Relax at the 7 Best Hammams or Turkish Baths in Istanbul
When you visit, Istanbul you could visit all the historical monuments and buildings in Istanbul to get a taste of history. On the other hand, you could visit local bazaars, try local street food, or shop in the local markets of the city, or try a cuppa at the modern cafes and taste delicious food at some amazing restaurants the city offers.
However, to experience something amazing and unique to the city, you have to try and visit a traditional Turkish bath also called a “hammam”. A public bath ritual that’s still very much part of Turkish culture, it’s a fascinating experience like no other.
In Istanbul, some locals frequent these public baths almost every week to get cleaned up. However, these days, some of the public baths cater specifically to tourists and their needs, with services such as aromatherapy and full-body massages. They have professional helpers, scrubbers and masseurs and charge accordingly. On the other hand, well-known hotels in the city have their own spas and hammams in them as well.
The whole idea of a hammam can be daunting to the uninitiated but you have to try it at least once before you swear to never do it again!
Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay
The Hammam Experience
Relax and try this distinct experience while you let your attendant (‘natir’ for women, ‘tellak’ for men) do the work for you, and guide you through the experience. Pick the right package for you first and then later, don’t forget to tip if you’re satisfied with the service.
Here, you’ll first be given your Turkish towels (called ‘peştemal‘) and changing clothes (if you prefer, you can wear your own bikini or underwear) and secure lockers to store your belongings. You will then be directed to the lounge where you can relax with a tea, coffee or traditional sherbet, before or after the sessions.
After that, you’ll be guided to a hot room to sweat and to a raised and heated marble platform (called ‘göbektaşı‘), get scrubbed down with a firm washcloth (called a ‘kese‘) by the attendants. Following that, you’ll get a water bath, a bubble bath without a bathtub on the hot marble platform and washed to perfection, sometimes with a mini massage. Additionally, some hammams now offer extra services.
Now, whatever you decide, be ready for a unique experience! Let’s check out some of the best hammams in the city below and make a reservation to visit them the next time you’re in Istanbul!
Constructed in the year 1741, Cağaloğlu hammam with its 16 columns has hosted world-famous celebrities, leaders and dignitaries including Atatürk, Florence Nightingale, Oprah, Ara Güler and many others.
There are 7 different packages with the least expensive being self-service, where you come to relax, wash/scrub and bath at your leisure. The most expensive service is the bridal party package. The place also boasts its own restaurant, Lokanta 1741 with some interesting dishes such as mashed cheese with pistachio, twice-cooked octopus, spinach and halloumi dumplings and Turkish switheet dessert, also called Şekerpare.
OPENING HOURS: 11 AM TO 9 PM
ADDRESS: Alemdar, Prof. Kazım İsmail Gürkan Cd. No:24, 34110, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul
train/ferry: marmaray – Sirkeci/eminönü
Kılıç Ali Paşa
Named after an Italian-born Ottoman admiral who rose up the ranks in the Ottoman navy, this historical hammam was commissioned to Mimar Sinan to built this bath for his sailors. Located in the Karaköy/Galata neighbourhood, this 16th-century bathhouse was newly renovated after seven years of meticulous restoration.
They offer homemade lemonade, tea and coffee or a traditional sherbet before or after your bath sessions. So, you can choose to lounge before the hot room or the heated marble platform as long as you like, before being scrubbed and washed to perfection! The hammam also has a dedicated hammam culture shop where you can browse various items and take them home as souvenirs. If you have kids under 5, they can join you for free!
You can spend a whole day in the neighbourhood, sipping tea at Dem or having a bite or a read at Fil Books. And in the afternoon or late evening, make an appointment at the neighbourhood hammam and you won’t be disappointed!
OPENING HOURS: 8 AM TO 11 PM; closed 4-4.30 pm
ADDRESS: Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa, Hamam Sk. No:1, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan
This 16th-century bathhouse is named after the most famous of the Ottoman Sultans, Suleiman the Magnificent‘s consort and legal wife, Hurrem Sultan, also known as Roxelena. Known for being a powerful woman in Ottoman history, she commissioned Ottoman architect Sinan to construct the beautiful hammam. Furthermore, an ancient Roman temple and a bathroom stood at the same spot in the past!
Located in the Sultanahmet square, the place is divided into three sections and offers various bath services, priced in Euros. Choose a package depending on time from 30 to 110 minutes and different offerings. For instance, they can include a ‘kese’ wash i.e. with a glove and head and neck massages and masks.
Other types of massages not included in the hammam packages are aromatherapy, feet and back and anti-stress massages, all in a professional and clean environment. Moreover, they offer wedding party packages for the bride and groom and their friends. So you can have a traditional ‘get-ready’ party with henna (part of the rituals of traditional wedding preparations).
OPENING HOURS: 8 AM TO 9 PM
ADDRESS: Cankurtaran, Ayasofya Meydanı No:2, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul
Established in 1454, a hunting lodge was constructed by Sultan Mehmet where the historical Ağa hammam now stands in Beyoğlu. Later, a hammam was constructed below the hunting lodge. It was used as a private bathhouse by him and his sons. Moreover, it’s close to Taksim Square and in the side streets of Istiklal Avenue. This hammam is probably the first Turkish bathhouse constructed in Istanbul! Inside, you’ll find a beautiful marble lounge with an indoor stone fountain and chandelier where you can enjoy tea, coffee or sherbet.
Furthermore, later renovations by other sultans improved the place. It continued to be used by the sultans until the decline of the empire in 1923. Since then, the business changed hands several times as a business and now serves as a mixed hammam catering to tourists exclusively. As such, prices are quite high for locals. There are several packages available, with a minimum entrance fee of 150 Turkish Liras. Additional peeling, scrubbing, masks, foam bath and oil massage cost extra.
OPENING HOURS: 10 AM TO 10 PM
ADDRESS: Kuloğlu, Turnacıbaşı Cd. No:48, 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
In 1557, Sinan was commissioned to build this hammam as part of the Süleymaniye mosque and its vast complex. Over 463 years old, this bath was frequented by Sultan Suleiman himself!
The bath has been renovated and began operations again in 2004. It charges a single price of 40 Euros for around 60 to 90 minutes of bath services. On weekdays, the hammam allows families to bath together (men and women together). However, the weekends are reserved for men (on Friday) and women (on Sundays) only. What’s more, when you reserve a place, they can even take you from your hotel.
Be warned, guests have observed an initial extremely hot sauna experience before you get taken to get scrubbed down. No drinks/beverages are allowed inside! And interestingly, all the scrubbers and the masseurs are male at this hammam. To sum up, this hammam probably offers the most basic hammam experience you’ll get in Istanbul.
OPENING HOURS: Weekdays 10 AM TO 8 PM, Sundays for women only and Saturdays for men only (7 am to 9 pm)
ADDRESS: Süleymaniye, Mimar Sinan Cd. No 20, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul
Turkey’s oldest business in continuous operation since 1584, the Çemberlitaş hammam is located in one of the busiest streets of the old city, not far from the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar and other historical places such as the Beyazit second-hand book market. Furthermore, nearby there are numerous other monuments such as the Roman Çemberlitaş column erected by Constantine I, for example.
This unique domed bath was established by Nurbanu Sultan, wife of Selim II with architect Mimar Sinan’s services and experience. It underwent renovation and lost some sections due to roadworks. Here, after a nice scrub, a massage and a bubble bath, there are also other options available. These include aromatherapy, an Indian head massage and a clay mask, for example.
OPENING HOURS: 8 AM TO 10 PM
ADDRESS: Mollafenari, Vezirhan Cd. No:8, 34440 Fatih/İstanbul
A chic and modern hammam in the up and coming neighbourhood of Çukurcuma, this hammam provides the traditional bath experience with modern facilities. It’s housed in a historical building and decorated impeccably inside. If a traditional bath experience with stylish sensibilities is what you desire, then you should definitely head to this place!