Dolmabahce Palace- Is Worth Seeing?

Dolmabahce Palace- Is Worth Seeing?

Is Dolmabahce Palace Worth Visiting?

As expected, this question arises because of a very tough comparison. Topkapi Palace vs. Dolmabahce Palace. As you may guess, we are also in love with Topkapi Palace, however, Dolmabahce Palace is not only a simple big building with gigantic chandeliers. Okay, we agree that it is a modern one compared to Topkapi Palace, so it doesn’t represent Ottoman in New Era. However, this was the construction purpose of Dolmabahce palace, to have a modern palace in Istanbul. The Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid thought that Ottomans should have had a more modern palace than Topkapi Palace. Therefore, right after constructing the palace, they started living here and governing the empire.

Entrance
The Palace Entrance

Dolmabahce Palace Information

Keynote

Firstly, the most important thing about Dolmabahce is the amazing building was the house of Father of Turks- Ataturk. He stayed in this palace when he visited Istanbul and welcomed his foreign guests. Eventually, he spent his last days during medical treatment and has passed away in this building on the 10th of November,1938. So, you can also think about how Dolmabahce is a meaningful place for Turkish people.

Construction

Sultan Abdulmecid constructed the palace between 1843-1856 and then Ottomans left Topkapi Palace. As info, the construction costs five million Ottoman gold pounds which equals $1.5 billion in today’s values [1]. From our perspective, it is weird to hear such high values because of Ottoman’s tough economic situation in the 19th century.

Garabet Balyan and his son Nikogos Baylan were this palace’s chief architects. In other words, the palace has the Balyan family’s signatures. Besides, this Armenian family has constructed many great buildings such as Dolmabahce Palace, Dolmabahce Clock Tower, Dolmabahce Mosque (Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan Mosque), Beylerbeyi Palace, Ortakoy Mosque, Ciragan Palace, and Kuleli Military School.

Additionally, the three-storied palace was built on a symmetrical plan and has 285 rooms and 46 halls, 6 Turkish baths, 1.427 windows, 68 toilets.[1]

After Sultan Abdulmecid

After Sultan Abdulmecid’s death, the palace became a winter residence and Beylerbeyi Palace has been selected as summer residence [2]. Additionally, Sultan Abdulhamid used Yildiz Palace due to security reasons and he stayed in this palace less than a year. However, Dolmabahce was still active for special celebrations and other official activities. The palace represents Ottoman Empires’ final years. Even the palace costs too much for the Ottomans, the palace was exposed to quick changes and was not a stable place to be used by Ottoman’s sultans.

After the Turkish Republic Foundation, the palace was used for protocols and ceremonies between 1926-1984. Starting from 1984, it was decided to be used as palace-museum.

Due to unstable years of Ottoman (the empire is also called as “sick man of Europe” because of having bad conditions in 19th and 20th centuries), the palace has been used by six different sultans.

Need to Know

As a quick note, it is prohibited to take photos inside of these buildings. That is not good a thing and there should be some ways to correct it. However, they mention that the reason is the harmful effect of flashlights.

But, you can definitely capture great photos from the outside of the palace. And, if your hands are quick enough, you can capture some photos without being noticed :). In case of being noticed, responsible people could warn you and request deleting those pictures.

What to See in Dolmabahce Palace

Selamlik (Mabeyn-i Humayun)

The first interesting thing is the glorious highly symmetrical design of the palace. Also, the level of symmetry in the palace might be one of the best things about Dolmabahce.

Medhal Salon (the main entrance) is at the entrance and welcomes the visitors. You will see Binek Hall and Praying Room consequently. Right after, there is Valuable Collections Hall which presents coffee cups, dinnerware, etc.

There is a Crystal Stairs providing the connection with the upper floor. On the upper floor, Zulvecheyn Hall is a connection to Sultan’s private section where there are some study rooms and halls for welcoming special guests and religious events.
Additionally, there are many places such as Sultan Abdulmecid’s library, music room, Sultan’s bath, Sultan’s Privy Chamber.

Dolmabahce Palace Selamlik
Outside view of Selamlik entrance and the garden

Muayede (The Ceremonial Hall)

Muayede is located between the Selamlik and the Harem. It is the most impressive section of the palace. It is over 2000 square meters and decorated with 4.5 tons of huge crystal chandelier which was sent by Queen Victoria and Hereke carpet. [3] This chandelier was assumed as a gift from Queen. But based on a newly founded receipt in the 2000s, the chandelier was paid. Also, this chandelier is the largest in the world. Besides the structure, important ceremonies were held in this hall.

Muayede
The Ceremonial Hall

Sultans were receiving their important guests and foreign statesmen. Women were not allowed to attend the events. Hence, they watched the ceremonies from the window of a long corridor between the Harem and the Selamlik.

Harem (Harem-i Humayun)

Harem is the place where Sultan’s and his family’s private living area. The place was prohibited to any male except the Sultan himself and servants. It was connected to the Selamlik by a long corridor.

At Harem, there are many rooms such as Sultan’s Wives’ apartment and hall, the Sultan’s bath, clothing rooms, blue hall, pink hall, day time sitting rooms, Japanese hall, Sultan’s Mother bedroom, and circumcision room.

There are many valuable things in the Harem section such as carpets, chandeliers, vases and oil paintings.

One of the funniest things about Harem is “the special restroom after bath”. Oh God, we were thinking that the Turkish bath is a great relaxation place, however, we believe that was not sufficient enough for Sultan and other people in Harem. No no, just kidding, it is a traditional thing. It is always good to have a rest after having a great bath. But it is still weird to have a rest after rest, what a great cycle 🙂

Harem
Outside view of Harem and the garden

Ataturk’s Room and Deathbed

Passing through the halls in Harem, you will see Ataturk’s study room and bedroom. You will be surprised about the modest style of these rooms compared to the other locations in the palace. Also, the bed is covered by a Turkish flag blanket. You will also notice that clocks are all stopped at 09:05 a.m. Because this represents the time that Ataturk passed away.

The Glass Pavilion

William James Smith from the British Empire had been in Istanbul from 1841 to 1858. Moreover, the famous architect worked on some important projects such as Glass Pavilion, Selimiye Barracks and Gumussuyu Military Hospital in spite of the presence of the Balyan family. Also, he built the Camli Kosk (Glass Pavilion) and procured the materials from different countries. The pavilion was the place where Sultan could see the street. [4,5]

Glass Pavilion

Dolmabahce Clock Tower

The clock tower is a four-story tower and 27 meters (89 feet).  The tower is between the palace and the mosque. The tower was constructed by the palace architect Garabet Balyan’s son- Sarkis Balyan. Moreover, it took 5 years (1890-1895) to complete it and was commissioned by Sultan Abdulhamid II. Additionally, the clocks were produced by Johann Mayer who was working for famous watch brand Paul Garnier. [6,7,8]

Dolmabahce Mosque

Dolmabahce Mosque was built along with the palace and it is on the coast. It was commissioned by Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan, the mother of Sultan Abdulmecid. However, the sultan continued to construct the mosque after her death.

Garabet Balyan was the architect and he completed it in 1855. The mosque has two minarets and a single balcony. [9]

Dolmabahce Palace- Mosque and Clock Tower
Dolmabahce Mosque and Clock Tower

Clock Museum

There are many French, British, Austrian, German and American mechanical clocks in this museum. Besides its function, they are very good accessories. In the meantime, the museum consists of barometers, thermometers, and hygrometers.

Dolmabahce Palace Clock Museum
Clock Museum

Souvenir

There are two stores in the palace. One of them is at the exit of Selamlik, and the other one is at the exit of the palace. As our opinion, there are good pieces and the prices are satisfactory.

Stops for Resting

You can both have rest during your visit or after your visit. If you are tired after Selamlik, just take a break near the cafe next to Harem. Otherwise, our choice is Saat Kule cafe at the exit of the palace. Additionally, the view is very good since it is on the shore of Bosphorus.

Important Notes

Where is Dolmabahce Palace Located?

The Dolmabahce Palace is located along the European shore of the Bosphorus. You can recognize the palace easily due to its great architecture. You will definitely notice the palace during your Bosphorus trip. It is between Besiktas and Taksim and next to Besiktas SK football stadium- Vodafone Arena.

Dolmabahce Palace
Dolmabahce Palace from Ferry

Dolmabahce Palace- How Much Time

A half-day is definitely enough for Dolmabahce Palace, tower and mosque. Especially starting from April till November, there is a long ticket queue. It would be good to be there early in the mornings.

Dolmabahce Palace Dress Code

There is no specific dress code for the palace. It would be good to be careful about the season [10]. You can wear shorts, t-shirts, jackets, sandals, etc., basically whatever you want. There is no general rule such as for women when they enter mosques.

Dolmabahce Mosque is close to the palace. But, we don’t think checking the inside of this mosque is quite necessary. So, no need to be covered.

Istanbul is one of the most multi-ethnic city, so please feel free to behave like yourself since there are a lot of styles existing in this beautiful city.

Dolmabahce Palace Ticket Price

Unfortunately, the Istanbul Museum Pass Card is only valid for the museums which are authorized by the Tourism&Culture of Ministry. Istanbul Museum Pass can not be used for this palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, and Basilica Cistern. See the list of entrance fees below.

Selamlik (Main Building): 60 Turkish Lira

Harem- Glass Pavilion- Clocks Museum: 40 Turkish Lira

Selamlik and Harem (combined, including Glass Pavilion and Clock Museum): 90 Turkish Lira

You can also take a look at the National Painting Museum and National Collection Museums as optional. They are “nice to have”, but not a “must”.

Dolmabahce Palace Opening-Closing Days

Dolmabahce Palace is closed to visitors for Mondays. Throughout the year, it is open from Tuesday to Sunday.

Dolmabahce Palace Opening-Closing Hours

As a summary, the palace is open between 09:00-16:00. However, the box office can be closed before 4 p.m if ticket sales are over expectations which are limited to 3000 people. Except for the main building (Selamlik), you can check other places in the Dolmabahce facility till 5 p.m. Also, you can’t visit both Selamlik and Harem after 3 p.m. As a result, you should pick one of the two after 3 p.m.

Moreover, it is highly recommended to be early there in order not to waste any time in a long queue.

Dolmabahce Palace English Tour

As a new update, the tour is audio-guided. So, you can pick the set for free and the quality is good. So, it is an honor to inform you mandatory guided tour is no longer active, so you can enjoy your tour on your own 🙂

Unfortunately, we were not able to visit the main building (Selamlik) and Harem on your own in previous years. For this reason, you should have attended a guided tour arranged by the palace. This tour quality was average and we don’t like it very much. Because the tour should have been completed in an hour where you would want to see some locations in detail.

Additionally, it doesn’t require to attend a separate tour guide to visit the palace. So, we recommend you to save your money and visit the palace on your own.

How to Reach Dolmabahce Palace

How to Go to Dolmabahce Palace from Sultanahmet

It is pretty easy to go to the palace from Sultanahmet. Catch T1 tram line Bagcilar-Kabatas and get off from the tram at the last station-Kabatas. From Kabatas walk towards Besiktas around 5-10 minutes.

How to Go to Dolmabahce Palace from Taksim

You have several options to reach the palace from Taksim square. It is just around 1.5 kilometers or 2.5 miles.

-The easiest way to reach the palace is to walk around 20 minutes.

-Catch F1 funicular from Taksim and get off from the tram at Kabatas. Walk towards Besiktas around 5-10 minutes.

Additionally, two more options exist, however, to use a taxi or yellow minibus doesn’t make sense for this short route since this option has a high risk to be stuck in traffic.

How to Go to Dolmabahce Palace from Ortakoy

Use 22 (Istinye-Kabatas), 22B (Bebek-Kabatas), 25E (Sariyer-Kabatas), 30D (Ortakoy-Yenikapi), 40T (Istinye-Taksim), 42T (Bahcekoy-Taksim).

-You can get off from the bus at Kabatas for 22, 22B, 25E, 30D.

-You can get off from the bus at Besiktas Vodafone Arena for 40T and 42T.

How to Go to Dolmabahce Palace from Kadikoy

You can use the ferries from Kadikoy Pier to reach Besiktas Pier. City lines and Turyol are the options. After that, you can walk towards the palace around 15 minutes.

Besiktas- Kadikoy pier

Conclusion

Visiting Dolmabahce depends on the level of your palace or history addiction. It is hard to pick Topkapi or Dolmabahce, it is a very tough competition. However, we believe that the palace is 100% worth to be visited since you can have a chance to check the whole facilities.

As we already mentioned, it would be very good to be early in the morning if you prefer to visit the palace on any weekend day.

In conclusion, the palace very well represents the Ottoman Empire’s western face. Moreover, it is very meaningful for Turkish people due to hosting one of the most important leaders of the world- the father of Turks, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who founded the Turkish Republic.

References

[1] https://listelist.com/balyan-ailesi/

[2] http://www.peraair.com/dolmabahce-palace

[3] http://www.dolmabahcepalace.com/listingview.php?listingID=5

[4] http://culturecityistanbul.blogspot.com/2017/09/dolmabahce-palace-museum-mabeyn-i.html

[5] http://www.levantineheritage.com/pdf/an-english-architect-in-the-19th-century-istanbul.pdf

[6] http://www.dolmabahcepalace.com/listingview.php?listingID=7

[7] http://www.dolmabahcepalace.com/listingview.php?listingID=8

[8] http://www.istanbulkulturturizm.gov.tr/EN-171039/dolmabahce-clock-tower.html

[9] https://www.istanbul.net.tr/istanbul-rehberi/tarihi-eserler/dolmabahce-saat-kulesi/139/6

[10] https://www.istanbulfantasy.com/best-time-to-visit-istanbul/

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