There are plenty of 5 star hotels to choose from in Istanbul. But nothing beats the combination of modern day comforts with the flair of history, intrigue and romance which seems to linger in every corner of the fabulous Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, overlooking the Golden Horn.
Several years ago, the hotel underwent a complete restoration which not only unearthed hidden treasures but also added amenities indispensable for a luxury hotel today. One of the treasures was a huge set of Christoffel silver from Paris, still in its original packaging. And the amenity is the dreamlike spa and hamam bathed in soothing blue light.
In the 1800 when Istanbul was the final destination of the Orient Express, a fashionable crowd was drawn to the mystic city. Sadly, she lacked a luxury European style hotel to accommodate the writers, journalists, artists and other well heeled travelers and that’s how the Pera Palace was conceived.
Overlooking the Golden Horn, the hotel opened its doors in 1892 and boasted the first electrically operated elevator in Turkey as well as hot and cold running water, but only up to the second floor. The upper floors were reserved as quarters for the maids and man servants.
Elaborate art deco furniture, fixtures and fittings were of the highest quality and many a flute of champagne was consumed in the Orient Bar, by the likes of Hemingway, Atatürk, Churchill and…Agatha Christie. The first ever fashion show in Turkey took place in the Pera Palace in 1926.
Agatha loved the place and always insisted in being given ‘her’ room, number 411. It was in this very room that she wrote one of her most famous crime novels: Murder in the Orient Express. During recent years, the Pera Palace has undergone extensive restorations and finally opened its doors again to the public in September 2010
By modern day standards, the Pera Palace is not a big hotel, ‘only’ 115 rooms and suites. Stepping through the front door, I immediately felt at home. The plush lobby could even be called cozy, due to the lack of size. Your eyes meet the famous elevator, flanked by two sweeping staircases which lead to the upper floors. On your right is the equally famous Orient Bar, adjacent to the reception desk you are tempted by the delicacies of the patisserie or you walk straight ahead to the lobby with a terrace overlooking the Golden Horn.
Antiques, paintings, carpets, chandeliers, wherever you look you find something to admire. Sadly, the Agatha Christie room wasn’t available, but I got the Greta Garbo room. I have to say, that I am not a fan of minimalism, I don’t want to bash my knees on sharp corners and sleep on a rock hard mattress. Neither do I fancy needing an engineer’s degree to be able to work the tabs in the bathroom.
I want to sink into an armchair, relax and enjoy and that’s exactly what the Pera Palace is all about.
The service is immaculate, attentive people are everywhere to help you with whatever you need.
For starters, a glass of champagne in the Orient Bar was called for. It was easy to evoke the spirits of all the famous people who have done just that in this iconic place. Ataturk, Agatha, Greta, Hemingway, Jackie Kennedy and countless others have partied here.
The hotel features two excellent restaurants if you don’t want to go out and eat. The kitchen is open, so you can see the chefs toiling over their creations. You eat with silver, but not the one which was discovered during restoration. This treasure is beautifully displayed in glass cases along the wall.
And finally, there is the spa and pool. Three treatment rooms, a pool with loungers, a steam bath, Turkish bath and sauna await to spend an hour or two in utter bliss, bathed in the magic blue light. And as the hotel is relatively small, it’s never crowded.
For reservation and further information please consult www.perapalace.com.
Disclaimer: I paid a reduced press rate but my opinion and observations are my own.