Stephen Bailey
Istanbul's best hotel was once an Ottoman prison
Istanbul's best hotel was once an Ottoman prison
Stephen Bailey

Experiencing Ottoman architecture is a highlight of most trips to Istanbul. But a prison? Just steps away from the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, this late Ottoman era prison has been brilliantly converted into the city’s premier place to stay. 

The hotel is just steps away from the city’s iconic attractions

There’s not much left of the actual prison, other than the stories. It was here that writers, journalists and intellectual dissidents were incarcerated, such as Billy Hayes, Orhan Kemal and poet Nazim Hikmet. 

The 1990s renovation preserved much of the original Ottoman architecture, but the interiors have been revamped completely. Now the glory of history is on show, in a five-star hotel with 65 rooms and suites. Think traditional wooden furniture, bold patterns, oodles of art and a space that is cosy yet also elaborate. 

The design is in keeping with Ottoman traditions

The Four Seasons Sultanahmet is now like a maze, with corridors full of vintage decor and glorious period features. Landscapes gardens are thick with the scent of jasmine and some rooms overlook the leafy space, providing a great space to unwind. 

The gardens provide more green space than anywhere else in Sultanahmet

Then from the roof there are sublime views across Sultanahmet, probably the most iconic views in the whole of Turkey. The location is glorious, between the most important Sultanahmet sights, and ideal for guests who enjoy a lazy afternoon filled with people watching. 

Expect the Four Seasons service and quality throughout, then step out into a city that can captivate at every moment of the day. And for something very unique, step out onto the terrace at dawn, to hear the call to prayer ring across Istanbul’s rooftops.

The conversion is tasteful and faithful to the past

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