Many people who come to Turkey, start exploring this country from Istanbul. This huge and exciting metropolis has a lot to offer and there a are plenty of beautiful places for sightseeing. Beylerbeyi Palace, while not the most well known, is one of many Ottoman palaces on the shores of Bosphorus. A couple of days ago we decided to go and pay this palace a visit.. It is situated in the Asian side of Istanbul, in Üsküdar district. One can take a sea bus from the European side across Bosphorus to Üsküdar and from there a bus ride for another 15 minutes and there you are.
Beylerbeyi has been a residential area since Byzantine times. The first Ottoman palace was built here by the orders of Sultan Mahmud II (1808 – 1839). It was a wooden construction and after it burned down, Sultan Abdulaziz had a new palace built in 1863. The palace was built within two years, there are 24 rooms and 6 halls on three levels. We entered the beautiful gardens with ponds, then walked along the Bosphorus promenade and came to the grand entrance of the palace. The days are still quite hot and a nice breeze from the seaside was very pleasant as the palace sits only a few meters from the shore. We walked up the steps and came to the entrance hall. Big baccarat crystal chandeliers were in every room we saw – beautiful transparent cut crystal with some moss green and blood red pieces. Thick patterned carpets from Turkish town of Hereke, and Egyptian woven reed matting were covering parquet floors. Landscape paintings on the walls, sumptuous soft furnishings everywhere. The rooms were well proportioned and colourful. All this gave otherwise a large palace a somewhat cozy feeling. The reception rooms and halls gave a luxurious impression. Large beautiful painted vases from China, Japan, France, Germany and Turkey were decorating halls. There were big clocks from England, France and Turkey. One of the grand halls had a large marble pool with a fountain in the middle. All the rooms we saw had tall windows and were filled with light, many with great views over Bosphorus. High ceilings were painted with nautical scenes and intricate geometric patterns. The palace gave a nod to both Orient and Occident.
The sultan, his wife and his mother had their own bedrooms. Sultan’s mother also had her own reception rooms. There were bathrooms with shower and a bath, and there was a hamam as well. Again, I couldn’t help but feel that even if the sultan was home ‘alone’, it wouldn’t feel a lonely, cold place, but instead the palace had a cozy, homely vibe, even though it was large and luxurious. Maybe it was the combination of good architecture and the fully carpeted floors and also the bright, cheerful colours and comfortable furnishings… And of course the light, the magnificent light streaming in through the windows, bouncing off the crystals of the chandeliers and dancing around the walls of the palace… It was all really gorgeous.
This beauty was shared with many foreign dignitaries of its time. The guests who stayed here included Eugenie, Empress of France, Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria-Hungary, German Emperor Wilhelm II, Nikola, King of Montenegro, Duke and Duchess of Windsor among others. The palace was used as a summer residence and a State Guest House. One of the last sultans of Ottoman Empire, Abdulhamid II, spent the final six years of his life in Beylerbeyi Palace after he was dethroned, and he died here in 1918.
The gardens of the palace are also spectacular. There are lots of rose bushes lining the garden paths, pools and terraces, three kiosks. There is an abundance of shady mature trees such as magnolia and chestnut, linden and judas trees, planted in the period of Abdulhamid II.
So if you have already seen the main tourist attractions at the Golden Horn, why not pay a visit to the magnificent, yet cozy Beylerbeyi Palace. You’ll enjoy it!