Opened in 1892, its list of famous guests include Agatha Christie, Founder of Modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Alfred Hitchcock and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
ISTANBUL - When the world-renowned Orient Express chose Istanbul as its last stop in the East in 1883, Istanbul began to attract not only adventurers, but also the more elite and noble classes of Europe.
Unfortunately, then there were no hotels in the city to meet the high standards of the Orient Express passengers. ThePera Palace Hotel was built in 1892 for the purpose of hosting the passengers of the Orient Express and celebrated with its grand opening ball in 1895.
The hotel, at the heart of Pera holds the title of "the oldest European hotel" of Turkey and was designed by Alexander Vallaury, an Istanbul resident Levantine architect who blended Art Nouveau, Oriental and Neoclassic arthictectural styles. The hotel witnessed many historical events such as World War I and II, the Turkish War of Independence, and the founding of the Turkish Republic.
"Here is the first-class luxury hotel in Istanbul. The Orient Express had an important role in our history. Many leaders, world-famous authors, actors and actresses stayed here many times," Murat Cevherioglu, Director of Sales & Marketing, told Anadolu Agency (AA) during his interview at the hotel.
The hotel in the historic classical style hosted many firsts: It was the first and only building in Istanbul 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.
"It has the first elevator run by electricity in Turkey but the second in Europe. The first elevator powered by electricity was in the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and in 1889 the elevator in the hotel was brought here three years after the first one, and it is still operating and being used today," Cevherioglu said.
British writer Daniel Farson described the elevator in these worlds saying, "It is the most beautiful elevator in the world made of cast iron and wood. He described how tourists have been bewitched by its elegance, and affirms, "this elevator ascends like a lady who curtsies."
- Agatha Christie's Room open to guests
Agatha Christie wrote a part of her novel "Murder on the Orient Express" in the Pera Palace hotel. The hotel maintains Christie's room 411 as a memorial to the author. It is one of the special rooms in the hotel, which displays Christie's novels and her typewriter.
There is also a restaurant in the hotel, named Agatha, which pays tribute to the three major stops of the former Orient Express - Paris, Venice and Istanbul - and serves a blend of French, Italian and Turkish cuisine.
American author Ernest Hemingway cites the Pera Palace in his short story "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." In the story, the main character Harry stayed at the Pera Palace while serving in the military during the Allied occupation of Istanbul in World War I. There are also four rooms named Ernest Hemingway in the hotel.
- Ataturk's room 101 museum now
Founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is among those, who stayed at the hotel. His first stay was in 1917. Afterwards, he always prefered to stay in room 101. At his 100th birthday anniversary in 1981, his room was turned into a museum. It is painted in 'sunset pink', his favourite colour, and is full of his possessions. "It is the only room in the hotel that is not open for visitors to stay in. However, the room is turned into a museum and open to visitors," the hotel official Cevherioglu informed AA.
The other iconic names that stayed in the hotel are Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of John F. Kennedy; Swedish film actress Greta Garbo; English film director Alfred Hitchcock; Hungarian-born American actress Zsa Zsa Gabor; King of the United Kingdom, Edward VIII; Dutch dancer Mata Hari; French actress Sarah Bernhardt and American-born violinist Yehudi Menuhin.
The majority of the guests are now from the U.S. and Europe as it was in the past. "We host many visitors from Britain, Italy, France and Germany. It is still very much a preferred hotel by those who want to experience the historical side of Istanbul," he added.
The Orient Bar in the museum hotel is another popular meeting point for both intellectuals of Istanbul as well as international travellers who enjoy leisurely conversations, while being catered for with first-class service amidst an atmosphere of nostalgic ambiance. The Kubbeli salon (tea-lounge) is also home to tea parties; a traditional afternoon outing among Istanbul's elite.
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