There are the handful of hotels around the world that are actual historical landmarks. The Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah in Istanbul[end] is one such hotel. Overlooking the magnificent Golden Horn, Pera Palace is located in the Tepebasi district of Pera once known as 'Little Europe'. Fortunately, Pera Palace has retained the charm of the 19th century elegance while integrating the latest state-of-the-art in technology. After all, this was the first building in Istanbul to provide hot running water for its guests and was home to the first electric elevator in Turkey!
We checked into Pera Palace after a long flight from Dallas, Texas, to Istanbul. We arrived at just before 6pm and were greeted in 5-star fashion with a complimentary glass of local apple juice at check-in. Check-in was a breeze and within minutes we were being escorted to our Deluxe Golden Horn View King Room with private balcony on the 3rd floor. The real treat was a ride in the 100+ year-old elevator, which is still in operation. Of course, modern elevators are also available, but how often do you get the chance to ride in a piece of history? The historic aspects of this beautiful hotel are evident throughout. In the lobby is displayed a sedan chair that was used to transport hotel guests arriving on the Orient Express from the train station to the Pera Palace. It was carried by four "bearers." The list of famous people who have stayed here is long and includes such names as Hemingway, Garbo, Christie, Hitchcock, Gabor, and King Edward VIII, to name a few. The great leader and founder of modern-day Turkey, Ataturk, stayed frequently at the Pera Palace and today Room 101 is a museum filled with Ataturk memorabilia.
Pera Palace was designed in a blend of Art Nouveau, Oriental and Neoclassic styles and original 19th century features, including precious, White Carrara marbles and exquisite Murano glass chandeliers were conserved when the hotel was renovated in 2008 and restored to its original grandeur while adding state-of-the-art technology.
As might be expected from a 5-star hotel, our room was unrivaled for comfort and beauty. Everything looked fresh and new. The room was spotlessly clean and everything was in its place. The views on the large, wall-mounted flat-screen television with satellite programming took a back seat to the view of the Golden Horn available by simply pressing the controls to electrically open the plush draperies and then opening the balcony door. We could see the Golden Horn in the distance and could also see a few large mosques. The street below was quite noisy, but when you closed the balcony door, the noise was gone. We had a small table and one chair situated on our balcony.
All rooms and suites are furnished with handwoven carpets, special fabrics and artworks, and the marble bathrooms resemble a traditional hammam. Our bathroom had a claw-foot tub behind an enclosure so you could use it as a shower. The rain-shower head had plenty of water pressure and we always had hot water. The wall of the shower facing the sleeping area is made of a lovely patterned frosted glass and when the bathroom lights are on, the light shines through this glass wall into the sleeping area. You can also see a silhouette of the person showering. This didn't really bother us, but it is worth noting. The vanity had a single sink and a shelf below that could be used for stowing your items. A lighted magnifying makeup mirror was attached to one wall at the end of the vanity. Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, bar soap and body lotion were provided, along with a nice loofah mitt. Of course, the Turkish towels were plush!
Our room came with two robes and two pairs of slippers and a hair dryer could be found in one of the drawers in the armoire closet. There was a dresser with three large drawers and a desk with chair. Internet speeds were good and WiFi is complimentary. Bottled water is complimentary and replenished twice per day in your room.
There are pictures hung on the wall depicting various aspects of the hotel's history. A beautiful chandelier graces the ceiling and there is a lamp on each nightstand beside the bed. A chaise lounge is situated on one side of the bed and it is comfortable for reclining. A full-length mirror is attached to the wall across from the armoire.
One feature that we had never seen before but thought was a terrific idea was the presence of a charging station inside the safe! When you put your electronics inside the safe, you can charge them at the same time. What a great feature!
After a long day of flying, we were not really in the mood for a heavy meal. We decided to visit the Orient Terrace, the hotel's patio cocktail lounge that also offers a menu of light snack items. As the sun began to set, Rickee and I enjoyed an excellent selection of dips along with our favorite beverages. The service was crisp and professional and the ambiance was delightful.
After our light meal, we were exhausted from all the travel, so we quickly returned to the comfort of our room. There is nothing more important than a comfortable bed to help shed the effects of jet lag and the bed in our Golden Horn View room was superb. A comfortable mattress and the highest quality linens made for a very restful night's sleep. A pillow menu is available if you don't like the pillows on the bed.
The next morning, I wasted no time in making my way to the Agatha Restaurant (named after Agatha Christie, a frequent guest at the hotel where it is said she completed Murder on the Orient Express) for the breakfast buffet, which is served daily from 6:30am to 10:30am. An expansive buffet is complemented by eggs made-to-order from the open kitchen. Everything was delicious.
Unfortunately, our brief stay at Pera Palace this trip did not allow us to enjoy lunch or dinner at Agatha Restaurant. That is a shame because the menu looks amazing. Oh well, I guess we will just have to return for another visit in the future. We also did not have time to visit the Pera Spa, a traditional Turkish bath whose roots go back to the Roman Empire. In addition to the Turkish bath, the spa has a steam bath, Jacuzzi, sauna, a fully equipped gym and an indoor jet-streamed swimming pool.
During our stay, we used the services of Concierge on a couple of occasions and found the entire staff to be friendly and helpful. The Turkish people are generally very warm and friendly, and the staff at Pera Palace exemplifies those characteristics.
Whenever we travel to special cities around the world, we always try to spend at least two to three days exploring all that the city has to offer. If you are planning to embark or disembark a cruise in Istanbul, plan at least three days to take in this incredible city. And, if you want to treat yourself to something really special, book your stay at Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah, Istanbul. Unquestionably, this is one of the greatest hotels in the world!
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