An Old Tradition: Turkish Bath Experience At Aga Hamam

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Everyone who comes to Istanbul has heard of the exotic and whimsical Turkish hamams. The thought of these historic communal bath houses stirs up visions of ottoman times long past. Istanbul has a wide variety of hamams to offer. Many are very modern, but for travellers, I think the ones that have preserved their historic atmosphere are best. Aga Hamam just behind Galatasaray in Beyoglu is the perfect place to dip your toes in some rich foam and in even richer Turkish history.

Aga Hamam was originally used by Mehmed the Conqueror (the sultan who conquered Constantinople and brought the end of the Byzantine Empire). At that time, Beyoglu was a forest and he would cross the Golden Horn to this side to hunt. After a long day of shooting things, who doesn’t need some pampering?  Aga Hamam was his hunting bath house. This means the building dates back to 1454! Don’t worry, it’s been through quite a few renovations.

Today, visitors who also feel like con    querors of Istanbul after a long day exploring the city can come to Aga Hamam to relax in a very traditional way. This hamam offers all the traditional services. The normal packet includes an exfoliation rub and foam wash and is only 40 TL. Those who want a deeper massage can opt for the oil massage. When I went, I got the full package with the oil massage.

I loved my experience at Aga Hamam. It was very different from anything I’d seen before and it was loads of fun - plus it felt amazing! One disclaimer however: this may not be the place for anyone who feels a bit prudish. Aga Hamam is a communal, co-ed hamam. Most people don’t go around naked - I personally wore a bikini - but if hanging around in a room with guys just wearing towels around their waists makes you uncomfortable, this may not be your ideal setting.

Just so you can get a taste of what exactly you’d be in for, let me break this whole hamam thing down for you. Once you’ve changed and been given a towel, you are lead into the communal sauna-like room. It’s very warm inside and there is a huge stone in the middle that is heated. On the stone is where the men get scrubbed and soaped up. (The women have a separate, smaller room for this.) There’s plenty of space on the center stone to lay down and get nice and toasty. Along the perimeter of the room are little sinks used to fill pans with cool water to splash on yourself while you sit back and relax.

At the hamam, they use a towel with a very harsh material on it to rub all the dry skin off your body. The scrub itself isn’t the most pleasant feeling but after all those layers are gone, you feel fresh and clean. Then, you are massaged with an amazingly foamy soap. When they slosh the lather on you, it feels like you’re surrounded by a soft cloud- no joke! The oil massage takes place in a private room. It is done softly and is very relaxing. For me, I don’t like massages that are too harsh, so this was perfect.

Now that you’re clean, loosened up, and your skin feels like a baby’s butt, you are invited to sit in the main hall wrapped up in towels and sip Turkish apple tea. This may seem odd, but it is part of the tradition of hamam time being social time. I wouldn’t suggest blocking out just one hour for a hamam on your itinerary; hamams are places to relax, hang out, and chat. Go with your friends and enjoy being lazy while getting treated like sultans.

Aga Hamam

Address : Kuloglu Mh., Turnacibasi Cd. No:48 Aga Hamami, 34433 , Taksim / istanbul, Turkey

Phone : +90 (212) 249 50 27

Email : huseyin@agahamami.com

URL : http://www.agahamami.com/

Working Hours : Every Day: 10:00 am - 10:00 pm


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Erin West

Girls’ school graduate turned globe trotter, Erin is spending her gap year in Istanbul. She keeps busy learning Turkish and inhaling figs like nobody’s business. Check out some of her adventures on burghtobul.tumblr.com.

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