Istanbul now has numerous historic, beautifully-restored hamams (Turkish baths) charging luxury prices for a deluxe experience.
But what if you don’t want to spend €100 for an hour’s wash?
The Sofular Hamamı is not fancy, but it’s authentic, historic, and reasonably priced.
This twin hamam (separate men’s and women’s sections) dates from the reign of Sultan Beyazid II (1481-1512). It’s a working hamam, not a tourist attraction, in a non-touristy section of Istanbul, and you’re likely to be bathing with a mix of locals and visitors, not just rich tourists.
Prices & Payment
The management assured me that the same prices are charged to all: TL25 for basic use of the hamam, TL10 for kese (a scrubbing with a coarse mitt by an attendant), the same price for a massage, and TL3 tip for the staff. So the most you can spend is TL50, and you can spend as little as TL28 (basic fee, plus tip) if you just want to steam, wash yourself, and relax in a cubicle.
However, TTP travelers have sent me reports on 29 May 2014, 27 November 2014, and February 25, 2015, saying that they had been pressured for tips by the hamam staff during and after his bath, and ended up paying much more than the stipulated amount. This soured their experience.
The hamam manager assured me this would not happen.
These TTP travelers also wrote that their partners, who experienced the female section of the bath, did not have this negative experience.
How to Go There
Here’s how to find the Sofular Hamamı (map):
1. Take the Kabataş—Bağcılar tram to the Yusufpaşastop (6th stop west of Sultanahmet) near Aksaray Square. Walk from the tram platform up the stairs, turn left at the top, then right down the stairs to sidewalk level. Walk straight then turn left around the Simit Sarayı restaurant, through the park, then down into the pedestrian underpass (follow signs to “Aksaray Metro”).
2. Coming up from the underpass, turn left up the stairs and walk to the Aksaray Metro station. There’s a lot of construction hereabouts (2013). When you get to the traffic-lights intersection, turn right onto Sofular Caddesi and walk 250 meters/yards to the hamam, on the right-hand side of the street.
—by Tom Brosnahan