The Turkish Bath is a must-do while you’re visiting Turkey.
Also known as a hammam the Turkish bath is a tradition dating back to the Ottoman Empire— and it’s believed that they adopted it from Roman Baths.
Back then there weren’t washing facilities in the home. Cleanliness was a major pillar in the Islamic religion, so the Hammam became a ritual to clean oneself both physically and spiritually.
Today the traditional Turkish Bath is still in effect but it is seen more as a spa-like experience. It’s sure to leave you feeling rested and rejuvenated plus your skin will be as soft as a newborn.
If you’re headed to Istanbul make sure to checkout the best Hammam’s in Istanbul.
Before You Go…
If you’ve never been to a Turkish Bath it can seem intimidating from the outside. I will break down exactly what you can expect inside the Hammam so you can go in feeling at ease.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, you should note that for most Turkish Baths you’ll need a reservation. Most Hammams have specific hours for men and women, so if you want to go with someone of the opposite gender, you’ll need to find a co-ed Turkish bath. You will always be washed by someone of the same sex.
Now let’s get into it.
The Hammam Set Up
The set-up of a Turkish Bath can vary a little depending on how fancy it is, but in general, it’s split into three sections: The changing cabins, The Hammam, and the resting area.
Upon arrival, you will be greeted by the attendant and given a traditional cotton towel, called the peshtemal, and waterproof slippers. You’ll be guided to either a personal or group changing cabin. You’ll either be able to lock your belongings in the private room or if it’s a group changing cabin there will be lockers.
Once you’ve changed into your towel and slippers you’ll be guided into the Hammam where you will have the traditional Ham experience
Inside The Turkish Hammam
Inside the bath, you’ll find that there’s one main circular room with a large marble platform in the middle and washing basins around the perimeter. The room is typically domed with natural light pouring through the skylights.
There may be some additional smaller washing rooms that offer more privacy or a dry sauna attached depending on the Hammam.
The Traditional Hammam Experience
While Hammam’s today offers an array of services, the most popular is the traditional Hammam experience that lasts for around 90 minutes and is broken down into 3 sections: Washing, Scrubbing, and a Bubble Wash.
Washing (and Warming)
You’ll either be guided to wash yourself at the basins or one of the natir which means attendant, will wash you by pouring warm water over your body.
After washing you can lay on the heated marble platform for 30 minutes to let your muscles relax and soften your skin.
When the 30 minutes are up the natir will come and take you to either a washing basin or a private room in the case of a co-ed bath. They will then use an exfoliator mitten to scrub your entire body— I promised you’ll be shocked at the amount of dead skins that will come off of your body.
After the scrubbing is complete, the bubble wash begins directly. The natir takes a special cloth, dips it in soapy water, and waves the cloth in the air, you’ll see it fill with bubbles in a way that seems like magic.
Then she’ll squeeze the bubbles from the cloth onto your body. She’ll repeat this a few times before starting to massage the bubbles into your body. Your whole body will be washed with the bubbles.
After all the bubbles have been washed away, you’ll be guided to a dry room to cool down. Your natir will drape a towel over you which is your cue that the bath is over and it’s time to relax.
You’ll be directed to the relaxation area that typically has day beds for lounging, complimentary Turkish Tea, and a traditional soda-like drink called Sorbet.
You can lounge for as long as you’d like, soaking in all of what you just experienced. If you have any additional services booked like massage or a facial they will come to get you from this area.
Ending Your Hammam Experience
Whenever you feel like you’ve rested enough you can head back to your changing cabin to get dressed. Some Hammams let you keep the towel, scrubbing glove, and sandals, others will have a place for you to leave them.
If you paid upon arrival, you’re free to leave. If not, then you’ll pay and be on your way. You can usually leave a tip for your attendant at the front desk, 10% is considered good practice if you feel like your service was satisfactory — but it’s not mandatory.