The vibe Recently re-opened after a massive 23 million Euro restoration programme, the Pera Palace hotel, located in the cosmopolitan Tepebasi district of Pera, is once again the in place to stay in Istanbul. Originally opened in 1892, this was the first luxury hotel in the Ottoman Empire and built for travellers disembarking from the Orient Express. Through its doors came royals, statesmen and other illustrious guests like Agatha Christie (she is said to have penned Murder on the Orient Express in Room 411), Ernest Hemingway, Greta Garbo.
The lowdown More grand mansion than palace, the restoration of the hotel has preserved much from its heyday – the gleaming marbled-lined lobby, the domed Kubbeli salon (above left) with its 19th century chandeliers, the original cast-iron and wooden lift which is still in operation today. But the overall décor is tastefully muted and restrained, bedrooms (some with breathtaking views of the Golden Horn) are modern with the most comfy beds and ultra cool, grey marble bathrooms.
Eating in The French style Patisserie de Pera is open in the morning for coffee and croissants, while the Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge serves tea and delicious cakes in the afternoon. The Agatha Restaurant, overseen by jovial German chef Maximilian Thomae, serves a fusion of French, Italian and Turkish specialities (all stops on the old Orient Express). Foodies should definitely opt for the eight-course degustation menu.
Out and about Istanbul’s economy has been on the rise in recent years, and as current European Capital of Culture it’s now a fave destination for short breaks. The city has much to offer – a melting pot of cultures where the Asian and European continents meet across the Bosphorous. There is a wonderful array of sightseeing to be done, as well as some serious shopping, from designer shops to the more frenetic bazaars.
Chill zone After a long day out, laze in the Pera Spa – a massage or a session in the traditional Turkish Hammam will invigorate you for a long night out on the town.
Getting there Cox & Kings (tel 020 7873 5000 or visit www.coxandkings.co.uk) offers three nights at the Pera Palace from £685 per person, including breakfast, flights from London with British Airways and transfers.