The Pera Palace Hotel is an historic special place and museum hotel located in the Pera district in Istanbul. It was built in 1892 for the purpose of hosting the passengers of the Orient Express. In fact, the original owner was the Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits and was named after the place where it is located. It holds the title of “the oldest European Hotel in Turkey”.
It was the brainchild of Alexandre Vallaury, a French-Turkish architect who blended neo-classical, Art Nouveau and Oriental styles to produce a hotel that became an elegant hangout for the celebrities of the early 20th Century including Sarah Bernhardt, King Edward VIII and, later, Alfred Hitchcock.
Also Mata Hari, accused of spying and executed in France in 1917, stayed at the Pera Palace Hotel. So did Greta Garbo, who played the shadowy dancer in a 1931 movie. Ernest Hemingway checked in to report on war between Turks and Greeks. If walls could speak…
A witness to tumult, the Pera Palace became a target in 1941 when a bomb exploded at the entrance shortly after the arrival of a British diplomatic party from Bulgaria, which had sided with the Nazis. Several people died.
White marble steps from the foyer lead to the Kubbeli Saloon, a soaring room at the heart of the hotel, with parquet floor, banded columns of Carrara marble and six domes pierced with discs of turquoise glass.
This is the setting for the ‘English tea ritual’, a traditional speciality here that is accompanied by music on the Schiedmayer grand piano.
The state-owned Pera Palace has reopened in 2010 after a two-year restoration costed 23 million euros ($30 million), seeking to capture the lost sparkle of what was one of Istanbul’s most prominent landmarks.
Waitresses in trim beige dresses and white aprons emerge from the Patisserie de Pera, adjacent to reception, bearing platters filled with triangles of striped cake, puffs of pastry smothered in chocolate, tiny tarts and rather larger scones.
The hotel was the first building in Turkey to be powered by electricity, other than the Ottoman Palaces. It was also the only address in the city to provide hot running water for its guests and was home to the first electric elevator in Istanbul.
Nobody will sleep in the Room 101. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a former army officer who founded Turkey in 1923, once used it as a base. The room will house a museum of items belonging to Ataturk, including hats, slippers and dignitaries’ gifts.
Agatha Christie was one of the many high-profile visitors in the early 20th century. Agatha had stayed in Room 411 as she passed through Istanbul on her visits to excavations in Iraq with her archaeologist husband Max Mallowan. She have crafted “Murder on the Orient Express” in Room 411.