Four Seasons Sultanahmet:
The Sophisticated History
Have you ever stayed in a jail and loved it? Well, I have and it was a luxurious experience Sultanahmet Cezaevi was constructed in 1918 and it was the first jail of its kind in Istanbul. Located within the vicinity of the Topkapi Palace and two other world-renowned landmarks – the Hagia Sophia Museum and the Blue Mosque – this jail was the address for famous artists and political figures including Mihri Belli, a communist leader and novelist Orhan Kemal, poet Nazim Hikmet, and Aziz Nesin, a controversial humourist who published over 100 books.
The building itself is a prime example of Turkish neoclassical architecture with an emphasis on pointed arches, ornate tiles, dramatic domes and towers. This unique architectural example came from Mimar Kemaleddin Bey, a prominent architect from the late period of the Ottoman Empire and the early years of the newly established republic. Known as a designer who was open to learning and experimentation, Kemaleddin was a self-reliant architect and among the pioneers of the First Turkish National Architectural Movement.
The prison was closed in 1969 and The Four Seasons hotel group took over the property in the 1990s. They assigned Metex, a prominent local design firm, to renovate the historical building and transform it into one of the region’s top luxury hotels. After six years of renovation, the hotel was finally re-opened in 1996 with 65 guest rooms and suites, including a beautiful glass pavilion restaurant in the courtyard, a lounge, meeting rooms and a ballroom, spa, and even a rooftop lounge. Each room features ochre-tinted stonework, faience tiles, archways, artwork and Ottoman antiques, as well as tapestries and kilims. They have a living room and marble bathrooms that are oozing with subtle luxury.
Without a doubt, The Four Seasons Sultanahmet has successfully combined the unique design of its historical past with the sophistication of modern comfort. Staying inside a jail has never been this stylish and luxurious.