WHAT ARE THE BEST 10 HAMAMS (TURKISH BATHS) TO VISIT IN ISTANBUL?
The below list includes a variety of hamams, some of which are quite fancy, and some of which lay almost ruins. They all however, embody the heritage of Ottoman bathing.
Çemberlitaş Hamam, Çemberlitaş
It is one of the oldest Istanbul hamams dating back to Selim II’s era. The bath section was built by the famous Ottoman architect, Sinan, in 1584. This building dates back to Sinan’s last period, in which his experience and skills allowed him to combine functionality, elegance and tranquillity while keeping his simple design, which avoids overly decorated elements. The architecture of Çemberlitaş attracts not only travellers and locals, but also many Turkish & foreign researchers, photographers, filmmakers, media professionals as well as students who wish to study this magnificent structure. A visit to Çemberlitaş hamam can be one of the best Turkish bathing experiences. Try to plan your visit on a sunny day, so that you can lay on the göbektaşı, the large hot central stone, while the sunlight beams stream through the holes of the dome ceiling.
Cağaloğlu Hamam, Cağaloğlu
Cağaloğlu hamam is located on the Yerebatan Street close to Grand Bazaar. It is listed in Patricia Schultz’s famous book “1,000 places to see before you die” as a must-have experience in Istanbul. The hamam is the last Turkish bath house that was built in the Ottoman Era. It was constructed in 1741 by two different Ottoman era architects: Süleyman Ağa, who started the construction and Abdullah Ağa, who completed it. The beautifully detailed building with high domed ceilings, internal marble fountains, interior garden, and two levels of individual changing chambers are still part of this great architectural delight. There is cafe in the hamam and BBQ parties are held in the garden during summer, while fireplace parties in winter. Belly dancer and oriental music groups can also be performed for visiting groups.
Galatasaray Hamam, Beyoğlu
According to a myth, the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II, after a hunting party, was walking in the forest, where Galatasaray High School and Galatasaray Hamam stand today. Bayezid saw a little cabin, where Gül Baba (Father of Roses) lived. Gül Baba was one of the most famous dervishes and poets of the era. He was an inspiration for Suleiman the Magnificent, Beyazid’s father, and joined many wars with him. Beyazid asked Gül Baba, if he had any wishes. Gül Baba requested an ever-lasting külliye (a complex of communal facilities surrounding a mosque) to be built on the forest land, and he also asked for an academy, and a hamam with a large dome to be included in the külliye. Then, he offered two roses to Beyazid, one yellow, one red. His wishes were accepted, and the külliye was built in 1481. Galata Sarayı, (Galata Palace), adapted red and yellow as its main colors, which are still used to this day. To this day, the tomb of Gül Baba resides in the gardens of Galatasaray Lycee (Galatasaray high school). For centuries now, Galatasaray Hamam is one of the most famous Turkish baths serving domestic and foreign visitors. The hamam has marble slabs in the soğukluk, the cooling area, where you can receive a massage in semi-privacy. The central large and hot stone, göbektaşi, is so hot, you need to lay towels to be able to lie on it.
Beylerbeyi Hamam, Beylerbeyi
Beylerbeyi hamam is close to Beylerbeyi ferry quay/pier, and it is located right next to Beylerbeyi mosque. It can easily be spotted, since it is an Ottoman style wooden building. The complex was built in 1778 by the order of Sultan Abdulhamid I, and it was dedicated to his mother Rabia Sermi Kadin. In days gone by, hamams were built next to mosque complexes, and served to generate revenue for the complex. Camekan, the section for changing clothes, has a wooden ceiling, ılıklık, the transition area from the cooling area to the hot bath room, has a nice marble fountain. The hot room has a small göbektaşı, central hot stone for relaxing and massages. There are a total of thirteen kurnas, fountains, and four halvets, private rooms. The Beylerbeyi hamam serves men and women on separate schedules. Ladies can visit in the morning till the early afternoon, and male customers can visit afterwards.
Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam, Tophane
Kilic Ali Pasa was a slave who made it to Constantinople and then became a naval captain, before gaining much power, and becoming famous. He was one of the admirals in the 16th century, who played a significant role in the victories of the Ottoman Naval Army. The most famous Ottoman architect, Sinan, was commissioned to build the Kilic Ali Pasha complex and its hamam that would be named after Kilic Ali Pasa. Sinan built a charming hamam with a magnificent dome and a camekan, the relaxation area, beneath it. The dome is 14 meters in diameter, and 17 meters in height, making it one of the largest domes built by Sinan. Restoration of Kilic Ali Pacha hamam took more than 7 years, in which the original features of the hamam, including the two doors leading from the reception and relaxation area into the warm areas, and many more original details were retained. You’ll get to enjoy a number of original features found during the excavations: the features of Kulhan Chimney/exhaust, the leaded domes and the glass elephant eyes, original kurnas and some carved stone and marble slabs. It is one of the most ornate hamams in Istanbul.
Ağa Hamam, Çukurcuma
Aga Hamam was constructed by Fatih Sultan Mehmet (the conqueror of Istanbul) and was used as his private bath in the 16th century. It only serves foreigners and provides a relaxing atmosphere for both genders simultaneously. Massages and scrubs are conducted by same-sex masseurs in private rooms. Their prices are lower than their counterparts in the Old City, Sultanahmet.
Hagia Sophia - Haseki Hürrem Sultan Hamam, Sultanahmet
Haseki Hurrem Sultan Hamam is another magnificent structure built by Sinan, the chief Ottoman architect. Hurrem Sultan, Roxelana, the wife of Suleiman the Magnificent, ordered it to be built in 1556. It was built where the ancient public baths of Zeuxippus (100-200 AD) used to stand, in the middle of Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The area was also once a home for the Temple of Zeus, which was moved from Olympia to Constantinople in ancient times. The hamam was used until 1910, then it was shut for a long time period. During these times, the hamam was even used as a prison. Then, it was used as a storage for paper and oil. In 1957, it was renovated for the first time, and served as a carpet bazaar until 2007. The last renovation that helped the structure regain its magnificent look started in 2008, took three years and cost 17 million TL. 1300 square meters of Marmara marble was used during the renovations in order to bring the hamam to its current condition. Although, Haseki Hurrem Sultan Hamam was built in the classical Ottoman bath style, the hamam was constructed in a way that male and female sections were constructed on the same axis as mirror images of each other. This is also one of the luxurious hamams in Istanbul, and they serve customers with 160 gold plated bath bowls, and silk and cotton (%50-50) mixture pestamals, the bath wraps were produced in Odemis, Izmir.
Süleymaniye Hamam, Sultanahmet
Süleymaniye Hamam was built as a part of the Süleymaniye Kulliye in 1557. As described earlier, the kulliye or complex consists of numerous facilities around a mosque. The Süleymaniye complex includes the Süleymaniye Mosque, a medrese, a hospital, an insane asylum, infirmary tombs, a hamam, a market and a primary school. Süleymaniye hHamam is also called Dökmeciler Hamam due to the fact that it is in the Dökmeciler Bazaar. Again, this is another work of the Ottoman architect Sinan, and it is one of the most touristy hamams in Istanbul. This part of the old city has been protected by the tourism authorities, therefore Süleymaniye Hamam has maintained its originality. It was originally opened with a large ceremony, and Suleiman the Magnificent took the first bath after a special ceremony and prayers, and it only served members of the kulliye for many years. It has a similar design to Haseki Hurrem Sultan Hamam, and, it is also built in the period when Sinan was only a kalfa, a semi-master architect.
Mihrimah Sultan Hamam, Edirnekapı
Mihrimah Sultan Hamam was built between 1562-1565 by Sinan for Suleiman the Magnificent’s daughter, Mihrimah Sultan. Mihr-i Mah, means “the sun and the moon”. Suleiman ordered two kulliyes (one in Uskudar, one in Edirnekapi) to be built by Sinan. There is a myth about these two Mosques. It is said that Mimar Sinan fell in love with Mihrimah and built the smaller mosque in Edirnekapi without palace approval, on his own, and dedicated it to his love. The legend holds that on March 21th (the spring equinox, and Mihrimah's alleged birthday, hence the name), at sunset, if there is a clear view of both mosques, you will notice that as the sun sets behind the only minaret of the mosque, the moon rises between the two minarets of the mosque in Üsküdar. The Mihrimah Sultan Hamam has a square shape camekan area which is built on top of twelve columns. The hot bath room is built under a large dome with four halvets and four eyvans and includes a göbektaşi, octagonal marble slab. There are also a pool and a hottub, which have been criticized as unnecessary add-ons causing the facility lose its historical value.
Firuzağa Hamam, Çukurcuma
Firuzağa Hamam is located on Cukurcuma Street, and it is believed to have been built in 1831. It is also called as Bostanbaşı Hamam, however, the name Firuzağa Hamam was preferred by the locals due to the fact that it is close to Firuzağa Mosque. The external façade of the hamam was built with cement and covered with mosaics. It has a wooden camekan, and two halvets, and a square göbektaşı in the hot bath room area. It serves women and men on different schedules at the same facility.