NEW UPDATE: We are looking for posts on hammams from YOU. If you have a bath experience, we’d love to hear about it and may post it on the site! We would prefer Istanbul baths, although any bath in Turkey will do. Email us at hammamguide at gmail dot com.
Welcome to your guide to the hamams of Istanbul. This blog will present information on the currently open and useable bathhouses available to visit in the city. As part of an ongoing project, each bathhouse will be reviewed (and eventually rated) with important information on the address, hours, costs, cleanliness, and general clientele.
Why are we doing this?
Well, first there is no such running guide of Istanbul baths and the only really well known ones are the 2-3 touristy and well advertised bathhouses that appear in every guidebook and on every website discussion. But secondly, this is actually part of a research project. You will notice that each bath post is accompanied by a narrative of the reviewer’s experiences. Our reviewers are not just guide writers working for the tourist industry of Turkey. Each of them are academics, journalists, residents and visitors to the city from around the world. Many are researching the history of Turkish (and Anatolian) civilizations from all periods. Most are Istanbul residents, social anthropologists interested in the city’s culture. Their stories are diverse and for the most part anonymous.
The Research Project
The research project studies the bathhouse and its social role in Turkey which has changed significantly from its classical predecessors to its current modern usage and perception. Today, the bathhouse is commonly referred to as an antiquated institution, fading out of common use as younger generations replace old. However, as a public space, the bathhouse still provides an important window into aspects of social interaction, urban geography, and cultural memory in modern Turkish society. Because of its changing (and perhaps fading) role, has the use of the bathhouses become more specific in character, and the bathers part of specific populations or communities? By extension, have hamams themselves retained an individual “character” as to what kind of place and what kind of bathers they attract within the metropolis of Istanbul? The goal of this project is to document all (or nearly all) of the hamams in Istanbul by creating an ongoing guide and classification on a case by case basis. This will view the hamam as an individual entity that itself may be ambiguous, but avoid large (and often clichéd) generalizations of bathing culture or hamams in Turkey or even Istanbul proper.
The study has important ramifications for assessing the social, gendered, sexual, and body culture codes presented in modern Turkish society and their variables (depending on age, race, ethnicity, sexual practice, nativity). Baths can reveal much about the changing urban fabric of the Istanbul metropolis and its neighborhoods. They are also places of cultural memory in revisiting or reinterpreting Istanbul’s Ottoman past. Whether hamams endure today because they cater to specific communities or populations will be the central question we attempt to answer. By extension, these same sorts of questions can be extended to baths and bathing culture in antiquity (classical and Islamic bathhouses). The application of anthropological and ethnographic studies such as this on the role of public bathing may serve to better flesh out the archaeological remains of bathhouses in antiquity.