Turkish hamam was one of my favourite experience in Istanbul and i would highly recommend you to reserve some time for this on your Istanbul trip. Visiting a turkish hamam will not only rid you of your toxins but will also leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
How to choose a Hamam?
Turkish hamams are a dime a dozen in Istanbul. So how do you go about choosing one? Of course price is a criteria but for us it was more important to experience the hamam together as a couple. Majority of the places in Istanbul have separate areas for men and women and work with respective masseuses as well. But i was recommended the Suleymaniye Hamami by a friend who had visited the place during her trip to Istanbul. This is one of the rare hamams that allows only couples. In fact they even advertise themselves as a “hamam for couples” and don’t allow singles. Maybe there are more options like this in Istanbul but this is close to the tourist district of Sultan Ahmet and hence was easy for us to reach as well.
Best time for the Hamam
The Suleymani hamami recommends anytime between 10 and 3 to be more suited for the hamam. But i would recommend you to go in the morning as early as possible. We were there at 10 and we got the entire place to ourselves. So it was sort of our very own private hamam. Also the advantage of going early is that place is clean and has not been used by anyone else.
We were a little early for our appointment so our host asked us to relax in the waiting area. Gave us a book explaining the hamam and the rules of the house and some turkish tea. Sridhar then made the payment and we were all set. It is possible to pay in Euro here and in fact it is better to do so from an exchange rate point of view.
Then our host showed us our private changing room. They have plenty of changing rooms on both floors. We were given our white and red checkered towels, shorts and bikini to change in. Women can carry their own bikini if you want but otherwise they give you bikini and shorts and the wooden sandals. You can comfortably leave behind all your belongings in the room and lock it. The changing rooms are quite roomy and have space even for lie in. We changed into our hamam clothing and made our way into the hamam area. I have to say it took us a bit to get used to the wooden sandals.
What is a Turkish Hamam?
A Turkish hamam basically comprises of this big heated room. You spend about 30-45 minutes in this heated room and relax listening to some traditional turkish music. This helps you to sweat and open up all the pores. I have to say sometimes i find sauna’s a bit uncomfortable due to excessive heat but i found the hamam very relaxing. Perhaps because it was such a big room with high ceilings and it was evenly heated. As we lay on the hot marble looking at the star shaped skylights on the high domed ceiling we lost track of time.
Our masseuses entering the room jolted us from our short but relaxing slumber. We were then asked to follow them to an adjacent chamber. We tip toed there carefully so as not to slip with our wooden slippers. I was a bit relieved to see that our massueuses were not 50lb middle aged studgy turkish guys, contrary to what i had read on some online forums. My masseuse introduced himself briefly and asked me where i was from. Whereas Sridhar got a more serious one who got straight to work. They lather you up in soap and give you a short massage for your hand, legs and your back. They follow a certain ritual while doing so and cleanse themselves with a bucket of water after they have finished certain procedures. At the end of it they give you a good wash and then off you go to the changing room and wrap yourself in fresh towels. When you are ready the masseuses visit you again and help you wrap your head and your shoulders with a towel. I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking. The hamam area is strictly no photo zone so unfortunately i have no photos of that.
Then we went to an intermediate room to cool down a bit before we were back in normal temperature. You have the option to buy drinks otherwise they also offer a bottle of water and turkish tea. Sridhar was a bit hesistant to have hot tea at first but our host insisted that it actually helps in cooling down. As we sat there clicking some photos and enjoying our turkish tea, our masseuses bid us goodbye and left the hamam. We could then head to our changing room at our discretion and get ready.
The changing rooms at Suleymaniye hamam are spacious and even have a place where you could easily have a lie in. Believe me i was all set to fall asleep there except for my hunger pangs. So after goofing around for some more photos, we decided to head out to grab some lunch. Another thing that i really liked about this place is that they did not really ask us for a tip and make us feel uncomfortable. Although we did drop some tips in their tip box as happy customers ourselves and that’s the way it should be, isn’t it?