Ultimate Turkish Bath (Hamam) Experience In Istanbul

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Best Turkish Baths In Istanbul With Map

The Turkish bath (Hamam) as an Islamic version of ancient Roman baths, included a dressing room, cold bath and warm bath clustered around a domed, central steam chamber. All areas were heated by a furnace with a system of flues, similar to Roman hypocaust.

History Of Istanbul’s Turkish Baths

The Turkish baths or Hamams was of special importance in the Ottoman Empire’s capital, Istanbul. There were hundreds of them in historic Istanbul by the late Ottoman time. Going to a Hamam on special occasions (Bride, groom, circumcision of a boy) became a ceramonial ritual and part of tradition. This rituals are a part of daily life ever since.

Historic Turkish Bath Recommendations In Istanbul

After reading this article, you will get a nice impression of the Turkish bath process and customs. So you would know what to expect. It’s very refreshing experience indeed.

Hurrem Sultan Hamam

View Of Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı From Sultanahmet Park © Serhat Engul

Best Turkish Baths In Historic Peninsula

Çemberlitaş Hamamı: The bath was established by Nurbanu Sultan, wife of Selim II in 1584. The architect was renowned Mimar Sinan. It’s very centrally located and easy to find location. Next to Çemberlitaş tram station.

Cağaloğlu Hamamı: Another centrally located Hamam. A few minutes walk from Basilica Cistern on placed on Yerebatan (Cistern) Street. Built in 1741.

Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı: Built by renowned Roxelana (Hürrem Sultan) the wife of Suleiman The Magnificent. Built in 1556 by Mimar Sinan (Chief architect at the peak time of Ottoman Empire) This bath is located next to Hagia Sophia. Run by a good company that invest to much money on restoration. Good quality but expensive one.

Süleymaniye Hamamı: The bath is a part of Süleymaniye Mosque Complex which was built by Suleiman The Magnificent in 1557. Another great work of architect Mimar Sinan. This is only unisex hamam in the old city. They have a pick up service if you reserve in advance.

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Map Of Turkish Baths In Istanbul Old City (Click To View High Resolution)

Best Turkish Baths In Beyoğlu

Galatasaray Hamamı: Built in 1481 one of the oldest Turkish bath in Istanbul. Located very near to Galata Tower and Taksim Square. A good choice for those who stays in Beyoğlu New City District.

Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı: Located very near to Salı Pazarı Cruise Port, Karaköy District and Istanbul Modern Museum. Part of a beautiful mosque complex. Kılıç (The Sword) Ali Pasha with Italian origins was one of the greatest admirals in Ottoman history. Another work of Mimar Sinan in 16th century.  Very unique architecture.

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Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı

What You Need To Know About Turkish Bath

It’s recommended to visit a historical Turkish bath rather than your hotel’s bath. Once you get into the Hamam’s reception, you have to select and purchase the service of your preference.

Self-Service

You gotta bring a soap, bath towel and bathe on your own. This is definitely the cheapest option and set you back around 50 Turkish Lira. It’s not recommended if because it’s not the real experience.

Traditional Style

Prefer this one if you want the genuine Turkish bath experience. An massager will wash and massage you for about 20 minutes, and you don’t have to bring any special equipment. This service will cost you about 100 Turkish Lira.

Not matter what kind of service you pay for, you are allowed to use Hamam facilities for as long as you desire. If you choose, traditional style, you’ll be handed a carton box containing a new scrubber and led into the wooden changing rooms. An attendant will provide you sandals and a peştamal.

Hamam Terms

Tellak: The man who makes massaging and scrubbing

Peştamal: A piece of colorful cloth to be tied around the waist to respect the hamam tratidions.

Göbektaşı: The central, raised platform above the heating source.

Hamam Tası: A bowl to pour water over yourself

Kurna: Basins to seat beside and wash yourself.

Kese: Special kind of glove that the Tellak uses to rub your body.

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Turkish Bath Equipments

Hamam Rules And Etiquette

There is certain Hamam etiquette to be followed. In a Turkish bath there are two separate sections for each of the sexes allocated to men and women.

* Men wear no underwear underneath except the peştemal. Make sure you carry the peştemal on you at all times to show respect to traditions.

* Women keep on wearing their underwear underneath the peştemal.

Is There Any Mixed Turkish Bath For The Couples?

The answer is yes, Süleymaniye Hamamı -which is also mentioned in the above Turkish Bath list- is a unisex hamam. You may go with your partner and have a great experience. Besides you can visit the magnificent Süleymaniye Mosque which is located next to it.

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Tellak is giving the massage in Hot Room (Sıcaklık)

What To Expect From A Turkish Bath?

Tellak takes you to the hot room (Sıcaklık). You can just lie down and take it easy for a while, and sweat! A good opportunity to examine the oriental architecture of a traditional Turkish bath. Steamy room entirely covered in marbles and covered with a massive dome, a few basins and a wide göbektaşı on the center.

A Good Massage With Soap Foam

After a few minutes of lying and sweating on the göbektaşı, tellak enters the room. The first half of the service take place on the corner of the raised platform: gökbektaşı. Tellak soaks your body with hot water and lather you with a foamy swab. At the same time, staying all slippery with soap, you receive the massage. This part might be a little bit rough experience –again traditionally-

Scrubbing the dirt of your body

After clearing up with warm water and the message, it’s time for the scrubbing! The spot of action will be shifted from warm raised platform to the side of the basins (kurna). Tellak uses a special kind of glove (Kese), and starts scrubbing your body. Tiny black pieces get rubbes of your body that most of people think is dirt. This is infact the top layer of your dead skin. Then he will wash you with soap and water in decreasing tempreture in order to make your pores close.

After half and hour massaging, foaming and scrubbing service, Tellak leaves the room, but you can hold and relax some more if you wish to.

Cooling Down By Taking Shower And Drinking Tea

You eventually get to cold section (soğukluk) This room has the shower and toilet as well. You are also given some dry peştemal and new towel before going for the showers to cool down. You can drink tea or sherbet (juice) to wait till your body temperature cool down to normal.

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A visit to a Turkish Bath usually takes about 1 hour.

Turkish Bath Cost & Bath Opening Hours

  • Opening hours for the Hamams are usually from 09:00 a.m. till 09:00 p.m.
  • A decent price for a Turkish Bath with massage, scrub and foam should be between 100 – 150 Turkish Lira. Equivalent to 35-50 US Dollars.
  • Tellak (Massager) will be of the same sex as you are
  • Organic white soap is used. If you are allergic to some products, your better have your own soap.
  • You will have to tip the attendant(s), so make sure you have a little cash money on you. Tipping is %10 of the total amount.
  • For Best Turkish Bath Experience In Istanbul, make sure that you choose the Turkish bath that suits your budget and needs. As different Hamams offer different packages and massages you better check their website before you visit.

Further Recommended Reading:

References for the article:

  • Serif Yenen‘s “Istanbul Quick Guide”
  • Erlend Geerts‘ “The Istanbul Insider”

By Serhat Engül

Licensed Tour Guide In Istanbul

Ultimate Turkish Bath (Hamam) Experience In Istanbul was last modified: January 11th, 2017 by Serhat Engül
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