After my pleasant hamam experience at the Baku Old City, I was ready for more and Istanbul is the place for it. After all, Turkey = Turkish bath.
There are a few distinct hamam at the Sultanahamet area being the old district of Istanbul. Galatasaray, Sultanhayime, AyaSofya, and Cemberlitas are just a few.
I chose Cagaloglu Hamami as it was just 10 minutes walk up hill from our hotel in Sultanahamet. I was supposed to head to another, cheaper one, but two recent reviews at TripAdvisor mentioned being robbed of their stuff at the lockers. I didn’t want to take the risk. Cagaloglu had excellent reviews that mentioned how clean it was and how pleasant the staff were (the other hamam had rude staff as reviewed by others).
The hamami is one of the oldest in Istanbul having been built in 1741 and have just been renovated. According to its pamphlet, Franz Liszt was believed to have visited! Perhaps, to unwind after a concert?
I descended the marble to steps to the entrance hall where a friendly English-speaking male receptionist explained the prices to me. Behind him was the lounging area and the private changing cabins which I mistook for massage rooms (how naive of me).
I would have wanted to have the grandiose-sounding Ottoman Luxury Service, a 2- hour treatment that includes a 45-m aromatherapy massage; but at 120 Euros, it was waaay off my budget. I got the Istanbul Dream (50 Euros) instead which was a 15-minute hot room rest followed by a 10-minute scrub and finished with a 20-minute bubble bath.
I was led to my small private cabin by my kese (scrubber) where I put on my pestemel and rubber slippers.
He then led me to the toilet then to the baths, a large mable room dominated by the large marble plinth where the scrubbing takes place. We walked past the plinth and into the steam room where a dad and his son, Europeans, were “steaming.” A few minutes later, they were called by their kese for their scrubbing. Mine soon came after and I was led to the marble plinth. I then had the most wonderful scrub and bath. What made it even better was it included a msssage that no matter how brief, hit all the right points on my back and my legs. The best part was yet to come. When he released the bubble “bag.” An enormous cloud of bubbles exploded on my body and it felt so good as it cascaded down. I never knew bubbles could caress. Staring up at the domed star ceiling, it felt like I had gone to bubble heaven. I love oil massages but getting massaged with soap suds is even better. My kese had very good hands and it really felt like he knew what he was doing and doing it so well. I could cry from pleasure.
More water splashes then he led me to one of the marble water basins and doused me with water. He then led me out to a room where I was given a new pestemel and a towel. I gestured to him that I wanted to use the baths some more. I went back in and stayed in one of the coves just enjoying the heat and the water. Two other people (another father and son pair) came in and had a scrub. After half an hour, I felt I had enough so I went to the changing area. I didn’t see my kese but I saw a new pestemal and two towels on the marble bench. I changed into the new pestemal just as an attendant came in, draped the large towel over my shoulders then covered my head with a smaller towel, wrapping its ends together at the back of my hand like an Arabian head gear. I felt like I was ready to conquer the world. He then led me back to the entrance hall where I was served hot tea, juice, and turkish delight.
I rested a bit on the narrow bed at my cabin before heading out.
I really enjoyed my stay at the baths. It was clean and I like having that private cabin. I wonder how long you could stay? Perhaps, sleep at the cabin then go back to the baths again. I could easily have spent half a day there.