A visit to a hamam, a traditional Turkish bathhouse, is an absolute must for visitors to Istanbul. Immerse yourself literally and figuratively in Turkish culture and history with a centuries old bath ritual and the beautiful mosaic decor. After a treatment with olive soap, mud and a few camel hair wash cloths you leave with silky soft skin.
Anybody who is unfamiliar with the hamam rituals can visit a bathhouse that caters more to foreigners. The masseurs at these hamams work according to more Western standards. A visit to these hamams is more expensive but most visitors feel it is certainly worth it. The hamams frequented by locals tend to be less gentle in their treatments, especially when it comes to massages. Just like the traditional hamams, the ‘Western’ bathhouses usually have a separate area for men and women. You will often find a charming cafe and shop on the premises.
Taking a bath in a hamam is an important part of Turkish culture. The hamam treatment cleanses both the body and soul. Therefore, Turkish people visit the hamam as a spiritual preparation for a visit to a mosque. The body is cleansed through sweating and scrubbing. Water washes away everything, and in a spiritual sense also.
A visit to the hamam is a ritual and features prominently in many important moments in life. Brides will be bathed to prepare for their wedding ceremony and there is a separate ritual for women who have just given birth. Men and women bathe separately – the larger bathhouses have separate areas for men and women, the smaller ones have different opening hours for men and women.