Complete Guide to the Best Hamams in Istanbul and What to Know

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Valery Aloyants
@valeryaloyants
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wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Once ad Istanbul you can't miss a session of hamam in one of the many historical Turkish baths of the city: among the many things to do in Istanbul, this is certainly one of the experiences not to be missed.

The hamam, or Turkish bath (yes they are the same thing!) Is part of the Muslim culture and tradition: cleaning becomes almost an obsession. If you go to the mosques of Istanbul you will see people who constantly wash their hands in the special washrooms.



Having said that, if you are reading this post it is because you are thinking of trying a hamam to Istanbul sooner or later: excellent choice. Participating in this side that is so important in some cultures around the world is not only a way to relax, but also to take a deeper part in the life of the locals.

Today, hamams have also spread as simple places to meet and relax and in many cases they are more like a SPA rather than a religious space.

Despite this they have not lost their charm and their somewhat mystical atmosphere.

BOOK THE BEST HAMAMS in Istanbul in 1 minute!

But Hammam -> BOOK HERE

Cemberlitas Hamami -> BOOK HERE

Hotel with SPA and private hamam -> Hammam Ritz-Carlton Istanbul, Ciragan Palace Kempinski, The Galata Istanbul Hotel

Entering a Turkish bath is an unmissable experience and it is for this reason that I want to recommend you the best hamams in Istanbul and what to expect before living this experience.



Here's what you'll find in this article:

  • History of the Hamams of Istanbul
  • How is a hamam made?
  • Hamam in Istanbul what you need to know
  • The best hamams in Istanbul
    • 1 - But Hamami
    • 2 – Cağaloğlu Hamam
    • 3 – Cemberlitas Bath
    • 4 – Suleymaniye Hamami
    • 5 – Hagia Sophia Hurrem Sultan Hamami
    • 6 – Kilic Ali Pasha Hamami
    • 7 – Historical Galatasaray Bath
    • 8 – Historical Gedikpaşa Bath
    • 9 – Aziziye Hamam
    • 10 – Great Hamam Kasimpasa
  • Hotel to Istanbul with Hamam included
    • 1 – Hammam Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
    • 2 - Ciragan Palace Kempinski hamam
    • 3 – The Galata Istanbul Hotel
  • What to bring, Etiquette and useful tips
  • Map of the Hamams of Istanbul

History of the Hamams of Istanbul

THEhamam was born in Istanbul, at the time when it was called Constantinople, shortly after the period in which the city was the capital of the Roman Empire.

Before that time, when life in Turkey was predominantly nomadic, people washed themselves by the water or in the puddles of hot water they encountered.



Before then, however, i Romans had already rooted the spa culture for some time but the real Turkish bath was born with the conquest of the city by the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottomans, like the Romans before them, brought their own bathing traditions with them: the "clash" between Ottoman and Roman traditions it evolved into a new ritual that united that of cleansing the body with that of the Islamic religion.

The Turks called it hamam.

The hamam has always constituted one fundamental part of the life of the population and being, at least in antiquity, free, it was frequented daily by men and women of any social class.

The hamam soon became much more than a place dedicated to cleansing the body: it became a real one center of the social life of the community where men and women met to meet and socialize, discuss business or simply gossip.

But not only that: people went to the hamam to purify themselves before important life events, such as weddings, births or circumcisions, or to celebrate with food and music (that's right! In ancient times in the hamam you could eat and play).

The young women went to the hamams hoping to win favors from the mother of the boy they had fallen in love with; mothers looked for young spouses for their children, marriages were arranged. For hundreds of years, the public bathroom has been the heart of social life.

He was probably right Sherazade, the beautiful narrator of “The Thousand and One Nights”, when she stated that a city cannot be considered complete if it does not have a Hamam.


How is a hamam made?

Hamams are not all the same and some are structured differently (it also depends on the different countries, the rituals can be different), but generally a hamam consists of 3 rooms which can be accessed progressively.


1 – La warm room (lukewarm room) that is, the first room one enters after having changed, is the first approach to heat.

Two bowls are generally delivered here, one with cold and one hot water. after washing the floor around you with cold water, you use the hot water to start cleaning your skin and hair.

2 – La hot room (hot room), or the hot room is where the heat is greatest: this is where the heat helps to open the pores of the skin to let the toxins out of your body. In hamams there is no time limit to stay, the decision of how long to spend in the hot room depends on one's tolerance of the heat.

Here the basin with cold water can be used (although many leave it in the warm room) to cool off from time to time.

After the warm room we return to the warm one to wash even more deeply this time with soap.

It often happens that some stranger approaches and asks you if you want me to wash your back: do not misinterpret it, it is a kindness towards you, not a request for money or some other type of "approach".

Hafef, my friend from Tunis, explained it to me the first time I went with her to a "public bath" at El-Methihra Hammam.

When you have finished washing and soaping, you always use the basin with cold water to wash the soap off the floor.

3 - the cold room is the one in which, after your bath, you will feel completely regenerated.

Many hamams have showers here to give themselves a final rinse. Think of this room as a relaxing place to sit, rest and wait for your body to get used to the outside temperature again.

Often you will be offered a tea, or a sweet.

Hamam in Istanbul what you need to know

There are around 237 hamams in Istanbul; about 60 are still in use today.

Of course, you want the hamam to be perfectly clean and highly reliable. Most importantly, since, well, you'll be naked.

By the way, "hammam" is the original Arabic spelling while "hamam" is the Turkish spelling - both are used today to refer to Turkish baths. (“Hamma” in Arabic means “heating”).

During the time I lived in Tunisia, the hamam had become a habit and also on subsequent trips, in between Morocco, Syria and Turkey I have experienced many.

However, one of the best ever was during the trip to Istanbul: unfortunately, here the large historic hamams have become a bit too touristy, more similar to spas like those that are here with us than to a real public bath.

In fact, they are little if at all frequented by the inhabitants of Istanbul. Despite this, it is worth visiting them exclusively for the architecture which is truly magnificent:  not for nothing many of them were built by great architects such as the famous Mi'mār Sinān.

Think the most famous of all, the  Cagaloglu hamami, was defined as one of the 1000 must see places in life by the New York Times. It goes without saying that it is besieged by tourists, that it is expensive and that by now it has very little authentic.

I chose a small neighborhood hamam, desolately empty, but of which I have beautiful memories because it was a fairly authentic experience.

So first you will have to decide whether you want to visit a historic hamam or a Turkish bath in a hotel. Subsequently, upon entering the establishment, you must select and pay for the service of your choice. The possible options are:

Self-service: you wash and bring your own soap, shampoo and towel. This is obviously the cheapest option and will cost you around 160 TL. I would not recommend it for your first visit.

Traditional style: Choose this if you want the real Turkish bath experience. An attendant will wash and massage you for about 15 minutes and you won't need to bring any equipment. This service will cost you around 255 TL.

Other styles - They have many other services such as aromatherapy oil massage, reflexology, Indian head massage and even clay facial mask. Please check their website if you are interested in those.

Unfortunately in Turkey the small hamams are disappearing: now all the inhabitants have bathrooms and running water in the house and going to the public bathroom is no longer a vital need as it was in the past.

Apart from a few exceptions, such as the Sulaymaniyah, in hamams the separation of the sexes so Massi and I had to say goodbye and meet again a few hours later.

In the past, mixed hamams have never existed and still in the traditional hamam men and women are strictly separated. The large hamams had two chambers for both sexes, while the smaller, one-chambered hamams had different times for men and women.

Mixed hamams were invented for tourists (not surprisingly, most of them work with large hotel chains) and a Turkish woman would never dream of setting foot there, even with her husband.

As soon as I arrived at the reception I took a look at the various offers proposed and I chose the one complete with massage. It cost me slightly more, but I assure you that when I went out I felt like a swallow: I was so well that I felt like I was walking without touching the ground.

The young lady at the reception gave me the keys to the locker room (where I was able to lock my things) and the peştemal (a piece of fabric with which to cover the private parts): this first room (camekan) is a large antechamber in Turkey that could be compared to a large changing room in a swimming pool.

After I changed, I headed for another room (cold) where I started with the basin to pour buckets of water on my head, waiting to acclimate my body to the heat before entering thetemperature, that is the main room, the heart of the hamam.

The hararet of the hamams in Istanbul is generally a large room characterized by a large domed vault in which small holes are dug to let in a soft light that helps to maintain an intimate and relaxing atmosphere.

In the center of the room is the göbektaşı, a large marble platform on which I lay waiting for a massage.

The massage begins with the kese that is the traditional cleansing of the skin: it is vigorously rubbed with force with a specially designed glove that is used to remove dead skin. I brought my glove, they cost very little in the markets (from 1 to 3 euros) and at the Grand Bazaar you are spoiled for choice.

Then with some kind of foam-filled pillow cover I was soaped and given the actual massage.

Feeling reborn, after the massage and shampoo I plunged into the pool and splashed around for a while until I decided I had enough and headed for the cold room where I spent the last few minutes relaxing on a lounger.

The best hamams in Istanbul

Once in Istanbul you can't miss a hamam session in one of the many historic Turkish baths in the city, that's it the best ones you can choose from:

1 - But Hamami

PhotoCredits: Aga Hamami

This is the oldest Turkish bath in Istanbul and dates back to 1454 when Mehmed the Conqueror had it built as a private hamam under the apartments of his hunting lodge.

Its opening to the public dates back to 1923.

But Hammam it is located in the Cihangir district of Beyoglu and is easily accessible.
You can choose between different packages: from the traditional one to the one with massage, with additional head massage or the complete one.

Address: Kuloglu Mh., Turnacibasi Cd. No:48 Aga Hamami, 34433 , Taksim / Istanbul, Turkey
Phone:+90 (249) 249 50 27
E-mail :huseyin@agahamami.com

☞ Click to book HERE your hamam in Aga Hamami

2 – Cağaloğlu Hamam

Photocredits: Cağaloğlu Hamam

Il Cagaloglu Turkish Bath it is one of the most famous hamams in Istanbul and was the last one created during the Ottoman Empire.

Its construction dates back to 1741 during the reign of Mahmut I and since then it has never lost its charm, so much so that it has been the set for several films (including Indiana Jones): the Hamamı has baroque features and other stylistic novelties of the building that were not common in classical Ottoman architecture.

The baroque-inspired architecture with elements typical of the classic Ottoman one makes this place almost enchanted.

Cağaloğlu Hamamı is centrally located near Aya Sofia.

Inside there are two separate areas for men and women.

In addition to the basic treatment, it includes various pluses such as scrubs and massages or real complete treatments that include 45-minute massages and Turkish snacks to be tasted along the way.

The entrance ticket gives you free access to a hamam session and includes the loan of a bath towel, peştemal, a pair of slippers, as well as a gift box containing an exfoliation sponge, hand soap. olive oil and a cream lotion for hair and body.

Opening time: the hammam is open every day from 9:00 to 22:00 on weekdays and from 9:00 to 23:00 on weekends. The hammam is not mixed. The hours are the same for men and women but in different spaces.

Address: ALEMDAR MAH. PROFESSOR KAZIM İSMAIL GÜRKAN CAD. NO: 34 CAĞALOĞLU BATH 34110 FATIH, ISTANBUL/TURKEY

email: INFO@CAGALOGLUHAMAMI.COM.TR

3 – Cemberlitas Bath

Il Cemberlitas Hamami it is certainly one of the best hamams in Istanbul, but also one of the most touristic. This does not mean, however, that it should be avoided, on the contrary: here too you will find that fairytale atmosphere of a thousand and one nights.

Its construction dates back to 1584 and some original areas of the time have survived to this day.

This hamam is located near the Grand Bazar, in an easy and convenient location to reach.

Built by Nur Banu Sultan in 1584 for Mimar Sinan, Ottoman inscriptions in some areas of the hammam survive to the present day. Mimar Sinan has designed this hamam using a different style from traditional structures that make it unique in its kind. The main theme of this hamam, which has a total of 38 pools, is the pleasure of simplicity.

Here, too, men and women have two separate spaces.
After the traditional Turkish bath you can take the opportunity to have a scrub, a massage or a clay mask.

Address: Vezirhan Cad. No: 8, 34440 Cemberlitas / Istanbul

Phone: +90 212 522 79 74

☞ Click to book HERE your hamam at Cemberlitas Hamami

4 – Suleymaniye Hamami

This hamam dating from 1557 it has recently been restored, but has not lost its beauty: its domes and perfectly aligned fireplaces make it one of the hamams with the most fascinating architecture in all of Istanbul.

Il Suleymaniye Hamami, unlike the other two hamams seen so far, it is mixed and the entrance is allowed to couples and families together in the same rooms.

In order not to upset the balance, however, single people or groups of the same sex are not allowed to enter.

Also only 32 people are allowed at a time so I recommend you book well, very far in advance.

After the Turkish bath, the staff will carry out washing, scrubs and a massage.

Address: Mimar Sinan Caddesi No:20 Suleymaniye / ISTANBUL – TURKEY

Phone: +90 (212) 519 55 69

E-Mail:  info@suleymaniyehamami.com.tr

5 – Hagia Sophia Hurrem Sultan Hamami

THEAyasophia Hamami, restored in 2011, is one of the most luxurious hamams in Istanbul.

The Turkish bath dates back to 1556 and was built, like all those I have told you about so far, by the architect Mimar Sinan at the request of the wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

It is a true architectural innovation, it is one of the few Turkish baths to have designed identical male and female sections, on the same axis, specular.

Originally the hamam was dedicated to Roxelana, the favorite concubine of Suleiman the Magnificent.

This Turkish bath is located in the center between Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque.
Its location and high level of service make it one of the most expensive hamams in the city.

Between silk towels, essential oils from Anatolia and original stones from the Ottoman era, you will truly live a unique experience.

The packages are different and range from the classic path to the complete one with body, head and face massage, mask and fresh fruit to be enjoyed along the way.

Opening time: the hamam is open every day from 8:00 to 22:00. The hamam is not mixed. The hours are the same for men and women but in different spaces.

Address: Cankurtaran Mah. Hagia Sophia Square No:2 FATIH / ISTANBUL

Tel: +90 212 517 35 35

E-Mail: info@ayasofyahamami.com

6 – Kilic Ali Pasha Hamami

Built between 1578 and 1583, the Kilic Ali Pasa hamami it has recently been restored and is open in the morning for women and in the afternoon for men.

The hamam is located in the Karakoy district just in front of the Tophane tram station so it is also easily accessible by public transport.

Ordered from the great architect Sinan by the famous Ottoman admiral Kılıç Ali Paşa as part of the mosque and school complex, the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı was built between 1578 and 1583 to serve the Levents, the soldiers of the Ottoman navy.

Famous for its architectural lines and its majestic dome, this hamam is one of Tophane's iconic buildings, the old port district of Istanbul.

Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı reopened its doors in 2016 after seven long years of meticulous and intensive restoration and offers an unforgettable experience to its visitors.

The entrance ticket gives you free access to a hamam session and includes the loan of a bath towel, peştemal, a pair of slippers, an exfoliating sponge and olive oil soap.

You can add different types of massages to the Turkish bath ritual to complete your journey.

Opening time: the hammam is open every day from 8:00 to 16:00. for women (last booking at 14 pm) and from 16 pm to 30 pm (last booking at 23 pm) for men.

The hammam is not mixed. The hours are different for men and women.

Address: Kemankes Mah. Hamam Sok. No:1 34425 Tophane Karakoy, Istanbul

Phone: +90 (212) 393 80 10

E-Mail: info@kilicalipasahamami.com

7 – Historical Galatasaray Bath

The history of Galatasaray Hamami it dates back to 1461 and still today, after a careful restoration, it is one of the most famous Turkish baths in the city (especially among tourists).

Its location within walking distance of the pedestrianized Istiklal Street certainly contributes to its fame.

Here too, in addition to the classic hamam, you can take advantage of the complete package with massage.

Address: Turnacibasi Sk. No:24 Galatasaray Beyoglu/Istanbul

Phone: 0212-252 42 42

E-Mail: info@galatasarayhamami.com

8 – Historical Gedikpaşa Bath

It THistorical Gedikpasa Turkish Bath is a turkish bath located a few steps from the Grand Bazar, in a very convenient location.

Its construction dates back to 1475.

Among its features are a fountain at the entrance, an indoor swimming pool and a sauna.
The admission price includes scrub and massage.

Address: Hamam Caddesi No 61 Gedikpaşa FATİH – ISTANBUL / TURKEY

Telephone: + 90 212 517 89 56

E-Mail: info@gedikpasahamami.com

Aziziye Hamam

Aziziye Hamam it is a neighborhood hamam where you can live the experience of a Turkish bath in an economical and very “local” way: not suitable for weak stomachs!

Its history is much more recent than the other Istanbul hamams seen so far and its construction dates back to 1860.

Aziziye Hamam it is open every day from 06:00 to 23:00 for men and from 08:00 to 18:30 for women.

10 – Great Hamam Kasimpasa

This hamam dates back to 1533 and today remains one of the few neighborhood Turkish baths to have survived in all its authenticity: if you are looking for a truly authentic experience, then this is the place for you.

Generally this is a hamam that I do not recommend to tourists: hygiene is not the best according to our standards and then let's face it: there are much more beautiful hamams!

Hotel to Istanbul with Hamam included

Photocredit: Ritz-Carlton

These days you may not even have to leave your hotel to enjoy a hamam.

Some of the best hotels in Istanbul have their own Turkish baths.

1 – Hammam Ritz-Carlton Istanbul

Il Ritz Carlton is a high-rise luxury hotel which is located just around the corner from Istiklal Caddesi, the famous pedestrian shopping street (be sure to dive into the pretty glass covered "Flower Passage").

The Ritz-Carlton is also close to the tram that takes you to the historic center of Sultanahmet, where Istanbul's major attractions are located including Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and other historic sites.

Guys, we are talking about a one of the luxury hotels a chain, known and present everywhere: this hotel therefore has its own private hamami for guests!

In the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul spa, all rigorously decorated in marble, it will offer you a massage with steam, scrubs and soap bubbles that will surely help you overcome the jetlag and the strains of a day around Istanbul.

The Ritz-Carlton's spa features an indoor pool and an authentic Turkish hamam!

SEE RITZ CARLTON

2 - Ciragan Palace Kempinski hamam

Built on the banks of the Bosphorus Channel, the Ciragan Palace Kempinski it has welcomed kings and queens, as well as celebrities such as Madonna, Oprah Winfrey and the designer Giorgio Armani.

We are talking about a historic hotel dedicated to a very exclusive clientele.

A gorgeous outdoor infinity pool overlooks the boats plying the sparkling sea - a treat at the end of a day of sightseeing.

If you stay here, absolutely try its SPA:

Towel head rests on marble slabs, soft Turkish music and the choice of an easy, medium or hard scrub will add comfort to your experience.

Afterwards, you can relax on a red velvet sofa while sipping mint tea.

Definitely an indulgent ritual fit for a sultan and his princess!

SEE KEMPINSKI

3 – The Galata Istanbul Hotel

You can let yourself be enchanted by the charm of the magical and historical Galata. The Galata area has been home to different cultures and civilizations for over a thousand years and today is home to some of the best hotels.

One of the most famous historical buildings in Galata, The Baltazzi Han was built in 1836 and in 2017 it was completely refurbished and opened its doors as Galata Istanbul Hotel by MGallery in March 2018.

You can enjoy a treatment in an authentic historical Turkish bath in Çeşme which is located in the hotel garden and dates back to 1720.

The historian “Çeşme Hamamı” was built by Grand Admiral Kaymak Mustafa Pasha in the late 1720s, in the age of tulips.

Shortly after the hamam was built, he was imprisoned and executed during a rebellion, which ended the tulip era. This rebellion is called "Patron Halil Rebellion" in Ottoman history.

It continued to be used as a bathhouse until 2017 when it was restored preserving its original structure.

'Çeşme Hamamı' has been reopened by the Galata Istanbul Hotel MGallery in its original style and maintains the 300-year tradition of water therapy wellness.

Hotel guests can use this magical hamam for free.

SEE GALATA ISTANBUL

What to bring, Etiquette and useful tips

What to bring to the hamam in Istanbul

Actually, especially in the hamam for tourists you don't need to bring anything, but if you visit a small hamam then it is better to bring the following things:

      • soap
      • shampoo
      • scrub glove
      • swimsuit

Of course, you can bring anything you want, but if you don't have it you don't have to worry as you will find just about anything available.

In the most touristic and recommended hamams for us, you will also find creams and scrubs for sale. Obviously it's best if you bring your own costume, in case you have to wear it and the things you typically use for your skin and hair.

Various labels and tips

Do not waste water: in the countries of the Middle East it is a precious resource.

Men cannot go naked but must wear briefs: in some countries, being naked is an extremely offensive gesture. Women in Turkey can go naked (in Morocco better not) or wear panties, choose the one that makes you feel comfortable.

If you feel fat or ugly don't worry, no one will notice! In hamams you will always find someone uglier or fatter than you and no one cares what you are like.

The masseurs and the employees of the hamams consider the clients all the same and all to be treated in the same way. Your care and making you feel good is their main goal, the rest doesn't matter.

If you don't want to look like Marilyn Manson after 5 minutes, don't wear makeup before entering a hamam.

Don't go if you have contagious skin problems.

Ask your doctor if you have heart or vascular problems. High temperatures can lead to some cardiovascular or blood pressure problems.

You will have to wash your private parts yourself.

Drink plenty of water before going to a hamam, it will help your body feel better.

Bring some coins to leave as a tip, it will be very welcome.

If you get too hot in the hot room, step out into the cooler one, sit back and wait to get better. The hamam is not a prison, no one forces you to do anything.

Many tourist hamams take the experience from 60 to 90 minutes, but in traditional hammams you can stay as long as you like. Two hours, two and a half hours is generally the recommended time.

Don't worry about doing anything. Just relax, the attendants will tell you when you are ready for the massage and guide you. Here too, if you want to relax a little longer, kindly ask him for another ten minutes and you will be granted.

You will be given slippers or clogs. Wear them, the marble floor could be slippery and the clogs will prevent you from a ruinous fall.

Take the hamam as time to dedicate and take care of yourself because this is its main function.

Map of the Hamams of Istanbul

Audio Video Complete Guide to the Best Hamams in Istanbul and What to Know
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