In my opinion, that is. If you are going to do just one hamam in Turkey, let this be it. I know, everyone has their loyalties, but as a 15 year connoisseur of all things hamam, this is my favorite. A little background first, if you please. Have you ever heard of Hurrem Sultan, aka Roxelana? THE wife of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. A powerful, often misunderstood, historical figure.
The bathhouse was completed in 1556 by the famous architect Sinan, over the ruins of the Byzantine Vaths of Zeuxippus that had served the Byzantines and was conveniently located just across the Hagia Sophia. Ottoman baths are known for their north-south design. The men's bath designed to the north, the women's to the south. It was used from the late 1500's to the early 1900's before being closed and primarily used as a warehouse. As a tourist visiting Istanbul in the late 1990's, and interested in all things related to Hurrem sultan (as a historian and feminist, she fascinates me) I would walk around this building and wish it would re-open as a hamam. My wish was granted in 2011 after a costly restoration process, and I am proud to say I visited the first month it opened.
Now, I go about every 4 or 5 months
Cheeky 'before' photo of me wearing nothing but a peştemal in the gorgeous private changing/lounging room.
Going with friends is fun! Especially when they are visiting from Spain and we can play tourist. The exterior of the Ayasofya hamam with Hagia Sofia behind us.
Prices here are not cheap, I think it may be one of the most expensive hamams in Istanbul. There are several different packages you can select, all priced in Euro, not Turkish lira. Given the fall of the lira these days, that makes it steep for us locals. Nevertheless, it's worth every penny or kuruş.
Upon entering the hamam you are shown to one of these beautiful rooms and can change privately behind these wooden screens. The history, the beauty, I walk in here and just feel I am in another world.
My favorite package to reserve includes the full hamam treatment but also an extra scrub with a body mud mask. After the hamam it's lovely to rest on the dais and sip cinnamon-spiced sherbet before heading upstairs. There, just under the dome and under the light of stained glass windows, I enjoy an extra aromatherapy massage before returning to my room. Ready to face the world looking like this!
Hamams are good for you. Really. Indulge!