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TEPEBAŞI (MEŞRUTİYET CADDESİ, PERA)

odakuleThe Odakule (1975) looms up between the İstanbul Research Institute and the Pera MuseumNow here's a tip. If İstiklal Caddesi is looking far too packed with people for comfort why not duck into the street that runs parallel with it on the Golden Horn side?

Meşrutiyet Caddesi (Constititional Monarchy Street) runs from beside the imposing British Consulate near Galatasary Lisesi (High School) all the way past the iconic Pera Palace Hotel to Tünel where the funicular railway carries passengers quickly down to Karaköy.

This is a part of town called Tepebaşı (Top of the Hill) and it has become more and more fashionable since the Pera Museum opened its doors to an appreciative audience in 2005.

Pera was the part of town where the ambassadors and foreign merchants lived until the founding of the Turkish Republic. Like most of İstanbul, it was originally furnished with wooden houses, but a sequence of fires, most disastrously in 1870, led to a decision that all new buildings should be in stone. It was this more than anything else that threw open the doors for modish European architectural styles to infiltrate the area.

Since the US Consulate moved from Meşrutiyet Caddesi to İstinye, taking with it all the heavy-duty security, a growing number of boutique hotels have opened here to join the many smart restaurants and cafes. Most of them are housed in grand 19th-century and early 20th-century mansion blocks, one of the few blots on the landscape being the ugly TRT building housing the state radio and television stations which continues to stand its ground despite efforts to evict it in favour of a Frank Gehry-designed extension to the Pera Museum. 

typewriterBritish crime writer Barbara Nadel with British crime writer Agatha Christie's typewriter in R411 of Pera Palace HotelAlong Meşrutiyet Caddesi

Near Galatasaray Lisesi the British Consulate buidling was designed by William James Smith and Charles Barry in 1844 and stands in a fine and very English garden where a fete is held every June. Restored after the bomb blast that destroyed the gatehouse and killed the consul in 2003, St Helena's Chapel is sometimes used for concerts. 

Just past the Consulate on the opposite side of the road the Passage Hazzopulo leads into a pretty cobbled courtyard containing one of the last traditional teahouses in the vicinity of İstiklal Caddesi. It's always packed with students.

Continuing along the street you will pass on the left the İstanbul Araştırma Enstitüsü (Istanbul Research Institute), which hosts small, free exhibitions on aspects of Istanbul’s history. It was designed in 1892 by the Italian architect Guglielmo Semprini who was also responsible for the nearby Grand Hotel de Londres (Büyük Londra Oteli). Although the nearby Pera Palace has the more illustrious rollcall of past guests the novelist Ernest Hemingway stayed at the Büyük Londra. 

peramuseumThe Pera Museum (Pera Müzesiclosed Mondays), a few doors futher down the road past a passage running under the ugly Odakule to İstiklal Caddesi, is housed in a grand building that was originally the Hotel Bristol. It is owned by the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation and hosts changing art exhibitions as well as a permanent collection of images of İstanbul from the 17th century, most of them created by foreign visitors to the city.

The single most popular painting is Osman Hamdi Bey's magnificent The Tortoise Trainer, which is far bigger and more impressive than all the tawdry reproductions around town might suggest. 

The lovely, spacious cafe on the ground floor  will remind some visitors of Vienna. 

A little further down the road is the Italian Cultural Centre at which point the road veers sharply to the right in front of the brashly modern, high-rise Marmara Pera hotel. It's here that you'll find the Pera Palace, the hotel in which Agatha Christie penned parts of the Murder on the Orient Express and which provided the setting more recently for Barbara Nadel's Deadline. 

perapalaceInterior of Pera Palace HotelDesigned by the Levantine architect Alexandre Vallaury, the Pera Palace was purpose-built in 1895 to accommodate guests arriving from Europe on the Orient Express train. On arrival they were carried up the hill in sedan chairs, one of which is preserved in the hotel. Room 101 is kept as a memorial to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who was a regular guest while Room 411 retains the typewriter used by Agatha Christie. Completely renovated and modernized, the hotel reopened in 2011.

Just past the hotel stands the beautiful Palazzo Corpi designed in 1873 by the Italian architect Giacomo Leoni for a family of Genoese bankers. It was built and decorated using materials mainly imported from Italy. Today when it's slated to be turned into a SoHo House hotel it's hard to believe that it could ever have been wasted as a consulate but in fact it had been used by the American government since 1882 and had been owned by it since 1907 when the ambassador, who had paid for it out of his own pocket, recouped his money by winning a game of poker.

Eating

Çok Çok Thai

Turkish food may be great but there comes a time when what you really, really want is a taste of the Orient. Çok Çok dishes up the most authentically Thai cuisine in İstanbul courtesy of a Thai chef in a stylish restaurant easily identifiable by the large wooden Buddha by the door. There's a deck outside for summer dining.

Tel: 0212-292 6496, www.cokcok.com.tr, Meşrutiyet Caddesi No. 51/A


Meze by Lemon Tree

Resembling a very upscale Italian bistro, Meze by Lemon Tree has quickly gathered a devoted following for its excellent meyhane-style cuisine, made readily accessible with a fixed menu that removes worries about the bill at the end of the evening.

Tel: 0212-252 8302, www.mezze.com.tr, Meşrutiyet Caddesi No. 83/B

Sleeping

Ansen 130 Suites Tel: 0212-245 88 08, www.ansensuites.com, Meşrutiyet Caddesi No. 70

Büyük Londra Oteli Tel: 0212-245 06 70, www.londrahotel.net, Meşrutiyet Caddesi No. 53

Palazzo Donizetti

Grand 79-room hotel just across the road from the Pera Palace where bedrooms mix aspects of the oriental with the most modern Western designs to pleasing effect. The top-floor Lavi Terrace restaurant has a better view than the Pera Palace – although it’s not a patch on Sultanahmet.

Tel: 0212-249 51 51, www.palazzodonizetti.com, Asmalı Mescit Sokak No. 55

Pera Palace Hotel Tel: 0212-377 40 00, www.perapalace.com, Meşrutiyet Caddesi Nos. 52

Pera Rose Tel: 0212-243 15 00, www.perarose.com, Meşrutiyet Caddesi No. 87

Pera Tulip Hotel Tel: 0212-243 85 00, www.peratulip.com, Meşrutiyet Caddesi No.103

rixosperaRixos Pera

The Marmara Pera

Transport info

If you want to use public transport to get to Tepebaşi the funicular from Karaköy to Tünel offers the easiest access although there is also a handy Metro stop at Şişhane.

Coming from Taksim Square you can take the nostalgic tram and get out at Galatasaray. Or you can walk along İstiklal Caddesi.

Nearby areas

Asmalımescit

Aynalıçeşme

Galata

Galatasaray

İstiklal Caddesi

Şişhane

Tünel

Read more about the Pera Palace and the Orient Express: http://www.todayszaman.com/newsDetail_getNewsById.action;jsessionid=406AE3E13CC783125F951317DCD864F0?newsId=223298&columnistId=0

sedanGuests used to be carried from Sirkeci Station to the Pera Palace Hotel in sedan chairs like this one.



 

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