A visit to a hammam is part of a trip to Istanbul.
Before visiting one of the traditional Turkish baths, however, you might have many questions.
How much does it cost? What does a visit to the hammam look like, and what are the rules and customs that I need to adhere to?
Here are the answers to your most basic questions, along with a few insider tips, recommendations and online tickets.
What do I need to know about visiting a hammam in Istanbul?
A visit to a hammam starts with your registration. This takes place a few hours before the planned visit, ideally in the morning.
This is required so that there are a sufficient number of massage staff on site.
All-important bathing accessories are available on-site, apart from your own swimming trunks or your own bikini.
You can either go to the hammam just to sweat or you can book a typical peeling massage. The bathhouses also offer oil massages and Far Eastern massages as well.
Which rules apply when you go into the hammam in Istanbul ?
Clothing: No nudity! You are required to wear swimming trunks, a swimsuit or a bikini.
Feet: Slippers are available in the baths which are specially geared to travellers. Alternatively, bring your own bathing shoes or flip-flops.
Shower: Take a shower before entering the hammam. Shower gel and shampoo is available on site.
Towel: These are available in the hammam.
Peeling massage: The traditional massage with peeling gloves is done either in baths directly on the marble plinth in the centre, while others are done on their own massage tables. Getting a massage is usually an extra that you need to book for in advance. Oil and other types of massages are usually performed in separate rooms.
What should I do while I am in the hammam?
Sweating in the bathroom.
The small water basins located on the periphery are intended for washing up. You fill the bowls with cold water and pour it over your body. Visitors can also wash themselves with soap, shampoo or shower gel and then rinse themselves off with water. That depends on the hammam you visit. Alternatively, you can also use the cold water to cool down in the hammam.
Lie comfortably on the warm marble plinth in the middle.
Let yourself be massaged. This is usually an extra. Typically, you can expect a very firm massage with peeling gloves.
What is the normal price?
That depends on the hammam.
The most expensive tourist facilities in Istanbul cost around 100€, including massage. The average traveller-centric visits to a hammam cost 40 to 50€.
The lowest-cost variants are located on the outskirts of town, which are actually used as bathhouses for locals. Prices start at just a few Turkish Lira to enter. A massage is not included, in this case.
Hotels spas and wellness areas in Istanbul have prices comparable to that in Germany. In a 4-to-5-star hotel, massages start at 50 to 60€.
In terms of price, all options are available, up to and including a few hundred euros at Raffles, the luxury hotel in the Zorlu Centre. The spas at the Çırağan Palace on the Bosporus and at the Four Seasons at Sultanahmet are additional ultra-luxurious options.
Which hammam is best for me?
Çemberlitaş Hammamı: The most beautiful of the old Turkish baths is near the entrance of the Grand Bazaar. The bathhouse is covered by an old knoll. In separate areas, women and men lie on marble. Various massages are also possible in this hammam. Its location is close to top Istanbul attractions, which also makes it one of the easiest spas to access. You can purchase an online ticket from the Istanbul Welcome Card or GetYourGuide.com.
Çeşme Hammamı: An insider tip is the newly renovated bath area in the 5-star Galata MGallery Istanbul Hotel in Beyoglu, built in 1720 by Grand Admiral Kaymak Mustafa Pasha. The hotel is built around the hammam, which is heated by a wood-burning stove. It combines history and modern massage equipment in a highly-rated 5-star hotel. The hammam also has a mixed area for women and men. This makes it a great option for couples. You may also make a reservation on the hotel website. The Çeşme Hammamı is clearly at the upper end of the Istanbul hammam price range.
Cağaloğlu Hammamı: The hammam is often noted in travel guides due to its connection with its turn of the century VIP status. Kaiser Wilhelm bathed in it, for example. Today, in my opinion, it is no longer among the best Turkish baths in Istanbul. I mention it only because it is so frequently mentioned.
Büyük Hammam: A simple bath dating back to 1533 by the then-famous Turkish architect Mimar Sinan in Beyoglu. When it comes to its guest clientele, far more locals visit here than tourists. Accordingly, the price for a visit to the hammam is significantly cheaper.
Kilic Ali Pasa: A beautifully renovated hammam from 1580 near the Bosporus in Beyoglu. You will need to make a reservation in advance.
Haseki Hürrem Sultan Bath: This Ottoman-style bathhouse designed by Mimar Sinan in 1558 stands on Sultanahmet Square across from Hagia Sophia. It is therefore also called Aya Sofia Hammamı (Hagia Sophia Hammam). Just by knowing the location, you can probably guess that this is the most crowded option in all of Istanbul. This convenient location is also reflected in the price. Women’s and men’s rooms are separate. As a rule, there are female massage staff available for women.
I am a woman, so, are there any female staff?
I have spoken to many women about this in Istanbul.
There are many highly-rated options and, just like everywhere else, mediocre experiences. The bathhouse itself almost always works.
The most common complaint is that the female massage staff that was booked ultimately turns out to be a guy with thick chest hair.
Local women very rarely work in Turkish baths.
The female staff is almost always from Southeast Asia. On the upside, there is a good chance of booking a real Thai or Bali massage as a bonus to the Turkish peeling massage.
I cannot recommend any particular Hammam to you, which guarantees that you will receive a female staff member. The Çemberlitaş Hammamı, Haseki Hürrem Sultan Bad and the 5 star Galata MGallery Hotel with the Çeşme Hammamı should work out to be the best.
Areas for women and men are strictly separated at Çemberlitaş Hammamı and Haseki Hürrem. Both can be easily combined with sightseeing in the centre of Istanbul.
The MGallery Hotel has a mixed area in the hammam but almost all female staff. That’s why it’s a great option for couples.
A few more words on that …
For many, a visit to a real Turkish Hamem is an essential part of a city excursion to Istanbul.
There aren’t any really traditional baths in the centre of town. They actually used to be the bathhouse for the locals. That was many decades ago.
Today, the baths are mostly geared towards travellers and locals who want to relive the experience every now and then.
In my opinion, visiting a hammam is a nice experience in Istanbul, especially during autumn, winter and spring.
In recent years, the quality of the bath houses has improved. They are increasingly geared towards 5-star hotel quality service in Turkey.
If you have a question about the hammams, or would like to share your own experiences or helpful tips, please write to me in the comment section below.
Did the visit to the hammam work well for you? Thanks for sharing!