Irrefutable evidence of an empire on its last legs, Dolmabahçe Palace was built for Abdül Mecit by Karabet Balyan and his son Nikoĸos. It was completed in 1855, whereupon the sultan and his household moved in, abandoning Topkapı Palace, which had been the imperial residence for four centuries.
The outside is overwrought enough - though the façade of white marble is striking when viewed from the water - but it's trumped by the interior, the work of French decorator Sechan, who worked on the Paris Opera. 'Highlights' are the 36-metre-high throne room with its four-tonne crystal chandelier (a gift from Queen Victoria), the alabaster baths, and a 'crystal staircase' that wouldn't look out of place in Las Vegas.
Atatürk died in Dolmabahçe in 1938, although his apartment is not on the tour itinerary. Visitors are only allowed into the palace, which is still used for state functions, in guided groups.