Have you ever been to a Turkish Bath? You should experience this tradition.
Delightful pleasure under the brilliant dome
This is a great tradition to experience Turkish baths withtheir brilliant domes, tellaks (the bath attendant that rubs the customer), natırs (female tellak) and embroidered walls that remains from the glorious days of the Ottoman Era.
It all began with curiosity. It seemed strange not to have ever visited a Turkish Bath as a person grown up in a city and culture famous for its baths. What were these places like, renowned world wide as “Turkish Baths”? A place where both natives and foreigners enjoy; and which have been a subject to movies (for example The Turkish Bath (1997) directed by Ferzan Özpetek) and also provide perfect acoustics for music videos? Therefore, get ready for delightful pleasure under the brilliant dome.
Before going, I explored the history of the Turkish Bath from several sources. The word “hamam” means “to warm up” or “heat” in the Arabic language. But the origin of the “hamam” goes back to the Roman Age. After Bursa became the capital city, the Ottoman carried on the bath tradition of the Roman Empire and Byzantium.
After the Conquest of Istanbul
The Turkish Bath turned into a tradition in the glorious days of the Ottoman. After the conquest, baths were built at all corners of Istanbul. The records state that in the period of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, 19 baths were built in Istanbul and Evliya Çelebi’s writings indicate that in the 17th century there were 168 bazaar baths in Istanbul.
Evidently, the bath tradition has an important place in the daily life of the Istanbulites. And this culture is enriched with various traditions, where the bath is visited on certain special occasions.
In the old days, bathing did not consist only of washing. There were several rituals involved. The preparations started the day before, by informing the neighbors, preparing meals like stuffed vegetables, pastry and fruit.
Baths were especially vital places for women. Mothers chose brides, women chatted and gossiped and entertaining activities accompanied with music were organized. Women also showed off with their new jewelry and clothes. They even had the right to divorce if their husbands did not allow them to go to a bath twice a week!
Although this tradition is no longer followed, Turkish baths still attract the curiosity of natives and foreigners.
This is called “heat”
As soon as you take a step into the outer door of the bath, you feel slight heat on your face. After you leave your stuff in the changing room, you put on your loincloths called “peştemal” and special slippers “takunya” and go into the bathroom and move into the bath proper. The first target area is “heat room”, the warmest place of the bath.
The “Heat room” is an octagon room with a 50 cm high marble platform, heated from the ground, namely “göbek taşı”. You should lie down to relax your muscles and get ready to rub your skin. You may feel too hot at first but your body adjusts soon and your bones get warm and you begin to feel relaxed. In the other parts of the “heat room” there are special sections called “halvet” (private room). In the halvets you may find marble basins, for personal bathing. You may get soaped and washed in the kurnas (basins of the bath).
However the main event in a Turkish bath is the rubbing process. You lie down on the heated marble and the natır, the female bath attendant, (for men, the “tellak”, and male bath attendant) rubs you until you get relaxed. Then soaping and massage begins. You become clean and purified from your distress, all your burdens evaporate and vanish.
After the bathing episode is completed, you will surely feel a pleasant laziness. Then you should not hurry, for you may stay in the “heat room” as long as you wish. Meanwhile, you may double your joy with an icy soda water.
After the bath…
We got cleaned and it’s time to go. Now I understand much better why they say “who goes into a bath,gets sweaty”. But this proverb gives the message, “If you set out to do something, you should be ready to confront with all its difficulties”. At first it seems to be a difficult to go in a bath and to sweat. But you get used to it pretty soon.
After a bath pleasure of 2 hours you will get heartily thirsty. When you step out with pinky cheeks, you will see how relaxed you are and I am sure that you will enjoy a sweet sleep when you get home.
We suggest you to check out the hotels that have Turkish bath inside, otherwise there are lots of Turkish baths in the city:
Popular Turkish Baths in Istanbul
The architect who built the bath on behalf of Sultan Mahmud I is not known. The bath has the harmony of the baroque style and Ottoman architecture, and is also designed – like Çemberlitaş Bath – as a double-bath.
It is open for women from 08.00 am to 20.00 pm and for men from 08.00 am to 22.00 pm.
Address: Prof. İsmail Gürkan Av. No: 34 Cağaloğlu – Eminönü
Ph: +90 212 522 24 24
Suleymaniye Bath, designed by Sinan the architect is a part of the complex (kulliye) including the Süleymaniye Mosque. In the bath there is a lodge built for Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and nowadays the bath is running as a touristic establishment in which women and men may bathe together.
Address: Mimar Sinan Av. No: 20 Süleymaniye
Ph: +90 212 520 34 10
Galatasaray Bath, built in 1715 as a mosque bath open to the public, has classic Turkish architectural style. Located in one of the central parts of Istanbul, the bath attracts attention from tourists and is open for women from 08.00 am to 19.00 pm and for men from 07.00 am to 22.00 pm.
Adress: Turnacıbaşı St. No: 24 Galatasaray
Ph: +90 212 252 42 42
The bath, built in 1640, got its name from Çinili Mosque. There are two separate sections for women and men. The women section serves from 08.00 am to 19.30 pm and the men section serves from 07.00 am to 22.00 pm everyday.
Address: Murat Reis Mahallesi Çavuşdere Av. Üsküdar
Ph: +90 216 553 15 93 (men section), +90 216 334 97 10 (women section)
Büyük Hamam, built in 1533, is in Kasımpaşa. Built by Sinan the architect, the bath has two separate sections for women and men.
+Women section is open from 08.00 am to 20.00 pm. Men section is opened with the morning pray and gets closed at 22.30 pm.
Address: Potinciler St. Next to Büyük Mosque Kasımpaşa
Ph: +90 212 253 42 29
The bath, built at the behest of Sultan Murad III’s mother Nurbanu Sultan, was designed by Sinan the Architect in 1584. In the double-bath styled Cemberlitaş Bath, there are two identical sections. One of them is reserved for women and the other one is for men.
Cemberlitas is open everyday between 06.00 and 24.00. Admission fee is 60 TRY.
Address: Vezirhan Av. No: 8 Cemberlitaş – Eminönü
Ph: +90 212 520 18 50
Ağa Bath was built in 1454 and is in Beyoglu. The bath is open everyday except Sunday. Entrance fee is 40 TRY
Address: Turnacıbası St. – Cihangir
Tel: +90 212 249 50 27
Türk Hamamı, Orhan Yılmazkaya, Çitlembik Publications, 2002, İstanbul
Must See Turkish Baths in Istanbul
Public bath (hamam) culture dates back to the Ancient Rome. With their special architecture which allows them to provide hot and cold water at the same time, hamams had been an important feature of the Ottoman Empire too. It was a common practive for every Sultan and Padishah to have a hamam built in their name and the most important ones of those Turkish Baths were of the Sinan the Architect.
Only in the 17th century in Istanbul, 168 big bazaar baths were built and since then, kese (coarse cloth) & bubble massage rituals haven’t changed. The best way to relieve your body from stress, relax and get cleaned since ages!
What is a hamam?
Hamam can be briefly and traditionally defined as “a place to clean oneself up, to be purified, and to find recovery”.They have many common architectural features with mosques, especially when looked at the domes.
Popularity of Turkish Baths has an Islamic basis. It is believed that if water touches a body, that water is not clean anymore so it is not possible to clean oneself up with it. That is why places where provide flowing water was in need and kurnas (basins of a bath) were added to Hamams. Roman public baths generally lack kurnas.
Hamams are still popular and most of the hotels have Hamams including sauna, Fin Bath, and swimming pools. Before moving on further, I’d like to share a Turkish saying: “Hamam’a giren terler“, the one who enters a hamam is bound to sweat. 🙂
Must – See Historical Turkish Baths in Istanbul
One of the biggest double hamams of Istanbul, Cağaloğlu Hamamı was built in Mahmut I era with Baroque architecture and it differes from the classical Ottoman architecture with hot and cold sections. This 300 year-old Hamam provides seperate sections to its male & female visitors.
Cağaloğlu is the last big hamam built in the Ottoman era and was put in the list of 1000 must- see places before you die by New York Times!
Admittance Fee: 90 TRY, (if kese and massage included) 150 TRY
Address: Prof.Kazım İsmail Gürkan Cad. No 24 Cağaloğlu-Eminönü/Istanbul
Tel: +90 (0212) 512 8553
Süleymaniye Hamamı is one of the beauties of Istanbul with its domes and chimes sinces 1557. Sinan the Imperial Architect had (Mimar Sinan) declared this hamam as one of its masterpieces. Along with the hamam, Süleymaniye Mosque was also built and this pair of architectural magnificence proves Mimar Sinan’s brilliance in architecture.
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.
Admittance Fee: (Kese & bubble massage included) 100 TRY.
Address: Mimar Sinan Caddesi No:20. Süleymaniye/ Istanbul
Tel: +90 (0212) 519 5569
Çinili Hamam (Tiled Hamam)
Historical Tiled Hamam was built with the order of Kösem Sultan, one of the strongest women of Ottoman Era. Unfortunately she could not see the hamam finished with its lovely tiles adorning all parts of it. Lamentably, most of the tiles were stolen throughout years but during its renovation, the hamam was adorned again with lovely blue tiles as it was adorned when it was first built.
This historical hamam housed many photographers and tv series with various art projects thanks to its beauty.
Çinili Hamam is still in service with its high domed male & female sections; providing kese, bubble massage and oil massage (women only).
Admittance Fee: 20 TRY (Kese 6 TRY, Bubble Massage 6 TRY)
Address: Valide-i Atik Mh., 34664 Üsküdar/Istanbul
Tel: +90 (0216) 334 9710
Historical Gedikpaşa Hamam
One of the most important Ottoman architectural artifacts, Historical Gedikpaşa Hamamı also is 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 hamams (with both female and male sections) of Istanbul.
Admittance Fee: 50 TRY, (Kese and bubble massage included) 70 TRY.
Address: Hamam Cad. No:65 – 67 Gedikpaşa/Istanbul
Tel: +90 (0212) 517 8956
Historical Galatasaray Hamam
Historical Galatasaray Hamam is among the most popular historical hamams of Istanbul for its beautiful architecture; as well as for being in Beyoğlu, right at the heart of the city.
It was built in 1484 along with the beautiful building of Galatasaray High School with the wish of Sultan Beyazıt and visited by many admiral, kadi (religious judge), grand vizier and sultan. Now it is your turn to visit this magnificent place!
Admittance Fee: 65 TRY (Kese and bubble massage included) 135 TRY.
Address: Turnacıbaşı Sokak, No: 24 Galatasaray- Beyoğlu/Istanbul
Tel: +90 (0212) 252 4242 / +90 (0212) 249 4342
Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam
Named after a world famous soldier, Kılıç Ali Paşa from Ottoman Navy, Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam has become a symbol of Tophane, Istanbul. This historical hamam is, not surprisingly, a work of Mimar Sinan and it is guessed to be built in between 1578 – 1583. Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam is distinguished from other hamams with its domes adorned with elephant-eyes. You can also visit the little souvenir shop of the historical hamam for your beloved ones.
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.
Admittance Fee: 100 TRY, (if kese and bubble massage included) 130 TRY.
Address: Kemankeş Mah. Hamam Sok. No:1 34425 Tophane/ Istanbul
Tel: +90 (0212) 393 80 10
Another historical hamam close to the Grand Bazaar is the Çemberlitaş Hamam. Built in 1584 with the wish of Banu Sultan, this historical hamam also carries the signature of Mimar Sinan and is a double hamam for having both male and female sections. Another interesting feature of this hamam is the Ottoman inscriptions on the navel stone.
This hamam is called by many names including Gül Hamam (Hamam of Rose) and Valide Sultan Hamam (Sultana Hamam). It is also called as Hamam of Murat III in the famous book Seyahatnâme of Evliya Çelebi. Now you can easily find it with the name of Çemberlitaş Hamam and enjoy a relaxing bath…
Admittance Fee: 60 TRY, (if kese and bubble massage included) 90 TRY.
Address: Kemankeş Mah. Hamam Sok. No:1 34425 Tophane Istanbul
Tel: +90 (0212) 393 80 10