General Information About Turkish Baths

What is a hammam? How does it work? Read this if you have not been to a Turkish bath before.

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Information about 'Turk Hamam'

A Turkish bath or hamam is similar to a Scandinavian sauna but is closer to a Roman bath. It is based on the same principles as the steam-bath but the focus is on water rather than steam. Turkish Bath house is still a major part of Turkish culture, a spa of sorts for both cleansing and relaxing.  Ottoman Turks inherited the Roman bath concept—architecture and tradition—as it existed in Asia Minor. They adapted it to Turkish tastes, and called it “hammam.” Although modern Turks do most of their showering at home, the public hammam is still a major part of the culture, as much a place about cleansing as it is about relaxing. Here's a roadmap to enjoying a Turkish bath in the traditional way. Female and male sections are separated in traditional hammams. Yet the bathing rituals are similar between the sexes.

There are a number of different services on offer in most hammans, and you have to sort this out at the beginning. A traditional Turkish bath package includes 45 minutes of washing; traditional body scrubbing with handwoven wash cloth known as a kese; a foam wash; and a massage.

The attendants usually provide visitors with a peshtemal, a thin cotton towel to wrap yourself and a regular towel to use after bathing. It is okay to bring your bathing suit or bikinis; but, since few others—and no Turks—will be wearing anything, it’s not recommended for the true experience. Almost all historic baths in Istanbul have a dressing section where you can store securely your belongings.

Once you are ready, the bath attendant will take you into the warm section. Here you can relax and sweat next to a kurna, the small marble basin. Next comes the scrubbing, which is done by the attendant. Sit back and relax, and let him scrub every inch of your body with the kese. And don't worry: In most traditional hammams, the washing spaces are separated by marble panels to create a sense of privacy. Once scrubbed, take your place on the warm marble slab called the gobektasi in the hot section, where your attendant is ready with a lacy, foam-filled cloth for a sudsy massage. Following this rejuvenating experience, most linger in the bath area and relax. The hot section of a historic Turkish bath is the most impressive part: It is usually designed so that rays of light filtered into this area from a high central dome, illuminating the steam and creating an otherworldly feeling.

Back in the cold section, many hammams will serve visitors a glass of sherbet, Ottoman-style juice, or a cup of Turkish tea. The idea here is to spend a few minutes allowing your body to come back to its regular temperature. It’s also a time to tip your attendants, which is normal in the hamman.

See also

Historical Turkish Baths in Istanbul
Theses are the best samples of the historical bath houses in Istanbul, visited mostly by tourists and wealthier Turkish people . These venues are recommended to people who care about service quality, cleanliness and fine architecture.
Please click here for the list of historical Turkish baths.

Local Hammams and Bath Houses
The list of smaller, less touristy neighborhood bath houses mostly attended by local people. These local hammams are also usually cheaper, so they would be recommended to those who are on a budget or to people who want to experience less touristy atmosphere. .
Please click here for the list of local Turkish baths.

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