In recent years, historic Istanbul hamams, including several designed by Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent's master architect, Mimar Sinan, have been restored and their infrastructure modernized to provide a superb hamam(Turkish bath) experience, especially for foreign visitors.
This experience comes at a price, of course. Because they are deluxe, your several hours in one of these restored historic hamams may cost more than an all-day tour of the city: around TL200 to TL300.
The advantages are that you are assured of a better hamam experience (especially for women—read this!), and that you have the pleasure of experience a real piece of history: superb architecture designed by one of the world's foremost architects of all time.
Not all nice hamams are expensive, however. Moderate and even budget hamams exist, and are described below.
Favorite public hamams for foreign visitors to Istanbulinclude these:
Known also as Roxelana's Bath, this nearly five-century-old Turkish bath, a work of the Ottoman master architect Mimar Sinan, has been beautifully restored at a cost of TL17 million. Located right in Sultanahmet between Ayasofya and the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque, it offers premium service at premium prices (starting at €70 per person for the basicpackage including scrub, foam wash and massage) in its twin (but separate) men's and women's sections.
This hamam by Mimar Sinan, part of the Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque complex built in the 1500s by Süleyman the Magnificent's Grand Admiral of the Fleet, was beautifully renovated and reopened in 2012. It offers an excellent experience at deluxe prices, especially for women.
This single facility (it is not a double hamam like the Hürrem Sultan Hamamı) is open—by reservation only—to women only from 08:00 a, to 16:00 (4 pm) daily, and to men onlyfrom 16:30 (4:30 pm) to 23:00 (11 pm).
To go there, take the Kabataş-Bağcılar tram toward Kabataş to the Tophane stop. The mosque is right between the tram stop and the shore, on the right (west) side of the mosque as you walk from the tram.
The Çemberlitaş (chem-behr-LEE-tahsh), only a 10-minute walk from Sultanahmet and the Hippodrome west (uphill) along Divan Yolu, or a shorter tram ride, is a historic bath designed by Mimar Sinan that charges moderate prices—less than the deluxe places. I've received a report that a visitor was "rushed through" the bathing rituals rather than having found it relaxing.
In Beyoğlu's Cihangir neighborhood, the Ağa Hamamıreceives good reviews. Its clientele is largely foreign travelers, not locals. Men and women, wearing bathing suits, steam together in the main steam room, but the genders are separated for the personal wash, during which bathing suits are removed. Although not a luxury hamam, service and surroundings seem to suit most clients, as does the off-the-beaten-tourist-path price. More...
Perhaps the closest you'll come to a true neighborhood hamam experience in a historic 15th-century hamam at economical prices, though it's a bit out of the way. More...
Closest to Sultanahmet, the Cağaloğlu Hamamı (djah-AHL-oh-loo hah-mah-muh) on Yerebatan Caddesi only a three-minute stroll from the Hippodrome, is historic, ornate and touristy.
Every district in Istanbul has its own hamam, usually un-touristy, and therefore simpler and cheaper. Many of these neighborhood places many not present your vision of a historic, atmospheric Turkish bath, but you will probably receive a good welcome. You might ask at your hotel for a nearby, local hamam recommendation.
Hotels with Hamams
Numerous good hotels now have their own private hamams for your use. Some even put mini-hamams, or hamam-style baths, in some of their guest rooms so you can have a hamam experience without the hassles or cost. Try these:
Please contact me and let me know what sort of experience you have—good, bad, normal, indifferent—in any of these baths so that I can make accurate recommendations to future visitors. Thanks!