No visit to Istanbul is complete without taking time out of your sightseeing schedule to experience a real Turkish Bath; a hamam. The ritualistic cleansing process is more than just a wash, it is a chance to soak in the history and culture of Turkey in a thoroughly relaxing manner. There are many options for a hamam in Istanbul, some historic and some modern. We checked them out to bring you our Top 7 (in no particular order).
The Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı is a luxury hamam located between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Museum. The bath is housed in a historic building that was originally built by the architect Sinan for Hürrem Sultan, the legendary wife of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, in 1556. After the bath closed down in 1910, a carpet dealership took its place for a number of decades.
In 2008, the Kocaeli University Faculty of Architecture transformed the property back into a luxurious bath. Today, the Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı is in the shape of Ottoman baths from the classical period and boasts an impressive length of seventy-five meters. Its soaps are made of 100% olive oil and are specially produced in Edremit. The hamam offers both basic and luxurious bath services, including massages and full-body clay masks. There is also a restaurant onsite that offers Turkish cuisine a la carte. Cankurtaran Mahallesi Bab-ı Hümayun Caddesi No.1, Sultanahmet; P: (0212) 517 35 35
Located in a 16th century historical building that forms part of the Kiliç Ali Paşa complex, which also comprises of a mosque, a medrese, a türbe, and a fountain, this hamam exudes class from the outside in. The complex was commissioned by Kiliç Ali Paşa, an Italian slave turned Grand Admiral of the Ottoman Fleet and designed by Istanbul’s most famous architect, Mimar Sinan. The relaxation/reception area, called the Camegah, is set under one of the largest single domes built by Sinan; 14 meters across and 17 meters high.
Offering a professional and sophisticated service with experienced attendants, this hamam is ideal for first-timers as well as habitual hamam-takers. The hours are divided between men and women; women get the morning shift between 8am and 4pm whereas men are only allowed in the evenings between 4:30pm and 12am. They offer 25 or 50 minute oil massages as well as the traditional Turkish bath experience and have a menu that includes a range of drinks and light snacks. Kemankes Mahallesi Hamam Sokak No.1 34425 Tophane; P. (0212) 393 8010
Cağaloğlu Hamamı, located in Sultanahmet near Hagia Sophia and the Yerebatan Sarnıcı, is a popular choice with tourists. The hamam, built for Sultan Mahmut I in 1741 to help pay for the upkeep of his library in the Hagia Sophia, showcases some of the most magnificent Baroque styles. The hararets, or steam rooms, are especially beautiful: they are characterized by open cruciform chambers with windowed domes that are supported on a circle of columns.
Unlike smaller hamams, in which men and women bathe at different times of day, Cağaloğlu Hamamı features separate facilities for the different sexes. There is a pleasant little courtyard on the premises where you can relax and drink a glass of tea. There is also a shop onsite that sells quality olive-oil soap and other hamam accessories. Famous guests of the past include Edward VIII of England, Kaiser Wilhelm, Franz Liszt, Florence Nightingale, and Tony Curtis; the hamam has served as a backdrop for numerous television films and commercials. Prof. Kazım İsmail Gürkan Caddesi (Yerebatan Caddesi) No.24, Çağaloğlu; P: (0212) 522 24 24
The Çemberlitaş Hamamı is over 400 years old, having been commissioned in the 1580s by Nurbanu Sultan, the wife of Sultan Selim II. The grandiose marble slab and domes of the sicaklik, or hot room, stem from the original structure. There are separate sections for men and women, and you can opt for a self-service wash or be washed by an attendant. The hamam also offers Aromatherapy Oil Massages, Reflexology Massages, Indian Head Massages, and Facial Clay Masks. Its central location and new rooftop café ensure that it will remain one of the most popular destinations for tourists. Vezirhan Caddesi No. 8, Çemberlitaş; P: (0212) 522 79 74
Located in the Hillside City Club, within Istinye Park Shopping Mall, Sanda Spa offers an exotic getaway for anyone in search of rejuvenation. The spa offers a number of options for clients, from the Bamboo Miracle – which features oil-soaked bamboo sticks – to the Sanda Escape – an experiment in Balinese massage techniques.Treatments include a variety of scrubs – such as sea salt, coconut, and hazelnut – as well as body wraps and detoxification services. The spa also includes a sauna, steam room, and lounge area to ensure a day’s worth of relaxation. Hillside City Club Etiler, Alkent Sitesi Tepecik Yolu No. 22/14, Etiler; P: (0212) 352 25 00
The historic Süleymaniye Hamamı, completed in 1557, is the work of famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, and is part of the külliye (complex) surrounding his famous Süleymaniye Mosque. The hamam’s camekân has been altered, with a timber gallery added during the late Ottoman period. The hararet features four corner cells and four eyvans that are arranged in an interesting manner.
Used as a warehouse for years, the hamam is now active, and it is unique among such establishments in offering mixed-sex bathing. For this reason, the hamam is only open to families and couples. The set price includes a Turkish scrub and soap massage as well as hamam supplies (slippers, towel, etc.) The last entry is at 10 PM; guests can bathe until midnight. Mimar Sinan Caddesi No. 20 Süleymaniye, Eminönü; P: (0212) 519 55 69
The LifeCo (also known as the Istanbul Well-Being Center) in Akatlar's Club Sporium (behind Mayadrom) offers a wide range of therapies including detox programs, well-aging therapies, spa & massage services, and yoga & flexibility classes, in addition to smoking cessation and weight management programs. Club Sporium, Cumhuriyet Cad. No.4/8, Akatlar; P: (0212) 325 32 80
Updated on March 14th 2013