The area of Beylerbeyi on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus has been settled since Byzatine times. According to the famous 18th century traveller Inciciyan, Constantine the Great erected a cross here, after which the area was known as the Istavroz Gardens. Under the Ottomans this area was an imperial park or hasbahçe. Inciciyan relates that the name Beylerbeyi was given to this area in the 16th century because Mehmet Paşa who held the title of beylerbeyi (governor general) built a country house on the site.
The sultans built several country houses and pavilions on the imperial estate here, and in 1829 Sultan Mahmud II built a wooden waterfront palace.
Sultan Abdülaziz demolished this wooden palace to build the present Beylerbeyi Palace in 1861-1865. Designed by the well known Ottoman architect Sarkis Balyan, the palace was generally reserved for summer use by the sultans or to accommodate foreign heads of state visiting the Ottoman capital. The Prince of Serbia, the King of Montenegro, the Şah of Iran and Empress Eugenie of France are among the royal guests who stayed here. The deposed Sultan Abdülhamid II spent the last six months of his life and died here in 1918.