17 Jun Hammam Istanbul: Exploring the authentic Turkish bath
Whether you have been reading about Turkey or planning to visit we are sure you have come across the phrase best hammam in Istanbul. Hammam is a public bathhouse where you can go to get cleaned and connect with your inner peace and other people. We are going to go through everything hammam here to give you the most up-to-date information.
Welcome to the world of hammams: Istanbul
There is no way that you are planning a trip to Turkey and Istanbul doesn’t pop up. One of the many things that you should definitely experience in Istanbul is a luxury Turkish bath. But what makes them so special? Here are a few features that make hammams & Turkish baths one of a kind.
- The cultural significance of Turkish baths
- Distinctive offerings and services
- Unique characteristics of Istanbul’s hammams
Let’s explore them one by one.
The cultural significance of Turkish baths
Although nowadays every Turkish household has its own shower and there seems to be no need for public baths one can not simply ignore the cultural significance of the Turkish hammam. Coming from the Roman Empire the touch of Turkish culture has immortalized historical baths.
Even though the rise of the Turkish bath dates back to the Ottoman Empire it is still considered an important place for socializing. Whether a family member, neighbor, or a tourist hammam provides you with a unique space to not only clean your entire body but also bond with your fellow human beings. This type of interaction also affects your mental health helping you to relax.
Now, let’s see what characteristics make Turkish hamam so one of a kind.
Distinctive offerings and services
Istanbul bath dates back centuries and it was inspired by the Roman baths back then.
First and foremost is the distinct architecture that you will see when you enter Turkish baths. Every room is covered with smooth marble and mosaics.
- Marble and Mosaics: The Architecture of a Hammam
- The Rituals of the Hammam Experience
- Traditional Treatments and Services
- The Relaxation Rooms: Resting and Rejuvenating
Unique characteristics of Istanbul's Hammams
What makes Istanbul’s hammams unique is the history and variety of hammams in it. Whether you are looking for a historic hammam or a luxury hammam in Istanbul you can find it.
Choosing the right hammam for you
As we said there are many options when it comes to choosing a Turkish bath and this could easily become a problem. How can you choose the best hammam in Istanbul for you?
- Location and accessibility
- Type of hammam experience
- Amenities and services offered
- Reviews and recommendations
Here we gathered a few tips that could help you narrow it down. Let’s look at them in detail!
Location and accessibility
Istanbul is one of the biggest cities in the world. So, location can be a big deal in choosing which hamam to go to. With location also comes transportation and accessibility. Therefore, it would be beneficial for you to take a look at the Istanbul map before deciding which hammam to go to.
Type of hammam experience: tourist or local
Are you looking for an authentic Turkish bath experience or do you want Instagram-worthy travel posts? The good news is if you are visiting Istanbul you can find both. If you are looking for a hammam spa experience a touristic hammam could be the answer. Touristy hammams might have more offers and provide you with more modern and spa-like options such as oil massages and aromatherapy. On the other hand, local and historical hammams might not offer the same razzle-dazzle but for a true Turkish bath experience, it is the best option.
Amenities and services offered
Depending on the hammams & Turkish baths you choose to go to you will receive different treatments as well. But there are basics that are the same in every hammam you go to such as the steam room, body scrub with a special exfoliating glove (kese), and last but not least a bubble wash ritual. Some luxury hammams might offer different massage services too. Other than a variety of services Turkish hammams typically provide you with some amenities such as
- Towels called peshtemal
- Natural soaps like olive oil or goat’s milk
- Single-use underwear
- Locker spaces to keep your personal belongings
Remember the range of amenities and additional services available at each hammam varies and it is best to check beforehand so that if you need anything you will take it with you.
Reviews and recommendations
The best way to find the right hammam in Istanbul for you you should definitely read visitor reviews online. There are many online platforms for you to read reviews and kind of get an idea of the experience you will have during your visit to a Turkish hammam in Istanbul.
Customs and etiquette
Hammams do not just come with hot water and some additional services. Whether a luxurious hammam or a locally known hamam in the heart of Istanbul, they come with their own set of rules and customs. Here we will give you the common and most practiced etiquette in most Turkish baths in Istanbul.
- Nudity and gender separation
- Tipping and payment
- Respectful behavior and attire
Wherever you go, people would appreciate friendly behavior. As for going to hammams & Turkish baths, there might be some language barrier but never the less you can show kindness with your body language. You can always learn a few useful phrases such as “Merhaba”, “Lütfen” and “Teşekkürler” to use during your Turkish bath experience. As we mentioned modesty in hammams & Turkish baths is a sign of respect and is well appreciated. As a guest visiting you are expected to follow a level of modesty by wrapping a bath towel around you or wearing a bathing suit.
Preparing for your hammam experience
It is time! Before going to your hamam appointment you want to be prepared. Don’t worry it is not going to be a lengthy process. But it is better to be prepared to be surprised, so here we go.
What to bring
We did say most hammams provide you with amenities but it is best to also bring your own stuff such as a bath towel, slippers, shampoo, and soap. This is just in case you have the supply you need if the hammam you are going to does not provide them.
Hydration and nutrition
Balance is key especially when we are talking about food and drinks. In hammams & Turkish baths, there is a cool-down room for you to complete your relaxing experience by lounging and in some establishments having some Turkish snacks such as Turkish delight with tea. Remember this level of service is not available in every establishment you go to so it is a good idea to pack some healthy snacks such as fruit. Also, try to stay hydrated during your Hamam visit since you will be in a warm environment so you won’t feel lightheaded.
Pre-hammam grooming tips
Regarding shaving or other types of grooming, you do not need to do any one of them to prepare for your visit. But it is best to check with the place you are going to so you will know if the establishment has any specific rules when it comes to grooming.
What to expect during your hammam experience
Even though you will be half-naked and there will be half-naked people around you we promise the whole hammam spa experience is going to be fantastic. It is time for a step-by-step guide to a typical hammam experience.
Upon checking in you will be greeted by the staff and they will lead you to the changing area. After changing into your bathing suit or single-use underwear a friendly attendant will take you to start your hammam ritual. Your ritual starts with the warm room, which is where you will be for 10 to 15 minutes, so your body gets ready and its pores open up.
Now, it is off to the warm marble stone platform for an entire body scrub. A “tellak” (male bath attendant) or a “natir” (female bath attendant) will scrub you down using a kese (a special exfoliating glove).
After all the dead skin is exfoliated, you will receive a bubble bath. No, you won’t be stewing in your own filth. Your respective attendant will use the kese to make mountains of bubbles on you. That is the kind of bubble bath you want.
After your foam massage, it is time to rinse your body with warm water. With a splash of cold water to close up your pores your bath ritual has come to an end and it is time to unwind with a glass of traditional Turkish tea.
Just a reminder that your hammam session can be as long as you want if the establishment you are visiting is not very busy. But generally speaking, a normal hammam session without any additional services could take about 1 to 2 hours.
Even reading about the hammam session you might get gives the impression of an unforgettable experience. Also depending on which hammams & Turkish baths you go to you could get additional services, like oil massages or aromatherapy which will add to your Turkish hammam cost.
How to make a reservation
The best way to make sure you won’t have to wait for long to have your luxurious hammam experience is to book your visit in advance. With technology nowadays you can easily go online and make a reservation for your bath experience. You can include the additional services you want for the duration of the experience as well.
Traditional hammams & Turkish baths: FAQ
No article is complete without a few frequently asked question part. You might find the answer you were looking for about the opulent Turkish bath here. So stick around and check out these questions that we have gathered for you.
Are there any mixed hammams in Istanbul?
No. We know when visiting a different country especially somewhere as culturally and historically rich as Turkey you would want to experience it with your significant other. But unfortunately, historical hammams are not mixed.
How much does a hammam experience cost in Istanbul?
Turkish hammam cost depends widely on the establishment you go to and the service you want. A typical hammam experience could cost anywhere from $30 to $80. Duration of experience can also affect how much will your Turkish hammam cost.
Do I need to make a reservation for a hammam?
Yes, especially if you are going to popular hammams. In order for the hammam to be prepared for you and not to be too busy most places require you to make a reservation before you go.
Is tipping customary in hammams?
Yes, even though tipping is not a very popular practice in Turkey, it is customary to tip your attendant. You could tip your “tellak” (male bath attendant) or “natir” (female bath attendant). Anything from 15% to 20% of the price of your whole experience would be enough.
Can I bring my own soap and shampoo to a hammam?
Yes absolutely! Most establishments do offer basic amenities such as soap and shampoo but if you want to bring your own soap and shampoo is no problem at all.
Can I choose the gender of my attendant or masseuse?
No, as we have mentioned before hammams & Turkish baths are separated based on gender. That means your attendants can only be the same gender as you. In fact, the whole staff would be the same gender as the guests.
Are there any cultural considerations I should be aware of when visiting a hammam in Istanbul?
Yes, it is always a good idea to learn about the culture of the place you are visiting, and in this case, visiting hammams & Turkish baths. The way you should be modest during your hammam spa experience and how to interact with other guests and the staff is important.