With three days of intense business in and around Istanbul, i returned to the Pera Palace for the second time in a year. I used to stay at the Hyatt near Taksim Square, but realized that the Pera is better for many reasons. The basics of the hotel speak for itself. Beautifully restored turn of the century spaces, elegant and very functional rooms, are the starting points. But the service is what makes it stand out as a great hotel not just a great space. From check in to the doorman straightening my jacket collar as I walked out the door, it was really a treat. When i was up at 5 in the morning and wanted the gym opened before the offical time, it was opened with a smile. (yes i tip well but i've been to plenty of hotels where the smiles are not there and there service is with a shrug). Then there is the added plus plus of being located in a great walking neighborhood. Tons of great restaurants, cafes and stores are a short walk away. This is not touristy Istanbul, but the real city and its lively citizens with a most enoyable and diverse nightlife. Accross the street from the hotel (perfect for those late arrival nights) is a restuarant called Mezze which is outstanding and not priced as a tourist location. I can't wait to return and it's worth the $$$.