The Dolmabahçe Palace (Dolmabahçe Sarayı) in Istanbul, Turkey, located at the European side of the Bosporus, served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1922, apart from a twenty-year interval (1889-1909) in which the Yıldız Palace was used.
The Dolmabahçe Palace was built between the years 1843 and 1856, ordered by the Empire's 31st Sultan, Abdülmecid I, at a cost of five million Ottoman gold pounds, the equivalent of 35 tonnes of gold. Fourteen tonnes of gold in the form of gold leaf were used to gild the ceilings of the 45,000 square metre monoblock palace, which stands on an area of 110,000 m². Hacı Said Ağa was responsible for the construction works, while the project was realised by architects Garabet Balyan, his son Nigoğayos Balyan and Evanis Kalfa.
The design contains eclectic elements from the Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical styles, blended with traditional Ottoman architecture to create a new synthesis. The palace layout and décor reflect the increasing influence of European cultural standards on Ottoman culture during the Tanzimat period. Functionally, on the other hand, it retains elements of traditional Ottoman palace life, and also features of traditional Turkish homes. It is the largest palace in Turkey, considering that the area of the monoblock building occupies 45,000 m². Previously, the Sultan and his family had lived at the Topkapi Palace, but as Topkapi was lacking in up-to-date luxury and style, Abdülmecid decided to build the Dolmabahçe Palace near the site of the former Beşiktaş Palace on the Bosporus, which was demolished. Whereas the Topkapi has exquisite examples of Iznik tiles and Ottoman carving, the Dolmabahçe palace contains much gold and crystal. Tourists are free to wander Topkapi at their leisure, while the only way to see the interior of Dolmabahçe is with a guided tour.
The Dolmabahçe Palace was home to six sultans from 1856, when it was first inhabited, up until the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924: The last royal to live here was Caliph Abdülmecid Efendi. A law that went into effect on March 3, 1924 transferred the ownership of the palace to the national heritage of the new Turkish Republic. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, used the palace as a presidential residence during the summers and enacted some of his most important works here. Ataturk spent the last days of his medical treatment in this palace, where he died on November 10, 1938.
The world's largest Bohemian crystal chandelier is in the center hall. The chandelier, a gift from Queen Victoria, has 750 lamps and weighs 4.5 tonnes. Dolmabahçe has the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world, and one of the great staircases has bannisters of Baccarat crystal.
The site of Dolmabahçe was originally a bay on the Bosporus which was reclaimed gradually during the 18th century to become an imperial garden, much appreciated by the Ottoman sultans; it is from this garden that the name Dolmabahce (Filled Garden) comes from, dolma meaning "filled" and bahce meaning "garden." Various summer palaces were built here during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.