As lifts go, this one creaked and groaned as it made its way upwards, but considering this was Turkey’s first ever lift and Kemal Ataturk, President Tito, Jackie Kennedy, King Edward VIII and Agatha Christie have all been former passengers here at the Pera Palace, you can forgive such ailments.
The Pera Palace lift is not the only item here with a rich history, the hotel itself is an Istanbul legend, ever since 1832 when the first passengers stepped off the Orient Express to be carried in sedan chairs up the hill to stay within its hallowed walls. It was the city’s very first luxury hotel, and today following significant refurbishment it’s back to its glorious best, just as proud and just as luxurious.
The Pera’s hallmark furnishings have all been beautifully restored; the magnificent marble lobby, the breathtaking Kubbeli Lounge and of course the Orient Bar where Hemingway spent many a night. In fact, most of the original Art Nouveau and Neoclassic style of the original building remains, but under the covers it has all the trappings of a modern luxury hotel.
The service is impeccable, the standard of cuisine fit for royalty. The bedrooms are a study in nostalgia, a throwback to indulgent 19th century elegance with hand woven carpets, rich fabrics and veneered Ottoman furniture. The marble bathrooms inspired by the traditional Turkish Hammam, after all, it was the first building in the city to have hot running water. Room 101 is however one room that will be left unoccupied. It was the suite retained for Kemal Ataturk and today is a small museum which can be viewed by guests on request.
The old basement which once housed the servants, has been replaced by the Pera Spa, where state of the art well being is mandatory. A Hammam bath, Jacuzzi, jet streamed swimming pool and fully equipped gym are all on hand.
The Beyoğlu district once called “little Europe” is full of lively bars and cafes and the Pera stands imperiously over it all just like she did all those years ago.