Built in Ottoman Turkish revival style at the end of World War I, what is today the Istanbul flagship of the upscale Four Seasons chain was originally built as a prison to house political dissidents. Ponder on that while luxuriating under your rain shower watching CNN on the bathroom wall-mounted plasma TV, or nestling beneath the crisp white linen sheets of your king-sized bed, and you may just start to feel a little uncomfortable. So it's probably best to wend your way up to the main roof-top bar and ease your conscience with a well-mixed cocktail or two. If the alcohol doesn't work, the views over the former prison exercise yard to the deep blue waters of the Sea of Marmara, will surely help—as will the "so close you can almost touch it" presence of the monumental 6th-century Church of the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) looming behind you.

The thick walls of the former prison and the fact that room windows look in on the (now beautifully verdant, flower-filled) courtyard make the hotel an oasis of peace and calm right in the heart of the city. Were any prisoners still alive today to enter the rooms in which they'd been incarcerated, they would be astonished at the acres of thick carpet, heavy drapes, fruit-filled bowls atop marble side-tables, and Murano-glass light fittings. Service is as immaculate as you'd expect from this (no pun intended) seasoned player in the hotel world, and all the Old City's major sights are within easy walking distance.