When traveling to Turkey, one of the most marvelous experiences you MUST try during your stay is a traditional Turkish bath. In Istanbul, there are countless hamams (baths) that offer this authentic experience; but none can replicate the Turkish bath sequence with as much excellence and elegance as Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamam.
First established in 1580, this famous hamam is named after 16th century Admiral Kiliç Ali Paşa, one of the greatest admirals in Ottoman history. The bath is part of a three-part complex, which includes a mosque and medrese (school) for religious texts, located in the Tophane art district next to Karaköy. The complex was designed by the illustrious Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, also known as the Great Sinan, who also designed the Suleiman Mosque and countless other architectural works throughout Istanbul and Turkey.
In 2005, after a long period of decay and ruin, renovations on the building were underway; and, in 2012, Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamam was restored to its original glory and re-opened for business. The newly opened hamam is very popular with both Istanbul locals and tourists due to its incredibly elegant service and facilities, for which one must book a reservation in advance.
The bath sequence at Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamam is as follows: As soon as you walk into the elegant lounge with its tall ceilings and earth tones, you are greeted by cordial staff members and welcomed with a glass of sweet quince sherbet. The sherbet is meant to increase blood sugar levels so that the body can effectively adjust to the hot temperatures of the bath – thus it’s a crucial step in the sequence. When you are ready to begin prepping for the bath, the staff will hand you keys to a personal locker that you can wear on your wrist, and a soft wrap to cover your body (TIP: Bring an extra pair of underwear because you’re prohibited from taking off your underwear during the bath, therefore you’ll need a dry pair after you’re done!)
Once you’re ready to enter the bathing area, you’ll be led through a door to the luminous white marble hamam. One of the attendants will sit you down and pour warm soothing water all over your body. When you’re nice and wet, you’ll be guided to the large circular hall and instructed to lie down on a warm marble slab, as you stare up above at a beautiful white dome with light shining through small openings, shaped like stars. You will be provided with a glass of water, as you lie down for 20-25 minutes, while your pores open up and ready for scrubbing.
After these peaceful 20-25 minutes, the bath attendant will take you to your personal bath station. All you have to do is sit down and let yourself be pampered like a queen. The attendant will pour warm water over you once again and begin attentively scrubbing and exfoliating your body from head to toe. After another rinse, the fun part arrives as your entire body gets enveloped in luxurious foam from all-natural white olive oil soap, and afterwards you get to sit in a nice, fresh foam bath for 5-10 minutes; then comes the shampooing and conditioning. This marks the end of the bath sequence, but if you’d like to stay in the hamam longer, you’re more than welcome to lie down on the marble stone and relax for as long as you’d like.
If you’re finished with the bath and ready to exit the hamam, the bath attendant will take you to the exit area and dry your skin, place a fresh wrap over your body and then it’s time to relax in the resting lounge outside, through which you first entered. As your hair dries you can sit with your friends and chat in the tranquil lounge while soothing Turkish and classical music plays over the speakers. You have the option to order many different teas, coffees and even champagne during this time.
There are many convenient services available to you, as you get ready to leave, such as mirrors, hairdryers, make-up pads and more. If you’d like to buy any of the soaps – the fresh olive oil scent is to die for, made with natural ingredients! – shampoos or other products used in the bath, along with other items related to hamam culture, you could do so at the shop located in the lobby by the entrance. This is the Turkish bath sequence that has been used throughout history, and Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam does not modify any part of it – although massage options are available separately from the baths.
According to Melike Şafak, manager of this lovely hamam, the baths only offer pure tradition. Turkish hamams were always a significant part of Ottoman culture throughout history, especially for women.
In Ottoman times, hamam was a very, very important figure, especially in women’s daily lives. Because, as you know, in Ottoman times, women were not as free to go out by themselves and they had only limited areas to enjoy by themselves. So, hamam was a kind of an area where they socialized together. Ladies were coming together into the hamam at least once a week. They were seeing each other, spending time with each other and gossiping. They would come in the morning and leave in the afternoon. It was kind of a limitless period when they could socialize.
But now the hamam offers a different type of experience, one that centers on taking care of and enjoying oneself while in the hamam, as the bath is also open to men in the afternoon after the women’s session in the morning.
We want them to experience the time that they have spent here by purely enjoying the time for them, because currently with the ongoing business of daily life we’re always attached to our cellphones and things like that. And in the hamam you leave your stuff upstairs in the cabins, then this is your time. This is your time to relax, to enjoy yourself. And it is limitless. We do not say to our guests that you can spend an “x amount of time” inside then you have to go out. It’s not like that. This is the main difference between the hamam and the spa […] So there’s no time limit. And we want all our guests to experience this without any kind of hesitation or concern.
Going to a Turkish bath is a beautiful, unforgettable experience that’s all about self-care and self-love. And with the warm service provided by the cordial staff members of Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam, it’s impossible not to feel pampered while here. It is the only hamam in Istanbul in which one will experience such a high level of elegance, caring and tradition.
To make a reservation or for more information on Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam, please visit their website here.
Photos: Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamam
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