Located along the coast of the Bosphorus in Beşiktaş, 300 yards from the Beşiktaş ferry-boat quay, this palace is the grandest imperial Ottoman residence. It was constructed by the Armenian architects Karabet and Nikogos Balyan for Sultan Abdülmecid (1839-61) who, preferring a more modern residence, decided to move out of the Topkapi Palace. The construction of this sumptuous palace was finished in 1853, and the royal family abandoned the imperial residence of Topkapi which had served as a home for the Ottoman household for almost four centuries. Dolmabahçe was the imperial residence of all subsequent Ottoman Sultans, with the exception of Abdülhamid II (1876-1909) who preferred living in the more secluded Yıldız Palace. An apartment within it served as Atatürk’s residence in Istanbul and he died there during his last visit to Istanbul on 10 November 1938.
After extensive restorations, it was transformed into a museum. From time to time, it is used for gala official functions as well. The site of Dolmabahçe, which literally means “filled in garden,” was in Byzantine times an inlet on the Bosphorus. Mehmed, the Conqueror had the harbor filled in and made into a garden. The palace’s magnificent marble facade faces the Bosphorus. One enters through the gardens after passing through the main south gate. Taking up the space of 250,000 square meters, the entire palace complex consists of 285 rooms, six of which are hamams and 43 are salons. Two-thirds of the palace consists of the women’s quarters (haremlik).
The palaces sumptuous interior was decorated by the famous French decorator Sechan and is reminiscent of French palaces and villas. Among the riches and opulent furnishings found here are paintings done by well-known European artists commissioned by Ottoman sultans (such as Boulanger, Ayvazovski, and Gerome), hereke carpets, Baccarat crystal and Bohemian glass chandeliers, including ilie world’s largest chandelier which hangs in the State room.