Get scrubbed like a Sultan in Istanbul, Turkey

How to survive a traditional Turkish Hamam

Merhaba! So you decided to try a hammam or you're maybe curious about it?  Well here is my experience at Aya Sofya Hurrem Sultan Hamami in Istanbul, Turkey!

Hamam or Turkish baths, originated from the Arabic word hamma (meaning: heating up). Hamam is a hot steam bath followed by a scrub down, a massage of heavenly bubbles and then pure relaxation. Sang and I wanted to try out the one of most traditional and beautiful ones in Istanbul, Aya Sofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam.

We decided to book our experience for our last night in Istanbul because a local in Cappadocia told us that it would be the best thing to do to conclude our trip. He also insisted that we go straight back to our hotel after our scrub!

I read ALOT of guides on the web how prepare for a hamam and most of them have said you will need to bring our own scrubbing brush for your body, towel and toiletries. This is probably true if you are going to try a smaller hammam but at Aya Sofya I called ahead and their staff assured me I will not need to bring anything but a change of clothes or underwear. So make sure you call ahead and check!

Aya Sofya was designed to have two identical spaces, one for men and one for women. When we arrived, I walked to the female only side and Sang went to the men's side.

When I walked in I was amazed by the architecture for the lobby area! The space was grand with high ceilings and wooden staircases, the floors were heated and there was even a fountain!!

I was greeted by Ozlem who was my masseuse for the treatment. Firstly she gave me a towel, a robe, a pair of slippers and disposable underwear to put on. So basically you will be naked for this but I can assure you it is normal. All my clothing was stored in a locker that they had provided.

Ozlem then leads me through a door to the biggest Turkish steam area I have ever seen! The ceilings were even higher and there were a lot of marble columns and marble tables. It was really beautiful to look at and it made me wonder how they managed to think of creating such a peaceful and beautiful space just for bathing back in the old days.

Note: there are no photos allowed inside the bathing area... because you know everyone will be naked!

She takes my robe and takes me to an area where I will be sitting for approximately 10mins. This is to let the steam soften my skin before she starts the scrubbing.

So while I was waiting there were a lot of naked women here doing the bath experience. My shyness about my body went away and I started to sit back, relax and marvel at the beauty of the architecture. 

Ozlem comes back after 10mins and then starts pouring water over my head. I'm guessing it's to wash away the sweat that's accumulated on me. Then comes the scrubbing part or should I say "sandpapering". She scrubbed me like I was a rusted pot waiting to be shined! This was the most eye-opening part as she scrubbed all the dead skin off my body!

She then washes my body with a mix of cold and warm water and takes me to another table to lie down. The marble table was nice and warm. While lying down she started to work her magic skills to create bubbles appear out of thin air!! It was amazing! The hard massage, the bubbles and the steam environment was just so relaxing that I could fall asleep.

After she massaged the front and back of my body she takes me back to the same area where she had scrubbed me earlier to now rinse my body off and begin the final treatment - shampoo and conditioner for the hair.

Once that finished she took me to another area where I can wear my robe and just sit in the dry sauna area to relax.

After my relaxing rest in the sauna she then leads me back to the reception where she puts the mask on me. She then says she will be back in 10mins to remove the mask and to then enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee and sweets.

This is a really good turkish coffee and turkish delight if you wanted to try it!

After having 2 coffees and sweets I changed back to my clothes and headed back home to pack for our next destination. This placed provided nearly everything for you from combs, hair dryer and skin care. 

my mask for the treatment

I have to say that this was one of the most memorable experiences I have had with a bath house and I would recommend everyone to try a hamam at least once in Turkey! The place we did chose is a little pricey but I thought it was well worth it. It is a combination of relaxation and beauty 😍. Sang and I came out like feeling like butterflies who had just shed off their cocoons, ready for the next destination, Germany!

- Lisa


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