A Guide to Iran's Best Bathhouses
Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse is among the most beautiful in Iran | © Diego Delso / Wikimedia Commons
Public bathhouses are an ancient tradition in Iran. Time and changing lifestyles, however, have caused this tradition to fade. Although some bathhouses are still used today, most have been converted into museums or teahouses. Here we explore some of the most beautiful bathhouses in Iran.
Located in the eponymous Safavid-era bazaar complex, Hammam-e Ganjali was built in 1631. Standing at the entrance of this underground bathhouse, visitors can admire frescoes, Persian miniatures, and even scenes from the ancient Persian gym, zurkhaneh. Once inside, the ceiling has simple patterned domes, wax figures depicting what each area was used for, and pools filled with coins and goldfish.
The frescoes at the Ganjali Khan Bathhouse entrance are among the highlights | © Laura & Fulvio / Wikimedia Commons
While the Ganjali Khan Bathhouse can offer some insight into the history of bathhouses, the Vakil Bathhouse, located in the same complex, allows visitors to relax in one. Converted into a teahouse, this bathhouse’s architecture with its graceful archways and tiled walls has been maintained, and displays of pateh (hand-stitched cloth from Kerman) and cozy cushioned benches provide the perfect atmosphere for visitors to take a break with some hot tea and live traditional music. It’s also the best place in the city to try Kerman’s famous kolompeh, cookies filled with minced dates and crushed walnuts.
Vakil Bathhouse has been converted into a cozy teahouse | © Pontia Fallahi
Hammam-e Sultan Amir Ahmad, Kashan
Constructed during the Safavid Dynasty in the 16th century, Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse consists of two main parts: the dressing hall and bathing hall. Turquoise and gold tiles, plasterwork, bricks, and frescoes decorate the interior, and multiple gilded glass domes not only provide light but are another exciting feature, as a walk on the rooftop makes them appear as if space pods have landed in Kashan. Serving as a tourist attraction today, one can only imagine the kind of spa-like experience this gorgeous bathhouse once offered.
Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse, Alavi Street, Kashan
Hammam-e Ali Gholi Agha, Esfahan
In keeping with Esfahan’s attention to symmetrical detail and colorful mosaics, Hammam-e Ali Gholi Agha is another of Iran’s beautiful bathhouses. Tiles typical of Esfahan’s grand mosques decorate the lower half of the walls, while the upper half is decorated mainly with Persian miniature frescoes. Mannequins demonstrate what each room was once used for. Although this bathhouse is located a bit out of the way, it’s will reward any visitor willing to make the trip.
Hammam-e Ali Gholi Agha, Bid Abadi St., Esfahan, +98 31 3337 5777
Hammam-e Vakil, Shiraz
What this site lacks in its exterior appearance, it makes up for in the interior. Ornate plasterwork, vaulted chambers, and twisted columns define Hammam-e Vakil, an 18th century Zand-era bathhouse. Shirazis are known for their laid-back personalities, and figures depict exactly how locals would have relaxed after taking a bath. Painted scenes from Persian mythology, an octagonal pool, and exquisite symmetry are among the other exciting features of this bathhouse.
Hammam-e Vakil, Taleghani Street, Lotf Ali Khan Zand Street, Shiraz,+98 71 3224 7646
Hammam-e Kordasht, Jolfa
Situated on the southern banks of the Aras River in East Azerbaijan Province, on the border with Armenia, sits the Kordasht bathhouse. Once serving as an exclusive bathhouse for royals of the Safavid Dynasty, this bathhouse eventually became public under the order of Agha Mohammad Khan of the Qajar era. Natural light via ceiling ducts shines down to illuminate the octagonal room containing the main pool. Set in a large garden with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, it’s easy to see why the royals chose this spot for their spa time.
Hammam-e Kordasht, East Azerbaijan Province
Hammam-e Khan, Yazd
In the heart of old town Yazd is Hammam-e Khan, which has been converted into a restaurant and teahouse. The vaulted ceilings and archways, stained glass windows, and fading frescoes are an absolute delight. In spite of the chambers that echo with the sounds of silverware, plates, and conversation, the underground location of this bathhouse is a welcome and cool respite from the summer heat of this desert city.
Hammam-e- Khan, Ghiam Street, Meidane Khan, Yazd