For close proximity to the bustling nightlife of Istanbul, the Pera Palace Hotel is the ultimate in luxury and the only place to be. Few hotels can boast the range of roles in fiction than the Pera Palace, showing up as it does in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Ian Fleming’s From Russia with Love and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes.
As I arrived in the colonnaded marble hall, a group of greeters in crisp grey tails and black foulard pounced on me with alarming servility, purring 'Welcome to Pera Palace. Let us help you'. It was an introduction that sums up the time-honored traditions of old Istanbul, and this legendary pearl first opened in 1892 in the twilight years of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey's first Western hotel has recently undergone a four-year $30million much-needed facelift to restore it to its old school splendor and now it’s a 'museum-hotel'.
First opened in 1892 of the Ottoman Empire to serve European passengers of the Orient Express train, the hotel had the city's first elevator (still working) and was the first building in Istanbul, other than the Ottoman palaces, to have hot water and electricity. Eminent guests included Greta Garbo, Mata Hari, King Edward VIII, Queen Elizabeth II, Emperor Franz Joseph, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Sarah Bernhardt, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Alfred Hitchcock and Ernest Hemingway. It was not by chance that it attracted Agatha Christie, who is said to have written some of Murder on the Orient Express in Room 411, although in the novel she has Hercule Poirot check into the now demolished Hotel Tokatlian once located nearby.
The soaring lobby leads to the majestic, domed Kubbeli Saloon and Tea Lounge with its soaring domed ceiling and bold striped walls and 'Arabian Nights' ambience; the Orient Bar and the Patisserie de Pera have a nostalgic charm. A new basement level features a spa and Turkish bath, as well as the refined Agatha restaurant (named after Agatha Christie, the hotel's most famous guest), run by the buoyant chef Maximilian JW Thomae, who fashioned the menu to reflect the notable stops on the Orient-Express: Paris, Venice and Istanbul by mixing French, Italian and Turkish delights including a heavenly chilled artichoke soup with quail kebab served on a steaming bed of Asian risotto. Also, I had one of the best breakfasts of my life at the hidden away Patisserie de Pera, a charming in-house patisserie which serves French pastries, macaroons, amazing healthy omelets and pots of strong, steaming coffee in grand hotel style. a delightfully nostalgic setting for breakfast,
The restoration have preserved the hotel's orientalist décor, strongly evocative of fin-de-siècle Constantinople, faithful to the original designs and color schemes in the public spaces, but the 115 rooms have been completely reconstructed to make them uber comfy including all the latest tech gadgets. Don’t worry, they still highlight original nineteenth-century features like white Carrara marble and gorgeous Murano glass chandeliers
My room boasts a comfy French balcony with stunning views from Galata to the Golden Horn, from the slopes of Eyup to Tepebasi. Inside, antique paintings, classic furniture and rich fabrics convey an aura of fascination and elegance. Also with Golden Horn views are the two Presidential Suites. Liberally sized at 115 square meters, and located on the fourth and fifth floors of the hotel, the living areas include dining room, living room and study, as well as a huge dressing room which would make the Housewives of Beverly Hills jealous and separate guest bathrooms.
Nothing beats the jetlag of a long transatlantic trip like a scintillating spa treatment and the Pera’s 380-square-meter spa facilities (managed by Spa Soul in cooperation with world famous Swiss Spa brand After the Rain,) offers an indoor jet stream swimming pool, steam bath, Jacuzzi, sauna and a fully equipped gym, and a traditional Turkish hammam. Treatments are named after celebrity guests like Greta Garbo, the Divine or Hemingway’s Choice treatment for men.
If first impressions are anything to go by, grande dame of Istanbul definitely captures the bygone glamour days of the Ottoman Empire. It’s a definitely cherished gem.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Gazing over the golden years of history, Pera Palace Hotel, Jumeirah overlooks the magnificent view of the Golden Horn and is located in Tepebaşı district of Pera once known as the “Little Europe”. With its 115 rooms, including 16 suites, retaining the characteristics of the 19th century elegance through historical furniture, the hotel combines refined elegance with state-of the-art technology to fulfill the needs of 21st century travellers. Enjoy a range of revitalized restaurant and bar choices, including the Agatha Restaurant, The Kubbeli Saloon, the French style Patisserie de Pera and the legendary Orient Bar & Terrace and rejuvenate yourself in the soothing atmosphere of Pera Spa. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Pera Palas Hotel