Explore an authentic Turkish hammam in the old city of Istanbul which dates back to Ottoman times and experience the tradition that still remains popular today.
What to Expect
The Çemberlitas Bath is located on Çemberlitas Square on Divanyolu Street situated in the midst of some of Istanbul’s greatest monuments. The bath was established by Nurbanu Sultan, wife of Selim II and mother of Murat III, for the purpose of bringing in revenue to support the Valide-i Atik Charity Complex in Toptasi, Üsküdar. According to the Tuhfet’ül-mi’mârin (1), the bath is one of the structures built by the architect Sinan, in 1584.
If it’s your first visit to a hamam, entering a Turkish bath can be a daunting experience. This will give you a nice impression of the Turkish bath process and customs, so you know what to expect.
An attendant will guide you a personal dressing cubicle (some just have lockers) on the first floor, and will give sandals and a peştemal — a colorful checked cloth to be tied around the waist for modesty.
Selecting a service At The Hammam
Possible options are:
Self-Service — you bathe yourself and bring your own soap, shampoo and towel
Traditional Style — pick this one if you want the real Turkish bath experience. An attendant will wash and massage you for about 15 minutes, and you don’t have to bring any of the equipment
Scrubbing, bubbles and sultan’s bath
Aromatherapy oil massage
Regardless of the service you choose, you are allowed to use the facilities for as long as you wish.
The masseur will not follow you into the hot room. First you need to relax and loosen up for a while, and most importantly sweat! A great time to explore the architecture of a Turkish bath. In most cases an impressive room completely covered in marble featuring a big dome, several basins, and an impressive göbektaşı — the central, raised platform above the heating source.
After 15 minutes of sitting and lying on the göbektaşı, the masseur will enter the room. The first part of the service will take place on the side of the central platform, while shifting positions all the time. The attendant will soak your body with warm water and will lather you with a sudsy swab. At the same time you will get the massage.
After the washing up and massage, there will be time for the scrubbing. The place of action will shift from the central platform to one of the basins. The attendant will take an hand-knitted wash cloth and will start scrubbing.You will receive another soapy wash up followed by a rinsing session with cold water!
The masseur will leave the hot room, but you can stay and relax some more if you want to.
Afterwards, you can go back to the cubicle. Some visitors decide to relax a bit on the bed first, order a drink or even take a nap. In case of the latter, tell the attendant when he should wake you up.
- Entrance to the hammam
- Traditional bath with soap massage
Know Before You Go
There is some strict hamam etiquette to be followed. For starters, there is no mixing. Either the Turkish bath has two sections, one for each sex, or it admits men and women at separate times of the day.
Men usually completely strip down and wear nothing underneath the bath-wrap. Women on the other hand mostly keep on wearing their underwear ( but often not their bra) underneath the bath-wrap. The choice is yours.
Hamams are open from as early as 6 a.m. till somewhere around midnight.
The masseur and scrubber will be of the same sex as you are.
Standard soap is used. If you have sensitive skin or are allergic to some products, bring your own soap.
The tip is normally 10 to 20% of the total amount.