What is a Turkish bath or hamam? Hamam can be briefly and traditionally defined as "a place to clean oneself up, to be purified, and to find recovery». There is a Turkish saying: "Hamam'a giren terler", which means that “the one who enters a hamam is bound to sweat”. The Turkish baths (Hamam) are very popular and most of the hotels offer Hamam-facilities including sauna, Fin Bath, and swimming pools. Istanbul, the city of Sultans & Emperors, has many historical Turkish Baths which worth a king's ransom! Ιt is a very hard task to come up with a Top 10 Hamam list but we shall try to give you a list of the most famous of them:
- 1. Çemberlitaş Hamam is one of the oldest Istanbul hamam dating back to Selim II’s era. The bath section was built by the famous Ottoman architect, Sinan, in 1584. Çemberlitaş Hamam is located on the Yerebatan, close to the Grand Bazaar and is a double hamam for having both male and female sections.
- 2. Cağaloğlu Hamam, Cağaloğlu: It is listed in Patricia Schultz’s famous book “1,000 places to see before you die” as a must-have experience in Istanbul. It was constructed in 1741 by two different Ottoman era architects. Süleyman Ağa started the construction, and then Abdullah Ağa completed it. The beautifully detailed building with high domed ceilings, internal marble fountains, interior garden, and two levels of individual changing chambers are still part of a great architectural delight. There is cafe in the hamam and they also held BBQ parties in the garden during summer, fireplace parties in winter with performances of belly dancer and oriental music groups.
- 3. Galatasaray Hamam, Beyoğlu: Galatasaray Hamam is one of the famous Turkish baths that has been consistently serving domestic and foreign visitors. The hamam has marble slabs in the cooling area on which you can get a great massage in semi-privacy. The steam room is very hot, since it’s also used by locals --that’s how they like it. The central large and hot stone, göbektaşi, is also very hot, so you need to lay towels to be able to lie on it. It was built in 1484 and visited by many admiral, kadi (religious judge), grand vizier and sultan. Now it is your turn to visit this magnificent place!
- 4. Four Seasons – Istanbul at the Bosphorus Hotel: At the SPA in Istanbul at Four Seasons Hotel at the Bosphorus, you can enjoy the private hamam on your own or share the experience with friends, family or your partner. Surrounded by heated marble, you will enjoy a scrub before relaxing and cleansing your body in a foam bath.
- 5. Historical Gedikpaşa Hamam is one of the most important Ottoman architectural artifacts and it is also special with its location very close to the Grand Bazaar. Built in 1475 by Ahmet Pasha, this hamam is the only historical one with a sauna right next to the navel stone. It is also one of the double hamam (with both female and male sections) of Istanbul.
- 6. Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam, Tophane: You’ll get to enjoy the features of Kulhan Chimney/exhaust, the leaded domes and the glass elephant eyes, original kurnas and some carved stone and marble slabs found during excavation, which are kept the same way in order to keep the original design and style of the structure. It is one of the fanciest hamam in Istanbul and it is also one of the best places around the town. Location is also an advantage as you can walk out to the marvelous thriving atmosphere of Karaköy and enjoy a good food / drink as soon as you walk out. It is also possible to organize events such as Bride/ Groom Hamam, or you may just visit the hamam yourself minding that mornings are reserved for women and evenings are reserved for men.
- 7. Hagia Sophia - Haseki Hürrem Sultan Hamam, Sultanahmet is another magnificent structure built by Sinan, the chief Ottoman architect. Although, Haseki Hurrem Sultan Hamam was built with the classical Ottoman bath style, the hamam was made in a way that men and women sections were constructed on the same axis as mirror images of each other. This is also one of the fanciest hamam in Istanbul, and they serve customers with 160 gold plated bath bowls, and silk and cotton mixture peshtemals.
- 8. Süleymaniye Hamam, Sultanahmet was built as a part of the Süleymaniye Kulliye in 1557. Süleymaniye Hamamı has 3 sections: one belonging to women, one belonging to men and one private lodge used to belong to Kanuni Sultan Süleyman only. The hamam generally attracts foreign visitors more than the locals nowadays and is a must see Ottoman Era artifact in Istanbul.
- 9. Firuzağa Hamam, Çukurcuma is located on Cukurcuma Street, and it is estimated to be built in 1831. It is also called as Bostanbaşı Hamam and is close to Firuzağa Mosque. The external of the hamam is built by cement and covered with mosaics. It serves women and men on different schedules at the same facility. This hamam is also listed as a gay-friendly hamam in the gay community websites.
- 10. Kadirga Hamam: Try out traditional Turkish baths at Kadirga Hamam, a cobblestone and brick complex of hot and cold rooms that dates back to 1506 CE. Rebuilt and renovated three times before 1952, it features a completely authentic atmosphere that is popular with the locals. Head to a steam room for a good sweat or refresh yourself in a cool zone. You can lounge on an ottoman with a glass of tea while waiting to be invited to a private room, where the masseuses will give you a traditional scrubbing. This hamam offers separate male and female sections
Visiting a Turkish Hamam may leave you with images you will never forget and it is something you HAVE to try in Istanbul or elsewhere in Turkey. Slightly rough and tumble in approach, you will be surprised by how relaxed and clean you feel afterwards! Don’t miss to visit one of the top Hamam in Istanbul and enjoy a relaxing bath...