To stay in the Pera Palace rather than the equally luxurious Çiragan Palace or Four Seasons is to value this hotel’s unique historical significance. Built by the owners of the Orient Express and designed by French architect Alexander Vallaury, the hotel has, since 1891, allowed a host of the rich, famous and regal to shack up under its roof. Guests have included King Edward VIII, various Shahs and more arms dealers, crooks and spies than the CIA informants’ budget. Like Istanbul itself, the hotel went through a deep depression and its threadbare soul limped on until 2007, with only the garçon, monsieur and concierge buttons by each bar stool testament to its former grandeur (not that any of them worked, of course). But in late 2010 the Pera Palace reopened after a magisterial overhaul under its new owners the Jumeirah Group , its soul and its ancient cage lift (the city’s first elevator) still very much intact. Anecdotal evidence of past times from Orient Express ticket stubs to menus from the roaring ‘20s are sealed in glass display cabinets on each of the six floors. Period furniture resides in every guestroom, while the six Greta Garbo corner suites are timelessly elegant and way larger than their pre-renovation incarnation. Room 414, where Agatha Christie allegedly penned Murder on the Orient Express, commemorates her stays en-route to the Orient from 1926 to 1932. A hamam, spa and swimming pool in the sub-basement level are welcome new additions.