The Pera Palas – Istanbul, Turkey
A Rendezvous for Spies and Celebrities
Stop by for tea in this century-old hotel, which drips with history and nostalgia. The Pera Palas was built in 1892 to accommodate predominantly European guests arriving in Constantinople on the Orient Express (and carried to the hotel in sedan chairs).
Its guest book reads like a fantasy Who’s Who, where the ghost of Mata Hari keeps company with that of Agatha Christie, who wrote much of Murder on the Orient Express in Room 411 in the 1930s. Turkey’s national hero, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk (who would become the country’s first president when it became a republic in 1923), preferred Room 101, which has been left just as he used it and is now a small museum. In fact, there is a movement afoot to convert the entire hotel into a museum, explaining why a much-needed renovation is being held off until its future is determined. Guests from the hotel’s early days would still recognize the original elevator, which looks like a gilded birdcage, and the lobby’s 20-foot walls of coral marble.
The slightly faded atmosphere of the wonderfully Art Deco interior makes it a favorite with the British, and of film crews trying to capture an aura that only reality can exude. But guests pay a premium for nostalgia here, so many stay elsewhere and content themselves with a coffee in the grand salon or a drink at the bar.