Design + Architecture

Hotels With A Past

by Cathay Che

THE TURKISH DELIGHT: Four Seasons Istanbul
Where: Istanbul, Turkey
What it is: The city's swankest address, next to the Blue Mosque
What it was: A ghastly Turkish prison

The story: Remember poor Billy Hayes, the American caught smuggling drugs and sentenced to years of torture and misery in a Turkish prison? (His true story was chillingly portrayed in the 1978 film Midnight Express). Don't pity the folks checking into that prison now: The Neoclassic building in the heart of Istanbul's Old Town has been a Four Seasons hotel since 1994. Where once criminals of all sorts were detained in the most deplorable conditions (one scene in the flick has Hayes nearly beaten to death by guards), visitors are now coddled in an elegant sanctuary fitted with dark wood, Turkish carpets, and oil paintings. In place of those ferocious guards are now staffers (200 of them, for fewer than 150 guests) who address you by name and can mix your cocktail just the way you like it. The proximity of the Blue Mosque makes for heady views, but light sleepers might be awakened by the early-morning calls to prayer. Hey, it beats hearing the agonized screams of tortured prisoners!

Be sure to check out: The rooftop terrace bar, the perfect spot to enjoy a stalwart Turkish coffee and panoramic views of the city.

Four Seasons Istanbul
Tel: 90 212 638 8200
Doubles from $370

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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