Dolmabahçe Palace was ordered by the Empire's 31st Sultan, Abdülmecid I, and built between the years 1843 and 1856. Hacı Said Ağa was responsible for the construction works, while the project was realized by architects Garabet Balyan, his son Nigoğayos Balyan and Evanis Kalfa (members of the Balyan family of Ottoman court architects.) The construction cost five million Ottoman mecidiye gold coins, the equivalent of 35 tonnes of gold. Fourteen tonnes of gold in the form of gold leaf were used to gild the ceilings of the 45,000 square metre monoblock palace, which stands on an area of 110,000 m².
The design contains eclectic elements from the Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical styles, blended with traditional Ottoman architecture to create a new synthesis. The palace layout and décor reflect the increasing influence of European styles and standards on Ottoman culture and art during the Tanzimat period. Functionally, on the other hand, it retains elements of traditional Ottoman palace life, and also features of traditional Turkish homes. It is the largest palace in Turkey, considering that the area of the monoblock building occupies 45,000 m². Previously, the Sultan and his family had lived at the Topkapı Palace, but as Topkapı was lacking in up-to-date luxury and style, Abdülmecid decided to build the Dolmabahçe Palace near the site of the former Beşiktaş Palace on the Bosporus, which was demolished. Whereas the Topkapı has exquisite examples of Iznik tiles and Ottoman carving, the Dolmabahçe palace contains much gold and crystal. Tourists are free to wander Topkapı at their leisure, while the only way to see the interior of Dolmabahçe is with a guided tour.
Dolmabahçe Palace was home to six Sultans from 1856, when it was first inhabited, up until the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924: The last royal to live here was Caliph Abdülmecid Efendi. A law that went into effect on March 3, 1924 transferred the ownership of the palace to the national heritage of the new Turkish Republic. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, used the palace as a presidential residence during the summers and enacted some of his most important works here. Atatürk spent the last days of his medical treatment in this palace, where he died on November 10, 1938.
The world's largest Bohemian crystal chandelier is in the center hall. The chandelier, a gift from Queen Victoria, has 750 lamps and weighs 4.5 tonnes. Dolmabahçe has the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world, and one of the great staircases has balusters of Baccarat crystal.
The site of Dolmabahçe was originally a bay on the Bosporus which was reclaimed gradually during the 18th century to become an imperial garden, much appreciated by the Ottoman sultans; it is from this garden that the name Dolmabahçe (Filled-in Garden) comes from the Turkish dolma meaning "filled" and bahçe meaning "garden." Various summer palaces were built here during the 18th and 19th centuries.