The Historic Peninsula’s Only Five-Star Hotel Four Seasons Sultanahmet Renovated

Reopened after a two-year renovation, Four Seasons Hotel Sultanahmet is an iconic building dating back to Byzantium.

It is a modern Istanbul hotel east of Sultanahmet Square, with the Blue Mosque on one side and Topkapi Palace on the other: Four Seasons Hotel Sultanahmet. Located in the heart of the Historic Peninsula, the hotel reopened its doors after two years of renovation. It is also the only five-star hotel in the Historic Peninsula, which is an old and iconic building in the region.

The building, which has been serving as Four Seasons Hotel Sultanahmet since 1996, was previously used as Sultanahmet Prison for many years. Writers such as Nâzım Hikmet, Can Yücel, Kemal Tahir, Orhan Kemal and Vedat Türkali are among the convicts who once served time in this prison. It is even mentioned in Kemal Tahir’s novel Esir Şehrin Mahpusu that Nâzım Hikmet started writing Memleketimden İnsan Manzaraları in this prison (the 1973 movie “Çaresizler” is one of the rare movies that shows the prison from many angles). In addition to writers, the first resistance fighters of the Turkish War of Independence and politicians of the Republican era were among the prisoners of Sultanahmet Prison.

(Photo: Archive of Old Istanbul Photographs)

Where the Sultanahmet Prison was built as a prison in 1918-19, the ruins of the Great Byzantine Palace used to be located, so no matter how you look at it, Four Seasons Hotel Sultanahmet is a hotel built on history. After it was opened in 1919, the prison was used as a guardroom until 1969, and after Bayrampaşa Prison was opened, it was closed because it was no longer needed. The prison, which was used by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for various events before becoming part of the Four Seasons Hotel, was restored in 1996 and started to serve as a hotel.

Architect Yalçın Özüekrendir transformed the building from a prison into a hotel, preserving authentic details such as the notches made by inmates on some of the walls. The prison courtyard was excavated, and the hotel’s service and ballroom sections were built, while the wards were converted into rooms. Among the details preserved are the tiles in front of the lobby elevator, the inscription on the lobby door, the marble fountain in the winter garden, and the inscriptions carved by a prisoner on an old marble column. The renovations carried out in the past two years have kept the same design language.

Like Pera Palas Hotel, a foreign writer contributed to the international recognition of Sultanahmet Prison: Billy Hayes, who was once a prisoner in the prison, wrote a book called Midnight Express in 1977. This book, based on the author’s memories, was adapted to the big screen a year later in a movie scripted by Oliver Stone and directed by Alan Parker.

An interview Billy Hayes gave years later at the Four Seasons Hotel Sultanahmet:


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