I had previously travelled to Istanbul and used a number of Hamams but the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam is, to my mind, the best hamam in Sultanahmet.
Typically, I look for cleanliness, convenience of location, variety in treatments offered and price. This hamam delivers (and delivers well) on all except for maybe on price - it is the most expensive hamam I've been to...
Men and women are completely separate, so if you're looking to do a couples treatment this is not the place for you. Also, men who may feel awkward/uncomfortable about being bathed, scrubbed and massaged by another man should also avoid this hamam (and most others in Sultahmet !!!)
I recommend the Zevk-i Sefa (Extravagant Pleasure) package as the best value for money. The best time to book for a treatment would be the early morning sessions (between 9:00AM and 10:30AM) as the hamam is not very busy during this time and you could end up being the only customer there which makes the experience much more enjoyable and means you get extra attention.
If you're concerned on what to wear and whether or not to take your mobile phone, wallet, watch etc with you then this may come in handy:
If you're comfortable with being fully nude than you don't need to take any additional clothing with you as you'll be asked to strip down and store your clothes in a secure coded locker (your phone, wallet, watch, bag etc can be stored in the locker as well and you set your own personal code on the locker - similar to a hotel safe). You'll be given cotton towels to cover yourself when walking to different parts of the hamam.
If you're not comfortable with being fully nude then simply take along a bathing suit and an empty plastic bag to stick the bathing suit in when you're done. Remember, the suit is going to get soaking wet and depending on which package you go for, it could also end up being caked in mud and bubbles so I would recommend against taking your most expensive one.
The Zevk-i Sefa (Extravagant Pleasure) experience is as follows:
- You check in at reception where you pay for your experience (cash or card) and will then be escorted by your "tellak" (bather) to the locker area. You will be allocated a secure locker to store your clothes and valuables in as mentioned above.
- You are then taken in to what is a stunning and opulent hamam where you spend roughly 15 minutes sweating in the heat of the hamam. Here you must bath and splash yourself with very hot and then very cold water.
- After this, your tellak leads you to a different part of the hamam where you are washed off and scrubbed head to toe in rough salt.
- The salt is then washed off your body and this is followed by you being coated in mud. Your tellak will go off to bring you a glass of icy cold "sherbet" (sweet turkish drink) and water to sip on while the mud settles.
- The mud is then washed off and you are bathed and splashed with first hot then cold water.
- You are then made to lay down on a warm slate of marble in the hamam where you are once again bathed from head to toe in bubbles.
- Following this, the bubbles and soap are washed off you and for the last time you are bathed and splashed with first hot then cold water. (At this point you're feeling very refreshed !!!).
- You are then dried off and led out of the hamam back to the inner (covered) courtyard adjacent to the reception area where you are asked to lay down on a deck chair and relax with another glass of sherbet. (the only bit I don't like about is all you have covering you is a towel and it can be a bit distracting with people moving around in the reception area).
- After this period of relaxation, you are led to the massage area on either the first, second or third floors of the inner courtyard and you receive a full body massage.
- Once done, you head back to the locker room and change back into your clothing feeling utterly relaxed. (PS. Don't forget to tip your tellak - TL20 is sufficient).
It is a very nice experience in an excellent location and I highly recommend the experience. The Zevk-i Sefa (Extravagant Pleasure) package outlined above cost €115.00 (excluding the tip) which is very costly by Istanbul standards and there are loads cheaper hamams that offer a very good service but non that come close to this one. It is well and truly worth the cost.
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