Europe 2016 Day 11.1: Dolmabahce Again

There was nothing much I could do about my confiscated jamons and chorizos, so rather than beating myself up about it, I decided to move on and continue enjoying my vacation…


Remember when I tried to visit the Dolmabahçe Palace and failed because they are closed on Mondays? Well, it was time to pay this famous palace a visit again, for it was Wednesday…

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Yay! Ticket counter is open!

You know, there is a certain Museum Card which you can purchase for 85 TL (Turkish Liras) which will give you access to most of the historical sites in the Sultanahmet area, eg Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia etc. That Museum Pass does not work here, because the Dolmabahçe Palace is managed by another organization. Here, you have to purchase your ticket(s) separately.

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40 TL for Selamlik (Official quarters) + Harem (Private quarters) access

The last time I came, the outer gate was closed. This time, it was open for us to enter.

You are not allowed to explore the palace interior (Selamlik/Harem) on your own. You are also not allowed to take photos when inside the palace premises. To ensure that these rules are enforced, there are guides that will lead  you around the palace interiors on a pre-determined path in groups, flanked by a couple of “officials” who will watch everyone closely and swoop in to catch and kick out anyone trying to secretly film the place.

It was 9.15 AM when I purchased my ticket, and already there was a healthy crowd queuing up to go inside the palace. So, as much as I’d like to walk you through the inner courtyards slowly, that will have to wait, because that was not how I did it in person. First thing I did was to quickly rush to the entrance of the Selamlik and join the English speaking tour group. Oh, they have different tour groups for different languages (English, Turkish, Chinese, etc).

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Entrance to the Selamlik
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Map of the entire palace premises

I was able to make it on time to squeeze into a just departing English tour group…

By the way, you have to wear a pair of plastic shoe wraps (they will provide) over your shoes because they do not want any dirt to contaminate the palace interior. Also, as I mentioned earlier, they do not allow photos inside, so as much as I want to show you pictures, I can’t.

I can however share with you some of the information that I managed to grasp from the tour guide.

  • By the way, our tour guide for the Selamlik section reminds me of Francis “What’s My Name?” Freeman (Deadpool). Looks like him (gorgeous European man), talks like him (the voice really has a great resemblance) and even with similar style of deadpan humor. All the ladies squeezed forward to stick close to him just to see him more clearly and hear him talk. True story.
Francis Freeman
  • The most frequently used words throughout the walk were: gold, diamonds. crystals, Sultan Mehmet II the Conqueror, gifts from China, and gifts from Russian Tzar.
  • According to Francis Freeman, the ground floor is estimated to be worth XX million British pounds of today’s money (can’t remember the actual XX), and the first floor is 50 times more expensive than the ground floor.
  • According to Francis Freeman, the room which Kemal Ataturk died in is not really the actual room which this Turkish national hero died in. The palace was damaged during a fire (or was it war?) and they reconstructed this room using pictures and information from people who have seen the room before.
  • According to Francis Freeman, the Selamlik of the palace is home to the world’s second largest crystal chandelier. It weighs 450 tonnes and was a gift from Queen Victoria of England. Yeah, I’ve seen it with my own eyes, it is really very bigggggggg!!
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After an hour of marveling at the Selamlik, we finally reached the exit on the side of the palace

We have to make our own way to the Harem section entrance which is located at the back of the palace. Since I am now outside the palace interior, I can use my camera again…

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Workers hard at work with the plants
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Walking to the Harem
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I suspect these are also gifts from China
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Entrance to the Harem section

This Harem section is actually optional, you can buy a cheaper ticket at 30 TL which only allows you access to the Selamlik but not this Harem section.

As with the Selamlik, you have to wear shoe wraps and are not allowed to take photos once you entered the Harem premises. There will also be guides to lead you around.

  • The guide I got here was totally different compared to the one in the Selamlik. This guide actually reminds me of Mashkov (2003’s The Italian Job). He was older, looks dangerous and unhappy, and he was also quite unfriendly.
  • The Harem is basically the private quarters of the Sultan and his royal family.
  • I was quite bored and kind of regretted paying the extra 10 TL to come here, because most of the rooms were sealed off and we could only look from the outside. And anyway they seem to be quite similar. It was basically bedroom, bathroom and guest halls for the Sultan, the Queen Dowager, the Queen, the Mistresses, and the Princes and Princesses. There are three levels and each level has XX number of rooms (cannot remember the actual XX figure), so there are a lot of rooms and halls, but they are all either of the three that I mentioned.
  • According to Mashkov, the Sultan can officially have four wives, and all of the Sultans did. But when someone asked the follow up question of “What about the unofficial ones?”, Mashkov got pissed off and raised his voice to reply “There were no unofficial wives! They were all servants and maids and slaves!”. Oops

The harem tour took less than 30 minutes to conclude and we exited at the same place as the entrance. I guess everyone was wary of pissing Mashkov off again, so nobody asked anymore questions…

With the Selamlik tour and Harem tour done, I can finally take my time to stroll around the different courtyards, take pictures and show you pictures…

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This one is quite near the Harem entrance/exit
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Courtyard outside the Harem
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There’s a pond with a fountain that was not working
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This is on the other side of the palace, on my way back to the front
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Some architecture stuff and a tree with white leaves
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Lion sculpture surrounded by flowers
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Panther sculpture
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I think this gate exits to the main road outside. But it is closed, of course. Only one entrance/exit point for tourists for maximum security
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The palace is located right next to the Straits of Bosphorus
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After more than two hours of palace touring and strolling around trees and courtyards, it was time to leave
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One last look at the main palace building and the main pond
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The exterior gate
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How do I call this? Arch ceiling?
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And I’m out! Remember this? This gate was closed when I came here the first time
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The tall clock tower


The end…

Now, the verdict. Anna told me that if I could only pick one palace in Istanbul to pay and enter, it should be this one. I have to say I totally agree. While it is true that we are not allowed to take pictures of the interior, but in terms of personal viewing experience, the Dolmabahçe Palace is the biggest and grandest palace of Istanbul. The most money has been poured into the preservation of this palace.

You have to take note that this was the official residence of all the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. Or let me put it simply, this is the Ottoman version of the Forbidden Palace…


  1. It really does sound like “see no touch”, no touching and capturing with a camera at all. I suppose in a way that might make people curious about the interior of Dolmabahçe Palace more interesting, what with its intriguing history and all.

    I hope those plastic things weren’t too hard to walk in. If they were not slippery, then okay 🙄

    • They’re like plastic bags, it was quite slippery. But we had to walk really slow because the group moves very slowly, and the path was all carpet, so it was not too bad. 😀

  2. What a pity that Dolmabahçe Palace forbids photography! Next time I must bring my spy pen camera inside to snap. The Guinness Book of World records mentioned biggest chandelier is in Doha, Qatar. I think 2nd largest is in Romania’s Palace. Never mind who is biggest or smaller, as long as it is big and impressive will do.

    I am still reeling over your loss of the jamons and chorizos. They are weird!

    • This one is specifically crystal chandelier. If the lamps not made of crystal then not considered. But yala, biggest or not actually not that important to us, as long as it looks great then that’s good enough.

      Actually it has been weeks so for me personally, I have moved on from the souvenirs confiscate episode… 🙄

  3. Indeed this look so nice, I also would pay to enter see this. Just wikipedia this place, really attractive, has the world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier is in the Ceremonial Hall.

  4. Yay I’m glad you agree with me.. I was a little scared that maybe I hyped it up for you and make you spend money that you don’t feel is that worthwhile, haha. Did you end up going to Topaki (I don’t think you wrote about it yet)… but I was kinda disappointed in that one, and thought Dolmabahce was much more worthwhile to visit. I didn’t get to do the harem section though because we visited as part of a day tour to a lot of different places.

    • Yeah, I have not written about Topkapi yet, but I did go. So I won’t mention how I feel about it now. I feel you though.

      I thought the harem was not worth it, so you were lucky not to waste 10 TL more for it. :Roll:

  5. Since no one is living in the harem section anymore (I assume lah) why can’t you all see the rooms ah?

    As for the questions, any man also can have many unofficial wives lah depending on how rich they are. These unofficial wives are called mistresses. Doh!

    I think the gardens look so nice so next time I go visit the gardens only.

    • It is supposedly for preservation purposes. Even though the rooms layout is mostly reconstructed, but the relics are mostly originals. They don’t want jakun tourists go and sit on the beds or touch the vases or something.

      He was pissed off because we suggested the Sultans had mistresses lah. Even if they really had, you cannot say. Just like you cannot say 2.6 billion in front of… never mind. 🙄

  6. wahhhh…I am amazed with the structure, the outdoor itself looks so grandeur….and it is even more inside (though no pics, but I can feel ‘it’ since they keep it so secret without allowing to take photos). The entrance fee is so worthwhile…Unfortunately I did not hav the chance to visit this place last time coz I went there on Monday!

    • Go again lah, now cheap because nobody wanna go to that sensitive zone hehehe~ I also came two times only get to enter. 😉

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