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