Most of the palace dates from the late 19th century when the paranoid Sultan Abül Hamit II ('Abdül the Damned') abandoned waterfront Dolmabahçe for fear of attack by foreign warships. The sultan was so fearful for his safety that no architect was allowed to see the complete plans for the new palace, and the labourers who built it were forbiden to communicate.
Only the sultan knew the location of all the secret passages. He never slept in the same suite two nights running and placed large objects in the palatial passageways to obstruct any would-be assassins.
The rooms open to visitors contain porcelain, furniture and some of Abdül Hamit's possessions, including the carpentry set he used to while away his time after he was deposed in 1908.