Top 10 Dolmabahçe Palace Tips – Best of Istanbul Advice

#1 Go in the Mornings and If Possible During Weekdays

With over 1.4 million visitors in 2022, Dolmabahce Palace is amongst Istanbul’s most visited historical sites. It is the second most visited palace in Turkey after the Topkapı Palace. To avoid crowds and have a better experience in the Dolmabahce Palace, try visiting it in the mornings. Since the city is packed on weekends and busier in the afternoon, visiting before noon might be wise.

#2 Take Pictures at the Bosphorus Gate

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Dolmabahce Palace is located directly on the Bosphorus Strait, with a fantastic sea view. The architects considered this when they built an incredible white marble gate that opens to the Bosphorus. It’s as if they designed it for excellent photo sessions. This magnificent 19th-century imperial gate that opens directly into the blue waters of the Bosphorus with the Asian side of Istanbul in the background is one of the best spots for stunning traveling photos.

Also check out our article: 

Top 10 Aerial Views of Istanbul – Best Places to See Istanbul from Above

#3 Get an Audioguide or a Real Guide

Dolmabahce Palace is an incredible 19th-century Ottoman imperial palace that is visually phenomenal. Still, without knowledge of its history, the overall experience is incomplete and can feel repetitive. Dolmabahce Palace has an excellent audio guide service that is highly comprehensive. Moreover, their audio guide is available in most languages. Upon entry, you need to take them from the audio guide room. Here they will ask for your ID/Passport to receive the device. Then, you will return the device and get your papers on your way out. Also, consider getting a real guide as an experienced tour guide would know and explain more than the static audio guide device and will provide you with a more engaging and theatrical experience and answer your questions.

#4 Book a Tour to Skip the Line

Online tickets are unavailable in Dolmabahce Palace, and Museum Pass is also not valid here. However, tour agencies and guides pre-purchase tickets in bulk and sell them with a tour and fast-track entry option. Since the tickets are already purchased, you won’t have to wait in the long ticket line. Some tours only give you introductory highlight information before entering the museum and help you with your audio guide. And some will get inside with you and explain room by room. Either way, you will skip the long waiting lines by booking a Dolmabahce Palace tour.

Click here to book a fast-track skip-the-line entry Dolmabahce Palace tour.

#5 Visit the Ceremonial Hall

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The grand Ceremonial Hall at the end of the Selamlik section right before you return to the garden is a must-see. It is undoubtedly one of the most impressive rooms of the Dolmabahce Palace with its 36-meter-high dome with incredible interior decorations, stucco designs and colorful frescoes, intricate marble pillars, and its astonishing 4.5-ton crystal chandelier, which was a present from Queen Victoria. 

#6 Don’t Forget to Visit the Harem

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You enter a beautiful garden when you enter the Dolmabahce Palace from the Imperial Gate. You walk around the fountain with lotus flowers and ducks, and the giant palace building reveals itself. As you slowly walk towards it, you will think, this is it. That’s the palace. One giant building, and that’s it. But wait, there is more! There is Harem behind it. 

Many tourists go, visit the “Selamlik,” which is the main administrative building. Then they leave the palace without ever realizing there was even a Harem! Which is like the other half of the palace! Don’t miss it!

Walk towards the left side of the main “Selamlik” building, and you will pass from the Clocks Exhibition and a large courtyard with gardens. Finally, you will see the walls of the Harem of Dolmabahce Palace. Keep walking, and you will see another entrance, a cafe on the left, and even another smaller museum behind the cafe, the Paintings Museum (with Sultan portraits inside). Enter Harem from there and explore the private, residential area of Dolmabahce Palace. 

#7 Visit the Blue Hall

Perhaps the most neck-bending room in the Dolmabahce Palace is not the Ceremonial Hall but the Blue Hall. Located inside the Harem section of Dolmabahce Palace, the Blue Hall is called “blue” because of the blue-colored furniture. However, it isn’t the furniture that bends your neck. Instead, it’s the insanely detailed paintings on the ceiling. The ceiling of the Blue Hall is partitioned into equal size squares. Each square has a large, intricate painting with a different theme and story. You could spend an hour gazing at the ceiling paintings… Try to analyze and understand the concept of each one of them, but you might have to see a doctor to check your neck afterward. It is truly mind-blowing. What a sight. 

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#8 Visit Atatürk’s Room

Almost everyone visiting Turkey has heard of Turkey’s founding father, national hero, and first president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, but most international visitors don’t know that he passed away in Dolmabahçe Palace. This is common knowledge in Turkey, but you may not know about this and just walk past the very room where Turkey’s founding father passed. 

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk used the Dolmabahçe Palace as a presidential office and residence in his final years. He then died on the 10th of November 1938 inside the Dolmabahçe Palace. Make sure you see his room in the Harem. Ataürk’s bed is covered with a Turkish flag, and the room has some of his precious belongings. 

#9 Don’t Miss Out on the Painting Museum

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Behind the Harem section of the Dolmabahce Palace is the Painting Museum of Dolmabahce Palace. This rich collection of late-period Western-style Ottoman art includes some of Sultan’s portraits. The most notable piece of art is Prince Halim Hunting Gazelles in the Gatah Desert: Greyhounds’ Share by Félix-Auguste Clément, the largest orientalist painting in all of Turkey. 

#10 Visit the Dolmabahçe Mosque

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Commissioned by Queen Mother Bezmialem Valide Sultan, Dolmabahçe Mosque is next to the Dolmabahçe Palace along the coastline. This beautiful 19th-century royal mosque stands out with its exceptional location on the Bosphorus Strait. Dolmabahce Mosque stands out with its graceful and thin minarets and baroque architectural style architecture. Its large glass windows allow the interior to be naturally illuminated by sunlight from the Bosphorus. 

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