Best Cities To Visit In Turkey

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Best Cities To Visit In Turkey

Turkey is not just about beaches. Sure, the south coast is dotted with countless stunning clear-sea beaches, but if you assume that’s all Turkey is about, you’re missing out in a big, big way!

The authentic Turkish way of life is something every visitor should experience, and the single best way to do that is to head away from the beach resorts and visit a couple of cities in Turkey. In the ancient Turkish cities, you’ll get to experience culture, traditions and enjoy the very best cuisine around. You’ll also see history in abundance.

Of course, Turkey is a big country, which means many urban places to visit in Turkey. To help you figure out the best cities in Turkey to head to, let’s check out where to go in Turkey for urban vibes, historical landmarks, and delicious cuisine.

 

Turkey Travel Blog_Best Cities To Visit In Turkey

 

Istanbul

Best Hotels Near The Blue Mosque -
Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Without a doubt, Istanbul is Turkey’s most famous city. It’s also the busiest and largest city in Turkey. Of course, it’s not the capital city anymore, but that doesn’t stop millions of visitors from heading there every single year to experience that bustling Istanbul city life.

Istanbul is a city like no other. Firstly, it’s the only major city in the world to straddle two continents; half of Istanbul is in Europe, and the other half is in Asia! You cross the Bosphorus, and you’re literally in another continent entirely. Cool, right?

The other reason people head to Istanbul is that it’s packed with history. The buildings in Istanbul will make your jaw drop, but there is plenty of the modern-day there too. History, gastronomy, shopping, nightlife, you name it, you’ll find it. There’s far too much to mention here, so let’s summarize it a little.

What To See

Everything! The problem with Istanbul is that it’s so big and it’s hectic. This is one of the biggest cities in Turkey, Europe, and even the world. That means you can’t get to see everything in the space of one visit.

So, you have to shortlist the must-visit spots for you. Everyone is different, but if I had to recommend a handful of places, I’d say Dolmabahce Palace, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Grand Bazaar, Basilica Cistern, and Topkapi Palace. All of those are among the top sights to see in Turkey.

Those are the most famous spots but make sure you head to Taksim for shopping and nightlife, visit Cevahir Mall for major credit card shopping damage, and stop by Besiktas for some of the best (and cheapest) food around. Oh, and if you want a beachside vibe, head to upmarket Bebek for waterside chills and seafood.

When To Go

You can go to Istanbul at any time of year, but do bear in mind that the heat can make the crowds very difficult to deal with during the summer months! Istanbul doesn’t reach the scorching temperatures that the south coast hits. Still, it can be hot indeed, and during July and August, temperatures hit 30 or more regularly.

The winter is the most popular time to visit, and the potential for snow makes the landscapes simply beautiful. However, Istanbul can be very cold and wet during the winter too. Put, you have to put up with whatever weather Istanbul throws at you, but you’ll be so busy enjoying yourself that you won’t notice.

How To Get There

There are direct flights from almost all major cities via a whole range of airlines. If you’re already in Turkey and you want to head to Istanbul for a few days, you can either take an internal flight with Sun Direct, Pegasus, or Turkish Airlines, or you can take the bus.

Pamukkale and Kamil Koc are two of the most popular, but do remember that you’re looking at around 12 hours on the bus from the south coast to Istanbul, compared to 1 hour on the plane!

Ankara

Things to do in Ankara Turkey - Ankara and Kocatepe Mosque

Ankara is Turkey’s capital city. Located in the center of the country, this is where you’ll find the main government buildings, a large amount of history, and a very traditional vibe. For those who want to experience genuine Turkish life and see one of the major cities in Turkey, a visit to Ankara is a must.

Many tourists tend to avoid Ankara and stick to Istanbul, but that’s a mistake because the capital is a great place to experience. It also has a very modern and fun vibe, and you’ll find some great restaurants and nightlife spots too.

What To See

Without a doubt, a visit to Anitkabir is a must. This is the mausoleum of Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey and the country’s first president. It is enormous, so make sure you account for time to really appreciate it in its stunning beauty while also understanding that it is a bustling place too. When it comes to Turkish history, this is one of the best places in Turkey to visit.

The other spot to head to is the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations and Ankara Castle, the beautiful Kocatepe Mosque. Don’t forget to make dinner reservations at Ankara Atakule, a huge communications tower that has a quality restaurant at the top – dinner with a view!

When To Go

Ankara is another one of those famous cities in Turkey you can visit at any time, but during the winter months, you can expect snow, and sometimes lots of it.

The central part of Turkey can become very cold during the winter, so perhaps the shoulder months of April and May or October and November would be a better option. The summer isn’t the wrong time to visit, but it can be pretty hot, without any sea breeze to cool you down for many, many miles.

How To Get There

Ankara is connected to most major cities via direct flights, and even if you can’t get a direct flight, you can always fly to Istanbul and then connect via domestic flight. Again, long-distance but networks within Turkey are an excellent way to get to the capital. Just keep in mind, the journey can be long – from Istanbul to Ankara, you’re looking at around 7 hours.

Izmir

Things to do in Izmir Turkey
Izmir Clock Tower at twilight at the Konak Square in Izmir, Turkey.

Izmir is often seen as Turkey’s second most modern and vibrant city, and it certainly has a youthful vibe about it. Located on the west coast, with the blue Aegean lapping at its shores, Izmir is a fantastic city to visit, and it has many beach resorts dotted around it too. If you’re looking for beach cities in Turkey to visit, this is a fantastic destination.

If you’re looking for shopping and nightlife, this is the place to visit, after Istanbul, of course. The weather is also beautiful most of the year, and there are some huge shopping malls to splash the cash in. The city has a very young feel to it, and you’ll see students heading to universities around the city, dining out during the evenings, and enjoying time out with friends at the weekends.

What To See

Izmir is quite sprawling, but you should be sure to head to the seaside, where you can enjoy chilled-out days and evenings, and you can even take a horse-drawn carriage ride!

The promenade doesn’t feel like it’s in the middle of a vast city at all, but just behind the beachside, you’ll find huge roads that spread all around the city’s reaches, to huge malls and beyond. There are countless places to eat, drink, and party, but if you want to shop, be sure to head to the old bazaar, where you can haggle for your souvenirs.

Of course, Izmir Clock Tower, Konak Square, and Yali Mosque are all must-visit spots.

When To Go

Anytime! Izmir is a great city to visit year-round, although you should head there between May and October if you want to enjoy the beach. July and August are sweltering when temperatures can often hit 40 degrees, but even during the winter, the temperatures are generally relatively mild compared to many other places in Europe.

How To Get There

Direct flights from most cities head to Izmir all year round. Again, the coach network within Turkey will also get you to Izmir from many other cities. From Istanbul, the flight time to Izmir is just 1 hour.

Konya

Cities in Turkey - Konya, Beysehir stone bridge view in town.Historic stone bridge on Beysehir lake

Konya is located in Central Anatolia, and it’s somewhat off the beaten track for many tourists. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent spot to head to, and it’s also a common drop-off point for people visiting nearby Cappadocia.

Konya is perhaps most famous for being the former home of Rumi, the Persian poet, and you’ll also find the Mausoleum of Rumi in Konya. While Konya is one of the most conservative towns in Turkey compared to other tourist spots in Turkey, such as Izmir and Istanbul, that means you’ll get to see authentic traditions here, and that’s what travel is all about.

What To See

The Mausoleum of Rumi is a very popular spot, and it’s also fascinating to learn more about the whirling dervishes. Head to the Mevlana Museum to find out more, and you might also be able to see a whirling dervish performance at the Mevlana Cultural Centre too.

Another interesting spot is the Alaeddin Mosque which is beautiful in design and also surrounded by peaceful gardens atop a hill, with stunning views over the city. The mosque dates back to the 12th century.

Of course, Konya is also home to fantastic cuisine. You should 100% head to traditional ocakbasi restaurants and seafood spots to enjoy some of the finest Turkish food you’ll ever taste.

When To Go

Again you can visit Konya at any time, but summers tend to be hot, with cold and often wet winters. It’s entirely possible to see significant snowfall during the winter months, especially December and January. April and May and September and October are delightful months when it’s not too hot and far less rain.

How To Get There

Fly direct to Istanbul from most major cities and then connect to an internal flight to Konya with Pegasus or Turkish Airlines. The flight from Istanbul to Konya takes 1 hour 10 minutes.

Bursa

Cities InTurkey - Bursa, Turkey

Bursa is a young and bustling university city that is perfect for winter skiing too! Bursa is located around half an hour away from the famous Uludag Mountain, which hosts some of the best winter sports in Turkey. Even during the summer months, Bursa is a great place to head, and here you’ll get to enjoy a more authentic experience, compared to some of the more touristic cities.

Bursa is a very green city, and there are countless parks and open spaces, which is very refreshing for a large city. Some charming small coastal towns also surround it, so you can easily extend your exploration a little.

What To See

Uludag Mountain is simply beautiful, and you should undoubtedly head there, even if you’re not considering skiing! During the summer, there are walking and climbing trails available. Uludag Teleferik is also thought to be the longest aerial tramway in Europe and will give you some fantastic views over the mountain range.

Be sure to check out the stunning Ulu Cami, or Great Mosque, which dates back to the 14th century. The mosque is beautiful in design, and it has 20 domes.

Of course, this being a large city, Bursa is also fantastic for shopping, with Korupark Shopping Centre considered one of the best.

When To Go

If you want to ski, you should head to Bursa between November and the end of March. However, if skiing isn’t on your schedule, the summer months are an excellent time to visit the city. The city’s green looks stunning against the cloudless blue sky, and you can also head out to one of the small beach towns for a dip in the sea.

How To Get There

Bursa is just under 2 hours away from Istanbul by road (making it a great day trip from Istanbul!), so you can use the Pamukkale or Kamil Koc bus service to reach Bursa, having flown to Istanbul directly from most major cities.

Adana

Traditional Turkish Adana Kebab or Kebap

Adana is located on the south coast, east of Antalya. Often overlooked by visitors looking for a beach break, this city is a little more conservative than Antalya and other beach resorts, but it’s an excellent spot for those who want to enjoy a more authentic way of life.

Adana is located on the Seyhan River, and it is just inland. However, you can reach the warmth of the Mediterranean Sea in just over 15 minutes by car. There are many historical buildings around the area you should certainly check out, but there are also many modern spots too, such as busy cafes and restaurants.

The city is also the birthplace of the famous Adana kebab. This is a meat dish you must try while in Turkey, and it’s something you’ll become instantly addicted to. A little spicy but nothing short of delicious, make sure you try the authentic recipe while you’re in the city.

What To See

Be sure to get your walking shoes on as there is plenty to see in Adana. Stone Bridge is a great starting point, a bridge built by the Romans and the beautiful Sabanci Merkez Mosque. The mosque has six minarets and sits in a stunning waterfront location.

On the other hand, City Park is a great place to enjoy a little people-watching, while Seyhan Dam is a pleasant spot to escape the city and enjoy some peace and quiet. Ataturk Museum and Ataturk Park are also must visits when in the area.

When To Go

Adana is an excellent spot to visit regardless of the time of year, although again, during the summer, it can be sweltering indeed. It’s not unusual to reach the high 30s regularly throughout the peak summer months. During the winter, you’ll find relatively mind temperatures but more in the way of rain.

How To Get There

Flying direct to Istanbul is the best option here, and as before, there are many direct flights to Istanbul from most cities. You can then connect via domestic flight, which will take 1 hour 30 minutes.

Antalya

What To See In Antalya - Waterfall Duden at Antalya, Turkey

Antalya is one of Turkey’s most visited spots, one of Turkey’s most popular tourist destinations. This is also where most tourists will head if they intend to stay in one of the Antalya Province beach resorts, such as Kas, Lara Beach, Alanya, Kemer, Side, etc. However, Antalya is a city in its own right, packed with history, beauty, and plentiful modern-day amenities too.

Located on the Mediterranean coastline, the city has soaring mountains to one side and the impossible blue of the sea to the other. It’s certainly worth heading out to one of the smaller beach resorts during your stay, although Antalya itself has some beautiful beaches and incredible natural wonders within very close reach.

So, if you’re looking for the best place to holiday in Turkey with beaches, it doesn’t get much better than beautiful, sunny Antalya.

What To See

In the city itself, you’re spoiled for choice. Duden Waterfalls are just a few minutes away from the airport, and the dramatic spill of the water down into the sea is something you have to see for yourself. It’s one of the most beautiful, unique places to visit in Turkey.

Hadrian Castle Gate is another must-visit, as well as Antalya Castle, Kursunlu Waterfall, and of course, the beach – Konyaalti Beach is one of the most famous in the country, and it’s a must-visit for summer fun!

Antalya is also an excellent spot for nightlife, shopping, and food too. You’ll find some fantastic restaurants around the city, serving both traditional and international dishes.

When To Go

The good thing about Antalya is that it’s pretty mild all year round, although the heat really does turn up during the summer months. If you want to swim in the sea, then head to Antalya between May and the end of October.

However, remember that Antalya is one of the most visited cities in Turkey in summer, which means that crowds from June to September can be a problem. The temperatures are their hottest in July and August.

During the summer months, the temperatures are very mild indeed, and although it can rain occasionally, your break is unlikely to be a washout.

How To Get There

Throughout the summer months, there are direct flights to Antalya Airport from most cities. However, during the winter, you may need to go via Istanbul. Flight time from Istanbul to Antalya is just 1 hour 10 minutes.

Gaziantep

Cities In Turkey - Gaziantep_Zeugma

For those adventurous travelers who want to really explore a couple of off-the-beaten-track cities of Turkey, Gaziantep is the perfect spot. This is a welcome and beautiful city that is packed with natural beauty, history, and plenty of traditions. The food here is nothing short of amazing, and you’ll leave with a genuine appreciation for Turkish cuisine.

Gaziantep is located in Turkey’s southeast, and it’s where pistachios are farmed. You’ll also hear it called ‘Antep.’ Packed with historic buildings, this part of Turkey isn’t where most tourists tend to tread, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. The issue for most is that it is closer to the Syrian border than many other Turkish cities and resorts, but it isn’t an unsafe city by any means.

For those who want to explore a different side to what they probably know of Turkey, Gaziantep will help you uncover what you seek.

What To See

Gaziantep Castle is a great starting point as this will show you the whole city before you; there is also an interesting military museum inside. Head to Gaziantep Archaeology Museum to learn more about the area and some of the ancient artifacts that have been uncovered in this very historic part of the country. Zeugma Mosaic Museum is another excellent spot to head to, especially if you’re trying to avoid the harsh summer sun.

Of course, most people will visit Gaziantep to learn about traditions and also to try some of that famous food. Known for its gastronomy, this is one of the best cities in Turkey to visit for food. It’s here you can try the very best of Turkish cuisine. Meat kebabs here are something else entirely and be sure to try lahmacun, meatballs, and ayran too.

When To Go

Gaziantep is very hot during the summer months, and there is virtually no rain. During the winter, the temperatures drop suddenly, and the showers tend to arrive; however, there are often clear days in-between. It’s not unusual to see an abundance of snowfall during the deepest of winter days. For that reason, Gaziantep is best visited in April and May or perhaps late September into October.

How To Get There

A flight from Istanbul is your best option, like a bus from any significant Turkish city will take many, many hours. A flight from Istanbul will take just 1 hour 35 minutes.

Trabzon

Cities in Turkey - Trabzon - Sumela Monastery

Located on the Black Sea Coast, Trabzon is an overlooked city, but it’s a huge hidden gem. In the northeast of the country, you’ll get to see a completely different way of life from the rest of the country, although you will also get to see more rain here than anywhere else too!

Trabzon’s black sea beaches are stunning, and they’re much less crowded than the ones you’ll see packed out on the south coast. Paradise Beach is also the best spot for sunsets. The city is mainly known for its high, green mountains and beautiful scenery and anchovies. Yes, you heard right; Trabzon is famous for hamsi, a type of anchovy that is highly famous throughout the country – be sure to try some as fresh as they can be!

In short, for a beautiful combination of coastal scenery, beaches, cuisine, and fewer tourists, Trabzon is one of the best Turkish cities to visit.

What To See

We’ve just mentioned Paradise Beach, but be sure to head to the mountains and have a proper Turkish breakfast amongst stunning scenery. In the city itself, the Hagia Sofia (not that one, a different one) dates back to the Byzantine era and Cag Megarasi, a cave network that is open to the public. Sera Lake is also a beautiful spot for nature, with pedal boats and fantastic restaurants.

When To Go

March to May and September to November are the best times to visit Trabzon. Outside of those months, you’ll see high summers with a fair amount of rain and cold temperatures with rain during the winter. Snow isn’t unusual during late December into January. Humidity can be a problem during the summer in this part of the country.

How To Get There

A flight from Istanbul to Trabzon takes just 1 hour 35 minutes.

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