Where to stay in Istanbul

An Ottoman era palace versus a hip oasis of calm. Ruth Jackson looks at two of the best hotels on offer in Istanbul.

Pera Palace Hotel

The Pera Palace opened to the public in 1895. It was the first luxury hotel in the Ottoman Empire and the final destination for passengers aboard the Orient Express. Since then, it's played host to the great and the good, from Agatha Christie to Jackie O. Last year, the hotel reopened following a major renovation project.

How they rate it

"The Pera is a palace once more," says Matthew Bell in The Independent. The main hall is a "fusion of art nouveau, Oriental and neo-classical designs", but the decor beyond the main spaces is a touch sterile and lacks warmth. The facilities are excellent, "especially the basement swimming pool, sauna and spa". Go for one of the "vast corner suites", which are named after "illustrious past guests" and "command views of the Golden Horn". Why not arrive in style by booking the hotel's 1954 Plymouth Saloon to collect you from the airport?

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The menu

The restaurant aims to fuse French, Italian and Turkish cuisines to "pay tribute to the three major stops of the Orient Express".

The cost

A double room costs from €230, room only. To find out more, visit www.perapalace.com, or call 00 90 212 377 40 00.

W Hotel


Situated in the renovated Akaretler Row Houses, which were built in the 1870s for the Sultan's staff at the nearby Dolmabahce Palace, the W hotel is strong on style.

How they rate it

"Many establishments lay claim to hip hotel status but few come as close as this," says Caroline Shearing in The Daily Telegraph. It is packed full of "American and European creatives who like their hotels pulsating with baseline beats and illuminated in hot-pink neon".

The best thing about the hotel are the rooms even the basic ones come with a garden and decked area, "providing an oasis of calm away from the hubbub of one of the world's most populous cities". "This is the closest a hotel comes to a nightclub: low disco lights in the foyer, a cocktail-laced bar scene with outside gazebos for post-Caipirinha lounging," says Nick Redman in The Sunday Times.

The menu

The hotel's main restaurant serves Italian cuisine using the very best ingredients, including truffles, saffron, oysters and caviar.

The cost

A double room costs from €345, room only. For more information, visit www.wistanbul.com.tr, or call 00 90 212 381 2121.

What the travel writers are saying

As Heston Blumenthal's latest restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental in London sends critics into spasms of ecstasy, The Times's Emma Bartley tips the best hotel restaurants in the world.

At Hotel Balzac in Paris Pierre Gagnaire helms the kitchen. "The six-times Michelin-starred magician uses as much science as art" to conjure up dishes that include casserole of meat and hay, "used in medieval cooking to keep meat tender". The eight-course tasting menu costs £225 and you can book a room for £245.

El Garzon in Uruguay is possibly the continent's finest boutique hotel with a restaurant. "Open-flame cooking is the key here, with a technique called 'infiernillo' (little hell), in which meat is cooked between two open fires."

Citrus fruits and fresh vegetables are then used to balance the flavours. A main course costs from £30, with a double room costing a further £408.

The Breslin at Ace Hotel in New York "has the feel of a pub but the food of something far classier". British chef April Bloomfield's menu is "certainly adventurous"; you can pick from pigs' feet or onion and bone marrow soup.

But "there is enough comfort food to keep everyone happy". The queues outside are a testament to the restaurant's success unfortunately, you can't book a table. The hotel breakfast is also "worth a mention", as the "pastries and scones are exceptional". Mains cost from £10 and a double room costs £180.