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Yıldız Palace and park covered an area of 500.000 square meters on the hillside overlooking the Bosphorus between Beşiktaş, Ortaköy and Balmumcu. This area  of natural  woodland  became known as Kazancıoğlu Park after the Turkish conquest, and probably became an imperial estate during the reign of Sultan Ahmed I (1603-1617).

Sultan Murad IV. (1623-1640) is known to have enjoyed excursions here, and Selim III (1789-1807) had a country pavilion or köşk known as Yıldız built here for his mother Mihrişah Valide Sultan. It is after this köşk that the park came to be named.

Selim’s successor Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839), Sultan Abdülmecid (1839-1861) and Sultan Abdülaziz (1861-1876) had new mansions and pavilions constructed in the park, and in the late l9th century Sultan Abdülhamid (1876-1909) abandoned Dolmabahçe to make this complex his home. He greatly expanded the palace with many new buildings during his reign.


Yıldız Palace became the fourth seat of Ottoman government in İstanbul, after Eski Saray (the Old Palace) which stood where İstanbul University is today, Topkapı Palace and Dolmabahçe Palace.

The section of Yıldız Palace named Şale (after the Swiss chalet which it was designed to resemble) is one of the most interesting examples of l9th century Ottoman architecture. Set in its own walled garden, Şale consists of three adjoining sections built at different dates. The original section dates from 1880, the second section designed by Sarkis Balyan from 1889, and the third section known as the Merasim Köşk (literally Ceremonial Pavilion) was designed by the Italian architect Raimondo D’Aronco and completed in 1898. Each of the additional wings was built for two separate state visits by the German emperor Wilhelm II, since accommodating state guests was one of the Şale’s main functions.

The building has two main storeys and a basement, and is built of both timber and masonry. In keeping with traditional Ottoman houses, the Şale consists of two separate sections which could be used as Harem and Selamlık when required. There are seven entrances, and the windows have wooden shutters. Three elegant staircases, one of marble and the other two of wood, connect the two main floors.



The informal air of a country house is deceptive, as both the scale of the building and the opulence of the interior show. Behind the façade we find not a modest pavilion but a small palace, whose grandiose reception rooms are decorated with mural landscapes, geometric moulding, and painted designs in a mixture of Baroque, Rococo and Islamic style.

Most imposing of all is the Ceremonial Hall, with its single piece Hereke carpet, custom made to fit the room and measuring 406 square metres, its gilded coffered ceiling and large pier mirrors. The Banqueting Room has a more oriental  atmosphere with doors intricately inlaid with mother-of-pearl, while the focal point of the Yellow Room is the landscapes which adorn the ceiling. The valuable furnishings imported from various European countries, the elegant porcelain stoves, magnificent vases, and splendidly carved bedroom suites bear witness to the sumptious tastes of the period.

After the fall of the monarchy the Şale was for a time run as a high class casino, before being restored to its original function as a guest house for visiting heads of state and royalty. Among the famous names who have stayed here are Şah Rıza Pehlevi of Iran, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, King Hüseyin of Jordan, President Sukarno of Indonesia, King Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, and Preiesident De Gaulle of France.

Today the Şale at Yıldız Palace is open to the public as a museum-palace, and private receptions are held in its gardens.

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