Where can you go to visit beautiful buildings, gorgeous gardens in Istanbul? Try the pavilions, a remnant from Ottoman sultans, spread out throughout the city in the most picturesque spots.
Turkey has come out of lockdown in the past couple of weeks, and everybody who has been cooped up at home because of the coronavirus pandemic is eager to take a breath of fresh air, while still observing social distancing rules and exercising caution.
Where in the city can you do that? We compiled a list of pavilions that were built by Ottoman sultans. They offer a green spot amid the ‘concrete jungle’ and are open to the public, welcoming people with lush gardens and cool, beautiful buildings.
The Ihlamur Pavilions
The Ihlamur Pavilions are located in the Ihlamur valley between Besiktas and Nisantasi on the European side of Istanbul. The elegant Neo-Baroque buildings were used for daily recreation by the Ottoman sultans.
According to the Directorate of National Palaces, “The Ihlamur buildings were ordered by Sultan Abdülmecid to be built by Karabet Balyan, one of the most famous architects of the period and the palace foreman. Constructed in the period from 1849 to 1855, the landscaping was done by the German gardeners working at the Dolmabahce Palace.”
The Ihlamur Pavilions are located on an area of 24,724 square metres and consist of two structures, called the Ceremony Pavillion, and the Retinue Pavilion.
Known as the residence of Abdulhamid II (1876-1909) while he was a prince, the Maslak Pavilions were used as the Royal Farms (Ciftlikat-i Humayun) after his ascension to the throne. Spread over 170,000 square metres on the European side of Istanbul, the pavilions, according to the Directorate of National Palaces, had various buildings some of which survived and others that didn’t. The Mabeyn-i Humayun served as a reception area, the Kasr-i Humayun functioned as a harem, and the Observation Mansion was used for equestrian activities.
The directorate website notes “Abdulhamid was particularly interested in carpentry, gardening, farming and cultivating rare plant species in the greenhouses.”
Sultan Abdulhamid II was informed that he was the new sultan while he was at the Maslak Pavilions, and he was the last one in the Ottoman dynasty to live there. The pavilions remained as part of his estate until 1924. At one point serving as a military hospital for soldiers infected with tuberculosis during the time of the Republic of Turkey, the pavilions now are used for receptions.
According to the Directorate of National Palaces, Kucuksu Pavilion “was built by Nigogos Balyan, a member of the Balyan family who have designed many of the Ottoman buildings built in the 19th century. The interior decoration and arrangements of the pavilion were made by Sechan, the decorator of the Paris Opera, who is also responsible for the interior design of the Dolmabahce Palace.”
The pavilion was completed in 1752, and hosted the Ottoman dynasty for more than a century. The Directorate website notes “Sultan Abdulmecid had the present day Kucuksu Pavilion built in 1856, replacing the damaged wooden mansion.”
Located on the Bosporus on the Asian shores of Istanbul, the gorgeous pavilion is a museum-palace today.
Beykoz Mecidiye Pavilion
Mecidiye Pavilion, aka Beykoz Palace, is located near the Beykoz pier on 70,000 square metres of land, amidst magnolia, pine and linden trees on the Asian side of Istanbul. It is one of the oldest pavilions in the city and and one of the first masonry buildings on the Bosporus.
According to the Directorate of National Palaces, the mansion is “an elegant example of the Serdab mansions, constructed in a new style, and named after the word Serdab, meaning cooling spaces.”
The directorate website notes the pavilion’s construction as having started in 1845 “by the Egyptian Governor Mehmed Ali Pasha as a gift to Sultan Abdulmecid, was continued after his death in 1849 by his son, the Governor of Egypt Said Pasha, and the building was completed in 1854.”
The Aynalikavak Pavilion is on the European side of Istanbul, located near the Golden Horn in the Haskoy district of Beyoglu. Aynalikavak Palace has not made it into the present day, and the only remaining structure from the palace today is the pavilion.
According to the Directorate of National Palaces, “The grove in the area [is] believed to be the resting grounds of emperors during the Byzantine era, sprawling across the vast region between Okmeydanı, Hasköy and Kasımpaşa. The region is also known as the Royal Gardens of Shipyard due to the surrounding shipyard.”
The directorate website calls the pavilion “one of the most elegant legacies of classical Ottoman architecture that has survived to the present day, with its wide fringed roof, elegant seatings used in decoration, skylights made by placing glass pieces in plaster carvings and details reflecting typical appreciations of the era.”
Visitors may see a collection of classical Ottoman musical instruments on the lower floor of the pavilion.