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Palaces in Istanbul

Topkapi Palace

On a spit of land at the confluence of the Bosphorus, the olden Horn and the Marmara Sea stands the Topkapi Palace, the maze of buildings at the center of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries.In these opulent surroundings the sultans and their court lived and governed. A magnificent wooded garden fills the outer, or first, court. On the right of the second court, shaded by cypress and plane trees, stand the palace kitchens, now galleries exhibiting the imperial collection of crystal, silver and Chinese porcelain. To the left the Harem, the secluded quarters of the wives, concubines and children of the sultan, charms visitors with the echoes of the intrigue of centuries.

Today the third court holds the Hall of Audience, the Library of AhmetIII, an exhibition of imperial costumes worn by the sultans and their families, the famous jewels of the treasury and a priceless collection of miniatures from medieval manuscripts. In the center of this innermost sanctuary, the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle enshrines the relics of the Prophet Mohammed brought to Istanbul when the Ottomans assumed the caliphate of Islam. (Open every day except Tuesday.)

Dolmabahce Palace

Built in the mid-19th century by Sultan Abdul MecitI, the facade of Dolmabahce Palace stretches for 600 meters along the European shore of the Bosphorus. The vast reception salon, with 56 columns, and a huge crystal chandelier weighing four and a half tons and lit by 750 lights never fails to astonish visitors. At one time, birds from all over the world were kept in the Bird Pavilion for the delight of the palace's privileged residents. Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, died in Dolmabahce on the 10th November, 1938.(Open every day except Monday and Thursday.)

Interior of Dolmabahce Palace


Gate Relief of Dolmabahce Palace

In the 19th century Sultan Abdul Aziz built the Beylerbeyi Palace, a fantasy in white marble amid magnolia filled gardens, on the Bosphorus's Asian shore. Used as the Sultan's summer residence and hunting lodge, it was offered to the most distinguished foreign dignitaries during their visits. Empress Eugenie of France was among its residents. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday.)

In addition to the State Pavilions at the Yildiz Palace, the compound includes a series of pavilions and a mosque. It was completed by Abdul Hamit II at the end of the 19th century. The Sale, the largest and most exquisite of the buildings, reveals the luxury in which the sultans lived and entertained. Set in a very large park of flowers, plants and trees, gathered from every part of the world, the palace grounds offer one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the Bosphorus. Because of restoration work, only the Sale and park are open to the public. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday.)

The Goksu Palace, also known as Kucuksu. takes its name from the fresh water streams which debouch into the Bosphorus near the tiny palace. Built by Abdul Mecit I in the middle of the 19th century, it was used as a summer residence. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday.)

Originally built in the 18th century and later restored by various sultans, the Aynali Kavak Summer Pavilion assumed its name, Mirrored Poplar, when its famed mirrors were installed in 1718. A gift of the Venetians, this palace on the Golden Horn is one of the most beautiful examples of traditional Turkish architecture. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday.)

Aynali Kavak Pavillion

Interior, Goksu Pavillion

The 19th century Ihlamur Pavilion is named after the linden trees that grow in its gardens. Now in the heart of metropolitan Istanbul, when it was originally constructed the pavilion lay in the rolling countriside that surrounded the city. The Merasim Pavilion was used for official ceremonies while the Maiyet Pavilion sheltered the sultan's entourage and on occasions, his harem during their excursions out of the palace confines. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday.)

Ihlamur pavillion

The Maslak Pavilions on a shady green hill were conceived by Sultan Abdul Aziz as hunting lodges and are superb examples of the late 19th century Ottoman decorative style. The Limonluk Green House is particularly noteworthy. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday.)