Istanbul may be developing ultra-rapidly, but everywhere you go there are telltale signs of its multi-layered history. The Pera Palace speaks of the fin de siècle era when well-to-do Europeans "took the air" on the leafy Grand Rue de Pera (now the heaving Istiklal Caddesi). They often arrived here on the celebrated Orient Express, and the Pera Palace hotel was built in 1895 to provide visitors with luxury accommodations. It was designed by the French-Turkish architect, Alexander Vallaury, with a blend of art nouveau, neo-classical and oriental styles. After a major renovation, it reopened in 2010 in pristine condition. Stepping through the doors feels like stepping straight back in time to an altogether more glamorous era.

The lobby, tea rooms and bar have high ceilings, antique furnishings, and chandeliers, dripping in decadence. The rooms are classically decked out with dark wood furniture and elegant décor. There are 16 suites, some named after their famous previous tenants, which include Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie, Pierre Loti, and Greta Garbo—so you know you're in good company. The hotel also has gained museum status because the room where the Turkish Republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, stayed during his time on leave from the army has been perfectly preserved. As you would expect from a luxury hotel, it also has a pool, spa and good restaurant along with a excellent patisserie to satisfy any sweet teeth. It is conveniently located close to Istanbul's buzzing arts and culture scene.