#1 Best Guide To Turkish Bath (Hammam) From A Local

Turkish bath-Ling

Although the first hammams were built in 2500 BCE, they are still popular in the Middle East, including Turkey. To this day, Turkish bath culture is an important part of self-care rituals.

If you’re in Istanbul and visiting historical places such as the Hagia Sophia Mosque and Topkapi Palace, you may have come across a building called a hammam. You may already know what it is, but do you know what happens inside? Read this Turkish bath guide to prepare yourself for the experience!

What Does Hammam Mean?

The origin of the word lies in the Arabic word Hammam, meaning bath, and the Hebrew word Hamam, meaning hot. The general dictionary definition of a hammam is a place for washing, healing, and purification.

Why Should You Go To A Turkish Bath?

There are many reasons to visit one of these remarkable places, such as:

  • Cultural Experience: Turkish hammams have a rich history since the Ottoman period. What’s more, they provide a traditional Turkish experience with bathing rituals.

  • Relaxation and Stress Relief: Turkish hammams are designed to provide relaxation and reduce your stress levels. The combination of hot steam, heat, and massage can soothe your muscles, ease your tension, and provide a calming environment for your body and mind.

  • Skin Care: The Turkish bath experience includes exfoliation through scrubbing, which removes your dead skin cells. Also, the hot steam inside the bath opens up pores in your skin which helps for a deep cleanse.
Experience-Turkish Bath-Ling

What Happens During A Turkish Bath Experience?

Most Turkish baths have separate entrances and areas dedicated to men and women. Traditionally, you are supposed to wear a thin cotton cloth called peştamal that covers the private areas of your body. But if you don’t feel comfortable wearing it, you can also bring your swimsuit or bathing suit. You should also bring your flip-flops to walk around the hammam.

Once inside, you have two options: you can bathe alone or hire a masseuse by paying extra. The attendant (who is the same sex as you) washes and scrubs you with a scrubbing cloth called kese to exfoliate your dead skin.

They will wash you with soap and hot water scrub. After your skin softens in the hot room, they will apply the exfoliating paste and scrub your body ruthlessly. Then you will be washed and rinsed again, but this time with cold water.

After the exfoliating process, you may see gray specks of dirt sloughing off your skin. Those are just the layers of dead skin! Finally, the Turkish hammam spa treatment usually ends with a traditional massage on the hot stones.

The Role Of Hammam In Turkish Culture

Hammams have been a special place in Turkish culture since the Ottoman Empire. Apart from washing and cleaning, they are also one of the most important places for celebrating Turkish customs and traditions.

In addition to being a socialization area for women in the past, hammams also hosted special events for them, such as the bridal bath, maternity bath, baby’s fortieth bath, votive bath, and mourning bath. When it comes to men, hammams also have special rituals such as the groom’s bath, circumcision bath, soldier’s bath, and holiday bath.

Best Places For Turkish Baths In Istanbul

Hürrem Sultan Hamamı-Turkish Bath-Ling

1. Hürrem Sultan Hamamı

The historical Hürrem Sultan Bath is located right in the middle of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. This building is named after Hürrem Sultan, the wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

Mimar Sinan built this hammam in 1556 as one of the most exceptional examples of Turkish bath architecture. It was used as a warehouse for a long time, but it opened its doors to the public again in 2011.

Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı-Turkish Bath-Ling

2. Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı

Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı is a magnificent work by Mimar Sinan, built in 1583. This historical hammam is known as the second-largest dome in Istanbul. It’s also famous for its domes decorated with elephant eyes that transmit light. Kılıç Ali Pasha Hamamı is among the favorite Turkish baths of local people and tourists. There are also special options for families with children since Kılıç Ali Pasha is also a family bath.

Çukurcuma Hamamı-Turkish Bath-Ling

3. Çukurcuma Hamamı

The historical Çukurcuma Hamamı is ideal for those who wish to feel the historical side of Istanbul. It has been offering a traditional Turkish bath experience since 1831. Keep in mind that Çukurcuma Hamanı provides mixed services for men and women in the bath area. Additionally, children under the age of 12 are not allowed to enter the bath.

Turkish Vocabulary For A Hammam

Before you go to a Turkish bath and get your first hammam experience, you may need some useful Turkish phrases:

English PhrasesTurkish Phrases
I would like a massage.Masaj istiyorum.
Can you do a scrub?Peeling yapabilir misiniz?
Can you adjust the water temperature?Su sıcaklığını ayarlayabilir misiniz?
I want more steam.Daha fazla buhar istiyorum.
The hot water is very relaxing.Sıcak su çok rahatlatıcı.
The steam is invigorating.Buhar beni canlandırıyor.
Can I get some service?Hizmet alabilir miyim?
Can you help me?Yardım edebilir misiniz?
Thank you.Teşekkür ederim.
I apologize if I disturb.Sizi rahatsız ettiysem özür dilerim.
Turkish bathHamam
Steam bathBuhar banyosu
Steam roomBuhar odası
Warm waterIlık su
Exfoliating mittKese
Changing roomGiyinme kabini

If you want to learn more Turkish phrases check out the Ling app! It’s available on both the Play Store and App Store.

Final Words

I think traveling to a foreign country is all about having new experiences and getting a Turkish bath is one of them. If you’re interested in traveling to Turkey, you shouldn’t miss my other travel guides about Hagia Sophia and Cappadocia! And if you feel like you need a hand from a local, don’t be shy and share a comment here so I can help you!

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