This is a hamam next to the Hagia Sofia. There were probably half locals, half tourists. I spent about 2 hours there. It’s same sex, with separate areas for men and women. There’s a central common coed area with a lot of couches that are sectioned off from each other. It’s built like a cube with a dome on top, and the inside is structured around the common area with a lot of alcoves. It’s a really beautiful space. Everything is marble or rich wood. There’s a self bath area, and most people get a hamam scrub where an attendant exfoliates you super hard. My attendant was very professional but he still scrubbed super hard. Make sure you reserve this ahead of time because I don’t think it’s a walk-in place. There’s a bathing area where you can get a massage, and when you’re done you can go back to the alcove area where they serve you tea and Turkish delights.—As told to Carol by Spa Thought Partner Michael
It is incredible to go to this spa on this site, Sultanahmet, next to the Blue Mosque. Go to the busy Grand Bazaar first to soak your senses, including ambient Beyonce, then head to the hamam to bathe it all around your synapses. People will be offering boat tours ferociously, but watch the local fishermen for yourself, get a fresh pomegranate juice and make your reservation early in the day. The entrances are gender segregated- male and female. They give you plastic booties to go in and a locker in a room where you change into a provided towel. The space is spectacular, with a soaring roof and wood lattice cabins built on many floors as private massage rooms. The bath area is gorgeous too, all white marble and gold bowls. It is a bit like being in a human car wash- the attendant will splash hot water under the plastic and paper panties they give you, scrub you with a slightly exfoliant mitt, whirl you around, rinse you down, and leave you for some minutes to pour bowlfuls of water over your body. You can get a full body mud mask which leaves amazing impressions on the white marble benches. The stained glass windows make a beautiful light to gaze up at. Then you’ll be taken to the hot stone, laid down, and covered with an incredible mountain of bubbles that they ring out from a towel. There are tea, juice, and Turkish delight breaks. I find this to be a queer friendly and quite deeply Lesbian place. The prices are high for the tourist area, but the attendants seem well compensated and at ease. In between their time with you when you are relaxing solo, they wash the space after you. The whole space feels enduring and beautifully cared for. Yes, it is touristy, but something of the old ritual remains in the space. It is possibly the most spatially beautiful spa I’ve ever been to. After, you can see dervishes at a nearby cafe and enjoy the families touring around. I recommend enjoying Sultanahmet in its evening lights and then having a good meal and a deep sleep before venturing out into this amazing city the next day.
Hint: Turkish Airlines and Instanbul give complimentary trips to Sultanahmet if you have a layover. Be sure to check the regulations, but when it works I’ve stopped over in Instanbul just to visit this magical water space.