the sea of Marmara. Unlike the European palaces, Topkapi is not a single monumental structure but a more organic complex made up of various kiosks, gardens and areas spread over the tip of the historical peninsula at the entry of the Golden Horn. Topkapi Palace served as the residence of Ottoman sultans for about 400 years, until Abdulmecid built the Dolmabahce Palace. In its hey-days, there were between 8-10 thousand people living in the palace, mostly being the Janissaries.

It was turned into a museum in 1924 and has become one of the most attractive palace-museums in the world. The most attractive exhibition halls of the palace are: treasury, Islamic holly relics, costumes of the sultans, divan, harem, kitchens, Chinese porcelains and several kiosks such as the Baghdad, Revan, Sofa and Mecidiye. There are appealing eating and resting facilities for visitors on the palace grounds with a great view.

Open daily between 9:30-5:00 p.m. except Tuesdays.
Tel: (212) 512 04 80

Dolmabahce

Dolmabahce PalaceDolmabahçe was built in neo-baroque style between 1843-1856 in the rapidly growing northern section of the city, at the Marmara outlet of the Bosphorus, to replace the Topkapi Palace which was out fashioned. The architect was Karabet Balyan, head architect of Sultan Abdulmecit. It has 3 floors including the basement with a symmetric design, with 285 rooms, 43 halls, 6 Turkish baths. The pier is 600 meters long and the palace has two beautifully decorated monumental gates giving access to its courtyard. The huge ballroom has a 4,5 tons crystal chandelier hanging from its 36 meters high ceiling.

Dolmabahce housed Sultans and their families before the Republic, and it was then used by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk during his visits to Istanbul. Atatürk died here on the 10th of November, 1938. The palace now serves as a museum and a guest-house used for receptions for important foreign statesmen during their official visits.

Open daily between 9:00-4:00 p.m. except Mondays & Thursdays
Tel: (212) 236 90 00

Yildiz

Yildiz, one of the last residences of the Ottoman sultans, was completed by Abdulhamit II at the end of the 19th century. The Sale (Chalet), the largest and most exquisite of the buildings, reveals the luxury in which the sultans lived and entertained. The chalet is formed by two separate buildings; first one built in 1889 and the second one, known as Merasim Kosku (ceremonial kiosk), in 1898 by architect Raimondo D'Aronco. The Yildiz palace is know as the fourth Ottoman palace built in Istanbul after the Conquest. Set in a very large park of flowers, tulips, plants and trees gathered from every part of the world, containing a pool and green houses, the palace grounds offer one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the Bosphorus.

Open daily between 8:30-5:00 p.m. except Mondays & Thursdays
Tel: (212) 276 10 22

Beylerbeyi

Beylerbeyi palaceBeylerbeyi was initially the residence of the Governor General in charge of Anatolia, but was rebuilt in the style of Dolmabahce and Çiragan palaces as a royal palace in the between 1861-1865 on the Asian side of the Bosphorus and served as the summer residence of the sultans. The palace was ordered by Sultan Abdulaziz to the architects Sarkis Balyan and Agop Balyan in neo-baroque architecture with a traditional Ottoman house plan. Beylerbeyi is built on two main floors and a basement containing kitchens and storage, and was divided into two sections; Selamlik (men's section) and Harem. There are a total of 3 entrances, 6 state rooms and 26 smaller rooms.

The palace is located at Beylerbeyi neighborhood, north of Uskudar district, next to the intercontinental suspension bridge built in 1974. It has great views of the Bosphorus and its European shores, and exquisite grounds with terraced gardens.

Open daily between 9:00-5:00 p.m. except Mondays & Thursdays
Tel: (216) 321 93 20

Ciragan

The name Ciragan comes from the word "cerag" which means torch in Persian. The area in which the Palace is located was called Ceragan because of the famous Ottoman parties which were held in tulip gardens with torches. The palace was built during the reign of Abdulmecit and was designed by the Armenian architect Serkis Balyan. The building was constructed using the financial loans that were obtained for restructuring the water system of Istanbul and the construction of a new railway. The construction took 12 years. This is the last palace built by the Ottoman Empire for the royal family.

Unfortunately the main building was destroyed by fire on 6th of January 1910. Only the exterior walls remained from the structure. The main building has been renovated and with the addition of a modern hotel building the site has been converted to a fine hotel. The other surviving buildings in the complex are being used as schools.

Open everyday, it's a hotel now (Ciragan Palace Kempinski)
Tel: (212) 326 46 46

Ihlamur Kasri

Lovely imperial rest house built in the midst of Linden trees, where you can have a cup of coffee, or as the Turkish word ihlamur implies, a cup of Linden tea. The pavilion was built between 1849-1855 by the Sultan Abdulmecit as a resting villa where he was also receiving some of his guests including the French poet Lamartine. It's architect was Nikagos Balyan, one of the members of Balyan family who were famous imperial architects at that time. Ihlamir Pavilion is formed by two buildings; Merasim kiosk used for ceremonies, and Maiyet kiosk reserved for the court of the sultan or his harem. After the death of Abdulmecit, the pavilion was also used by the sultans Abdulaziz and Mehmet Resat as a relaxing kiosk. It's opened as a museum in 1987.

Open daily between 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. except Mondays & Thursdays
Tel: (212) 261 29 91

Maslak Kasri

The sultan's hunting lodge and a resting place. Maslak Pavilion is a combination of several kiosks built during the times of Sultan Abdulaziz (1861-1876). Kiosks which are survived until our days are; Kasr-i Humayun (imperial kiosk), Mabeyn-i Humayun (imperial court), Limonluk (lemon mansion), Cadir, and Pasalar (generals). The imperial kiosk has the bedroom and working room of the Sultan Abdulhamit II. The complex was opened as a museum in 1986. One of the pavilions of the palace now serves as a cafeteria.

Open daily between 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. except Mondays & Thursdays.
Tel: (212) 276 10 22

Kucuksu Kasri

Kucuksu Kasri on the BosphorusKucuksu Pavilion was built by Sultan Abdulmecit in the mid-19th century at the location known as Bagce-i Goksu along the Bosphorus Strait, near the Anatolian Fortress on the Asian side. The pavilion was finished in 1857 by the imperial architect Nikogos Balyan. It sits on three floors including the basement where there were kitchens and storage rooms. Kucuksu was used as a hunting lodge or a resting place by several sultans and restored by Sultan Abdulaziz surviving until our days. The building has a European style in its architecture, rooms and halls are decorated with exquisite fire places made of Italian marble, fine wood parquet floor, European furniture, crystal chandeliers and mirrors with sultans' Tugra, Hereke carpets, paintings etc.

Kucuksu Kasri was used as a state guest house for some time during the Republic period and than opened to the public as a museum. There is a small cafeteria in the Pavilion grounds where you can sit and enjoy ships passing while sipping your Turkish tea or Turkish coffee.

Open daily between 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. except Mondays & Thursdays.
Tel: (216) 332 33 03

Aynalikavak Kasri

Aynalikavak Pavilion is located at Haskoy neighborhood on the Golden Horn. Originally the area was full of agricultural fields during the Byzantine period and than with forests during the Ottoman period, where the sultans built wooden lodges for their relaxing stays. After the construction of the shipyards, the area has gained importance and the stone made Aynalikavak Pavilion and several other kiosks were built between 18th-19th centuries, the complex was known by the people as the Shipyard Palaces.

The land facade sits on two floors and the sea-side facade on three. The pavilion has a Divan room and audience hall (Arz Odasi in Turkish) decorated with sultans' Tugras, many calligraphy works, nice windows and mirrors. The ceiling is covered with a dome. In the lower floor of the Pavilion there is a research center for traditional old Turkish musical instruments where occasionally Turkish traditional music concerts are being held. The Aynalikavak is opened to the public in 1985 as a museum, and after some time of restorations during which it was closed recently, it's opened to the public again at the end of 2010.

Open daily between 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. except Mondays & Thursdays.
Tel: (212) 227 34 41

Sepetciler Kasri

Sepetciler Kasri in IstanbulIt's located at Sarayburnu area at Eminonu district, at the entrance of the Golden Horn. The Kiosk was built in the 16th century by sultan Murat III within the grounds of Topkapi Palace and was renovated by Sultan Mahmud I in 1739. It was also used as a boat house for imperial boats and the sultans used to watch their navy leaving or returning to/from a campaign. During the Republic era, the Sepetciler Kiosk was used as an army pharmacy and than left empty until its restoration in the late 1980's. Nowadays, a section of it serves as an International Press Center of the General Directorate of Press, and another section is a popular restaurant and night club. The restaurant is open everyday and gets very busy for Sunday brunches, but the Press Center is not open to the general public.

Tel: (212) 519 18 17

Tophane Kasri

The Tophane Pavilion gets its name from Tophane (meaning Cannon factory in Turkish, where there was one) neighborhood. It's located on Necatibey street next to the Nusretiye mosque and was one of the most important buildings on the Tophane Square during the Ottoman period. The kiosk was ordered by Sultan Abdulmecid and built by the British architect William James Smith in 1852. It was especially used for the sultans visiting weapons factories in the neighborhood and to receive foreign visitors coming to the port by the sea, such as the Russian Czar's brother Grand duke Konstantin.

Tophane Kiosk runs parallel to the shore on a rectangle plan sitting on two floors. It has a European style like all other buildings of the same period, with fine hand work ceiling decorations and marble fireplaces. At the moment Tophane Kiosk is closed to visitors and administrated by the Fine Arts faculty of Mimar Sinan University. Nearby this Kiosk, there are Istanbul Modern Arts museum, Tophane fountain, Nusretiye mosque, Kilic Ali Pasha mosque, old Turkish bath, and Cannon factory as sites of interest in this neighborhood.

Hidiv Kasri

Hidiv Pavilion is located on the hills of Cubuklu neighborhood in Beykoz district on the Asian side of Istanbul. It was built in 1907 by Italian architect Delfo Seminati as a residence for the Ottoman governor (Hidiv or Khedive) of Egypt, Abbas Hilmi Pasha. The mansion sits in a large area and at the main entrance there is a monumental fountain, rising all the way to the roof which is covered with stain glass. Other fine fountains and pools surround the building. Several rooms and halls are connected to each other on a circle plan, and there is a large hall at the ground level with a fire place. On the upper floors there are two great bedrooms. The tower is the most popular section of the kiosk because of its view over the Bosphorus, one can access to the terrace on top with an elevator or by stairs.

The Hidiv kiosk was sold to the Istanbul Municipality in the 1930s and not used much until 1980s. After a two year restoration period, Hidiv Kiosk was opened in 1984 as a hotel, restaurant and cafeteria. It's open everyday.

Tel: (216) 413 92 53

Malta Kosku

The Malta Kiosk is located in the Yildiz Park at Besiktas district. It was built in the mid-19th century by the Sultan Abdulaziz in this heavily forested park and used as a relaxing mansion for both sultans and their ladies wondering in the nicely cared vegetation. At some periods of the late Ottoman history, the mansion has also witnessed dramatic moments such as isolation or exile of young heirs or princes, Murad V to name one. The kiosk has a European decorative style with Acanthus leaves column capitals, fine friezes on the marble fountain at the entrance, gold leafed mirror, and ceiling decorations with fat marble fish statuettes. The mansion wasn't used much during the Republic era until 1979, than it was restored and opened to the public. Today, there is a restaurant and cafeteria which is open everyday.

Tel: (212) 258 94 93

Huber Kosku

Huber Mansion is located at Tarabya district along the European shores of the Bosphorus. Its exact construction date and architect is not known but most probably it was built by the Italian architect D'Aronco in the 19th century for a German weapons dealer, Mr. Auguste Huber. The mansion was extended with new constructions added at different periods as we can see it today. When Huber family left the mansion during the invasion of Istanbul after World War I, the mansion changed several hands until it was finally expropriated by the Government in 1985 and converted into a Presidential summer residence. Besides the main building, the mansion has a stable, garage, servants house, two small chalets and a greenhouse.

Huber Mansion is a Government property and closed to the public visits.

All About Turkey © Burak Sansal 1996–2014, a certified professional tour guide in Turkey. Contact Burak at buraksan@superonline.com for all kinds of regular and/or private travel services throughout the country.