Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
An elegant historic icon in the heart of modern Istanbul
Pera Palace has a rich history, and with its Belle Epoque decor and display of authentic treasures from its past, staying here almost feels like being part of a living museum. Which makes sense, considering that the Pera Palace actually is a museum: It reopened in 2010 after a massive renovation as both a museum and a hotel, and suite 101 -- where Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey stayed -- is open to the public as a permanent exhibition.
Other historical items of note include the sedan chair in the lobby, which once transported guests from the Orient Express stop at Sirkeci Train Station; original brass keys on display behind the reception desk; the historic elevator, which was the first electric elevator in Turkey; and the glass cases on the landing displaying old photographs, china, guest registries, and the like. The six domes on top of Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge were once used as air-conditioning; they would open up like flower petals to bring in cool air.
The hotel first opened in 1895 to house the European guests coming to Istanbul on the famed Orient Express, and more than a few famous names have passed through, including Murder on the Orient Express author Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemmingway, Greta Garbo, and French novelist Pierre Loti -- all of whom now have hotel suites named after them.
Guests can get a literal taste of the hotel's grand past in the ornate Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge, where delicate pastries, tea, and cocktails are served. Live piano music is played on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
In Beyoglu, near excellent restaurants and nightlife
The Pera Palace Hotel is located in Beyoglu (historically known as Pera), the heart of modern Istanbul and home to some of the city's best restaurants, nightlife, and shopping. It's on the European side of the city and north of the Golden Horn and Sultanahmet. The popular tourist sights in the Old City, such as the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, require a taxi or tram ride to reach.
Istanbul is a city of contrasts. It's a city that's both modern and ancient, where great restaurants, hopping nightlife, and horrific traffic exist alongside some of the world's most impressive ancient wonders. It's both western and eastern, culturally as well as geographically: It's the only city in the world on two continents (Europe and Asia). A visitor can listen to the Muslim call to prayer while standing in the shadow of the Blue Mosque and feel transported to another time -- or go clubbing after nightfall with Istanbul's trendy urbanites. Though Istanbul is predominately Muslim, there's a clear divide between the secular, westernized population and the conservative Muslims: as a result, it's not unusual to see women in chic western dress sharing the sidewalk with women in burqas. And a smattering of other faiths also call Istanbul home, including Greek Orthodox Christians and Jews (European Jews first sought refuge in Istanbul during the Inquisition).
The Turks are famous for their hospitality, and tourists, including Americans, should feel very welcome here. Though it's good to be cautious in any large city, Istanbul's crime rates are relatively low and most tourists won't have much to worry about aside from getting occasionally overcharged by taxi drivers.
Rooms have classic style and modern comforts.
Pera Palace's elegant rooms have classic style: small chandelier light fixtures, crown molding, wooden floors, and fabric patterns that are sophisticated and understated. Many rooms have balconies with either city or Bosphorus views. Rooms on lower floors facing the street may experience some noise; Bosphorus-view rooms tend to be quieter.
There are 16 specialty suites, including suites named for former famous guests: The Agatha Christie Suite, The Ernest Hemmingway Suite, the Greta Garbo Suite, and the Pierre Loti Suite. Other options include The Piano Suite (which has, predictably, a small baby grand piano) and the impressive Presidential Suite.
The standard Deluxe Rooms have marble bathrooms with big walk-in showers and rainfall showerheads; some have clawfoot tub/shower combos.
An indoor spa pool
The indoor pool is chic, with an undulating blue ceiling above the pool evocative of waves, pool jets, wooden lounge chairs with white cushions, and a stone block accent wall.
Quality fitness center with modern equipment
The fitness center is a large attractive room with wooden floors, windows, a wall-mounted flat-screen TVs, cardio machines, free weights, and strength training machines.
Small spa with lovely marble hamman and indoor pool
Pera Palace's spa has three treatment rooms, a lovely marble hammam, steam room, sauna, indoor pool, and whirlpool.
A fine dining restaurant, an ornate tea lounge, a sultry bar, and a patisserie
Agatha Restaurant serves an extensive breakfast buffet in the mornings (included in some rates), and upscale Turkish fusion cuisine for lunch and dinner. The menu reflects heavy French and Italian influences, and sample menu items include morel risotto and pressed beef rib with smoked eggplant puree. The restaurant has black and white marble tile floors and cushioned purple and cream chairs. It's best suited for a splurge meal or special occasion, as prices are on the high side for Istanbul -- which is to be expected at a restaurant of this caliber.
Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge is a highlight of the hotel and draws guests and non-guests alike. It has ornate decor, six original glass domes in its ceiling, marble walls, parquet floors, and delicate antique furniture. The traditional afternoon tea features a buffet of delectable pastries and scones; sandwiches, crepes, appetizers, and alcohol can be ordered separately from the Kubbeli Saloon menu. Live piano music is played Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Orient Bar has a dark, sultry atmosphere. Picture cushioned maroon chairs and couches, heavy drapes, and chandeliers. It has an extensive menu of fancy cocktails, and hard liquors, beer, and non-alcoholic cocktails are also on offer. Orient Terrace opens seasonally and serves a Mediterranean menu (which includes stone oven pizzas) alongside Golden Horn views.
Patisserie De Pera is located off the lobby and serves coffee, tea, cakes, desserts, and handmade chocolates.
24-hour room service is available.
Five meeting rooms, including a beautiful ballroom
Pera Palace has five meeting rooms, including a romantic ballroom with white wainscoting intricate ceilings with gold detailing, and parquet floors. The hotel can host weddings as well as other social and corporate events.
This opulent 115-room luxury hotel in Beyoglu is a historic icon dating back to 1895. From the ornate lobby with marble tile floors, to the elegant afternoon tea, to the live piano music, to the (working!) original wrought-iron elevator, everything about Pera Palace evokes the bygone days when posh Europeans traveled to Istanbul on the Orient Express. Rooms are classic and sophisticated, and some have Bosphorus views. Features include a spa with lovely hammam and indoor pool, several upscale dining venues, and an extensive breakfast buffet. To top it off, rates are often cheaper than at some of the city's other luxury hotels, making this a great value.