What to Expect When Visiting a Turkish Bath in Istanbul

Visiting a Turkish Bath in Istanbul was a highlight of our trip. Hamams or Turkish Baths, are primarily found in Turkey and Morocco. These opulent bathhouses were built as a place for people to cleanse before heading to the mosque. They were also used as social centers where men and women gathered to relax. Traditional hamams contain three chambers: a hot room to steam, a warm room to scrub, and a cooler room to relax.

Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam, a historical Turkish Bath in Istanbul

We visited Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam, a historical Turkish Bath in Istanbul, for a traditional hamam ritual package. This included the hot room, scrubbing, foaming, lifting, and hair wash. It was incredible and the architecture of this building is absolutely stunning. The natural stone, smooth wood and Turkish rugs created a relaxing and nurturing environment.

Arriving at a Turkish Bath

When I arrived to check in, I was impressed with the grandeur of the building and the stunning main dome. I immediately felt relaxed with the mint oil scent, the sound of the fountain trickling, and the warm and humid air. I sipped my traditional home-made sherbet and learned about my services.

inside a Turkish Bath in Istanbul

I was taken to the dressing room to change into my peştamal (classic cotton hamam wrap) to begin my Hamam services. I was welcomed at the entrance to the hot room by my natır (which is what you call a bath attendant for ladies).

She held out her hand for me to take, and I was led to the Göbektaşı, (large hexagon heated marble) in the middle of the room. I lay here in the heat for about 15 minutes. This was to relax and soften my skin, and also helped my body adjust to the heat of the Hamam. I was given a glass of ice-cold water to stay hydrated.

turkish bathouse istanbul

The Turkish Bath Scrub-Down

After about 15 minutes, I was taken to the Kurna (marble water basin) where my attendant (wearing only a bra and towel) scrubbed my naked body with a mitten (kese) from head to toe. After my front was scrubbed, she had me turn over and repeated the process. She was meticulous and didn’t leave an inch of my body un-scrubbed. This didn’t hurt, and her soothing smile and voice was lovely as she sang to me as she scrubbed. After the scrubbing was complete, I was startled to feel bowls of cool water being poured over my head. The first one took me by surprise!

The Hair Wash

After rinsing, the final step of the ritual, Köpük (bubble soap wash) began. The attendant lathered me up with bubbles and used her hands to gently massage my body all over. She asked me if I wanted my hair washed, and when I said yes, she gently washed and rinsed my hair. It was lovely and soothing, and almost motherly. She then gestured for me to stand up. In a surprise move, she threw several buckets of lukewarm water at me for the rinse. I was completely relaxed and didn’t ever want to leave. I was led by the hand to another area where she dried my body and hair, and wrapped me in a dry robe (pestemal) and walked me to the relaxation (camegah) area. I rested on a dais, sipped traditional spiced tea, and nibbled on local snacks. I’ve never felt so cleansed and relaxed. This place is spotlessly clean, the service is impeccable, and the pricing reasonable.

istanbul hamam

Visiting a Turkish Bath in Istanbul: Important Etiquette

  • Arrive for your treatment and be patient – the experience is meant to be relaxing, not rushed.
  • It’s important to check your modesty at the door.
  • Bring cash to tip the attendant who scrubs and massages you.
  • Men and women generally go topless in hamams, but they do wear underwear. Be sure to bring spare underwear, as you will get wet from the treatments and won’t want to wear soggy underwear back to the hotel.
  • If you choose not to go topless you will stand out.  And not in a good way. Check your Western culture at the door.
  • Always wear the slippers you are given. It’s very slippery in the baths with the water and marble.
  • There’s no need to rush out of the hot room. You can stay as long as you’d like.
  • Plan to relax in the camegah (lounge) after your treatment. The cafe is lovely with delicious and healthy home made-lemonade, drinks, and appetizers.

Have you visited a Turkish Bath in Istanbul? What did you enjoy the most?

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**This post is sponsored but all opinions are my own***

About The Author


I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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