Top 10 Cities in Turkey to Visit
We have prepared a list of the best cities to visit in Turkey and their best features. These cities shine out with their unique characteristics and specialties among the 81 cities in Turkey.
Turkey has welcomed nearly 15 million visitors in past years. The country is a charming vacation spot for tourists, especially during the spring and the summertime. Many first-time tourists have the same question in mind: Which city is the best to visit in Turkey? Here are the top 10 cities to visit in Turkey.
Best Cities to Travel in Turkey
This enchanting city was formerly known as “Constantinople”. The city was planned as a megapolis by its founder Constantine the Great. Even today, Istanbul still preserves its identity as a glorious megacity. It is the most populated city in Turkey with a nearly 15 million population.
İstanbul is also one of the most visited cities in Turkey because of its epic and deep-rooted historical background. The historical monuments spread all over the city, especially in the “Historical Peninsula”. The Historical Peninsula is one of the oldest settlements in the city. It was the home of the greatest civilizations: Byzantines and Ottomans.
The Historical Peninsula hosts numerous historical landmarks. The most significant one is one of the biggest Byzantine churches of all time: the Hagia Sophia. The Sultanahmet Mosque and the Topkapı Palace are located near the Hagia Sophia.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is also located there. There are 100+ churches and mosques throughout the Historical Peninsula.
There are also traditional and authentic Ottoman bazaars such as the famous Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Bazaar) and the Kapalıçarşı (Grand Bazaar). These historical bazaars have local shops. These shops offer different kinds of herbs, teas, and flavors from all over the world. The Ottoman Bazaars are the main marketplace where European and Oriental tastes met in İstanbul.
The “Pera” and “Galata” regions are also outstanding tourist attraction centers of Istanbul. During the late Ottoman period and early Republican era, these settlements were home to European expats. European and Ottoman tradesmen were maintaining businesses together in the region. It is possible to track their footprints at the khans of Pera.
The most famous spots in Pera (Beyoğlu) and Galata are Taksim Square, Istiklal Street, and Galata Tower. Other than Kız Kulesi (Maiden’s Tower), the Galata Tower is the most significant landmark of the city.
The Princes’ Islands are perfect for a quick getaway from the hustle and the bustle of city life. The four main islands are known as Büyükada, Heybeliada, Kınalıada and Burgazada.
The whole atmosphere of the islands is more different than the vibrant city life in İstanbul. The settlements resemble small fishing towns of the Mediterranean and islands of the Aegean.
It is possible to plan a day trip to the islands but there are also numerous accommodation amenities. Locals of İstanbul mostly prefer to spend a joyful weekend before turning back into their business lives on Monday.
The outdoor activities in the islands are yacht trips, hiking in the natural parks, or cycling tours. There are also lots of wooden mansions, monasteries, and churches to visit on the island.
Buying handmade products from local shops while walking through the picturesque streets is a perfect evening plan! Spending joyous time under the sun on beautiful beaches is a dream come true for every Istanbulite!
Bonus: Don’t forget to try out the famous foods of İstanbul. Baked potato (Kumpir) of Ortaköy, fish sandwich (balık - ekmek) of Eminönü are the most famous flavors. The meatballs in Sultanahmet, white beans in Süleymaniye, boza in Vefa are must-try foods of Istanbul. It’s a delicious experience that you will not forget!
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that this charming coastal settlement is among the most visited cities in Turkey. Nearly 10 million people choose to visit Antalya each year. Antalya has become one of the major cities in Turkey with high touristic demand.
Other than the city itself, the rural and coastal districts such as Kaş, Kalkan, Alanya, or Belek are trending attraction spots. These settlements are the most popular places to experience the glowing Mediterranean lifestyle.
Alanya is an eastern coastal settlement of Antalya. The district is developed similar to popular tourist cities in Turkey. The vibrant nightlife, comfortable living conditions, and ability to provide any need in a short time make Alanya a perfect place to visit.
Alanya stands out with its gorgeous beaches such as the Kargicak Beach in Mahmutlar or Cleopatra Beach at the district center. Its beautiful nature allows you to attend outdoor activities such as hiking, or fishing. Also, picnicking in the Incekum Nature Park near the Avsallar settlement is a perfect weekend plan!
Belek is also a coastal settlement near the city center. It is known as the heaven of golf and entertainment. The region hosts numerous golf resorts and hotels with comprehensive entertainment facilities. The everyday life in Belek is as colorful and vibrant as the nightlife.
Kaş is a glamorous western district of Antalya. The settlement has an authentic atmosphere, resembling a small fishing town in the Mediterranean.
Kaş brings diverse lifestyles in one place. You can enjoy modest activities such as a lovely evening walk on narrow streets with stone pavements. But it also allows you to experience the Mediterranean luxury altogether!
Kaş district has also a lot to offer for nature and history enthusiasts too. The turquoise waters of Kaputas beach, natural beauties, undiscovered coves are the best highlights of the district for nature lovers. One of the most trending outdoor activities in Kaş is hiking and trekking on the Lycian Way.
The district also hosts some of the old Greek cities in Turkey. The settlement still preserves the ruins of these settlements of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Spring is the best time to visit these archaeological sites such as Patara, Myra, Anthipellos, Xanthos, and more.
One of the most interesting historical sites in Kaş is the sunken city in Kekova. You can take a boat trip between the sunken ruins in the turquoise waters of Kekova.
Bonus: Do not leave Antalya before trying “Piyaz” and meatballs in Aksu. Piyaz is a Turkish white bean salad and the traditional food of Antalya. It is made with white beans, onions, eggs, and tahini. It is a unique experience of different flavors combined in a tasty dish!
This inland city in Central Anatolia Region is mainly known for its charming historical sites. Nevsehir is situated at the heart of the Cappadocia region. Among all of the ancient cities in Turkey, Nevsehir hosts a great number of underground settlements built by ancient civilizations.
The creation of the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia traces back to 60 million years ago. The volcanic mountains of Erciyes, Hasandağı, and Göllüdağ and geographical incidents are the main causes of the fairy chimneys.
The ancient civilizations such as the Hittites, Phrygians, and Romans occupied the region throughout history. Today, the historical site of Cappadoccia is on a UNESCO World Heritage List.
Today the region is famous for its fairy chimneys, hot air balloons, and underground cities. Visiting these carefully planned underground settlements, taking a hot air balloon trip above these beautiful ancient cities are once in a lifetime experiences.
Bonus: The famous meal of the city is called “Testi Kebabı”. It is a type of kebab that is cooked in a clay pot. Also, the city is famous for its traditional wines. These wines were made of local grapes known as Öküzgözü, Boğazkere, Kalecik Karası, Narince and Emir.
Denizli is one of the best cities to visit in Turkey. It is an inland Aegean city, famous for its thermal resorts and archaeological sites. The most epic place to visit in Denizli is without a doubt the Travertines at Pamukkale.
These gorgeous thermal pools of Pamukkale are situated back to back with the ancient city of Hierapolis. The thermal waters of Pamukkale have created a boom in health tourism in Denizli. These thermal pools help to cure rheumatic diseases, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases.
Each year a great number of tourists visit Pamukkale for this unique experience. Visiting Pamukkale and Hierapolis, swimming alongside the ruins in the “Ancient Pool” is a perfect opportunity to enjoy the magical atmosphere.
Bonus: Denizli has its own kind of kebab known as the “Denizli Kebabı”. This meal is made from lamb meat and cooked with gumwood and it is a must-try food in Turkey.
İzmir can be described as one of the prettiest cities in Turkey. The dazzling natural beauties, carefully preserved historical landmarks, and modern settlements have an organic combination in the city.
İzmir is filled with social opportunities to spend a joyful time. It is a perfect place to visit for nature, history, and sports enthusiasts.
The settlement was occupied by Greeks, Romans, and Christian Byzantines. The most famous ancient cities to visit in İzmir are Smyrna, Pergamon (Bergama), and Ephesus (Efes). The Ephesus Ancient City in Selçuk district is one of the cultural heritages in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The most significant pieces of local arts can be seen in the Terrace Houses in Ephesus. The houses are adorned with multicolored frescoes and mosaics. The Terrace Houses represent the way of living in the ancient Aegean civilizations. Ephesus invites you to a unique journey through the time of antiquity.
Other than its deep-rooted history, today’s İzmir is a wonderful place to try out diverse sports activities. You can try windsurfing in Alaçatı or skydiving in Efes Dropzone above the ruins of Ephesus Ancient City. Also, paragliding in Ödemiş is one of the most trending outdoor activities in İzmir.
Horseback riding in Şirinyer Hippodrome and ice skating in Aşık Veysel Recreation Area are interesting activities you can try in İzmir. After a long day of outdoor activities, take a calming break at historical Agamemnon Hot Springs.
İzmir is a multicultural city combining Aegean, Anatolian and Mediterranean cultures. This gives the opportunity to explore different cultures in one place altogether.
Bonus: Each year with festivals such as Alaçatı Herb Festival, the city promotes its local productions to the visitors. Local inventions such as the famous Boyoz or the wines of Şirince spread their reputation all over the world. Also, don’t forget to take a sip from the tasty wines of Şirince!
This northwestern city in the Marmara region is the homeland of the Ottoman Empire. The foundations of the empire were laid in this gorgeous city. The urban texture of the city center remains the same as in the Ottoman period.
The historical landmarks such as Bursa Great Mosque, Bursa Yeşil Mosque, and Kozahan are still in use today. The local shops at the Kozahan offer top quality silk textile products. After an exciting shopping experience, you may want to take a break at the courtyard of the Kozahan. Sipping your tea under the trees and surrounded by this majestic building is worth trying!
Bursa still preserves its multicultural atmosphere. Some of the former Greek settlements such as Tirilye, Mudanya, or Gölyazı (Apolyont) remain as popular tourist attraction spots. Visiting these charming small coastal villages and towns is a perfect weekend plan!
There is a famous plane tree in Golyazi, it is also known as the “Weeping Plane Tree”. The legend of this 750-year-old tree resembles the story of Romeo and Juliet.
The younger plane tree of the city is called “İnkaya Çınarı”. This 600-year-old tree is situated within Uludağ Natural Park. A Turkish breakfast under these enormous trees is a must-do in Bursa.
Speaking of, Bursa is one of the top cities in Turkey in terms of winter holidays. The Uludağ stands out as one of the most prestigious and famous ski centers in Turkey. The most convenient time to visit Uludağ for skiing is between January and February.
Soğanlı Botanical Park is also a perfect choice for weekend activities. The park includes a Japanese garden and a French garden. There are an English garden and more than 150 types of trees in the park. The picturesque Soğanlı Botanical Park is a wonderful landscape for hiking, trekking, running, cycling and more outdoor activities.
Bonus: The local cuisine of Bursa has a glowing star called “İskender Kebab”. This meal is served with boiling butter, tomato paste, and yogurt. Also, don’t forget to try the famous chestnut candy (Kestane şekeri) before leaving!
Muğla is a coastal city where the Aegean and Mediterranean culture intertwines with each other. It is one of the best beach cities in Turkey. The city is mostly known for its beautiful coasts, coves, and nature. The most famous vacation centers of Turkey are located in Mugla such as Bodrum, Fethiye, Ölüdeniz, and Marmaris.
Bodrum Peninsula and Marmaris are mostly visited by tourists, especially during the summertime. These towns developed as small Aegean coastal villages with all year long holiday concept lifestyle.
The most interesting attraction spots in Mugla are the Saklıkent Canyon and National Park and Butterfly Valley. Also, Sedir Island (Also known as Cleopatra Island), İztuzu beach, and Ölüdeniz are famous places to visit in Mugla.
İztuzu is one of the most famous beaches in Turkey. Paragliding through sunset, just above the deep blue sea is a trending activity in Ölüdeniz. The views of small islands, coves, and hills are just breathtaking.
Bonus: Muğla is famous for a unique type of kebab called “Çökertme Kebabı”. Also, to have a Turkish breakfast intertwined with nature, Yuvarlakçay is the perfect place for it!
Trabzon is the first city that comes to mind when someone thinks about 50 shades of green. The city is located in the Black Sea Region, on the northeastern coast of Turkey. The city was occupied by Romans. It was one of the Byzantine rump states until the siege by the Ottomans in 1461.
The most magnificent historical landmarks of the city are the Hagia Sophia of Trabzon and the Sumela Monastery. The Sumela Monastery is nestled in a steep cliff in Maçka and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The monastery still preserves its importance by standing at one piece, even nearly 600 years later than its foundation.
Hamsiköy and also the Uzungöl are a must-see for foreigners! The stunning views of picturesque misty hills give you the perfect opportunity to take a break from city life.
Bonus: Do not forget to try the delicious fish called “Hamsi” and the Akçaabat meatballs. It’s a delicious experience that you will not regret!
The capital of Turkey has a lot to offer for everyone! It is the 2nd largest city in Turkey with nearly 6 million population. The city of Ankara is much more than a formal city filled with government institutions. Ankara is also the living witness of the independence battle of the Turkish Republic.
The city of Ankara was carefully planned and constructed as a Republican city during the early 20th century. Ankara is filled with historical landmarks of the War of Independence in Turkey.
There are cultural heritages throughout the city from the Roman period, such as the column of Justinian and the Augustus temple. The Roman bath and the Ankara Castle can be sorted as a few of them. You can take a walk through the streets of the old city center and visit the local shops at the Samanpazarı.
Ankara is one of the best cities in Turkey for families. It has numerous activity options suitable for children. You can visit Aquavega Aquarium or museums with 1000+ artworks from all over the country.
There is a vast number of amusement centers such as Wonderland Ankara. Recreation areas are perfect choices for family picnics such as Altınköy Open Air Museum or Mavigöl.
Bonus: Don’t leave Ankara before trying the famous bagel of the city called “Ankara Simidi”.
Without a doubt, Mardin is one of the most authentic cities of Turkey. The historical urban texture of Mardin is the main highlight of the city.
The city is an intersection of diverse religions and cultures. There are Syriac monasteries and 800-year-old mosques in the city. The ancient ruins such as Dara Mesopotamia Ruins, and Muslim madrasas are worth seeing in Mardin.
The immaculate stonework of the buildings and detailed decorative artworks on the facades are the main features of the architectural style of buildings in Mardin. The traditional stone houses of Mardin are designed with high ceilings, large terraces, courtyards to provide airflow during hot summers.
The exotic historical atmosphere in Mardin is a “must-see”. The unique Artuqid architecture is possessed all over the city and enjoying this view is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Bonus: Visit the Historical Arasa Han and explore the local antique shops before leaving Mardin. You may also want to visit the local herbalists to try some of these fresh herbs. These shops also have an endless number of spices and various herbal teas.