What is it like to stay in the historical Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul?
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When I researched the options to stay somewhere in Istanbul with my family, somehow at first glance I fell in love with the photos and descriptions of Pera Palace Hotel. I told myself what better place to stay on a first visit to this century historic city except in the venerable emblematic hotel. For me it was a re-journey, but the other members of the family had first acquaintance with the timeless and infinitely interesting Istanbul, which was capital of the Byzantine Empire, once called Constantinople.
With our arrival, from the moment we parked the car in front of the hotel, began an experience that there is no other way to describe except as an exceptional example the Experience Economy theory[i] in practice. Its two authors, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, have come to the conclusion that the most beautiful and memorable experiences have 4 main characteristics: they entertain, educate, they are aesthetic and are kind of an escape from reality.
Read more about these 4 features in my post The Experience Economy in action with the cooking class of Chef Heinz von Holzen on Bali- Part 1
When an experience can be described as entertaining, educating, aesthetic, and escapist, it makes customers to strive to repeat it, to return to that place, trusting to give their money to this business, to tell people about it and thus to attract other customers.
Entertaining and Aesthetic in Pera Palace Hotel
Entering Pera Palace Hotel you are instantly immersed in its unique atmosphere. You travel back to 1892, the year when it was built. It was the first luxury building in the central Pera district in Istanbul, one of the first with electricity, with the first lift in Turkey. That’s when Istanbul opened for visitors from all over the world as an interesting exotic destination. It was an end point for the iconic Orient Express. His passengers were very demanding, solvent and requiring luxury hotels only.
Pera Palace Hotel best meets the high requirements of the company, managing Orient Express and it becomes a luxurious finale after the long trip to the Middle East with the train.
In the interior design of the hotel you enjoy the aesthetic of art-nouveau ornaments, which are noticeable also in the façade of the building. You will also find many neo-classical elegant shapes in the furniture in the rooms, in the Kobbeli Saloon Tea Lounge, and at the Orient Bar.
We stayed in suite 601, “Alfred Hitchcock”, the only one in art-deco style. Standing in front of its door you see the white silhouette on a black background of the famous director. Inside you notice a black grand piano (my daughter started immediately playing it, you will hear her in the first frames of the film below), with the poster from the movie The Birds, with decorative crows, perched on the piano, the black shiny forms of cabinets and tables.
The bathroom was made of marble and had a cute retro bathtub. The only modern thing was the scale. The latter is very useful 😜😆, because in Istanbul you are tempted to eat quite a lot, especially Turkish sweets are great magic. Everything is delicious! 😋
After looking around in the apartment, you hang out on a small French balcony, with only one round table and two chairs of casted iron. And there you face an extraordinary view to the Golden Horn. This is the name of the narrow sea bay, which divides the European part of Istanbul into two parts. In the past it served as a port of Byzantium. You wonder why the name?
The Golden Horn bears the name of the precious metal, because at sunset the water reflects the sun and it shines like gold.
We enjoyed a cup of espresso, delicious macaroni, a welcome gift from the hotel, tasting three types of carbonated water on that same balcony. And there were two of them, so all four of us could watch the golden spectacle of the bay.
The Kobbeli Saloon Tea Lounge is a café, a patisserie, a tea house on the ground floor of the hotel- another remarkable attraction.
Designed in the style of Pera Palce, with a huge high ceiling, which provides natural tepidity during the hot summer, Kobbeli Saloon for many years has been offering afternoon snacks, tea and Turkish coffee, as well as live piano and vocal performances.
If you’re in Istanbul, drop by at 3-6 p.m. in this saloon. The snacks are very pleasant, abundant with local desserts, cakes, sandwiches, burek (local pastry with cheese and eggs) and more. You will listen to live French chansons, jazz, classics. The pianist is a venerable gentleman who speaks fluent French. The staff informed us that he was over 90 years old. He played and sang beautifully. So, right in this saloon, in gathered the highlife of Istanbul for a cup of tea in a sumptuous setting and good music. Because of the exceptional interior, the wonderful service, the beautiful music, we really felt this atmosphere from old times.
Breakfast is served in the Agatha Restaurant at level -1. There you can taste interesting local delicacies, such as, cheese in threads resembling mozzarella, Italian mozzarella and burrata, miscellaneous other hard cheeses, of which I did not understand the names, on small rolls of pastry with cheese, roasted sausage, named sudjuk, several types of honey, eggs cooked in a couple of styles. There is also nice charcuterie, salmon, cereal, dried but also a variety of fresh fruit.
There is also a SPA, which offers interesting therapies and a hammam, but there was no time to try it. Next time, I’m going to book a procedure.
Pera Palace Hotel is an important historic building in Istanbul, dating back from 1892. It was fully renovated in 2008-2009 and in 2010 the hotel reopened its doors for its exquisite guests.
The hotel staff are trained to tell about the history of the hotel. When you enter it, they take you to your room in Turkey’s oldest elevator, powered by electricity. It’s very interesting.
On level -1, you can see its driving engine. Of course, the modern lifts of the hotel are used for the subsequent descending and ascending, but if you want to experience the attraction of the old one again, you can always ask at the reception.
In the corridors there are special displays with documents, porcelain utensils from past times, old silver utensils. Some of them are still used in restaurant Agatha. Guess who it is named after. 😊
A documentary film is broadcasted on the first channel of the TV, subtitled in English, which tells about the history of the hotel, about the famous people who have stayed there and the important events that have happened there. One more chance to understand the value of this place.
The historical significance of Pera Palace is determined not only by the fact that it is one of the first modern and luxurious buildings in Turkey in the 19th century, but also by the many famous people accommodated here.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, lived in it. His apartment is turned into a museum, where you can see his personal belongings, old photos and original furniture from those years.
Other frequent guests were, as already mentioned Alfred Hitchcock, the beautiful actresses Zsa Zsa Gabor, Greta Garbo, the designer Giorgio Armani, Jackie Kennedy the famous writers Ian Fleming, Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway and finally Agatha Christie. She finished her novel “Murder on the Orient Express” here. It describes very well the luxurious settings of the famous train, which was also repeated in Pera Palace Hotel. There are also two films based on the book, in which it was visually demonstrated. One is from 1974 starring iconic Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, Jacqueline Bisset, Vanessa Redgrave, and the other is a brand new from the 2017 of Kenneth Brana with a whole host of stars- Penelope Cruz, William Defo, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp and Daisy Ridley, who plays Ray in Star Wars, but she’s in a totally different light here.
There is also a story about a mysterious disappearance of the famous writer for 11 days. When they already thought she was dead, she was found in a SPA resort. To this day the mystery has not been solved. After years, a big rusty key was found in her room, 411, in Pera Palace, hidden in the walls, which was considered to unlock her diary, where she described exactly what happened to her in those 11 days. But that has never been proven, because the key stayed at the hotel and keept her secret.
Escapist Experience in Pera Palace Hotel
With your arrival, the hotel offers you an escape from reality. You stop the car at the entrance, and you stop bothering of anything. The valet parks your care, the luggage is taken to your room. You have the option to park your car by yourself, but why would you do that in these narrow, congested streets? Besides, from the beginning the hotel staff started with the complements- we received an upgrade of the room to make us more comfortable with the two children. In the suite we found exceptionally delicious macaroni on a bed of Turkish halva accompanied by a welcome note. We had a complement Nespresso for the entire stay of 3 days. We were regularly left 2 big bottles and 2 small bottles of mineral water. They left us also 3 types of carbonated water, again a complement- Perrier, San Pellegrino and the local premium quality carbonated water – Uludag. I personally do not find a difference between the three- I like them equally.
I got a great surprise on my birthday- a little chocolate parfait cake with two macarons and a nice greeting note from the hotel. Exclusive customer relations management! They put an effort to notice that I had a birthday and made an unforgettable gesture.
I can still write about Pera Palace Hotel and its special atmosphere, but it is best to see the video in order to gain insight.
Movie watching time: 9.12 min
I recommend to anyone who can afford a budget between 150 and 160 euro per room (circa. 300 Euros if you wants to be in the room of Agatha Christie or Jackie Kennedy), or circa 450 to 600 Euros for a suite, to stay at the Pera Palace Hotel, even for a short stay, especially if one is for the first time in Istanbul. You will surely remember your experience and your first acquaintance with Istanbul forever.
How to book your stay in Pera Palace?
If you are already planning your trip to Istanbul, book your stay in Pera Palace or other hotel right here. For your convenience, I added a booking.com box, which refers directly to their site. I guarantee you’re going to use all your genius discounts and privileges they would offer to you. Just enter the dates of your trip, then hit the Search button and voila. In addition, booking.com are doing their best to make sure that your expectations as a customer are fulfilled. I’ve described an example about the latter in my story about our stay in Shangri-La hotel in Singapore.
How to get there?
Don’t worry about getting to Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul. Just use Google map here by clicking on the red pin on its location and then select directions:
A: Meşrutiyet Caddesi No: 52 34430 Tepebaşı, Beyoğlu Istanbul Turkey
T: +90 212 377 4000
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Do you ever wonder how some places are so very different from others in service, environment, as a general experience? This means you are also interested like me in the topic of The Experience Economy by Pine and Gilmore. I’ve tried to recognize those places which apply it in practice its principles, whether deliberately or accidentally, and I think it is worth to consider them. Right click on category The Experience Economy.
[i] The Experience Economy, updated edition, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, Massachusetts, by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore