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Pera Palace Hotel: the pearl of Istanbul

Dating from the last years of the nineteenth century, when it served the elite passengers of the Orient Express, the Pera Palace in Istanbul has long been popular with la creme de la creme of Europe and the world.

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Politicians, artists, writers and royalty have strolled through the halls of the magnificent hotel, a prominent symbol of Istanbul's urban culture for over a hundred years. Pera was the heart of the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul, and at the heart of Pera was the Pera Palace Hotel, with its elegant mix of neo-classical, art nouveau and oriental styles, and its stunning views from Galata to the Golden Horn, from the slopes of Eyup to Tepebasi.

The hotel was practically the first building in the city to have electricity; it boasted the first electric lift and the only running hot water in the city, so it's not surprising that today, alongside some of the magnificent original nineteenth-century features, including precious white Carrara marble and exquisite Murano glass chandeliers, there is state-of-the-art technology, and hi-tech services that guarantee the comfort of a luxury hotel.

The recent 23-million-euro restoration project – the hotel re-opened in September 2010 – has resulted in a museum-hotel where discrete and efficient service blends seamlessly with the style of the historic building to create a unique and nostalgic experience for guests.

King Edward VIII, Queen Elizabeth II, Emperor Franz Joseph, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Sarah Bernhardt, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis... the roll-call of iconic guests over the years is endless, and some of them are paid homage to in the naming of the sumptuous rooms and suites.

The generously appointed suites, many of which boast individual French balconies, are adorned with original paintings, antique furniture and rich fabrics, and exude an aura of charm and elegance. Six corner rooms that look out over the nostalgic district of the city are named after Greta Garbo, while room 411, where Agatha Christie is said to have written her classic novel Murder on the Orient Express, now bears the name of the legendary crime novelist. The five Ernest Hemingway Corner Suites pay tribute to the American writer, who stayed at the Pera Palace Hotel as a young war reporter in 1922.

Deluxe rooms that offer views of the Golden Horn allow guests to watch the mist gathering over mythical peak in the early morning or marvel at the glorious sunset. Also with Golden Horn views are the two Presidential Suites, named for King Edward VIII and Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria-Hungary. Generously sized at 115 square metres, and located on the fourth and fifth floors of the hotel, the living areas include dining room, living room and study, as well as dressing room and separate guest bathroom.

The 380-square-metre spa facilities offer steam bath, jacuzzi, sauna and a fully equipped gym, and are the perfect way to get set for the day ahead. Alternatively, the traditional Turkish bath evokes the slower pace of bygone days and is a marvellous way to relax at the end of the day.

The range of dining options is impressive, and all offer fine food and impeccable service. Paris, Venice and Istanbul, the three principle stops along the Orient Express rail line, are paid homage to in the Agatha Restaurant, where French, Italian and Turkish cuisine influences the modern blend of culinary cultures. The Patisserie de Pera is a delightfully nostalgic setting for breakfast, while afternoon tea at the Kubbeli Saloon has long been a tradition among the Istanbul elite, and the Orient Bar & Terrace is perfect for an evening drink and light snack.

Further information:Pera Palace Hotel

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