Beylerbeyi Palace

Top choice palace in The Bosphorus Strait

This opulently furnished 1865 building was designed by Sarkis Balyan, brother of Nikoğos (architect of Dolmabahçe Palace). It delighted both Sultan Abdül Aziz (r 1861–76), who commissioned it, and the many foreign dignitaries who visited. Its last imperial 'guest' was former sultan Abdül Hamit II, who spent the last five years of his life under house arrest here. Look for the whimsical marble bathing pavilions by the water's edge; one was for men, the other for women of the harem.

A compulsory guided tour whips you past rooms decorated with frescoes of naval scenes, Bohemian crystal chandeliers, Ming vases and sumptuous Hereke carpets. It has a grand selamlik (ceremonial quarters) and a small but opulent harem. Highlights include the downstairs hall with the huge marble pool used for cooling during summer, the elaborately painted and gilded sultan's apartment, and the dining room with chairs covered in gazelle skin. After the tour, you can enjoy a glass of tea in the garden cafe.

The easiest way to visit Beylerbeyi is to take the Dentur Avraysa hop-on/hop-off tour from Kabataş. If coming from Üsküdar by bus, alight at the Beylerbeyi Sarayı stop.