The sun that suddenly rises behind the hills of Pera, over the minarets of the city and the Golden Horn, fills your heart with a crimson joy. Everything that was asleep all night long is waking up now … — Knut Hamsun
Pera Palace Hotel was built in 1892 to serve passengers on the Orient Express. It sits on top of a hill in modern Istanbul with extensive views of the river, Bosphorus and the old part of Istanbul. Passengers on the Orient Express were conveyed from the station, across the river and up the hill in a sedan chair. An example of one such sedan chair may be found in the foyer.
In 1895 Pera Palace was opened with a Grand Ball.
Pera Palace soon established itself as the place to see and be seen.
It was at the Pera Palace Hotel that Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express (1934).
Other famous guests include Ernest Hemingway, Greta Garbo, Alfred Hitchcock, Mata Hari, Yehudi Menuhin, Jacqueline Kennedy, Rita Hayworth, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, King George V of England, King Edward VIII, Queen Elizabeth II, President Tito of Yugoslavia, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary and Czar Nicholas II of Russia.
Room 101, a favourite of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk during his many visits, is now a Atatürk museum.
Pera Palace Hotel has been recently renovated to restore it to its former glory. It was closed in 2006 and reopened 1 September 2010. The re-opening coincided with the year that Istanbul had been designated as the European Capital of Culture.
The electric lift inside the hotel was the second only installed in Europe. The first was the Eiffel Tower. British writer Daniel Farson described the elevator:
It is the most beautiful elevator in the world made of cast iron and wood… It ascends like a lady who curtsies. Tourists can not take their eyes off this utterly pretty and aristocrat elevator.
Apart from the Ottoman Palaces, Pera Palace was the first building to have electricity.
A few minutes walking distance from Pera Palace lies Istiklal Avenue, the heart of modern Istanbul. A historic tram mentioned by Orhan Pamuk in one of his novels runs through Istiklal Avenue. At the end of Istiklal Avenue, a funicular runs down to the tram station, from where a tram runs across the river to the old part of Istanbul and the railway station. Or a 10 lire taxi ride, but the funicular and tram is more fun.
Also within walking distance lies the Galata Tower.
Pera Palace is featured in 1000 Places to See Before You Die, with a copy opened at the relevant pages in a display cabinet in the hotel foyer.
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