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Going to a Hammam, or a Turkish Bath as they are also known as, is one of the best things to do in Istanbul! It gives you an ultra-relaxing few hours away from the busy streets and sightseeing, and gives you an insight into this old Turkish tradition!
On my recent trip to Istanbul, I visited Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamami which is well located in the Karakoy. I had been wanted to visit here on my previous 3 trips to Istanbul but they were either full, or I ran out of time!
The Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam is one of the best Turkish Baths in Istanbul so I really recommend getting a Turkish Hamam experience planned into your Istanbul itinerary, reading this post so you fully know what to expect, and to book an appointment at the end, as they do book up fast!
Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamami
Location of Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamami
Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamami is located in Karakoy which is a really popular area of Istanbul and not far from many tourist sites. It’s fairly close to Galata and the Galata Bridge.
There are many cool cafes in Karakoy and it isn’t too far from the brand new Galata Port so if you’re not staying in this area, I recommend planning some time here before or afterward.
It’s 30 seconds from the Tophane tram stop and bus stop, and just a few minutes walk from Karakoy Ferry Port.
Facilities and Reservations for Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamami
I’m adding this part first because it’s good to know straight away that like many Turkish Baths, Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami split men and women into different times of the day. This means that even as a couple, you have to attend separately.
The times are:
Ladies Only: 8:00am to 4:00pm with last reservation at 2:15pm.
Men Only: 4:00pm to 11:30pm with last reservation at 10:00pm.
Secondly, the main treatment on offer is the Classic Hammam Ritual which I will explain in this post as many people often wonder, what happens during a Hammam and it is good to be prepared!
However, they also offer a range of massage services as well or that you can get instead of the traditional Hammam experience.
Arriving to Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamami
The Hamam is located next door to Kilic Pasa Mosque and at first, it’s easy to think the Hamam with its dome shape, is part of the mosque.
It’s a beautiful building from the outside and even more impressive when you realize it was constructed between 1578-1583 and it proudly has 1580 written on a plaque outside.
Through the huge wooden entrance doors, a warm welcome awaits!
I was greeted by a lovely lady in reception and asked to sit at one of the many tables that fill the inside of the building and I couldn’t stop looking up at the huge dome and open brickwork.
It really is a treat just to be inside here and witness this incredibly old historic building.
I went pretty early in the morning so it was quiet but later on, all of the beds surrounding the room are filled with ladies (and in the evening, men) relaxing after their Hamam.
I was asked for my shoe size, given some shoe coverings, a locker key, presented with my booking to confirm my details, and a delicious Sherbet drink.
Sherbet drinks have been served to welcome guests for centuries and it’s a really nice touch by Kilic Ali Pasa Hammam.
After drinking my drink, I was given my next steps.
Going to a Hamam is quite a worrying experience for some women because it is very intimate, a lot of your body is exposed and I think we mainly worry about not knowing what to do next or getting something wrong!
The staff at Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami were very friendly and explained everything well, but you do have to listen and make note of what they say!
Next, I went upstairs as I was advised which is where all of the lockers and changing rooms are to find my locker.
Inside my locker were some flip-flops in my requested size and a towel.
What to wear inside Turkish Baths?
Another big question is – what to wear and bring inside Turkish Baths? You need to bring a bikini to the baths, or at least, bikini bottoms or underwear to wear on your bottom half as you do keep these on during the hammam.
I got changed into my bikini, locked everything in my locker (you need nothing else with you, definitely not a phone!), and headed back downstairs with just my towel wrapped around me, my flipflops on and my locker key.
What happens in a Turkish Bath?
As I mentioned, a lot of people are nervous about going to a Turkish Bath and getting a Hamam done.
I went to my first Hamam in 2015 and I’m so glad I read a guide to Turkish Hamams so I was a bit prepared, as it is a surreal experience and you have to let go of any shyness!
Back downstairs, I was told to enter the baths and inside met the women who would do my Hamam treatment and would get to know me very well over the next 45 minutes!
She told me to sit down on the marble next to a basin. She threw a bit of warm water over my feet with a bowl to check the temperature was ok for me and after I said yes, she threw the water over my body and drenched the towel I had wrapped around me.
This happened a few times until I was fully wet and then she lead me into the ‘hararet’ which is the main room of a Hamam with the huge dome, a marble slab in the middle, and basins around the edge and it’s steamy inside!
I was told to lie down on the marble and relax for the next 10-15 minutes which is the steam part of the treatment and I was given some ice-cold water to drink halfway through.
There were a few other women on the marble with me, but it’s a huge piece of marble so it wasn’t awkward. I was still in my full bikini and wet towel, although later on, I saw women lie on it in only their bikini bottoms only with their towel laid out on it, so it is up to you how you approach this.
My lady came back, took me to a nearby basin, removed my towel, and asked me to remove my bikini top.
Many women (and men) choose to come to the Turkish Baths in a group, if you’re in Istanbul for a birthday, hen-do, or girls weekend, it would be a fun thing to do, but this is where I’ll tell you that you need to be comfortable around each other topless because all your group will see you topless and other women in the Hamam having the same treatment too.
But of course, you’re all women and the staff do this and see this all day every day. Plus, the lady who is doing your Hamam is also in a bikini and towel only, so it’s best to not be shy or self-conscious and just enjoy the liberating experience.
I had more water thrown over me and then she scrubbed my body with a loofah to get rid of all the dead skin cells.
The soap suds were next and this is where the Turkish Hamam Massage gets even more interesting.
Somehow, they place a cloth in a soapy bucket, pull it out looking like a normal wet cloth but as they run their hand along it pointing the cloth at you, the soap all comes out in a huge bubble and covers you!
With this soap, as she cleaned each part of me, she also gave me a massage. At this point, I was still sitting down on the marble basin in my bikini bottoms only where she massaged my arms and hands, all of my legs, my upper body, and allll of my chest! Then asked me to bend forward when I was sitting so she could do my back.
Next, I stood up and faced the wall whilst holding on (as it was very soapy and slippy on the floor) where she gave me one more massage on my back, including moving my bikini bottoms out of the way to really get all of the back of me.
As I stood facing the wall, I had water thrown over me again to get all of the soap off. I sat back down and then it was onto a hair wash with shampoo and conditioner and lots of water thrown over the top of me too!
The last step inside the Hamam was to get dry!
My lady literally took my hand and held my hand as she walked me into another room with some stools since the floor was wet and slippy.
I was told to remove my bikini bottoms, this meant that I was fully naked until she wrapped a new, dry towel around me. It was only for about 10 seconds but there were other women around who had had the Hamam at the same time as me, so again, it’s good to note that if you go with other women (or men, if you’re a man), you have to be ok being basically naked around them.
With a new towel wrapped around my body and a towel wrapped around my wet hair, I said my thank you’s and bye’s to the lady who knew my body very well now and was escorted to relax back in the main reception room on one of the sofas.
It really is a strange experience, having nearly every inch of you scrubbed and washed along with having your hair washed too and being led around from place to place.
It’s such an intimate experience and I think it’s so important that you have a staff member looking after you who explains everything first, explains what is happening next well and that you feel comfortable around, they really do take on a motherly role for the 45 minutes or so that you’re in there and in their care.
I recommend Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami for its incredible old building, its beautiful and clean facilities inside, its attention, care, and organisation, and highly for its attentive and considerate staff.
Upon paying, I was given a tip envelope with my lady’s name on it and I was sure to give her a tip as she was really great!
I hope you enjoyed my Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami Review and understand what happens at a Turkish Bath now!
- To help you plan more of your Istanbul trip, read these posts of mine:
- 10 Hidden Gems in Istanbul to Visit!
- A Guide to Balat in Istanbul!
- How to visit Turkey’s biggest mosque in Istanbul!
- How to get from Sabiha Airport to Istanbul City Centre!
- Where to Stay in Istanbul – Taksim or Sultanahmet