4sea1Few visitors to the heart of historic İstanbul will fail to notice the monumental Four Seasons Sultanahmet with its elaborate marble entrance and tiled facade.

The hotel was originally built in 1919 to serve as a prison just around the corner from a courthouse that later burnt down. It was designed in the then fashionable First National Architectural style, possibly by Vedat Tek, the man behind the main post office in Sirkeci. A sign in Arabic lettering over the door reads “İstanbul Criminal Detention Centre” although probably not one guest in a thousand notices.

In its time, the prison hosted the likes of the poet Nazım Hikmet and the novelist Yaşar Kemal but for foreign visitors perhaps its best known inmate was Billy Hayes, the drug-smuggling anti-hero of Midnight Express.

Now the rollcall is one of famous names from all walks of life, and the bedrooms have been designed with a stylish modernity that dispels any lingering thoughts of its rather creepy past.

The Seasons Restaurant (tel: 0212-403 3000) boasts a great reputation for its food and even if you're not staying you are welcome to visit on Sunday mornings when the hotel hosts a (pricy) eat-as-much-as-you-like brunch boasting every breakfast dish you've ever thought off plus many you haven't.

In winter the hotel also hosts a marvellous Friday night wine-and-cheese tasting evening, also open to the public (TL45 a head, reservations recommended). Each week a different winery is featured, making this a great opportunity to get to know some new Turkish wines. 

Thumbs up: Spectacular historic building, fabulous location near all main sights, superb food

Thumbs down: No outdoor pool

Click here to book now

Tel: 0212-402 3000, www.fourseasons.com/istanbul/

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