Landmark Istanbul hotel bids to revive glorious past - News & Advice - Travel - The Independent

Landmark Istanbul hotel bids to revive glorious past

A favourite of royals seeking luxury, writers looking for the muse and undercover spies, Pera Palace - Istanbul's hotel of mysteries and pomp - has reopened after a major facelift to revive its past grandeur.

Built in the late 19th century for the passengers of the legendary Orient Express, the 115-room hotel has hosted generations of illustrious guests, from King Edward VIII and Queen Elizabeth II of Britain or the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I, to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock or Greta Garbo.

It was the place where crime writer Agatha Christie, one of the hotel's most ardent visitors, crafted "Murder on the Orient Express", and where Ernest Hemingway is said to have sipped at a whisky, watching the sunlight play on the waters of the Golden Horn.

Other, more discreet visitors also took up residence in the hotel.

Kim Philby, British double agent in the pay of the KGB, is believed to have been among the guests at the end of World War II.

He was preceded shortly by Elyesa Bazna, better known by his codename Cicero, in the service of Nazi Germany, says historian Jak Deleon in his book "A taste of old Istanbul".

A stay by iconic dancer and spy Mata Hari, registered among Orient Express passengers in 1897, is also very likely, according to Deleon.

The histories of the express, inaugurated in 1883, and the hotel are closely linked.

Carrying travelers of a new kind - businessmen attracted by the growing Western hold on Ottoman economy, artists and wealthy adventurers in search of the exotic - the Orient Express needed a place to meet the expectations of its passengers.

Construction started in 1892 and the Pera Palace opened its doors in 1895, becoming Istanbul's most luxurious establishment.

It was the city's first building, barring the Ottoman palace, to have electricity, and the only one to provide hot running water to its guests. The hotel's electric elevator was unprecedented in Turkey.

But after 111 years of service, the building needed a serious renovation. It was closed in 2006 for an inventory before renovation work started in April 2008.

"It is the first renovation on such a scale in the history of the Pera Palace. Anything you can think of - every pipe, every cable - has been changed," hotel manager Pinar Kartal Timer told AFP.

"Our objective was to preserve the nostalgia of Pera Palace while incorporating the technology of the 21st century," she said. The renovation cost 23 million euros (29.3 million dollars).

But on the ground floor, which is listed as a historical monument, all original pieces were left untouched, meticulously restored by a team of academic experts.

Once the heart of Istanbul's social life - in the 1920s, people came to dance the foxtrot, drink champagne or attend Turkey's first fashion shows - the Pera Palace aims to regain its place on the social map of a city now teeming with posh hotels and night clubs.

"We would like to revive the traditions," said Kartal Timer.

Next month the hotel plans to stage a "Republic Ball," an event dating back to the establishment of modern Turkey in 1923.

The hotel's re-opening Wednesday coincided with the arrival of an old friend, the Orient Express, which today makes a single annual run from Paris to Istanbul.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week