palace in istanbul

Palaces in Istanbul

Not only is Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus, Istanbul a beautiful urban resort, set on a stunning site by the sea with panoramic views of the Bosphorus, it’s also a great destination for those who look forward to visiting the many historic places and old palaces in Istanbul.

Why is Istanbul famous for palaces?


Regarded as a crossroads where east meet west, Istanbul has been home to the capital cities of some of history's most important empires including Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman. These influences are reflected in the city’s iconic architecture, and the palaces in Istanbul are so beautiful and intricately designed. The Ottoman palaces in Istanbul are perhaps the most well-known examples of all the palaces in Turkey.


As well as the palaces in Istanbul, there are many exquisite pavilions – or “mini palaces” – and beautiful mosques. If you’re wondering which historic sites to visit, here’s a round-up of the best mosques, pavilions and Ottoman palaces to see when you’re in Istanbul.

Dolmabahçe Palace and Dolmabahçe Mosque


A famous palace in Istanbul is, of course, the Dolmabahçe Palace. It’s also the largest in Turkey, covering over 11 acres. Construction of the Dolmabahçe Palace was completed in 1856 and was the official residence for six consecutive sultans. Set alongside the Bosphorus, the Dolmabahçe Palace radiates extravagance and flamboyance, and is said to have been built as a rival to Versailles in France. As well as traditional Ottoman architecture, visitors will find Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical styles. Dolmabahçe Palace is breathtakingly intricate and opulent; the interiors are marvels to behold; and insights into the Ottoman empire’s history are fascinating.


Also built as part of the Dolmabahçe Palace complex is the Dolmabahçe Mosque, thought to be one of the most famous 19th-century Ottoman mosques. It’s a significant landmark in Istanbul, and its Baroque and Empire architectural styles are stunning. The interior is beguiling: light streams through the windows lighting up the marble decoration; a fabulous chandelier hangs from the central dome; and items sculpted from rare red porphyry are magnificent.

Topkapı Palace


The Topkapı Palace was the main administrative centre of the Ottoman empire and residence for its sultans for more than 400 years from 1460 until the Dolmabahçe Palace was built. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site; visitors can enjoy tranquil gardens, courtyards and amazing views across the Bosphorus from the Topkapı Palace. Its impressive entrances and interiors are well worth seeing: walls and columns are masterfully tiled and decorated with glittering gold; the library of Ahmet III, which dates from 1719, showcases a most stunning ceiling; and among the 400 or more rooms, there are royal apartments and private chambers to explore. Special highlights at the Topkapı Palace include the Fountain of Ahmet III, the Harem, Sacred Safekeeping Rooms featuring holy relics of the Prophet Muhammed, Imperial Treasury with the famous Topkapı Dagger and 86-carat Spoonmaker's Diamond, and the Baghdad Pavilion.

Tekfur Palace


This is a fascinating example of the Byzantine architectural style of palaces in Istanbul. It was built Byzantine emperors but exactly who built it and the exact date of construction are still mysteries. It’s thought to have been started in the 12th or 13th century. From the 16th century, it was known as the Great Palace of Constantinople and, later on, as the Palace of the Porphyrogenitus. It burnt down, was rebuilt, fell into ruin, then was rescued in part to become a glass and ceramics workshop in the 17th century. The early 20th century saw it falling into ruin again but repairs eventually saved it. The northern façade in particular is richly decorated in geometric patterns using red brick and white marble – typical of the late Byzantine period – and the roof sports Turkish ceramics. The site opened to the public as a museum in 2021, and now its courtyard is often used for concerts.

Hagia Sophia


The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque is a mosque as well as a major cultural and historical site in Istanbul. Set on a hilltop above the Bosphorus, it is perhaps Turkey’s most popular tourist destination. It has a fascinating history: originally completed in AD 537 as the principal church of the Byzantine empire, it later became a mosque under the Ottoman empire. Of world-wide renown, Hagia Sophia epitomises Byzantine art and architecture; in fact, it is the most significant surviving example of Byzantine architecture. Marvel at the 32-metre central dome flanked by four feathered angels, the beautiful marble columns, intriguing engravings and magnificent gold mosaics. In 1985, in recognition of its esteem as one of the great monuments of the world, Hagia Sophia was designated a component of a UNESCO World Heritage site called the Historic Areas of Istanbul. Be sure to add it to your itinerary when visiting mosques and palaces in Istanbul.

Blue Mosque


Sitting close to Hagia Sophia is the Blue Mosque. With its blue tiles decorating the interior, it’s no wonder that the Sultanahmet Mosque is popularly named “the Blue Mosque”. The exterior is spectacular too: the Blue Mosque boasts not only glorious domes and semi-domes but also six minarets. The interior walls are adorned with no fewer than 20,000 handmade Iznik ceramic tiles in more than 50 tulip designs, and there are more than 200 stained-glass windows and several chandeliers.

Beylerbeyi Palace


One of the splendid landmarks visible from the rooms and suites at Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus, Istanbul is Beylerbeyi Palace in the Üsküdar district of Istanbul. Built as a summer palace for the royals, then to accommodate visiting heads of state, it is now an impressive museum. The overall design was based on traditional Ottoman plans, with influences from the French neo-liberal style, and the imposing marble exterior of Beylerbeyi Palace befits its imperial status. Inside, visitors will be amazed by the beautifully worked hereke carpets and rugs, the French clocks, the numerous sparkling crystal chandeliers, and a fine collection of traditional Turkish and Chinese porcelain.

The best palace tour


While staying at Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus, Istanbul be sure to talk to your concierge at the urban resort to find out which is the best palace tour in Istanbul. The concierge can also book an experience, which is exclusively for guests of Mandarin Oriental, for you to discover more about Turkish architecture, culture and art, such as the making of the famous Iznik tiles and the symbolism of Turkish carpets.


Find out more about a cultural tour, including some of the palaces in Istanbul, and other bespoke experiences for guests of Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus, Istanbul.