finger of land at the confluence of the Bosphorus,
the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara stands the Topkapı
Palace, that maze of buildings that was the focal point 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. In the second court, on the
right, shaded by cypress and plane trees, stand the palace kitchens, which now
serve as galleries exhibiting the imperial collections of crystal, silver and
Chinese porcelain. To the left is the Harem, the secluded quarters of the wives,
concubines, and children of the sultan, charming visitors with echoes of
centuries of intrigue. Today the third court holds the Hall of Audience, the
Library of Ahmet Ill, an exhibition of imperial costumes wom by the
sultans and their families, the famous jewels of the treasury and a priceless
collection of miniatures from medieval manuscripts. In the centre 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.
facade of the Dolmabahçe Palace,
built in the mid-l9th century by Sultan Abdulmecit I, stretches for 600
meters along the European shore of the Bosphorus.
The vast reception salon, with its 56 columns and four-and-a-half ton crystal
chandelier with 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. Atatürk, founder of the Turkish
Republic, died in the palace on November 10, 1938.
In the 19th century, Sultan Abdulaziz built the Beylerbeyi Palace, a fantasy in white marble set amid magnolia-filled gardens, on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus. Used as the Sultan’s summer residence, it was offered to the most distinguished foreign dignitaries for their visits. Empress Eugenie of France was among its residents.
addition to the State Pavilions at the Yıldız
Palace complex, the compound includes a series of pavilions and a
mosque. It was completed by Abdulhamit II at the end of the 19th
Sale, the largest and most exquisite
of the buildings, reveals the luxury in which the sultans lived and entertained.
Set in a huge park of flowers, shrubs 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.
Göksu Palace, also known as Küçüksu,
takes its name from the streams which empty into the Bosphorus near the tiny
palace. Built by Abdulmecit I in the middle of the 19th century, it was
used as a summer residence. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday).
built in the 18th century and later restored by various sultans, the Aynalı
Kavak Summer Pavilion assumed
its name, Mirrored Poplar, when its famed mirrors, a gift from the Venetians,
were installed in 1718. This palace on the Golden Horn is one of the most
beautiful examples of traditional Turkish architecture.
19th-century lhlamur Pavilion is
named for 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 countryside 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 on their excursions out of the palace confines.
Maslak Pavilions on a shady green hill
were conceived by Sultan Abdulaziz as hunting lodges. The Malta Pavilion
is presently used as an inexpensive restaurant while both the Maslak
Pavilion and Limonlu Gate are open as cafes.
Florya Atatürk Sea Pavilion served
as a summer residence for Turkish presidents, beginning with Atatürk. Built
in 1935 in a T-shaped design on land jutting out over the Sea of Marmara, this
building serves as a showcase for some of the loveliest examples of early 20th