Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul, Turkey $$$$
Concierge.com's insider take:
Once the stomping ground of the 1920s glitterati (this is where Agatha Christies=, Ernest Hemingway, and Greta Garbo came to stay), the Pera Palace fell into disrepair by the turn of the millennium. After closing in 2008 for a $30-million makeover, Istanbul's grande dame was again ready for her close-up. Alas, when the hotel reopened in fall 2010, the changes led to disappointment among aficionados who loved the chintzy feel of the old place and the prices that matched. Some elements, like the central hall and the caged elevator (the oldest of its kind still in operation), have managed to retain their character. But for the most part, the renovations have left the Pera Palace looking a little sanitized (something that scattering various bits of Orient-Express memorabilia has failed to remedy). If you have no nostalgic whimsy, though, this is a solid high-end hotel in a central part of town. There are 115 rooms, and even the entry-level accommodations are spacious. Most are fitted with French balconies, as well as the odd piece of original antique furniture. If you can stretch the budget, the corner Pierre Loti suites are the best. Insist on a room overlooking the Golden Horn. Rooms on the other side are gloomy, especially the Hemingway suite, with its awkward layout and drab, disappointing views.—Vanessa Able
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