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I decided to indulge in a Turkish Bath, so here’s my experience in case you’re considering the same while you visit Athens.
Where to Find an Authentic Hammam Experience in Athens
There are several hammam baths in central Athens. I went to Old City Hamam because it had the best reviews on Google Maps.
It’s right next to Acropoli Metro Station and the Acropolis Museum in the heart of Athens. (Take the Makriyianni/Athanasiou Diakou exit and look to your left. It’s beside one of the best gyros places in Athens.)
I also popped into Hammam Shahrazad (a Moroccan hammam) to have a look and grab a price list. Again, they’re highly rated and two minutes away from Old City.
The reception area at Shahrazad felt a bit tired compared to Old City. And the welcome wasn’t quite as slick and friendly. But consider it for sure because the images on their website look good. And the reviews say it’s very clean inside.
If you intend on having a “dry room” massage or one of the facials, I noticed from the pictures that the couches for their spa treatments look lovely and wide.
I appreciate that. Some massage places use really small beds, and my big feet hang off the end, and my arms fall off the sides!
Other popular locations are Polis Hammam and Al Hammam Traditional Baths. But the reviews for Polis are a bit mixed.
While for Al Hammam, their overall Google Maps score is quite low, the most recent reviews seem to be good.
From the pictures on their website, it looks quite rustic and traditional. The location is also very central, with views of the Acropolis. I would consider going there another time.
My Review of Old City Hamam
Although I’ve done a private, self-service hammam in Turkey, this was the first time I’ve had a hammam with a therapist.
Booking a Treatment
For most places, you’ll need to book your hammam in advance. I’d do it in person or call up. Emails and website contact forms don’t seem to be reliably responded to.
For Old City, I had to book quite far in advance. It was around Christmas and a busy time of year for them. But normally, it’s quite quick, And in the summer, they have good availability.
Choosing Your Hammam Treatment
There are several traditional hammam treatments you can choose from at Old City. And various special treatments you can add on. The other hammams have a variety of packages, too.
You pay to book your session, and you need to book and pay for any body treatments you want at the time, too. Check the websites for the most up-to-date offerings, but most places will have things like Swedish, hot stone and cupping massage using essential oils and other natural oils as well as facial beauty treatments.
I had the Original, which was 30 minutes in the hammam on my own and then 30 minutes of the bathing ritual. It includes a scrub, foam massage and stretch, shampoo and condition/mask and then some body cream. The website says a head massage is included, but I didn’t receive that.
The other packages include different types of scrubs and things like a face or body mask. You can also choose to upgrade to a Special Day package. They include things like being collected from your accommodation, exclusive hammam use and massage treatments.
Make sure you chat with the team before you book if you have a medical condition. The hammam isn’t suitable for everyone so make sure it’s safe for you.
What to Expect When You Arrive
When I arrived, the team were very welcoming. They immediately brought me refreshments: water, a glass of tea and three little bowls with dried fruit and some little cracker things.
After a few moments, I was whisked off to get changed. Being the highly organised person that I am, I managed to leave my swimsuit at home.
I remembered when I got on the Metro. It was a bit annoying because I’d actually made sure I had one at home and hadn’t left them both in my gym locker.
Anyhoo, it was fine. They gave me a pair of those awful disposable underwear knicker things, which did the job. So don’t worry if you do the same!
They also gave me some flip-flops and two nice quality Turkish/hammam towels. One was for my hips and one for my top half. And I was sent into the changing area to get ready.
They have a small communal area with sinks, mirrors and sundries like deodorant, cotton pads and buds. I liked that they provided a diffuser attachment for the hairdryer, too. It’s a good detail to include.
Within the mixed space, there were two small changing rooms with lockers. The dressing room is just a small space, and you get it to yourself/your party while you’re changing. The lockers have keys, but you don’t need a coin or anything like that to operate them.
Once I was ready, I was taken to the hammam room to have the experience explained. Before I went in, one of the team told me that it was ok to come in and out of the room since it gets so hot. That’s advice I promptly forgot but recommend you take!
The Hammam Experience – Part One
The woman then took me through and guided me over to one of the marble benches.
The floors, walls, marble slab beds and basins were all lovely white marble with grey veins. The beds had gold mosaic tiles around the edges and were very pretty. The whole place was spotless. It felt very clean and bright.
I wanted to take a picture of the room to show you, but they wouldn’t let me. Even though there was no one else in there. But if you look at the website, it shows the space very clearly.
Anyway, before she left, the woman made sure I knew which of the water taps was the cold water. She reminded me to use the copper bowl to pour water over my head to cool down.
The hammam was a hot room and definitely humid. But you couldn’t actually see any steam. It wasn’t like a normal steam room you might have used elsewhere, where you can’t see the other side of the room.
It’s also not a serene spa atmosphere. As is traditional, these are public baths, so the space is shared. (Unless you’re going as a group of friends and there are three of you per room).
And while you might get a moment of peace, it can be quite a nosy place. People are talking, and water is being thrown about all over the place. So don’t expect it to be relaxing in that way.
The Hammam Experience – Part Two
Just as I was getting a bit bored and too hot, I remembered I was supposed to be going in and out to cool down. Anyway, the therapist reappeared at that moment and poured cold water on my head.
After giving me some water to drink, she got me to lie down and arranged my towels.
The treatment started with bowls of water being thrown over me followed by a scrub. I think she used a kese glove rather than a body scrub. It definitely felt like she was getting rid of the dead skin cells without it being torture like some scrubs I’ve had.
Picture from private hammam experience I had in Cappadocia
More water was thrown, and then she created foam bubbles and spread them all over my skin. (Have a look at the website to see the bubbles if you haven’t had a hammam before.)
I think it’s olive oil soap and it was used for the massage instead of being washed off. The therapist used a good firm pressure but offered to adjust it if necessary. After a couple of little stretches, more water was thrown to get rid of the bubbles.
Then it was onto the hair wash and mask before even more water was poured over my head and body to wash everything off.
They finish off by pouring and then showering cold water all over you. It’s quite a contrast to the room temperature, and the cold took my breath away! But they’ll start with tepid water if it’s too much to begin.
Throughout, the therapist used ancient routines and pointed out the details that made it an authentic hammam experience.
After being the squeakiest clean I’ve ever been, the therapist gave me a robe and put a towel on my head. I looked like one of the nativity shepherds (with a very red face)!
It was good to be done because I was ready to be out of the hot steam. I was directed back to the reception area, where I think you’re supposed to just air dry in your robe because I wasn’t given any other towels.
The team brought me the same refreshments as when I arrived, but I popped into the locker room to dry off a little bit. I went back to have my water and there didn’t seem to be any pressure to rush away.
What to Take
The only thing you really need to take with you is a bathing suit. Everything else is provided.
Conclusion: Enjoy a Hammam in Athens
Old City Hamam is a great place in the centre of Athens to while away a bit of time in the capital. For current information about opening hours, packages, and prices, visit the website.
Other Things to Do in Athens
The hammams are usually open from around lunchtime until late in the evening. Have a look at this post if you’re looking for other things to do at night in Athens.
If you’re looking for more wellness activities take some time by the beach, check out one of the city’s other top spas or enjoy the thermal waters at Lake Vouliagmeni.