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Hammams, Istanbul

Çemberlitaş Hamam

8 Vezirhan Caddesi
Tel: 90 212 522 7974

Cağaloğlu Hamami

34 Prof. Kazım İsmail Gürkan Caddesi
Tel: 90 212 522 2424's insider take:

There's no better remedy for the jet-lagged traveler—or for the morning after a long night of Raki consumption—than a good long soak at the hammam. Most high-end hotels in Istanbul tend to have their own little marbled rooms inside their spa and health center, but nothing can beat the experience of visiting an authentic historical bathhouse, as hammams are traditionally important social venues as well as a place for scrubbing down. There are two excellent ones close to Sultanahmet: Çemberlitaş and Cağaloğlu, which date back to the 16th and 18th centuries respectively, and whose locations deem them mostly tourist destinations. The flip side of this, however, is that they are unfailingly clean (a pervading damp odor is par for the course). The dressing rooms and washrooms are segregated; a minuscule towel called a pestemal is provided for modesty, although women usually drop it on entering the hot room. There, bathers lay around on the warm marble slab, staring at the star-shaped perforations in the domed ceiling, waiting to be slapped, scrubbed, and generally manhandled by one of the same-sex masseurs. Don't expect a high-quality massage here: The experience is brief and its emphasis is much more on cleaning and scrubbing dead skin, which comes off in abundance. Women are also generally offered the option of a bikini wax, which, unless otherwise instructed, will invariably leave you as bare as the day you were born.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.