Going to a Turkish bath, or hammam, in Istanbul is an authentic cultural experience and a delight for the senses. The ubiquitous baths have been around since the ancient Romans came ashore in Anatolia, where the baths became a part of daily life and a meeting point for people from all walks of society.
Hammams were built in almost every Turkish city and have always been great places for relaxing and rejuvenating, as well as socializing with one’s friends. If you want to treat yourself to the Turkish bathing experience, which has barely changed in two millennia, then set aside some hours during your visit to Istanbul – it’s worth it.
The Luxury of a Traditional Turkish Bath
A traditional hammam allows you to be bathed and massaged by an attendant in an atmosphere that rivals none other. Picture a large domed area (hararet) with several basins and a central platform (gobetaksi) that is heated from underneath. Surrounded by marble and quartz tiles that absorb static electricity, you will lie on the gobetaksi to relax and release toxins through sweating.
When you initially enter the building, you will be guided to the entrance area (camekan) and on to the dressing area where you will receive your sandals (terlik) and a cotton cloth (pestemal) that ties around the body. However, you can also bring your own sandals or cloth if you like, along with your own toiletries if your skin or scalp is sensitive. Otherwise you are supplied with soap and shampoo. Leave your clothes in a locker, wrap the pestemal around you, and off you go to the hararet.
Separate Hours for Men and Women
There is no mixing of the sexes at a Turkish bath, which offers separate hours throughout the day or, in some cases, completely separate facilities for men and women. This makes it easy to relax in the humid room, whether you are alone or with a friend. With soft, diffused light coming from the dusky glass above, you’ll feel like you’re in another world.
Scrubbing and Massage
When it is time to be scrubbed, your attendant will guide you to one of the nearby basins where your body will be drenched with warm water, lathered with soap, and thoroughly scrubbed to remove layers of dead skin. After you are rinsed with warm or cold water, you will feel as fresh and clean as a newborn and left alone so that you can wash your private areas.
Then comes the massage. Intense and thorough, a Turkish masseur or masseuse doesn’t fool around. You will be pummeled and kneaded until every muscle is as flaccid and relaxed as can be. Then go back to the hararet if you like, or move to a cooler room (sogukluk) where you can shower and take a nap on a comfortable bed and then enjoy a tea.
Timing and Tips
Hammams usually are open from 6 am to around midnight, and once you are in, you can stay as long as you like. Some offer other amenities, such as aromatherapy oil massages, Indian head massages, facial clay masks, and reflexology.
A few tips:
Don’t wear makeup.
Bring light cotton underwear and do as the locals do – some places it is customary to wear them, others not.
Bring a robe so you can relax outside the humid rooms – you’ll want some time to adjust to the outside air and just relax before hitting the city again.
Tip the attendant 10 to 20% of the cost of the entire hammam experience.
Remember that when you stay at the Hotel Büyük Keban, you have unlimited complimentary use of our Turkish baths and Jacuzzi. Plan your trip today and come luxuriate in one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the world!