The Ottoman dynasty firmly secured a place in history as a powerful and ambitious empire. At one point they ruled nearly half the world and their reign successfully lasted more than 400 years. The pinnacle time of their seat in power was in 1453 and the event was the capture of Constantinople which they made their capital.
Mehmet the 2nd, the sultan who captured the Byzantine city built the famous Topkapi Palace as home for rulers and as the centre of ruling power but 400 years later, the new sultan decided the grand Topkapi palace had outlived its use.
It looked worn, tired and old-fashioned. Even though, finances for the Ottoman Empire had at this stage started to dwindle, in 1843, he wholeheartedly embarked on a quest to build a new palace from where the Ottoman sultans would live and rule.
Using architecture trends from the western world, architects drew up plans and building work started on the famous Dolmabahce palace. Unfortunately this palace would also mark their demise, by increasing gossip that the Ottoman Empire had become the “sick man of Europe” and ultimately emptying their purse.
The Dolmabahce Palace of Istanbul, Turkey
As well as employing top architects, builders and decorators from all around the world, money was no object for décor and decoration of the new palace. Pure gold leaves line the ceilings and staircases, while workers sourced exquisite marble from far-off lands for the stairway and balustrades. Pure silk was a common feature in the bedrooms, living salons and entrance halls.
Perhaps not wanting to be outdone by the sultans, famous rulers from other countries gave expensive presents to mark the completion date of the palace. Queen Victoria presented a chandelier, one of the biggest in the world while the Russians Czars gifted pure bear or tiger skin rugs.
Touring the Dolmabahce palace is a journey of extravagance and mystery because though it was based on western architectural trends, some aspects of Ottoman traditions still remained. From the entrance, the first building standing with a majestic façade is the Selanik used as the men’s quarters and the center of rule for the Ottoman government.
While further back within the grounds, the discrete harem section where the Ottoman sultan’s mother resided over wives and concubines, maintains a simple and plain appearance.
However occupation and residence did not last long because in 1922, the last ruling Ottoman sultan and his family were exiled from the newly formed Turkish Republic, after the Turkish War of Independence.
The founder of this new country was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and he used Dolmabahce palace as the new headquarters. This choice led to another iconic moment in it’s story because a few years later, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk passed away in a small bedroom of the Selanik. For many years after his death, every clock in the palace was set to the time of his passing.
Visitors notes: Touring the interior of the Palace without a guide is forbidden, as is photography. We visit Dolmabahce palace on our city tours listed here. Alternatively, contact us to arrange a private guide for your time in the glorious city of Istanbul.