Traditional Turkish Bath Houses Aren’t Just in Turkey
You can have a Turkish Bath in Istanbul, London, Marrakesh, Budapest, Ireland, anywhere. Like Turkish Delight the Turks decided to share the luxury of their style of bath with the rest of the world. And good job they did. A Turkish bath, or hammam, is one of the most relaxing things you can do. If you’re in Istanbul for the baths, make sure to book a night at one of the cheap Istanbul hotels to really make the most of it.
What are they?
Turkish baths became popular during the Victorian era for cleansing and relaxation. A Turkish bath is much like a sauna in that you first relax in a warm room heated by a continuous flow of hot, dry air. This room is meant to start the sweating process and to literally be a warm up to the next stage. Next, you move to the hot room where you’ll splash yourself with cold water. Then you’ll get a full body wash and a massage. After that it’s time to return to the cooling room to relax.
Turkish baths are believed to purify the body from toxins, increase blood circulation, stimulate the immune system and possibly treat rheumatic diseases, skin diseases and anxiety issues.
The best Turkish baths in Istanbul
Often regarded as the best Turkish bath in Istanbul the Cemberlitas Hammam has double baths divided for males and females. It’s one of the cleanest, best and well maintained hammams in Istanbul.
The Suleymaniye Hammam is one of the most magnificent and is made of marble and powered by hot fires. The Haseki Hurrem Hammam is a huge disused Turkish bath approximately 75m long and crowned with beautiful domes. It’s beautiful to look at and you can learn about the history of the hammams and is now used as a gift shop under the Ministry of Tourism.
Or you could try the Turkish Bath Cemberlitas – the beautiful baths are situated next to the Vezirhan Monument and the Koprulu Mahmud Pasa Complex is just over the road. The Golden Palace Istanbul hotel is just five minutes away from this Turkish bath if you’re looking for somewhere to stay.
Turkish baths around the world
Originally only popular in Eastern Europe and the Middle East it was British MP David Urquhart who was responsible for their rise in popularity in Western Europe. He and Richard Barter opened the first Turkish Bath in Blarney, County Cork, Ireland and from that the baths soon sprouted up everywhere. In fact, over the next 150 years 600 Turkish baths opened in Britain, although many have since closed or turned into baths of different sorts.
In Turkey and places like Budapest or Marrakesh the baths have remained popular. Locals use them not only as baths, but also as a way to socialise. Many of the old baths are still housed in their original impressive buildings, like the Rudas Baths and Kiraly Baths from the 16th century for example. There are plenty of Budapest hostels near the baths so make the most of your time in the city and explore both.
If you do decide to make a Turkish bath part of your holiday experience make sure you check into one of the Istanbul hostels or cheap hotels in Marrakesh so you can save money and have all the more to spend on your beauty regime.
Turkish bath etiquette
This can depend on the style of hammam you’ve gone for – in a Self-Service you bathe yourself, in a Traditional Style an attendant will wash and massage you for about 15 minutes, and in Luxury Style you’ll get as much as a Luxury Style with a body scrub and oil massage on top.
Whichever you choose you’ll be able to use the facilities as long as you wish and usually be given a cloth for modesty and some sandals too. Then males and females will be separated into their individual rooms, but each hammam will have its own rules on nudity. Generally men will be naked under their cloth, but no flashing, and women will keep their knickers on under the wrap. Your masseur and scrubber will be the same sex as you. Try not to be too embarrassed at the amount of dirt they manage to get off you, although it might be a bit shocking.