The Dolmabahçe (“dol-ma-bah-chey”) Palace is European through and through. Visting it you’ll forget, for a moment, that you’re in Turkey! The entire time I was walking through the palace, I was gasping in awe….literally. Luckily, everyone around me was doing the same so I fit in.
To say that the rooms and salons in the Dolmabahçe are opulent would truly be an understatement. Every ceiling and wall is ornately painted and gilded, heavy silk drapes frame the floor to ceiling windows, wool carpets cover the wood floors. Luxurious furnishings and decorative accessories are as grand as anything you would find in a European palace (think Versailles). To notch up the splendor level, every lamp and chandelier is made of French Baccarat crystal – even the two stair rails, in the entry hall, are crystal!
Dolmabahçe was home to Ottoman Sultans from 1856 to 1922. There are two separate English guided tours, each taking you to different wings of the Palace. I recommend taking both. Additionally, there is a hourly ceremony of the changing of the palace guards which is worth hanging around to watch. While you wait for the ceremony to begin, there’s a small coffee shop on the palace grounds – buy a drink and take in views of the Bosphorus.
If you are coming from Sultanahment, take the tram to Kabataş. From there it’s about a 20 minute walk to the Palace. Stop to visit the Dolmabahçe Mosque along the way.