Al Hammam Athens: A Touch of the Middle East in the Mediterranean

Al Hammam, Athens
Al Hammam, Athens

Tucked away down an unsuspecting alleyway in the charming bijou village of Anafiotika Plaka, Al Hammam Athens is a Middle Eastern Oasis in the heart of the Mediterranean.

Al Hammam is a pamper spot that has gained something of a cult following over the last few years and has luxurious spas located in Plaka, Athens and Chania, Crete.

What is Al Hammam?

The marble steam room at Al Hammam, Athens
Al Hammam Athens

For those unaware, a “hammam” is a traditional Turkish/Middle Eastern bathhouse. Hammam baths were particularly popular during the days of the Ottoman empire, and hammam facilities were enjoyed in Ancient Greece just as much as they were in Turkey.

Al Hammam’s location in Plaka is fitting, as it is situated beneath the shadow of the Acropolis, just 100m away from the Ancient Greek bathhouse of the winds.

In some ways, a hammam can be considered as a relative of the sauna. However, attending a hammam is more of a “wet” experience, and the room that you enter tends to get much hotter than your average western sauna.

At Al Hammam, you sit in an ornate, circular marble room that is gradually filled with steam. Water taps and small buckets are provided so that you can tip warm or cold water over yourself if you begin to feel a little too hot.

The hammam experience may sound a little different to the usual, but sitting in the steamy room really opens up your pores and leaves your skin feeling great after.

Al Hammam Athens Facility

The charming veranda at Al Hammam Athens

Designed like a Moroccan Riad, the setting for your treatment at Al Hammam Athens could not be more charming. Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms of gentle darbuka drums echo through the corridors, while delicate Arabian lanterns hang from the vibrantly coloured mosaic ceilings. The ambiance instantly transports you to the Constantinople of centuries ago.

Treatment Packages at Al Hammam Athens

Al Hammam Athens
Al Hammam Athens
The Olive Soap bubble massage at Al Hammam, Athens

There are a plethora of different treatments available at Al Hammam Athens. These range from simple hammam/steam room access, to spa packages that include massages, body wraps, hair washes, facials, and scrubs. The full Al Hammam treatment menu can be found here.

During my visit to Al Hammam, I had the Sultana Hammam package. This included:

  • 30 minutes in the hammam
  • 15 minutes body exfoliation with a kese glove
  • 30 minutes olive soap bubble massage
  • Hair washing
  • A selection of teas and treats served on the charming veranda after the treatment

Prices for traditional Al Hammam treatments start from 25 euros. The Sultana treatment that I had is priced at 68 euros, for a 75 minute treatment.

In addition to the traditional hammam treatments, Al Hammam Athens also boasts a menu of modern beauty treatments. An array of modern massages (Oil, hot stone, aromatherapy, etc) can be booked on site, as can manicures and pedicures.

The Sultana Treatment at Al Hammam Athens

Al Hammam Athens
The changing rooms, Al Hammam Athens

Upon arrival at Al Hammam Athens, you are provided with a towel and slippers, and led into a small changing room. From here, you can store your things inside your assigned locker before making your way into the hammam.

The changing rooms are a little small but have everything that you need. If you need to wash off your makeup before entering the hammam, toiletries and skincare products are provided here.

Entering the Hammam

Al Hammam Athens
The beautiful Arabian decor of Al Hammam Athens

After removing your shoes, you can enter the hammam. I was fortunate that when I entered on a Wednesday night in the midst of winter in Athens, I was the only person inside! However, it should be noted that typically the hammam is a shared, unisex facility with the exception of Wednesdays which are reserved for ladies only.

Ladies can opt to either go topless inside the hammam, or wear a swimming suit. If you are choosing the former, disposable paper underwear is provided.

As you sit inside the hammam, the atmosphere gets increasingly hotter and hotter as more steam is pumped out into the room. You are provided with fresh bottled drinking water and as previously mentioned, there are also taps and buckets provided so that you can tip water over yourself to cool down.

In all honesty, it does get very hot inside the room (hotter than your average sauna) and it’s easy to start to feel a little claustrophobic if this is your first time inside a hammam.

With that said though, it’s possible to step outside the room to cool down at any time, so if it all gets a little too much then you can easily leave the room for a moment for a breather.

After 30 minutes in the hammam, the Massage Therapist will call you when it is time for your treatment and take you into a separate room.

Body Exfoliation

Al Hammam Athens
Al Hammam Athens

Hammam style massages are very different from “dry” massages because a lot of water is used in the process. If you have ever visited a Korean jimjilbang, hammam massages are very similar. As you lay on the table, bowls of water are gently poured over you to start.

The Massage Therapist started the process by commencing the exfoliation with a kese glove. Exfoliating removes dead skin cells and leaves your body feeling baby soft!

Admittedly as someone who has been to a lot of hammams and jimjilbangs over the years, I was a little disappointed with the exfoliation at Al Hammam. It was a little too gentle to really have any effect and the Massage Therapist only briefly moved the glove along my arms and legs.

Although it sounds a little grim, typically when you have a body scrub at a traditional hammam, the Therapist will do it so vigorously that you see big rolls of skin shedding from your body like a snake! Gross, yes, but your skin will feel phenomenal afterward.

Olive Soap Bubble Massage and Hair Wash

After exfoliating with the kese glove, the Therapist tipped more warm bowls of water over me to wash away any dead skin before starting the massage. With fragrant olive oil soap, it was so relaxing that I could have fallen asleep!

A wonderful 15-minute hair wash followed before I was rinsed with cool bowls of water once again, and left to go back to the changing room.

After the Hammam Treatment

The Veranda at Al Hammam Athens

After my treatment at Al Hammam Athens I headed back to the changing room and took a shower. The changing rooms are filled with everything that you need to get on with the rest of your day – from luxurious “Al Hammam” bath products and hair items, to hair dryers. So, you can venture back out into the city while looking completely presentable!

Your day at Al Hammam draws to a close with tea and treats being served up on the beautiful Veranda. Since my appointment was in the evening, it was nice to see Anafiotika and the Acropolis both illuminated with twinkling lights.

For the best views and photo opportunities though, I would probably advise booking your appointment during the day if possible.

Fragrant Turkish tea was provided in a fabulous ornate Middle Eastern teapot, with a side of delicious Rose loukoumi – the Greek answer to Turkish delight.

Al Hammam Athens

Al Hammam Athens
Al Hammam Athens also boasts an extensive menu of “dry” massage treatments

Treating yourself to a pamper session at Al Hammam Athens is a wonderful way to unwind during your Athens itinerary. No doubt you will spend most of your time rushing about on your feet so what better way to take a load off?

Disclaimer: High Heels and a Backpack was a guest of Al Hammam Athens. That said, all opinions contained here are my own and honest.  The photos here are the respective properties of Al Hammam Athens and High Heels & a Backpack. 

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