In Greek, Pera means “across”. From the Pera district’s iconic Pera Palace Hotel, one can see right across the Golden Horn, a scimitar-shaped natural harbor that has been a key player in every chapter of Istanbul’s tumultuous history. It is where the Byzantine Empire kept its naval headquarters and where successive armies over centuries of war tried to break the Empire’s grip on Southern Europe.
The hotel is an extraordinary vantage point from which to look across the landscape of history itself. When the Orient Express chose Istanbul as the ultimate European stop in its intercontinental circumnavigation, the Pera Palace Hotel was constructed to provide luxury hostelry to the exacting standards of the disembarking passengers. Opened in 1895 with a lavish ball, the hotel was designed by French-Turkish architect Alexander Vallaury - one of the city’s foremost contemporary architects - employing a classily eclectic mix of neo-classical, art-nouveau and oriental styling. The hotel was used as their headquarters by the occupying Allied forces and where, in 1922, the British handed “the key to Istanbul” back to Celal Bayer, one of Turkey’s most influential figures in the War of Independence.
The Pera Palace is located in the European side of the city in the eternally chic Tepebasi district of Istanbul’s super-cosmopolitan Beyoglu area, the Turkish name for the Pera District. The city’s timeless sense of urbane mysticism has been preserved in the €23million restoration of the Pera Palace Hotel, which was unveiled this month to an expectant international community. Lavishly restored to its former glory by an expert team of academics and design professionals, the hotel has been brought luxuriously into the Twenty First Century - offering all the state of the art facilities expected by the modern traveler.
The 380 square meter Pera Spa features a traditional Turkish Hammam and more conventional steam and sauna facilities, and is complemented by the fully equipped fitness center and indoor swimming pool. A selection of luxury wining and dining facilities demands the attention, including the legendary Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge, an icon of Istanbul’s knowing exotica featuring a minaret style atrium set in the breathtakingly high ceiling. The fresh coffee and croissants served at the Patisserie de Pera is the perfect start to the day, whilst the Orient Bar offers a chance to enjoy the after-hours elegance of the Palace’s pomp return with cocktails and fine wines and spirits.
The hotel’s place in history is represented most emphatically by its 16 suites, which are named after some of the most illustrious guests to have graced its 115 rooms. These include the Ataturk Suite - named after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey. The Agatha Christie Room is named in honor of one of the greatest crime writers, who is thought to have written her classic Murder on the Orient Express during one of her many stays at the Pera Palace. In further recognition of the author, The Agatha restaurant presents a fusion of French, Italian and Turkish dishes that represent the three major staging posts of the former Orient Express. Other rooms and suites pay homage to a glitteringly eclectic list of former guests, such as Ernest Hemmingway, Greta Garbo, King Edward VIII, and Pierre Loti.
The hotel is a product of that unique bridging point where east meets west, that endlessly revealing tension at the heart of Istanbul, that sense of the Occidental and Oriental eyeing each other with curiosity, suspicion and, ultimately, magnetic attraction.
- Ben Stewart
Pera Palace Hotel
Address: Mesrutiyet Caddesi No:52 Tepebasi
Tel: 90 212 377 40 00