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7 Best hammams in Istanbul for luxury lovers

Steam, scrub, soap suds and a silky massage.

Ahhhh…

Few bathing rituals in the world generate the decadent pleasure (and squeaky clean feeling) of a Turkish hammam experience!

Spending some time in one of the traditional Turkish hammams in Istanbul is a must when visiting the city.

Best Turkish Hammams in Istanbul
What to do in Istanbul? Why, go to the hammam!

Hammams in Istanbul

Turkish hammams in Istanbul - Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
A Turkish hammam experience in Istanbul can be decidedly decadent

There are some 237 Istanbul hamams; about 60 are still used today.

Of course, you want the hammam to be spickety-clean and highly reputable. Especially, since, well, you’ll be naked.

By the way, “hammam” is the original Arabic spelling while “hamam” is the Turkish spelling – both are used today to refer to Turkish baths. (“Hamma” in Arabic means “heating up.”)

Sometimes you see the word “hamami” too.

Visiting a Turkish bath is one of the best things to do in Istanbul!
Visiting a Turkish bath is one of the best things to do in Istanbul (Credit: Ritz-Carlton Istanbul)

Read next: Learn the art of bathing naked in Baden-Baden’s Friedrichsbad!

History of Turkish hammams

So, what is a hammam?

The hammam or Turkish bath is basically the Turkish version of a steam bath.

Historically, traditional Turkish hammams were a place to cleanse both body and soul.

They were often found near mosques so the Muslim believer could cleanse the body before praying – not only did you sweat out toxins, you achieved spiritual purification too.

In Ottoman times, Turkish baths were used for socializing as well as spiritual and physical cleanliness (Credit: Cagaloglu Hammam)

A carry-over from the Roman social bathhouse, when Istanbul (then Byzantium and Constantinople) was under Roman control, public hammams also played an important role in the social fabric of everyday life as gathering places to gossip and discuss events.

Women could escape the confines of their home to mingle with other women – and even look for suitable brides for their sons.

And get this: Two centuries ago, if a husband didn’t pay for his wife to visit the Turkish bath twice a week, she could ask for a divorce!

With hammams looking this gorgeous, no wonder women wanted to bathe here! (Credit: Cagaloglu Hamami)

7 Best Istanbul hammams

Best Turkish Hammams in Istanbul

We tried out several luxurious Turkish baths in Istanbul.

Here, then, are some of the top hamams in the city – when planning your Turkey itinerary, be sure to include a visit to one or more of them!

1) AyaSofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam

Turkish hammams in Istanbul
Reception and lounge room inside the AyaSofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam

One of the best hammams in Istanbul – and perhaps the most opulent – is the AyaSofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam (aka Hagia Sophia Hurrem Sultan Bathhouse).

The hamam was designed and built in 1556 by Sinan, the chief Ottoman architect, for Roxelana (Hurrem Sultan), the bewitching wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

The luxurious AyaSofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam was built in 1556 for Roxelana, a sultan’s wife

A young red-haired woman from Poland, Roxelana was kidnapped and given to Suleiman as a gift when she was only 15.

She became his favorite concubine and later his powerful and influential wife, bearing him six children.

As for the hamam, it was the only Turkish bath built on the ruins of an older bath, the ancient public baths of Zeuxippus (built between 100 and 200 AD).

It was in use and operational until 1910.

It then closed down for many years and was later used as a prison when the Sultanahmet Prison was full.

In 2008, a multi-million dollar restoration of the hamam began.

For sybarites only! The AyaSofya is Istanbul’s most luxurious (and expensive) public hammam (Credit: AyaSofya Hammam)

Almost 14,000 square feet of Marmara marble was used and 160 gold-coated bath bowls were crafted for guest use.

After three years, it reopened to the public in 2011.

The AyaSofya hammam experience:

After checking in, you’re shown to a private change room.

The first thing you do is strip and tie a silk-and-cotton pestemal (wrap) around your waist.

You’re then led to the “hot room” in the bath area – a large, octagonal-shaped, marble room with a high domed ceiling, marble basins and gold taps. Clouds of steam swirl about.

Seated on a marble slab, you lazily pour warm water over yourself from a gold-plated bowl as you unwind and luxuriate in the heat.

An attendant next scrubs you down from head to foot with an exfoliating goatskin mitt until your skin is baby smooth.

Turkish hammams
A traditional Turkish hammam experience always includes a good scrub with an exfoliating mitt (Credit: AyaSofya Hamam)

Now comes the dreamy part.

From what looks like a pillowcase, your attendant squeezes huge clouds of tiny soap bubbles all over you, covering you in a comforter of fluffy softness – all while you’re lying on warm marble. It’s a bubble bath, but without actually soaking in a tub of hot water.

Last is the soap massage, where you’re massaged with all that soapy foam.

After our two-hour hammam treatment, we felt as if we could float away – light in body and spirit!

Women and men:

The Hurrem Sultan Hamami follows the classical bath style from the Ottoman period, but men and women today each have their own separate sections in the white marble hammam.

Aya Sofya Hamam

See website

Located in the Old Quarter of Sultanahmet, in between the famed Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque
Cankurtaran Mahallesi Ayasofya Meydani 2, Fatih
+90 (212) 517 35 35

2) Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami

Turkish hammams - Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami
This 16th century hammam was designed by the great Ottoman architect Sinan (Credit: Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami)

The Kilic Ala Pasa Hamam (or Hamami) is another one of the most historic hamams in Istanbul. And like the AyaSofya hamam, it was also designed by the great architect, Mimar Sinan.

But located in Istanbul’s harbor district, it was built between 1578 and 1583 to serve the Ottoman navy, not the sultan’s wife.

Restored in modern times after seven years of work, it’s another elegant Turkish bath in Istanbul.

The impressive main wide dome is one of Sinan’s largest domes in Istanbul (a soaring 55 feet high and 45 feet across).

Start with sipping a home-made sherbet in the lounge before being guided to the dressing rooms, where you change into your pestemal.

In the hot steam room, you lie down on the heated hexagonal marble stand in the middle for at least 10 minutes.

Turkish hammams
Hammam luxury: gold taps and white marble (Credit: Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami)

Then you’re led to a marble water basin for the body exfoliation and a bubble soap wash.

If you wish, you can add a partial or full-body massage to your Turkish bath experience.

Women and men:

Open every day, Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami has separate hours for men and women:

  • Women:  8:00 am to 4:00 pm (last reservation 2:30 pm)
  • Men:  4:30 pm to 11:30 pm

Kilic Ali Pasa Hamam

See website

Located in Tophane
Kemankeş Mah, Hamam Sok. 1, Tophane Karaköy
+90 (212) 393 80 10

3) Cagaloglu Hamam

The Cagaloglu Hamam was built as a public hamam to finance the library of Sultan Mehmet I (Credit: Cagaloglu Hamami)

Another beautiful hammam in Istanbul is the Cagaloglu Hamami, built in 1741 on the orders of Sultan Mahmut I.

Listed in the New York Times bestseller, “1,000 Places To See Before You Die,” these historic baths have been featured in more than 138 movies.

Over the years, they’ve attracted a flock of famous customers, from Florence Nightingale and Franz Liszt to, more recently, Kate Moss and Cameron Diaz.

This was the last hamam to be built during the Ottoman Empire (Credit: Cagaloglu Hamam)

You can’t help but be wowed when you enter this traditional hamam.

Think marble fountains, an inside garden and white marble columns. Natural light streams in through cut-outs in soaring cupolas.

Thousands of tiles are decorated with tulips.

Mmmm… Time for a Turkish bath! (Credit: Cagaloglu Hamam)

The standard bath treatment includes 15 minutes of “hot room rest,” 10 minutes of exfoliation with a bath glove and 20 minutes of bubble soap wash.

After, you’re offered Turkish tea, home-made sherbet and a Turkish delight.

Cagaloglu Hammam

See website

Located in Istanbul’s Old Quarter (near the Topkapi Palace)
Alemdar Mah, Cağaloğlu Hamamı Sok. 34, Fatih
+90 (212) 522 24 24

Turkish baths in Istanbul hotels

These days, you might not even have to leave your hotel to enjoy a Turkish bath in Istanbul.

Some of the best Istanbul hotels have their own traditional Turkish baths – where they add a modern twist on the bathing experience. (These hotels tend to be bigger than Istanbul’s boutique hotels, which don’t have the space to accommodate a hammam.)

4) Ritz-Carlton Istanbul hammam

Spa Soul at the Ritz-Carlton:

Turkish hammams - spa at Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
The couples hammam suite in the Ritz-Carlton(Credit: Ritz-Carlton Istanbul)

At the spa in the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul – in the cocoon of its marble Turkish hammam couples suite – a steam, scrub and soap bubble massage helped us get over jetlag on one visit to Istanbul.

Turkish hammams
The Ritz-Carlton’s spa features this 55-foot indoor pool as well as an authentic Turkish hammam (Credit: Ritz-Carlton Istanbul)

Ritz-Carlton hotel:

Near Taksim Square, the high-rise hotel is right around the corner from Istiklal Street, the famous pedestrian-only shopping avenue (be sure to duck into the pretty glass-covered “Flower Passage”).

The Ritz-Carlton is also close to the tram which takes you to the Old City (Sultanahmet), where you find the Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and other historic sights.

The rooftop sun terrace a pool, hot tubs and two open-air spa rooms (Credit: Ritz-Carlton Istanbul)

Ritz-Carlton Istanbul: Check rates and availability

5) Ciragan Palace Kempinski hammam

Sanitas Spa:

Turkish hammams
Spa hammam room (Credit: Ciragan Palace Kempinski)

We also tried a private couple’s treatment at the storied Ciragan Palace Kempinski’s Sanitas Spa.

Towel headrests on the marble slabs, soft Turkish music and the choice of an easy, medium or hard scrub added to the comfort of our experience.

After, we relaxed on a red velvet divan sipping mint tea.

Definitely an indulgent ritual fit for a Sultan and his princess!

Turkish hammams - Ciragan Palace Kempinski
Still sometimes used, the hotel’s historical hammam can be booked privately for bridal showers and special events (Credit: Ciragan Palace Kempinski)

Kempinski hotel:

Built on the banks of the Bosphorus Canal, the Ciragan Palace Kempinski has welcomed kings and queens as well as celebrities like Madonna, Oprah Winfrey and fashion designer Giorgio Armani.

A gorgeous outdoor infinity pool overlooks boats plying the sparkling seaway – a treat at the end of a day of sightseeing.

 The Kempinski hotel in Istanbul
The Kempinski hotel in Istanbul has a drop-dead location right on the Bosphorus Canal (Credit: Ciragan Palace Kempinski)

Most rooms have balconies with Bosphorus views.

But if your wallet allows, splurge on one of the 11 suites in the 19th century Ottoman palace building.

Ciragan Palace Kempinski: Check rates and availability

6) Catma Mescit Hamami

Catma Mescit Hamami
Indulge in Turkish hammam packages at this hotel spa and hamam (Credit: Catma Mescit Hamami)

Located in the Beyoglu district, this 600-year-old Turkish bath is part of the spa at the Nova Plaza Pera Hotel.

The Catma Mescit Hamami has 7 treatment rooms, including spaces for couples and outdoor treatments.

You can enjoy a traditional Turkish hamam, along with other treatments incorporating organic products.

For example, the “Shahrazad Hammam” package combines the Turkish bath ritual with a bubble massage using essential oils.

The “Sultan Hammam” package is their most popular.

This 3-step session starts with the traditional body scrub to remove dead skin cells. It’s then followed by a bubble wash and finishes with a full-body organic mask made from honey and milk.

7) Other Istanbul baths

Oldest hamam in Istanbul:

The oldest Turkish bath in Istanbul is the Tahtakale Hamami, built between 1454 and 1471.

While the bathhouse still exists, it’s no longer used as a hammam today, but as a coffee shop instead.

Cemberlitas Hamami:

Cemberlitas Hamami is another Turkish hamam in Istanbul you might want to check out. Perhaps you remember it from the final fight scene in the movie Taken 2? It was filmed in this especially atmospheric hamam.

Built in the 16th century by the architect, Sinan (who also built the AyaSofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam; see #1), it’s one of the oldest hamams in Istanbul. It has a separate women’s section and another section for men only.

We didn’t try this hamam though.

While you’ll find it mentioned in guide books and recommended by tour guides, the Cemberlitas Hammam gets mixed reviews. You could end up with a quick, clumsy and disappointing treatment – or maybe the best traditional Turkish bath experience ever!

Turkish bath culture and etiquette

What happens in a Turkish bath?

  • Some hammams in Istanbul have separate hours or separate areas for men and women.
  • You’ll be given flip-flops and a waist wrap (which you may leave on when bathing).
  • Don’t splash and dash. Once finished, you can stay in the hot room and relax over tea for as long as you like. Make your hammam visit a leisurely, languid one.

Now you know the best hamams in Istanbul!

Inspired by the Roman baths and given their own Turkish take during the Ottoman Empire, the hammams ooze history.

When visiting Istanbul, a must-do is to enjoy a hamam experience. We guarantee that after being deliciously scrubbed, foamed up and massaged, your first hamam will not be your last!

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Turkish baths in Istanbul

About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Mana

Monday 14th of June 2021

Do you have to stay in the Kempinski to book the hamam? I’d love to get a private couples experience but don’t think I could stay there.

Janice and George

Monday 14th of June 2021

Yes, we understand you can book a spa treatment at the Sanitas Spa at the Kempinski hotel, without being a hotel guest :-). Mind you, this could be different now with current health guidelines and restrictions (which are always changing). You'd have to check that specifically before your visit -- give them a call or email them.

Hannah

Sunday 22nd of March 2015

I had my first Turkish Hammam experience this past November in Istanbul...strangest thing I have ever done. I wasn't a big fan, I much prefer my Thai massages!

Janice and George

Sunday 22nd of March 2015

We love the Thai massages too (especially the traditional Thai yoga-like massage). Those massages are longer and deeper than the Turkish hammam soapy massage. The Turkish hammam experience is more about being bathed and getting your skin really clean than about getting a massage.

Lily

Friday 27th of February 2015

I went to a hammam before - very hot water but nice. I like the picture with the pool in it :-)

Carol Perehudoff

Monday 23rd of February 2015

Wow, this is definitely not like the Hammam I visited in Turkey, where a woman was getting a bikini wax on the change room bench right beside me. This is now on my list! Love it.

Suze

Thursday 29th of January 2015

Great post, the Aya Sofya Hammam looks amazing. I went to Turkey last year and also wrote about a hammam visit in my top 5 things to do in Bodrum. It's certainly invigorating!