Exotic, inexhaustible and dynamic – East meets West head-on in this mesmerising city metropolis, famed for its extraordinarily rich history, superb food and shopping, and mind-blowingly magnificent, over-sized mosques.
Recommended place to stay:
Pera Palace Hotel
Istanbul, Marmara Region, Turkey|www.perapalace.com|
Official star rating:
Built in 1892 at the terminus of the legendary Orient Express, the Pera Palace is a historic monument and the most famous hotel in Istanbul – this is where everyone from Alfred Hitchcock to the Kennedys bedded down in the golden age of travel.
A four-year, $23 million restoration has added mod cons including a spa and indoor pool, while maintaining many of the original Neoclassical French-Oriental furnishings – look out for the original lift and dazzling Murano chandeliers. Spies, intrigue, heads of state – this museum hotel oozes 120 years of history.
The upper west-facing rooms have balconies with spectacular views over the Golden Horn – room 411 is where Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express.
Cocktails on the terrace as the sun sets behind the Golden Horn are a real treat; and there’s a superb buffet breakfast served in the Agatha restaurant, with its polished checkerboard flooring and black-and-white photography.
Don’t miss afternoon tea (3pm-6pm) in the atmospheric Kubbeli Salon, with divine French pastries served to the tinkling of a Schiedmayer grand piano.
The hotel fronts a fairly busy street lined with offices, shops and several other hotels, including the Marmara Pera Hotel with its trendy gourmet rooftop restaurant Mikla.
The hotel is located on a slope and there is another busy street below, although it’s a small price to pay for the grandstand views of the famous silhouette of the Golden Horn.
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