Refurbished grandeur in Istanbul’s Pera Palace Hotel

Since 1st September 2010 and after several years of painstaking restorations, the Pera Palace, Istanbul’s most emblematic hotel, has opened its doors again to welcome discerning travelers who appreciate the ultimate in luxury and modern ammenities combined with an unequaled flair of art and history.

Pera Palace, Orient Express and Agatha Christie are un inseparable trinity of key words. The Queen of Suspense was one of the many writers and other artists who visited and lived in the Pera Palace Hotel and it was actually here, that she wrote one of her most popular crime novels: Murder on the Orient Express.

In fact, it was due to the Orient Express in the times when Istanbul was the luxury train’s final destination, that the Pera Palace came into existence. The infatuation of Europe with everything ‘oriental’, particularly Turkish, was already in full swing when the Orient Express brought wealthy, cultured and educated passengers to the city on the Bosporus. The only problem was, they had nowhere adequate to stay and therefore, the Architect Alexander Vallaury designed a luxury hotel in a combination of neo classical, art nouveau and oriental styles to accommodate the pampered clientele. The Pera Palace held its grand opening ball in 1895 and attracted its guests with many ‘firsts’, i.e. first electric elevator in Turkey, running hot water in the bath rooms, first fashion show in Istanbul in 1926 and much more.

The fabled Orient Bar became the favorite watering hole for such diverse celebrities as Ernest Hemingway, Greta Garbo, Jackie Kennedy, the already mentioned Agatha Christie and Eleanor Duse to name but a few.

Heads of state, kings and princes stayed in the hotel with its stunning views over the Golden Horn as did Atatürk who gave many a party and dinner here. Not to mention Istanbul’s debutantes and ladies who lunch.

I had a chance to visit the Pera Palace recently and I also got a tour whilst restorations were carried out which allowed me to see with how much attention to detail the hotel’s unique features such as the ball room ceilings were gilded by hand, specially woven carpets cleaned and restored and hidden treasures, such as hundreds of pieces of cutlery from Christofle/Paris, some still in their original wrappings and found in a cache in the basement, were cleaned and displayed to document the hotel’s history.

As far as modern day luxury hotels go, the Pera Palace is rather small and always has been. Thankfully no ugly annexes were devised, probably also because the plot the hotel is standing on would not allow for it. Many if the rooms and suite are themed and if you are an Agatha Christie buff you may want to stay in room 411, decorated in blood red and black and with a selection of Agatha Chrisie novels. If you love pastel you may want to choose in the Greta Garbo suite in beige, pink and gray.

The bathrooms are state of the art, some with claw footed bathtubs, othesr with rain showers, all with carrara marble and the best quality towels and goodies in the baskets.

Enter the hotel and go up to your room with the famous cast iron elevator (there are modern ones on the side),then maybe have a meal in the Agatha Restuarnt with it’s open kitchen and sipaly of antique silver. The hotel offers a spa, a small gym and beauty treatments in the basement. A definite highlight is the very beautiful hamam.

The Pera Palace is conveniently located within walking distance of Istaklal Street with its nostalgic tramway, art deco paradise Flower Passage and Taksim Square at one end. Right opposite the hotel you will find the Pera Museum with changing world class art exhibitions, most recently works by Frida Kahlo.

An ideal place to explore the many marvels of Istanbul as an as interested tourist but also with all necessary facilities a business traveler requires.

Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is author of GlamourGranny Travels.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Matt Falcus says:

    Istanbul is nearing top of my list of places I must visit. It seems like a magical place from what I’ve read. This place looks pretty nice too – I love historic hotels

  2. Aurora says:

    This sounds wonderful, this hotel certainly has a lot of history and great care and attention has clearly been paid to it’s restoration. I would request the Greta Garbo suite, it sounds beautiful.

  3. Emily M says:

    would be a great place to stay, it has such an interesting history I’m sure it must bring a lot of character to the hotel, fantastic that they’ve been able to refurbish so nicely.

  4. irene says:

    istanbul is a fabulous place to visit so many sites from the blue mosque to the grand bazaar and there now seems to be a great choice of hotels from the high end luxury to boutique and some of the more traditional. it is definitely a city to experience and not that far from the uk!

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