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Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul

Turkey, Asia: The Bosphorus, seen through a gate (and a stained-glass window) at Dolmabahçe Palace
Dolmabahçe Caddesi
Tel: 90 212 236 9000's insider take:

Often overlooked by visitors, this is one of Istanbul's most lavish and extravagant attractions, the last home of the late and declining Ottoman Sultanate, which required lodgings more suited to 19th-century developments in electricity, central heating, and other home comforts than its vintage residence at Topkapı Palace. It's almost ironic that Sultan Abdülmecid's opulent baroque opus looks for all the world like a splendid French château: Construction started 50 years after the fall of the French monarchy, and Abdülmecid pulled no punches in jazzing up his new abode. More than 14 tons of gold were employed to gild the ceilings of the palace, which also lays claim to the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal in the world: Chandeliers drip down into almost every room, while even the main staircase is supported by crystal balustrades. There are three sections: the Selamlik (the "official" wing), the harem (where the sultan and his family lived), and the clock museum. A complicated pricing system offers tickets in segments or for the whole palace, with an extra charge for cameras and video equipment. Entry is only permitted in groups, which are guided by somewhat insipid attendants in what is more a whirlwind herding than an edifying tour. If you only have time for one section, head for the Selamlik, as its rooms and Ceremonial Hall are easily the most impressive.

Open Tues, Wed, and Fri–Sun 9:30–4; closed Mondays and Thursdays.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.