- What’s On
Located in the cosmopolitan Tepebaşı district of Beyoğlu and dating back to 1892, the Pera Palace overlooks the Golden Horn with 115 rooms including 16 suites named after the Hotel’s most illustrious guests. This historical hotel has now been fully renovated in keeping with its original grandeur whilst offering state-of-the-art facilities.
A writer’s view, by Andrew Finkel
The Pera Palace is unique. Built in 1892 as the terminus hotel for passengers alighting off the Orient Express, it is Istanbul’s one grand pre-War hotel. It has recently reopened after a long restoration, and the porphyry and marble of the lobby gleam again, waiting for the palm-court orchestra to reappear. The bedrooms, arranged along endless corridors overlooking the famous atrium, lend the hotel an Upstairs, Downstairs feel. Standard rooms are frilly, comfortable and ultimately utilitarian, but the whole point of the Pera Palas is the Orientalist Art Nouveau splendour of the public rooms. The suites named after famous guests like Garbo and Hemingway are far grander, with original dressers and armoires, and some with etchings by the late-18th-century imperial architect Antoine Melling (to whom Orhan Pamuk devotes a chapter in his portrait of Istanbul).
In its heyday, the Pera Palas was the only Istanbul hotel to offer its guests electricity and hot running water. Now it offers a sense of history. And if there is a slight museum-like hush rather than five star buzz, then this is probably a good thing. The hotel is in the centre of the nightlife crush of Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, and there is more than enough excitement a mere two-minute walk away.
The Agatha Restaurant (the hotel is where Ms Christie began Murder on the Orient Express) is simple and elegant, with an inventive menu and well worth the detour. The sedan chair in the lobby was once used to carry train passengers across the Golden Horn; today you would take a cab, and the hotel still boasts a superior taxi rank (the drivers, though not liveried, wear jacket and ties), which is useful to know even if you’re staying somewhere else.