One of Istanbul’s most luxurious and iconic hotels, the legendary Pera Palace, is located in the Beyoglu district of the city, formerly known as Pera or Little Europe. The hotel was purposely built to accommodate the rich and famous passengers of the Orient Express, a luxury train service that ran from Paris to Istanbul from 1883 to 1977. Many other routes exist to this day and once a year, in August, the original route is reestablished.
As there was no appropriate accommodation in Istanbul for the kind of passengers that traveled on the Orient Express, the Pera Palace was built with the latest luxuries of the time and opened its doors with a grand ball in 1885.
The hotel is built in the neoclassical style with art deco features in the facades, whereas the interior shows many more oriental details in common with the taste for everything exotic and oriental of the time. It was also the reason why so many passengers traveled to Istanbul and what they generally perceived as “the east.” The Pera Palace is not only a protected historical building but also a museum. Countless celebrities, actors, writers, and politicians have at one time or another been guests in the hotel and left their stories and anecdotes.
The Pera Palace was the first building, with the exception of the Sultan’s Palace, to have electricity, hot running water, and an electric lift, which can still be admired and used in the sumptuous lobby. The hotel underwent 4 years of painstaking renovations and reopened in renewed splendor in 2010. It has always been at the forefront of fashionable events and the first-ever fashion show in Istanbul was held at the Pera Palace in 1926. It’s still an acclaimed venue for functions such as weddings and the beautiful patisserie is a meeting point for Istanbul’s “ladies who lunch.” The splendid views over the Golden Horn from the wrought-iron balconies and terraces adjacent to the café and library add to the charm of the Pera Palace.
In 2018, Istanbul’s gigantic new airport, located on the European side of the city, opened. The best way to reach the Pera Palace is by taxi. It takes approximately 40 minutes but can be much longer depending on traffic which is heavy in Istanbul. The hotel also provides a pick-up service on request.
Here are the special rooms, facilities, and details that make the Pera Palace such a desirable destination.
Agatha Christie Room
Acclaimed British crime novelist Agatha Christie was a frequent passenger on the Orient Express and a guest in the Pera Palace. Her favorite room in the hotel was 411. You can stay there, too, and experience the aura of a master of suspense. It is rumored that her novel Murder on the Orient Express was written in this room. The original furniture is there, her books are on the shelves, facsimiles of manuscripts hang framed on the walls and a copy of the typewriter sits on her desk together with her favorite tea set. But, there is still another mystery to the room.
In 1926, Agatha disappeared for 11 days and it could never be explained what had happened to her. A medium by the name of Tamara Rand from Los Angeles organized a séance and gave clear instructions that under the floorboards of room 411 a key would be found that would open a box with a diary inside where Agatha had written down where she had been. Actually, a rusty key was found where she indicated, but no box and no notebook. Maybe you can go hunting if you stay in Agatha’s room.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s Room
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, was another frequent guest of the Pera Palace Hotel. His room was 101 and many decisions were made here and meetings held that influenced history. The room is now a museum to him with many documents, photographs, and personal belongings plus his rather narrow bed. It’s not often that you can come that close to history, so when in the Pera Palace, visit the museum.
The Silver Of The Dining Room
The hotel’s elegant dining room exhibits another mysterious find discovered during the extensive renovation. The open kitchen where you can watch the chefs creating excellent meals is only half the attraction. Much more interesting are showcases set into the walls and illuminated that display exquisite silver plates, terrines, and cutlery all signed by famous Paris jeweler Christofle. As the lovely PR lady who showed me around explained to me, several huge boxes addressed to the hotel but never opened had been unearthed during the renovations, containing a treasure trove of never used silver and it was decided to display it rather than use it.
The first thing you see upon entering the lobby is the cage lift, lavishly decorated with art deco motifs. At the time of the opening of the hotel, it was a sensation because it was the only eclectically working lift in the city, proudly operated by a liveried lift boy who took you up to your room. It is still in working order, although nowadays, guests are taken to their room by separate lifts on the sides.
The Orient Bar on the ground floor is where it really gets nostalgic. Lavishly furnished and subtly lighted, you can’t help but think of all the celebrities from Hemingway to Greta Garbo to Jackie Kennedy who have enjoyed many a drink in this elegant bar. The tradition continues for being an important meeting and socializing place in the city. Every month, literary meetings and readings are held with special guests and every Friday evening there is live music. The walls are decorated with autographed photographs of past and present celebrities.
Greta Garbo Rooms
The Swedish silent movie star stayed in the Pera Palace in 1924. The rooms named after her are on the historic floors of the hotel and decorated with rose motifs and painted in pink and green to reflect the fragility of the diva. Become a movie star for a night by staying there.
The Patisserie, located opposite the Orient Bar, is designed like a private lounge. Huge windows to the terrace outside let in plenty of light but elaborate chandeliers help to illuminate all the sweet goodies offered. It’s rumored it makes the best borek (thin flaky pastry with a variety of fillings from sweet to savory) in Istanbul, but you can also have handmade French chocolates and snacks. And of course, Turkish coffee all in a pink painted room.
The Grand Pera Ballroom is the location where the opening ball of the hotel was held. Just peeking inside and admiring the Murano chandeliers, parquet floors, elaborate, gilded plasterwork, and swishing draperies around the floor to ceiling windows, evoke images of what that glittering event must have been like. Today, it’s a popular venue for upscale weddings and other functions.
Kubbeli Salon And Tea Lounge
This opulent lounge, called Kubbeli Salon, is famed for its traditional English afternoon tea. It’s served with all the trimmings, accompanied by gentle live piano music. Look up though, and admire the high ceiling with six glass domes and corner windows that let in natural light. Paintings adorn the walls and there is also a library with a collection of valuable books.
The PeraPalace’s Spa and wellness center, located in the basement, is a vision of soothing blue light. It is available to hotel guests but also day guests who wish to spend a few hours of exercise, relaxation, or beauty treatments by professionals in this luxurious and historical environment. An ergonomic technogym with indoor pool and Jacuzzi with jet streams await those who wish to work out. A plethora of massages are offered for relaxation, including Bali Massage, Hot Stone Massage, and Indian Head Massage. Naturally for those who want to experience an authentic Turkish Bath, that is available too. No need to bring any special clothes, all is provided for you.
Turkish cotton towels are renowned for their quality and softness, so enjoy or buy a few at the boutique. As for beauty treatments: who could resist the Greta Garbo Beauty Package or, after a long flight, the Jetlag Fix Package which was developed and named after the first set of jet pilots who stayed at the hotel.
The beauty products used in the spa have all been made especially for the Pera Palace in France. Guest or not, you will enjoy a one-of-a-kind treatment in this hotel that breathes history and luxury at every corner.
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