In the Muslim tradition, these gender public baths were a neighborhood spot for women to relax, unwind, gossip, and scrub themselves clean. Today, they serve much the same purpose, but with updated features including massage options, saunas, swimming pools, and beauty treatments. Whether you’re in Istanbul, Paris, or New York City, there’s a hammam near you where you can shed your stress, sip peppermint tea, and pretend you've escaped to a more exotic corner of the globe. The experience will differ from place to place, but some things remain consistent. Follow these tips to fit in like a local and benefit from this centuries-old communal ritual.
1. Bring a Bathing Suit
You don't have to go nude--and often, it's against the rules! Most hammams outside of Africa and the Middle East offer guests a robe, sarong, or both, which you can mix and match with your swimsuit as you move from steam room to cooling pools to shower.
2. It’s OK to Spend the Day
Want to spend the whole day at the hammam? Why not?! It's totally OK, and many hammams have on-site cafes or "chill rooms" where you can refuel between steams. Bring your kindle, your beauty elixirs, and your sense of adventure and stay awhile!
3. Ladies Only
With the exception of the occasional "mixed" days (usually one day a week), hammams are gender segregated, which gives women--and men, when it's their day--the chance to relax and unwind without the added element of sexual tension.
4. Bring Flip-flops!
It's not always a given that your hammam will provide spa shoes (slippers or flip-flops), so bring your own for a slip-and-slide free experience!
5. Splurge on a Scrub
Most hammams offer extras like massage, facials, and full-throttle body scrubs that slough off the dead skin and leave your whole body feeling silky smooth. Indulge in this ritual for an unforgettable hammam experience.