Turkish baths: places for socialising, relaxing and purifying body and soul

Turkish baths, called hammams (Turkish: hamam), became popular in Turkey in the 7th century and are an export of the Roman Empire. They were places of cleanliness, for purifying body and soul. Hammams were also spaces where major life events were celebrated. Even today, hammams are still gathering places for socializing and relaxing.

Vistors to Turkey must decide between traditional Hammam and Turkish bath of a hotel.

Most visitors to Turkey will need to decide if they want to visit a historical hammam or a Turkish bath in the hotel. Secondly they will have to decide if the they want to opt for self-service or have a traditional style Turkish bath experience, the real experience.

In the traditional Turkish hammam an attendant will wash and massage you. But whatever you opt for, you can stay and use the facility as long as you like.

An example of a historic hammam in Istanbul is the Cagaloglu Hamami which is was build with marble in 1741.

The traditional hammam consists of three areas.

  • The hot steam room with a large marble stone in the centre where visitors lay down and the attendants scrub then and massage them,
  • a warm room for bathing,
  • a cool room for resting.

Bath Procedure

Visitors will be given a towel, bath wrap, a pair of sandals and an abrasive mitt for exfoliating the skin.

First, you need to relax and loosen up in the hot steam room. After about 15 minutes the masseur/attendant enters the room.

The attendant will soak your body with warm water and lather you with a sudsy swab. At the same time you will be receiving a massage. The words ‘no pain – no gain’ will probably come to your mind.

After the washing and the massage, it is time for the scrubbing in one of the basins. The attendant will start scrubbing you which might remind you of being sandpapered.

After that you will receive another soapy wash followed by a rinsing with cold water!

The whole procedure will last about 15 minutes and then it is time to relax and enjoy the feeling of feeling purified and clean.

Some Hammam etiquette

Hammams are segregated; there is no mixing of sexes, There are either two different sections for men and women or the same place admits men and women at different times. Of course, the attendant will be the same sex as you.

Men usually wear nothing under the bath wrap. 

Women mostly wear their underwear but no bra under their bath wrap.

You should give a tip to the attendant of about 10-20%.

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