Every city has a landmark, a place where, across time periods, different legends have crossed paths and left behind their marks, their stories, a history. The Pera Palace Hotel, in Istanbul, is one of them.
Located in the Beyoglu district, the Palace was completed in 1892 by French-Turkish architect Alexander Vallaury, and was initially created to host passengers traveling on the legendary Orient Express.
With its blend of neoclassical, art nouveau, and Oriental styles, the Pera Palace is the oldest and most elegant European hotel in Turkey, and has accommodated many precious names, such as first president of Turkey Kemal Atatürk; Jacqueline Kennedy; King Edward VIII of England; King Carol of Romania; Shah Reza Pahlavi of Persia; Alfred Hitchcock; Mata Hari; Ernest Hemingway; Sarah Bernhardt; Greta Garbo; Yehudi Menuhin; and, of course, Agatha Christie.
The hotel is a journey unto itself, with its Museum Room (#101), in which the founder of modern-day Turkey, Kemal Atatürk, stayed for the first time, in 1917, and room #411, where Agatha Christie got the inspiration for her acclaimed book Murder on the Orient Express.
The Pera Palace is among those rare places where one can sit in its café and imagine (over a Turkish coffee and a French macaron) a time where Agatha Christie is about to exit on a sedan chair that transports her to the Sirkeci Station, Ernest Hemingway is having a drink at the Orient Bar, in the corner of the Palace, and Greta Garbo refreshes her makeup while her many pieces of luggage are being transported to her room. Alfred Hitchcock smokes a cigar in the waiting hall and observes a beautiful waitress serving a glass of Turkish tea to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, elegant as always in a hat, with cigarette in hand, surrounded by other politicians.
Hotels have always been a fascination of mine, and I have chosen each of them according to its story. The Pera Palace’s history is, without hesitation, my favorite one in Istanbul, and that is why it will be welcoming the guests of the fourth edition of the Istanbul International Arts and Culture Festival (IST.Festival) this year.
For more information, visit www.jumeirah.com.
Photos: Courtesy of Pera Palace Hotel