Turkish bath, more traditionally known as a Hammam is a public bath that became popular in Turkey during the Ottoman period. These hamams provide an incredible experience of rejuvenation which undoubtedly should not be missed on your trip to Turkey.
The hot water and steam of the hamam have many health benefits, so you are not just cleaning your body but the experience is like a detox that removes toxins from your body. Moreover, it reduces cholesterol, blood pressure, and even cleanses out nicotine and alcohol. The heat of the bath helps with blood circulation, muscle relaxation and cleanses your skin. Not only that but you will feel free of stress, anxiety and any mental health issues as well.
Most hamams are segregated, separate for men and women. Men and women either have different time allotments or there are separate sections. There are also some that accommodate families as well. You can choose the temperature of the bath from cold, mildly hot to extremely hot.
Apart from the bath that is given to you, there are also some places that add a variety of massage and hot oil therapy options. The freedom to customize and select different packages takes the experience of the epitome of comfort a step further.
Historical hamams were constructed in the Ottoman style of architecture for the Sultans and their associates. Some of the hamams that I will be listing have actually been designed by the highly celebrated Turkish architect, Mimar Sinan.
10. Cukurcuma Hamami
There are some conflicting reports as to when it was built. The most popular account, the Cukurcuma Hamam was constructed in 1831 when the wife of Abdulhamid I brought water units to the area of Cukurcuma.
It is safe to say it is one of the more modern traditional hamams in Istanbul. Recently the hamam underwent a renovation in 2018 to restore and preserve its historical beauty as it is a famous tourist hamam.
The interior of the hamam is an elegant white, making it appear more minimalistic in its design. Apart from the airy white ambiance, there are stoned accent walls and classical marble floors. The ceilings are high, decorated with tinted glass that makes the central lobby sunlit throughout the day.
Among tourists, this is one of the best hamams in Istanbul. It is extremely clean, calm, the attendants are extremely polite and helpful, ensuring the utmost level of comfort and service.
You should go to Cukurcuma Hamami in Cukurcuma Cd. Beyoglu/Istanbul.
9. Kilic Ali Pasha Hamami
Kilic Ali Pasha Hamami was commissioned to the great Turkish architect, Mimar Sinan by the Ottoman Admiral Kilic Ali Pasha to serve the Ottoman Navy. It was part of the Kulliye of a school, a mosque and a hamam.
The construction took place between 1578-1583 in Tophane, near the harbor. It was intended for the Naval officers to relax and rejuvenate their bodies and minds from their rigorous work.
The hamam, in Mimar Sinan style, has an extremely high dome ceiling, with a skylight on which a chandelier is attached. The interior is a combination of stone and marble. It has a big central lobby in the center of which is a fountain of water.
Just like other popular hamams, Kilic Ali Pasha also offers different types of packages, varieties of baths and massages that vary in price. You can choose according to your needs and convenience.
You can visit Kilic Ali Pasha Hamam in Hamam Sk, Beyoglu/Istanbul.
8. Mihrimah Sultan Hamami
Mihrimah was the beloved daughter of the Ottoman Emperor Sultan Suleiman. The hamam in her name was commissioned to Mimar Sinan and was constructed between 1562-1565.
Despite being one of the older hamams in the list, it is a little rustic on the outside. However, recently, the hamam went under an expensive, renovation and restoration project, which uplifted the hamam to a more luxurious level. You should definitely add Mihrimah Hamam to your list of places to visit in Istanbul.
The hamam contains a large lobby above which is the dome which has the classical lantern feature that most older hamams had installed for central lighting.
It is beautifully styled with wooden doors all around the lobby which will lead you to the changing rooms and steam rooms. In the same manner, as other Sinan hamams, it too has lavish marble and stonework in the steam room that maintains the steam and heat of the body.
There is however some margin for communication difficulties as the majority of the staff does not speak English well but they are eager to help and accommodate you. The quality of the bath is just as good and refreshing and the hamam itself is a work of art that you should experience for yourself.
It is located in Fevzi Pasha Cd, Fatih/Istanbul.
7. Tarihi Cesme Hamami
The historical Cesme Hamam was constructed in the 1720s, making it one of the very last hamams to be constructed in the Ottoman era. It was commissioned by Grand Admiral Kaymak Mustafa Pasha, who imprisoned and executed shortly after in an act of rebellion.
From the 1720s to 2017 it had continued to function as a regular Turkish bath. The same year it was preserved and restored in its original state using the same techniques and materials that were historically used to maintain its timelessness by The Galata Istanbul Hotel MGallery.
In terms of its architecture, it takes from the classical Ottoman aesthetic as its predecessors. The architects who were responsible for the preservation of the hamam did not alter in any way. Not only that but the staff is extremely hospitable and accommodating.
It now provides the same 300 years old traditional hydro-therapy in an extremely luxurious setting. If you are getting married, they have some very special bridal party packages that you should definitely add to your wedding plans.
It is located in Azakapi, Beyoglu/Istanbul.
6. Cagaloglu Hamami
Cagaloglu is one of the comparatively recent Hamams, having been constructed in 1741. It is considered to be one of the last hamams constructed during the Ottoman Empire.
It is said to have been constructed for the purpose to raise revenue for the library of Sultan Mehmud I and had to be completed by two architects of the time. The project was started by Suleyman Aga and was seen to its end by Abdullah Aga.
The hamam has two separate entrances for men and women. Women enter from the street side while the entrance for men is on the main road.
The Cagaloglu Hamam has some similarities and some differences from the predominant Ottoman style architecture because it was built much later on. It still draws its inspiration from the style of the high dome lantern for the illumination of the building. There are beautiful marble and stonework all around the bath area to maintain and sustain the temperature.
You can choose from a number of packages of what kind of bath you require. Starting from 30 Euros they go up as high as 180 Euros. You can opt for self-service as well.
You can go to Cagaloglu Hamam in Alemdar Mah, Fatih/Istanbul.
5. Tarihi Galatasaray Hamami
The Galatasaray Hamami is another older one in the list, functioning since 1481. Before its construction, the plot is said to have belonged to a man named Gul Baba. When Sultan Beyazit II happened to walk past it, he felt compelled to inquire about the land were at the time there was nothing but a hut.
Sultan Beyazit II asked Gul Baba if he had any wish for the land, to which he replied he wanted to see a school and a public bath. Many centuries have passed with the fulfillment of Gul Baba’s wish. His grave is in the same vicinity.
It is also told that the students of the Galatasaray High School, located right by the bath, would go to the hamam every morning. During that time no customers would be allowed to enter while the students bathed.
It is built in classical Ottoman fashion, furnished with majestic marble work, a massive dome, and some ceilings with elaborate geometric designs. Additional it is complimented by traditional tiles that surround the walls. There is also a beautiful glass skylight in the center of the lobby of the hamam.
You can visit the hamam in Galatasaray in Beyoglu/Istanbul.
4. Aga Hamami
Aga Hamam is located in Beyoglu since 1454 when it was built as a private Hamam for Fatih Sultan Mehmet and his sons. Back in the day, the area that is now Taksim was barren land and would be used by hunters.
However, since it was first built, the place has changed as it had to be renovated twice, changes in the original 1454 design were made. It has not been renovated within the last 30 years.
The hamam sits under two floors of an apartment with the hamam as the ground floor or the entrance. The dome is actually a skylight designed in a way to ensure that it would have natural light all through the day.
The interior is rather fascinating in comparison to the latter structures that were built by Mimar Sinan. The entrance, which has extremely high ceilings, is where you will find the changing rooms.
The bathing area has a controlled temperature for your body to adapt to the heat. It is entirely made of marble and stones that run along the walls and the floors. The water is heated by a furnace that keeps it warm and comfortable.
You can visit Aga Hamami in Taksim, Beyoglu/Istanbul.
3. Cemberlitas Hamami
The Cemberlitas Hamam is one of the oldest of hamams in Istanbul. It was constructed under the rule of the Ottoman emperor, Selim II and was given to Mimar Sinan to design.
Located on the historic Divanyolu street, it is surrounded by the Vezir Han monument that dates back to 320-330AD. Not only that, the hamam is surrounded by a madrasah, an old library, and the Koprulu Mehmed Pasha mosque.
There are separate entrances for men and women. Once you enter and go towards the dressing rooms, they are enormous covered by the Ottoman style domes. The hamam also includes a lighthouse that stands elegantly along with the domes.
Cemberlitas is laden with so many intricate details in its design that you have to see for yourself. From it’s pointed arches and engraved marble columns, it is a spectacle. It is also considered to be one of Mimar Sinan’s final works.
An interesting story that I have been told about this hamam is that it’s simplistic yet the complex design had inspired the construction of Hamam-e-Qadimi in India in the 18th Century.
Cemberlitas Hamami can be found in Vezirhan Cd, Fatih/Istanbul.
2. Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamami
This was designed by Mimar Sinan in 1556 for Hurrem Sultan, the wife of Sultan Suleiman. The area is said to have great significance because it is said to be built in the exact location of where the ancient bath of Zeuxippus stood between 100-200AD. The site is also said to be that of the Temple of the Greek God, Zeus.
After remaining functional till 1910, it had to stop its regular operation as a public bath be pe converted into a prison to accommodate prisoners when the Sultanahmet prison could not anymore.
It reopened in 2011 after having gone through three years of rigorous, extravagant and multi-million dollar renovations. The Hamam was completed with 14,000 square feet of marble and an additional touch of 160 gold-coated bath bowls.
There are separate sections for men and women where you will be accompanied by a same-sex attendant who will give you the bath. There are also varying temperature choices you can pick to suit your needs.
On the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan website, you can find detailed descriptions of packages and make your reservations. It is best to make bookings beforehand since it is one of the most popular and busiest hamams functioning.
It is located in Fatih/Istanbul, in Ayasofya Meydani.
1. Suleymaniye Hamami
It was built in 1557 by the great Mimar Sinan for Sultan Suleyman, a ruler of the Ottoman Empire. If you are familiar with Suleymaniye Camii (Mosque), then you have probably heard of or seen the hamam inside the complex of the mosque.
The building is a stunning work of Ottoman architecture with an intricately designed dome, exquisite tiles and marbled columns that surround the central massage stone inside of the hamam.
The hamam was active from the 1550s to the 1920s until it was closed down only to regain its function in 2004 after being restored and renovated. Now it is one of the most popular hamam among tourists.
Suleymaniye Hamam has a website through which you can make reservations for when you visit. It is 40 Euros and lasts between an hour and an hour and a half, leaving you refreshed and cleansed of any internal and external impurities.
You will find it in Mimar Sinan Cd, Sulemaniye/Istanbul.
What to expect on your first trip to a Hamam?
The idea of going to a hamam can either be of excitement or unease for some people, who don’t know what exactly to expect from a hamam. Firstly you will be escorted to your respective changing rooms where you will have to undress and put on a robe.
After you are done changing, you will be taken to the steam room, your attendant will bathe you with hot water and special soap. The soap used in hamams is popularly made from olive oil. After the bath, you will be given a massage that you can customize, depending on the place and the options that the hamam has.
There are some hamams where you can find self-service options available. Although, if you do opt for self-service you will need to take your own toiletries. You should also take your own products in case you are prone to breakouts or have sensitive, irritable skin.
Keep in mind that after the bath has been completed, your body will have to cool down back to its normal temperature. Until then you should continue to relax and let your body release the heat.
The entire bath takes up an average of 45 to 60 minutes and can cost between 30 Euros to 200 Euros. Bridal packages are more expensive because they cater to brides to be ensuring the best possible care.
If you happen to be in Istanbul, you should treat yourself to a Turkish style bath in one of these hamams. It truly is an experience worth having at least once in your life.