Real Turkish Bath Experience in Istanbul

A trip to Istabul is never complete without a Turkish Bath experience. Even though many civiliziations in history had public bathing culture, none of them have become as popular as Turkish Baths. This is due to the fact the Turkish Bath experience has some unique rituals and it plays an important role in Turkish culture. In the old times, all the neighbourhoods had their own hamams which served as a meeting place for locals to partake in conversation along with bathing and massage experience.

Today, the Hamams are not used very often by the public as they were used to be. They have become some kind of health centers where you can go to relax your mind and body. Turkish Bath experience is a very popular touristic activity for many tourists who come to Turkey. In this article, we listed the best Turkish Baths in Istanbul where you can experience the relaxing effects of a hamam and get over your jet lag.

1) The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam

As you may guess from it’s name, The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam is located next to the famous Hagia Sophia. It was designed and built by the chief architect of the Ottoman Empire, Mimar Sinan in the year 1556 by the order of Hürrem Sultan, the wife of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. With over 450 years of history, the building itself is a tourist attraction. Thanks to it’s location, The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam is one of the most popular Turkish Baths among tourists visiting Istanbul.

The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam offers a luxurious hamam experience in a very clean environment. Specially produced soaps, top quality towels and gold coated bath bowls are provided by the establisment. The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam has both men and women sections which are located seperately. They offer different package options from a classic body scrubbing and bubble wash on the marble stone to full body and aromatherapy massages. You can follow this link to see their price list and find out the location of the hamam.

2) Cağaloğlu Hamam

The Cagaloglu Hamam is located in the historic peninsula of Istanbul, within the Fatih district. The hamam building was built in the year 1741 and it’s very close to the Sultanahmet area. It’s one of the famous and oldest hamams in the city which is still operating. Throughout the history, Cağaloğlu Hamam hosted many leaders, famous businessman and celebrities including; Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Harrison Ford, Cameron Diaz, Oprah Winfrey, Chevy Chase, Kate Moss and George Soros. The Cağaloğlu Hamam building has  been used as a filming location for many movies as well.

The Cağaloğlu Hamam offers different packages from self service bathing to full body Ottoman massage and skin therapy. Visitors can refresh themselves with special shampoos, hair creams, body lotions and olive oil soaps with exotic scents. After a refreshing hamam session, they can enjoy a warm cup of Turkish tea or a cold homemade sherbet together with delicious Turkish delights. You can follow this link to find out more about Cagaloglu Hamam.

3) Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam

Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam was constructed in between 1578-1583, by the order of famous Ottoman Admiral Kılıç Ali Paşa, in order to serve the marine forces in the Ottoman navy. The Hamam is part of a building complex which also includes a mosque and a school.

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Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam is located in the Tophane quarter in Beyoğlu district of Istanbul. It’s very close to the famous Karaköy quarter and the seaport where cruise ships dock.

In addition to the standart hamam ritual with bubble wash, they offer additional services such as: full body massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, partial-body massage, foot and lower leg massage. To check out ther price list and other useful information, you can follow this link.

4) Çemberlitaş Hamam

The Çemberlitaş Hamam is located on Çemberlitaş Square in Fatih district of Istanbul, where it’s named after. It was built next to the famous monumental column “Çemberlitaş Obelisk”. It is a 57 meters high column which was unearthed from the Apollo Temple in Rome and brought to Constantinople by the Byzantine Emperor Constantin I.

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Çemberlitaş Hamam was built by the chief architect of the Ottoman Empire, Mimar Sinan in the year 1584, by the order of Nurbanu Sultan, wife of Selim II and mother of Murat III. The purpose of building the Çemberlitaş hamam was to crete an income source for the Atik Valide Mosque and the charity complex attached to it.

Çemberlitaş Hamam consist of 2 identical building facilities which are being used as man and women baths. Visitors can enjoy self service bath near the marble basins after a relaxing lay down on the marble stone. Additional services and packages are also offered by the Çemberlitaş Hamam such as; scrubbing, bubble bath, sultan’s bath, aromatherapy oil massage and clay mask. To find our more information about their services performed by expert attendants, you can follow this link.

5) Süleymaniye Hamam

Süleymaniye Hamam is another Turkish Bath in our list which was built by Mimar Sinan. Sülaymaniye Hamam is part of the Süleymaniye Mosque complex which is one of the most visited touristic sites in Istanbul. It was opened in 1557 and still in use.

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Unlike many other hamams in Istanbul, Süleymaniye Hamam serves both man and women visitors at the same time without seperate sections. Only couples are accepted to the Süleymaniye Hamam and therefore most of the customers are tourists.

The entire hamam experience in Süleymaniye Hamam takes about 60 to 90 minutes. They offer washing, peeling and massage services. The place is open 7 days a week from 10 a.m to  10 p.m. but the last entrance is at 8 p.m. If you would like to find out more about Süleymaniye Hamam, click here to see their website.

6) Ağa Hamam

Ağa Hamam (Ağa Hamamı in Turkish) is the oldest Turkish Bath in Istanbul, which was built in 1454, after the conquest of Istanbul. Although most of the Turkish Baths in Istanbul were built as public buildings, Ağa Hamam was one of the Hamams which served only to Sultans and their families. Mehmed the Conqueror built this building near Beyoğlu as a hunting house, together with it’s Turkish bath. The Ağa Hamam was used by the Ottoman Sultans until the last years of the Empire. In 1844, during the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid, the Hamam underwent a major renovation.

Today, the Ağa Hamam is in service of only the tourists who would like to experience an authentic Turkish Bath. It is a mixed Hamam, which means that couples can enjoy a relaxing session together. Ağa Hamam offers 3 different packages; traditional package, massage package and massage package with face mask. All three of them includes bubble wash and scrubbing services. To check out their price list, you can click here to reach their website.

7) Galatasaray Hamam

Galatasaray Hamam was built as part of the Galatasaray Külliye together with the several other buildings in the complex in 1481. The hamam is located behind the famous Galatasaray Lycee on the İstiklal Avenue.

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Thanks to it’s unique atmosphere, it has been used as a filming location for many movies and song clips. Like other Turkish Baths in our list, Galatasaray Hamam offers different services to it’s visitors. It has both man and women sections located seperately. To find out more about the Galatasaray Hamam, you can follow this link.

8) Historic Vezneciler Hamam

Vezneciler Hamam Lobby and Interior
The lobby and the interior of the Historic Vezneciler Hamam

The Historic Vezneciler Hamam was built in 1481 by the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid II. It is the first and only Hamam that was built on the second floor. It’s located in the Fatih District of Istanbul, which is inside the historic peninsula. It’s believed that the healing water in the bath and sauna, is good for jaundice.

Like the Süleymaniye Hamam and Ağa Hamam, Vezneciler Hamam is also operating as a mixed hamam, serving man and women visitors at the same time. There are 3 different packages offered in Vezneciler Hamam. The bathing experience takes about 60 to 110 minutes depending on the package you choose. You can click here to find out more about their services and prices.

Underrated Places in Istanbul That You Shouldn’t Miss

1) Big Çamlıca Hill (Büyük Çamlıca Tepesi)

Big Çamlıca Hill (Büyük Çamlıca Tepesi) is one of the most important promenade places in Istanbul overlooking the Bosphorus and Marmara Sea and is approximately 265 meters above sea level. With its lush green nature, historic trees, colorful flowers, unique Bosphorus view and constantly breezing pure air, Big Çamlıca Hill is one of the most beautiful hills of the city.

In the Big Çamlıca Hill, there are a few social facilities run by the Istanbul Municipality which are established on an area of ​​3000 square meters on top of the Big Çamlıca Hill. The Çamlıca Social Facilities include a 400 square meter indoor restaurant area, as well as the Ottoman Cafeteria and the Garden Cafeteria with various buffets.

With its mansions, fountains, tea gardens, historical monumental trees, restaurants, hiking trails, colorful flowers and historical atmosphere, the Big Çamlıca Hill is one of the frequently visited places not only for Istanbulites but also for tourists coming from different countries of the world. The restaurant section of Çamlıca Social Facilities, which is a reminiscent of Ottoman mansions with traditional motifs adorning the walls, offers the most beloved and delicious examples of Turkish Cuisine to its visitors.

2) Kadıköy

Haydarpasa Train Station in Kadıköy

Located in the Southern part of the Asian side of Istanbul, Kadıköy is one of the prettiest and coolest districts in the city. Even though Kadıköy is in the Asian side, thanks to it’s streets full of street artists and public art, you may find yourself thinking that you are in a European capital city. Kadıköy is known as the entertainment center of the Anatolian side. It has a long history and a unique culture that makes it very different than those other recently developed districts.

Thanks to it’s vibrant life during the day and night, Kadıköy is not also serves as the number one entertainment destination for those living in Anatolian side, but it also attracts thousands of visitors from the European side everyday, who are looking for something different.

Streets of Kadıköy are full of cafes, restaurants, bars and taverns. New establishments are opening everyday with unique menus and business models. All kinds of eating and drinking options are available from street foods to upscale dining venues. If you are one of those “cook it yourself” persons, you can find plenty of shops as well, which sells fresh vegetables, fish, meat and deli.

Without getting bored and noticing how the time passes, you can spend an entire day in Kadıköy. Art and entertainment scene in Kadıköy is very vibrant and offers many alternatives such as operas, theatres, concerts, stand up shows and galleries.

If you want to chill out and relieve the stress of a long day at work, just grab your picnic blanket and go to one of the parks in Kadıköy seaside. Moda park, Yoğurtçu Park, Caddebostan seaside and Fenerbahçe seaside are the most popular parks in Kadıköy and usually full of people in long summer nights.

Places worth seeing in Kadıköy are countless but if you are planning a visit, make sure you have visited at least some of the places listed below. In addition to these places, we will also write detailed guides about the mosques, churches, museums and entertainment venues in Kadıköy very soon.

  • Haydarpaşa Train Staion
  • Kadıköy Bazaar
  • Bahariye Street
  • Kadıköy Bull Statue
  • Süreyya Opera House
  • Moda Park
  • Fenerbahçe Park
  • Bağdat Avenue

3) Pierre Loti Hill

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Pierre Loti Hill is the point where the magnificent view of the Golden Horn is displayed in the best way. The hill, which is named after the famous French writer Pierre Loti, is reached by stairs or cable car extending up through the cemeteries next to the Eyüp Sultan Mosque.

At the end of the road, Pierre Loti Coffee House welcomes its visitors as the best known place on the hill. The coffee was known as the Rabia Women’s Coffee House until the end of the 19th century. Pierre Loti, who sees Turkey as a second homeland, came frequently to the coffeehouse at Pierre Loti hill at that time. It is said that Loti wrote his novel of the same name about his love for Aziyade whom he met in Istanbul. And since that day, the name of the coffeehouse is called Pierre Loti. The hill where the coffeehouse is located is later called Pierre Loti Hill in memory of Loti.

There are many historical buildings on the Pierre Loti Hill, which is frequently visited by almost all foreigners and travelers who came to Istanbul in the 19th century. The two-inscribed wooden Kasgari Tekke, Colak Hasan Tekke, Sıbyan Mektebi (primary school), the famous Dilek Kuyusu (Wishing Well) are some of them. In his travel book called Seyahatname, famous Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi wrotes that; “The wishes of those who looks at well can be seen in the well”. There is also a historical cistern in the region, which was thought to have been built during the Byzantine period and used during the Ottoman period.

On top of the Pierre Loti Hill, which offers a visual feast accompanied by a brewed tea at every hour of the day, there are also Ayvansaray, Sütlüce, Eyüp, Balat, Hasköy and Fener mansions bearing the names of nearby districts. These wooden mansions built in accordance with the Ottoman-Turkish architecture within the scope of the project initiated by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality in 1997 in order to welcome domestic and foreign tourists.

4) Üsküdar

Üsküdar is one of the oldest districts in Istanbul with a history which dates back to 1000 bc. Since the ancient times, Üskadar has always been an important crossroad for stopovers and trade. For both Byzantian and Ottoman Empires,Üsküdar was the starting point of the trade routes going into Asia and Middle East. Even today, Üsküdar maintains it’s position of being one of the most lively districts in the city. Yet, it offers many calm and quite parks and seasides where you can enjoy the scenery of the Bosphorus and beautiful hills covered with trees.

Since Üsküdar is located on the Asian side of Istanbul, many tourist visiting Istanbul don’t have enough time to visit Üsküdar. However, there are couple of must see locations in Üsküdar which are highly underrated. Üsküdar is home to many historic buildings and locations which are in the landmark status and some of them are even known globally.

Compared to the touristic places in European side of the city, Üsküdar doesn’t have much tourists walking around and therefore it’s hard to come across those classic tourist oriented places and scams. You can enjoy real Turkish food and observe the daily life of local people while exploring Üsküdar. Due to mass tourism and tourist oriented streets, other popular places in İstanbul can not give you the same feeling that you will experience in Üsküdar.

If you are planning a visit to Istanbul and have enough time to explore the depths of the city, make sure you include the places below which are all located in Üsküdar and all accessible via public transportation:

  • Maiden’s Tower (Kız Kulesi)
  • Fountain of Ahmet III
  • Mihrimah Sultan Mosque
  • Yeni Valide Mosque
  • Şemsi Paşa Mosque
  • Beylerbeyi Palace
  • Fethi Paşa Park and Grove
  • Big Çamlıca Hill
  • Kuzguncuk Neighborhood
  • Çengelköy Neighborhood
  • Kuleli Military School
  • Beylerbeyi Neighborhood
  • Üsküdar Fish and Vegetable market

5) Balat and Fener

Balat and Fener are small neighborhoods in the Fatih district of Istanbul, located on the European side of the city. These small neighborhoods on the west bank of the Golden Horn was once home to the Jewish and Greek Orthodox communities of Istanbul.

There are only a few neighborhoods left in Istanbul where you can feel the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the city. These two neighborhoods are one of those few places where you can trace the footprints of the people from different cultures who once lived there. Both Balat and Fener are full of hidden gems that are waiting for you to discover. In recent years, Balat and Fener tours became very popular thanks to the openings of new restaurants, cafes, taverns and diners. Streets of Balat and Fener are full of beautiful  old houses, churches, mosques and synagogues. Hence, photography tours to Balat and Fener are also quite popular among both amateur and professional photographers.

If you are looking for an authentic experince in your Istanbul visit, Balat and Fener neighborhoods must be in your list. There are lots of eating and dining options to choose from in this part of the city which will make your trip more tasteful. Both Balat and Fener are easily accessible via taxi or public transportation and very close to the other touristic places in the European side of Istanbul.