Istanbul might be ever-bustling and brimming with countless cultural activities, but the city has an extensive choice of relaxation therapies, prevailed by the traditional Turkish bath experience, the hammam.

Hammams

Hammams

Istanbul is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with an interesting historical background and a geographical situation like no other: It is the only city that connects two continents together. But the Turkish metropolitan can also be quite exhausting both for tourists and Istanbulites alike. To escape the bustling crowds and notorious traffic, there are plenty of unique relaxation options. The most popular is, of course, the hammam, the world-renowned Turkish baths. With roots in Ancient Rome and dating back to the 18th century Ottoman Empire, hammams used to be the most popular and common method of bathing in big cities, with the most substantial ones located in Istanbul. Although this is a classic tradition, hammams are still very sought after by the city’s residents, as it is the ultimate entire-body exfoliation technique.

For hammam newbies, the experience will be an unforgettable one, as even in modern hammam complexes, you can do a little beauty-time-travel to Ottoman days. Use of hammams is divided into two shifts: Daytime for women and night time for men. Be sure to book in advance as the staff members who treat you, tellaks (for men) and natirs (for women), treat only one person at a time. To start, a tellak or natir pours water on the customer and takes them to gobek tasi, which is a warm marble area to lie down, rest and sweat out toxins, just like a sauna. While traditionally a group experience divided by gender, visitors now have the option to book private rooms for themselves or small groups. The experience ends with a personal head-to-toe foam bath and exfoliation session.

Kiliç Ali Pasa Hamami, located in the hip Karakoy district, is a local favourite, as it’s one of the oldest hammams, yet still a modern favourite in the city. Customers are welcomed with homemade sherbets into a non-touristy-but-quite-traditional atmosphere with Molton Brown bath products and luxurious hammam attire. For those looking for treatments beyond traditional rituals, Kilic Ali Pasa is also known for its additional full body massage services. Mind and body Zen, anyone?

For a more old-school hammam experience, head to the Old City. Cagaloglu Hamami, near Grand Bazaar, is one of the biggest baths in the city and is the place to go for a real life Ottoman bath experience. Indulge in the “Sultan 1. Mahmut Service” and feel like royalty during – and especially after – treatment.

Çemberlitas Hamami and Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamami (pictured above) are also two very historically significant locations that are worth a visit, even if it is just for a casual sightseeing day. But while you’re there… why not get pampered?

Hotel spas

Hotel spas

If historical buildings aren’t your thing, many of the hotel spas offer hammam rituals, ranging from extremely luxurious to more budget-friendly options. And they’re not just for tourists – you’ll be sure to spot an Istanbulite enjoying them too.

The Cleopatra Ritual, a 90-minute self-indulgence treatment at Therapia Spa in Grand Tarabya (pictured above), is a customer favourite with a milk and honey bath, full body massage and exfoliation treatment. And with floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of the Bosphorus, you’ll feel more than refreshed at the end of your session.

To get the best deep tissue massage after a strenuous workout or a long a day of antique hunting in Cukurcuma, head over to The SPA at Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus. Offering a range of massage therapies, we suggest making a reservation with top notch Thai therapist, Noki, for a Thai massage – it’s definitely worth veering away from your Istanbul itinerary. To round it off like a true Istanbulite, pop into the hammam to finish the day.

Aiming to relieve daily stress in the body, CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La Bosphorus Istanbul is inspired by traditional Asian healing philosophies. For those who prefer softer pressure, these spa sessions are based on soft massage movements on acupuncture points of the body. Take a CHI Journey with a CHI Balance massage combined with a traditional Hammam Treatment for the best overall experience.

Still looking for a contemporary, cool spa experience in Istanbul? Along with classical spa options and a hammam, Pürovel Spa & Sport at Swissotel The Bosphorus, Istanbul also provides a relaxation room with a heated waterbed, tropical shower, ice fountain and salt pool. We dare you to want for more, here.

Find more of the best spas the world over, and keep that fresh, revitalised feeling wherever you go

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