Turkish Baths – Historical Hamams of Istanbul
No visit to Turkey is complete without the experience of bathing in an authentic Turkish bath. Istanbul offers up some of the oldest and most beautiful baths in the country – if not the world! This is one of those unique experiences you'll be telling your friends and family about for years! (In a good way, of course!) But not all baths are created equal.
What to look for?
Beauty Marble sinks, brass fixtures and a gravity-defying dome deliver the right ambiance. If you're going to splash out, why not splurge on the whole experience? Indulge!
Cleanness For Turks, Turkish baths went out of style with the advent of indoor plumbing, so in the case of hamams, “touristy” is not necessarily a bad word. They're frequented more often and therefore cleaner, better maintained and more secure than the under local local baths. Local baths are much cheaper, but they are usually frequented by the lower classes that do not have hot water in their homes over the winter months.
Has good facilities for your sex Surprisingly, some baths have very nice facilities for men but not for women. Some baths even offer small private cabins with a single bed where you can change and relax. A belly stone is a large, circular, heated platform in the center of the bath where you can lounge and relax – some baths do not have one. Ask to see the facilities if you are not sure.
The Scrub Some massages are hard and long, while others are short and gentle. Some masseurs are gentle on foreigners cause they know we are “soft”. See below for a bath that will scrub you senseless.
Ladies and Gentlemen As a rule, no self-respecting Turkish woman would let a man scrub her. So if a woman found herself in a situation where a man was going to do the scrubbing she would be well within her rights to ask for a woman. (Sorry men, your washer will always be a man!) Almost all baths are segregated, but there is one near Suleymania Mosque behind the Grand Bazaar where men and woman may bathe together if couples want to experience the bath together. If you're looking for a Turkish bath in Sultanahmet, three baths stand out – Cemberlitas and Cagaloglu and Sultanahmet.
- Cagaloglu Hamam You get points if you can pronounce this tongue twister of a name! A wonderful Hamam with atmosphere, personality and celebrity status! Scenes from the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were filmed here due to its exotic and glamorous setting. Men's and Women's sections. (Yerebatan Caddesi 34, Cagaloglu; tel: 212 522 2424; 8 am-10pm YTL20-70)
- Cemberlitas Hamam Where else can you relax under a 500-year-old marble dome built by Mimar Sinan – Chief Ottoman Architect to the Sultans? This bath is stunning and the lady masseurs are known to break into song while they scrub! Men's and Women's sections. (Vezir Hani Caddesi 8, Cemberlitas; tel: 212 522 7974; 6 am-midnight; YTL20-60)
- Sultanahmet Hamam There is no belly stone for you to lounge on and the 17th-century steam rooms smell faintly of mold, but if you're looking for a long, hard authentic scrub that will leave you wobbly in the knees, this is the place to seek out! Men's and Women's sections. (Doktor Emin Pasha Sok 10, Sultanahmet; tel: 212 513 7204; 8 am-midnight; YTL20-60)