Turkish bath (Hamam) in Istanbul: best hammams and what to expect

Istanbul hammams

Although modern Turks do most of their bathing at home, the public hammam remains a major part of the Turkish culture. A Turkish bath (hammam) is a place for cleansing, relaxation and rejuvenation.

The benefits of the Turkish bath are immediately visible, as you step out of a hammam your skin will glow with life, the bags around your eyes gone and your entire being will feel brand new.

Here is a detailed information on all you need to know about the Turkish bath.

We are your guide to best Istanbul places and hammams.

History of Istanbul hammams

Best hammam in Istanbul

Engraving of old hammam

Between the 11th and 15th centuries Eastern Roman, Islamic Persian and Turkish cultures had remarkable influence on each other, and hence most of their cultural practices have gotten intertwined. Steam baths which had been a part of Greek and Roman cultures had evolved from its original use in Turkish culture into an Islamic ritual.

In case you are wondering what the baths have to do with Islam, it is normal in Islamic practices to perform ablutions before praying. Mosques usually provide a place to perform ablutions, but often hammams are sited nearby for the benefits of worshippers that wish to perform a deep cleansing. The Ottoman Hamam style combines the functionality and structural attributes of Roman baths with Islamic tradition of steam bathing and ritual cleansing. However, while Victorian Turkish baths use hot, dry air the Islamic hammam uses steam.

By way of definition, a Hammam, also known as a Turkish bath, is a place of public bathing associated with the culture of the Ottoman Empire and more widely the Islamic world.

A typical hammam consists of three basic, interconnected sections; the hot room (sicaklik), the warm room (iliklik) and the cool room (sogukluk). The cool room in Roman baths have a cold water pool whereas Turkish baths prefer running water, as medieval Muslim customs place a high priority on cleanliness.

Plan of classic turkish bath (hammam)

Istanbul hammams

Plan of hammam

Composition of turkish bath:

  • A — entrance for men
  • B — entrance for women
  • a — soğukluk wıth changing room (locker room)
  • b — the room with warm air (between soğukluk and sıcaklık)
  • c — restrooms (toilets)
  • d — hot room (sıcaklık) with marble stone (göbek taşı) in the middle
  • e — halvet (partially enclosed bathing cubicle)
  • f — külhan (boiler room)

Best turkish bath in Istanbul 2020

The city of Istanbul hosts a good number of hammams but listed below are prominent historic hammams where you can fully experience the comforting luxury of a Turkish bath.

Süleymaniye Hamamı

Hammam Suleymaniye

Süleymanıye hamamı

The Suleymaniye Hamami is located within a 450 years old historic edifice designed by the famous architect, Sinan. This historic Turkish bathhouse is sited next to the Suleymaniye Mosque.

It is open everyday for families only, from 10am to 11pm and exclusively for ladies only on Sundays, 7am to 9pm.

The Suleymaniye Hamami has courteous and well trained staff. The only downside is that all the masseurs are male, and some ladies may not be comfortable with that.

You can find Suleymaniye hammam here:

Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam

Aya Sofya Hürrem Sultan hamam

Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan hamam

Established as far back as 1556, the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamami is one of the historic Turkish Bathhouses in Istanbul. Built in the style of the classical Ottoman baths of its time, this luxurious hammam stands in the former location of the historical Zeuksippo Baths destroyed in 532CE.

The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamami provides a five-star bath experience in a luxurious environment. Its services are top notch and, you guessed it, expensive. Professional massage, silk towels, gold-plated bowls, exotic toiletries, etc are used for the bath, giving you a feeling of royalty.

Turkish bath offers four tastefully packaged treatments for you to choose from. Special treatments such as aromatherapy and foot reflexology are also available. It equally accommodates both the male and female gender.

Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan hammam is very easy to find — it’s located in Sultanahmet near Hagia Sophia:

Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı

Best turkish bathes in Istanbul

Kılıç Ali Paşa hamamı

This historic bath was constructed between 1578-1583 to cater for marine forces in the Ottoman navy. Famous for its architectural lines and majestic dome, the hammam is one of the symbolic buildings in Tophane, Istanbul’s harbor district. Hamam was build as a part of Kılıç Ali Paşa mosque.

The price of hammam services here is 340 turkish liras per person.

Opening hours is 8am to 4pm for ladies, and 4.30pm to 11.30pm for men.

Kılıç Ali Pasa hammam is located near Karakoy district, near Tophane:

Cağaloğlu Hamamı

Cağaloğlu hamamı İstanbul

Cağaloğlu hamamı

Located at the Eminonu district is a modernized 300 years old Turkish bath. Constructed in 1741, the Cağaloğlu

Hamamı was the last bath built during the Ottoman period. This first class hamam exceptionally offers modern Turkish bath services in an Ottoman-style atmosphere, combining traditional Turkish bath with an Oriental experience. Outstanding among its classy design is the 16-columned navel stone situated in the middle of the hot section of the bath.

The Cagaloglu offers a range of packages for you to choose from. This includes Special Service, Istanbul Dream, Ottoman Luxury Service, Tip to Toe, Sultan Mahmud the First and Bridal bath packages.

Prices range from €30 — €180, depending on the package you are going for. It admits both men and women.

Cağaloğlu Hammam is located near old town, not far from Gülhane Parkı:

Çemberlitaş Hamamı

Best Istanbul hammams

Çemberlitaş hamamı

Originally constructed in 1584 to generate income to the Valide-i Atik Complex, the Çemberlitaş Hamamı is located on Divanyolu street of Cemberlitas. This historic Turkish bathhouse exudes elegance and luxury in a subtle manner, and has two partitions for men and women separately. A total number of 38 baths are situated inside the complex with a multifaceted navel stone at the hot section.

The packages they offer include Self service, Sac, Foam and Sultan baths, aromatherapy massage with essential oils, Thai massage, Indian head massage and clay masking.

  • Self-service package — 160 turkish lira
  • Kese and soap massage package 260 turkish lira
  • Kese, soap massage, oil massage package — turkish lira

Depending on the treatments and packages of your choice, pricing at the Çemberlitas Hamamı is quite affordable.

Çemberlitaş Hamamı is located not far from T1 line Çemberlitaş tram station:

Galatasaray Hamamı

Best turkish bath in Istanbul

Galatasaray hamamı

Unarguably the most popular historical hammam because of its strategic location in Beyoglu, right at the heart of the city of Istanbul, this historic bathhouse still retains its heritage from the past.

The packages available at Galatasaray Hamami are the Pasha, Full, Massage, Kese and Hamam services.

Prices range from 350 TL for service (kese, soap massage, oil massage).

You can find Galatasaray hammam by walking down from Istiklal street passing by Galatasaray School (Galatasaray Lisesi):

Hamam Terms

  1. Pestamal: A special silk and/or cotton cloth used in covering the body.
  2. Nalin: wooden clogs that prevents slipping on the wet bath floor.
  3. Kese: a rough mitt for massages.
  4. Tellak: masseurs, young men who help wash clients by soaping and scrubbing their bodies
  5. Gobektasi: a warm marble slab.
  6. Kurna: small marble basin.
  7. Natir: a female attendant, masseuse.

Turkish bath services in İstanbul

Self service: You only pay to gain entrance to the hammam. You’ll take responsibility of your bathing and scrubbing yourself.  Remember to bring along your own toiletries.

Full Turkish bath: a full Turkish bath experience includes steaming, bubble bath and body scrub, followed by a rejuvenating oil massage.

Bridal Bath: A pampering Turkish spa treatment given to bride-to-be in preparation for the wedding day. The bride and her friends, enjoy the full Turkish baths and massage, dance to music and refresh their bodies and mind.

Hammam rules and etiquettesTurkish bath in Istanbul

There are some rules and etiquettes governing a Turkish bath which is oftentimes assumed that visitors already know.

Don’t panic, we will fill you in on these rules and what is expected of you.

  • You will not be permitted to have a Turkish baths if pregnant and/or pregnancy is above two months.
  • Children under six years of age are not permitted to have a Turkish bath.
  • Men and women cannot be seen in the same bath. Strictly no mixing of the two sexes. It is either there are two separate sections, one for each sex or they are admitted at separate times/days.
  • No taking of pictures inside the bath in order not to infringe on the privacy of other clients.
  • Cover your genitals.
  • As a lady, Turkish bath might not be convenient during your period.
  • The floor is slippery. Keep your slippers on to prevent falls.
  • Wash your private parts yourself.
  • Bring along extra underwears.
  • Bring your soap along with you, if you have a sensitive skin and do react to other soaps.
  • Remove your makeup and contact lenses, as you would be entering water.
  • Your attendant will likely be of the same sex as you.
  • Bikinis and swimsuits are okay, but you will feel queer and out of place as most people won’t be wearing any.
  • It is customary to tip the attendants cash.

Best mixed turkish bath (hammams) for couples

Süleymaniye hamamı remains the best bath in Istanbul for couples. You and your partner will find the Süleymaniye hamamı’s atmosphere accommodating and romantic enough for you to enjoy a Turkish bath and celebrate your love together.

How to use a turkish bath

After you have chosen the type of service and treatments you desire, an attendant will be assigned you. Your attendant will hand you a pestemal, a thin cotton towel for wrapping round your body.

Dressing section: You will remove every item of clothing on you. What were you thinking?  It’s a bath of course, you don’t bathe with your clothes on. You can leave your panties or briefs on. Lock up your personal belongings in a locker and keep the keys with you.

Warm section: You will be ushered into the warm section where you will relax and get heated. By now you will be sweating profusely beside the kurna, a small marble basin.

Next the attendant will dutifully give every inch of your body an invigorating scrub with the kese, a rough mitt used for scrubbing the body.

Hot section: After this vigorous scrubbing, you will be taken to the hot section where you will lie on a warm marble slab called the gobektasi.

The hot section in the historic Turkish baths is the most impressive part. The room is usually designed as a large central dome, the upper area of the dome has holes through which light penetrate. The suffusing rays of sunshine give the room a wonderful ambience words may fail to articulate.

Bubble bath: Your attendant will then soak you in a refreshing bubble bath and massage you with a foamy cloth.

Cold section: Finally, you will be taken to the cold section where the cold environment will help your body revert back to its normal temperature.

Refreshments will be offered you, and this could be a glass of sherbet, a cup of Turkish tea, fruits etc. Remember to tip the dutiful attendants that took time to pamper your body.

Istanbul turkish bath (hammam) prices 2020 and opening hoursIstanbul hammams

Within the city of Istanbul you will find many traditional Turkish baths, with services ranging from the most basic to lavishly luxurious treatments.

Basically, the entrance costs about €40 and massage sessions raise the price to €75.

At the Cagaloglu, basic service costs €50 and together with a 30 minutes massage it rises to €65. With aromatherapy the charges run between €75 — €180.

Basic bath at Galatasaray is €30 and €60 with a massage while Cermbelitas charges €40 for basic and €65 when massage is added.

Kilic Ali Pasha’s pricing is €53 for basic and €100 with additional 50 minutes massage. Suleymaniye charges a flat rate of €40 with a short massage.

Ayasofya leads the pack with treatments costing between €80 for basic and a maximum pricing of €160 with massages.

If you’re on a tight budget, Şifa hamamı would be your best shot. A basic bath goes for €25 and €32 with an oil massage.

Istanbul hammams opening hours

Turkish baths open as early as 6am and closes around 11pm. Some run from morning to night non-stop.

Some hammams may request you to book ahead. Kindly check the website of turkish bath of your choice to find out their mode of operation.

Also note that some days may be exclusively set aside for a particular gender.

Who shouldn’t use turkish bath?

Those with heart diseases, asthma, kidney problems and abnormal blood pressure should not take the bath. Likewise, precaution is advised for the pregnant and children under six years of age.

Also don’t take the bath if you just consumed alcohol, have just finished a large meal or you are famished.

Benefits of hammam

A Turkish bath is not only meant to clean your outer body but is also a form of hydro-therapy which has a deep healing effect on your mental, emotional and physical well-being. Below are some benefits of a Turkish bath:

  • It relieves you of all stress and tension.
  • Improves blood circulation and rejuvenates your cells.
  • Unclogs your skin pores, rid them of dirts and exfoliate your skin, making it soft and supple.
  • Detoxifies your body by eliminating toxins.
  • Clears your respiratory tract, remove every congestion and make breathing easier.

So when next you visit, free your spirit, mind and body of all tension. Take the legendary Turkish bath and let go of that stress. This is Istanbul! This is the land of adventures!

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