Image 1If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul this year, make sure that you put visiting a Turkish bath—or hammam—on your “must do” list. These ancient baths play an important role in Turkish culture and history, and will provide you with a one-of-a-kind experience on your travels.

The History of Hammams

Image 4While the very first hammams are usually connected with ancient Greek or Roman cultures, it wasn’t until the Ottoman Empire conquered the city of Istanbul that hammams made the transition from being merely places used for public washing to important spaces for socialising. Under the Ottoman Empire, each district of the city was endowed with a hammam, which was divided into several rooms and featured fountains and both hot and cold baths. As well as being an important part of Islam, bathing in a hammam provided people with an opportunity to chat with friends or network with a professional circle. For women, going to a hammam was especially important, as it was one of the only places they could socialise with other women outside of their homes. Over the years, hammams continued to evolve into places of recreation, offering spa-like treatments like massages and body hair removal, as well as services for hair dying and henna.

Visiting a Hammam Today

While the number of public hammams in 17th-century Istanbul may well have reached into the hundreds, only about 20 remain today. The reason for their decline is twofold: private bathing stations became more popular, and hammams were blamed for eating up the city’s water and wood resources.

image 3If you’re planning to visit a hammam on your travels, you may be concerned about the protocol. The best way to ease your concerns is to talk with the receptionist upon arrival, who will review your list of bathing options—DIY, wash with an attendant, oil massage, etc. Because hammams are usually separated by gender, it is generally acceptable to go completely nude or to wear only a bikini bottom or bathing short. You will be given a cloth and shoes by an attendant as well. You’ll sit in the sauna area before bathing or catching up with your attendant. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to hang around! The Turkish hammam is traditionally a place for socialising, after all.Image 2

Saving Up For Your Trip To Istanbul

Depending on the services you opt to receive, a trip to the hammam can be pricey! When you factor in the rest of your travel expenses—airfare, hotel, food, and other activities—you might want to find some ways to pad your travel fund. Selling stuff online is a great way to do it; many websites offer buyback programs and seller services that will help make your trip to Istanbul a reality.

Conditioning bath salts will help you to gently wash away dead skin cells.