Beylerbeyi Palace: the Bosphorus’ Forgotten Ottoman Residence
Quick, name three palaces in Istanbul! There’s Topkapi and Dolmabahce and… and….
Beylerbeyi, for one. Constructed in 1865, Beylerbeyi Palace was used as a Summer Residence by the Ottoman Sultans and final residence/prison of the last autocratic ruler of the Ottoman Empire after he was deposed by the Young Turk movement. It has beauty, it has history, it has a sweet little teahouse inside the Bosphorus-front gardens. The only thing it doesn’t really have is tourists.
Compared to places like the Topkapi and Dolmabahce Palaces, Beylerbeyi may as well be located in the wilds of eastern Turkey. It certainly isn’t hard to visit, but on the Asian side of Istanbul by the foot of the Bosphorus Bridge it certainly isn’t located such that you’re going to accidentally stumble across it. If anything, most tourists will see it in passing from a Bosphorus cruise and then promptly forget about it as soon as they leave the boat.
As a matter of fact, even if you did stumble across it from the tourist entrance you probably wouldn’t think twice. Rather than the Bosphorus reserved entrance for Sultans and Otto-men, the modern visitor must approach from the coastal road on the back side. Past a large wall, through a long tunnel, and then suddenly you emerge into a peaceful garden that even the Bosphorus bridge looming just overhead can’t break the calm of.
Entrance is only with a guide (included in the cost of admission) and photos are not allowed inside, but the interior is as lavish and impressive and comfortable as an Ottoman Summer Palace should be. This was built before the days of air conditioning and widespread refrigeration, remember, so the entire building was designed with comfort and cooling in mind. The main hall, all marble and nautical themes, includes a large fountain that served as both a calming distraction and a cooling element. The floors throughout are covered with reed mats imported from Egypt. If those touches inside aren’t enough, the shaded gardens that surround the palace serve as a further retreat from summer’s heat.
Aside from a Sultan running around, the only thing really missing is the tourists. If you happen to be on the Asian side of Istanbul looking for a nice quiet palace, this isn’t a bad place to aim for!
Hours: Open daily 9:30 – 17:00, closed Monday/Thursday
Admission: 20 TL (which includes the mandatory guided tour)
Photography: Totally not allowed inside.
Getting there: Ferry from Eminonu or Kabatas to Uskudar.
From Uskudar, Bus 15 (any of them: 15A, 15H, 15ETC) goes to
the Cayirbasi stop just nearby.
I visited the Beylerbeyi Palace while working as a photographer with GetYourGuide’s Bosphorus and Asia tour. Though expensive, it does make the process of getting to Beylerbeyi and the Camlica Hill a lot faster. However, with some patience and spare time you can visit both independently as well. Alternately, if you happen to be doing one of the Big Bus Tours this is one of the stops on the Asian side.