The one thing I knew I had to do on my recent trip to Istanbul was to visit a Turkish bath. I have always regretted not visiting a hammam whilst we were in Marrakech two years ago so I made it my mission and my one “non-negotiable” thing we had to do whilst we were in Turkey. We decided to visit the recently restored Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamami after being impressed with the amount of positive experiences and reviews online. I also loved their website which was incredibly informative and we were also able to make a reservation each online – to which they confirmed by email within minutes both times.
After a relaxing morning sightseeing around Karaköy we made our way on foot towards the Kiliç Ali Paşa Cami complex where the Hamami is located. It is also very easy to get to if you are staying in another area of Istanbul as the Tophane stop on the T1 tram line is right next to it. As the Hamami has separate hours for men and women, I had made one of the latest reservations I could at 2:00pm and my boyfriend booked the earliest time he could at 4:30pm a few hours later.
After being welcomed inside the Hamami the first thing that immediately struck me was how beautiful and peaceful it was. It was also immaculately clean – you are given covers for your shoes when you enter so no outside dirt gets inside. After taking a seat in the camegah (lounge) and looking up in awe at the huge dome in the ceiling, I was given some forms to fill in as well as being given some delicious sherbet to drink.
One of the attendants handed me a locker key, some slippers and a wrap called a peştemal to change into – there are changing rooms on the mezzanine level of the camegah for you to do this. They also checked that I had either some spare underwear or some bikini bottoms to change into as you cannot be naked from the waist down inide the Hamami – you will be naked from the waist up though whilst in the hot room in case you are wondering. There is no need to be shy though as only other people of the same sex will be there.
After being collected by my attendant called a Natir (the male attendants are called Tellak) I was taken through to the hot room where I was drenched with warm water before laying down on the large heated marble stone in the centre of the room called the Göbektaşi for about 15 minutes to help soften your skin. It was so relaxing and peaceful and I remember trying to count the number of stars in the dome roof – I lost count several times. At one point during this time the call to prayer started at the Mosque next door and it seemed incredibly surreal to be listening to that whilst laying in a steamy room half naked.
My Natir brought me a glass of water before taking me over to one of the marble wash basins known as a Kurna. After once again being covered with warm water, she started scrubbing me all over with a mitt called a Kese. The scrubbing was very intensive but not at all painful – I found it theraputic and relaxing. To be able to see the amount of dead skin coming off your body was very satisfying.
After having all that dead skin rinsed off, the bubble soap wash known as Köpük started which was fascinating. I watched in awe as my Natir scrubbed a pillowcase-like bag with soapy water before swinging it through the air several times and then squeezing all the air from it creating mountains and mountains of bubbles – it was like watching a magic trick. She did this several times whilst I sat there covered in the bubbles. My skin had never felt as soft and smooth as what it did and I could have sat there happily all day.
After my Natir washed my hair and rinsed off any remaining bubbles she took me through to another room where she dried me off and wrapped me up in some huge dry towels before taking me back out to the camegah where I could relax on the sofas. I ordered an apple tea and at that point I have never felt more relaxed or clean!
My hammam cost me 150TL which works out to about £36/$52 which I thought was worth every penny and more – I was also able to pay by credit card. My boyfriend was waiting for me outside and I could not wait to tell him everything – I really felt like I was floating on air for hours afterwards. We still had about an hour before his reservation so we went for a walk along the waterfront in Karaköy and grabbed a coffee before he headed back to the Hamami and I went back to our hotel in Sultanahmet. He also raved about the whole experience too!
Going to the Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamami whilst I was in Istanbul was one of the best things I have ever done – I would recommend the experience of a Turkish bath to anyone – no normal bath or shower will ever be the same again!