Spotting the major cities in Turkey is easy. They are the outstanding destinations often featured in travel magazines or that have one central claim to fame. As urban playgrounds, visitors can expect everything a decent city should offer, including unique architecture, delicious food, a lively shopping, and nightlife scene as well as many tourist attractions. From east to west, hundreds of cities stand out, yet for this article, we specifically talk about cities foreigners like to visit. Whether this is because of historical contributions, or attitude towards global cuisines, these cities often see hordes of travellers arriving for the major sites. So, what are our favourites?
Major Cities in Turkey
1: Istanbul: King of Them All
As the former ruling capital of the Ottoman and Byzantine empires, Istanbul is Turkey’s largest metropolis. Sitting on two continents, and surrounded by the sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus strait and the golden horn, the population of 15 million people love this hub of business, economy, education, health, and tourism. Major sightseeing attractions include the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the grand bazaar, Topkapi Palace, and Basilica cistern in Sultanahmet. Formerly named Constantinople, the city’s new part, Taksim is Turkey’s busiest shopping and nightlife centre. Breaking down into 39 official districts with many smaller neighbourhoods, it would take a lifetime to explore Istanbul fully and understand its cultural heritage.
2: Antalya: Southern Hotspot
One of the best places is Antalya on the Mediterranean coastline. Often cited as Turkey’s second most visited tourist destination, many expats of various nationalities live here. Belonging to the province with the same name, understanding why the city easily lures in tourists who visit Turkey is easy. As well as being home to the best beaches, it is the start of the famous Lycian way that runs along the coastline called the Turquoise coast because of beautiful sea views. Ancient ruins like Aspendos are in abundance, Blue cruises make it a significant sailing hub, and alongside international food trends, it delivers traditional Turkish cuisine with style. Although Antalya is modern and forward-thinking, other places and villages nearby still portray the authentic Turkish culture that travellers adore.
3: Ankara: Capital of Turkey
Sitting in central Anatolian, Ankara is home to 6 million Turkish people, who enjoy a forward-thinking destination. Many a foreigner who wants to study also chooses the city because of its excellent education system. It might surprise some people to learn Ankara became the capital in 1923, replacing Istanbul, yet this big metropolitan area still does not achieve the same fame. Regardless, the primary reason to visit is Anitkabir, the Mausoleum of Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey. Other places to visit include many museums, and the castle giving off a fantastic big city view.
4: Cosmopolitan Izmir
Sitting in the Aegean, Izmir is the name of Turkey’s third-largest city and peninsula. This means any traveller can combine a city break with a coastal holiday. The place to explore is Konak, the old city district. Start at the clock tower, then visit the agora ruins, shop in Kemeralti bazaar, and witness a fantastic view from the Kadifikale castle. If you hear beaches of the Aegean-sea calling you, head to nearby Alacati and Cesme coastal resorts, which boasts of traditional Greek stone cottages with their typical blue shutters. On a good year, Izmir hosts cruise ships bringing in people from far away who want to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ephesus, sitting near the Virgin Mary’s house. Excavation here has uncovered a city that nearly rivalled Rome in terms of importance. Other archaeological sites with historical treasures include Pergamon, the city that invented parchment paper and was the world’s first place to open a mental hospital.
5: Trabzon: City of Hazelnuts
Trabzon isn’t a Turkish city recognised the world over, yet it has garnered a following of loyal middle-east fans, who find much similarities in culture and conservative beliefs. Turks famously remember it for its football team. As the central city of the Black-sea region, its unique geography and climate make it an ideal place to grow hazelnuts, which it exports worldwide. Many people on a tour of Turkey, stay in Trabzon city to visit nearby attractions like Sumela Monastery, Ayder plateau, and Uzungol, all stunning places. It sits next to Rize, Turkey’s tea-growing capital, making these two populated cities, an area of importance.
6: Bursa: World Heritage Site
Many people on a Turkey tour put Bursa on their list. It earns fame as the Ottoman-empire’s first ruling capital before they invaded Constantinople. UNESCO World Heritage sites mainly sit in the urban area that is the old part and include the famous great mosque and many Ottoman tombs. Bursa earns fame as where the famous Iskender kebab was invented. This dish eaten all over Turkey is a national favourite. The other reason for its popularity is nearby Uludag mountain that during winter is a top skiing hub and in summer, an outdoor activity centre.
7: Fethiye: Mediterranean Sea Coast
Fethiye is not one of Turkey’s larger cities, yet foreign inhabitants have boosted population figures. The community comprising Turks and many other nationalities all enjoy a laid-back lifestyle that stems throughout all the urban-areas. Buses provide easy access to surrounding coastal resorts and attractions like Oludeniz, the Blue Lagoon, Butterfly Valley and Calis Beach. Part of Fethiye’s claim to fame is belonging to the Turkish riviera, so sailing and yachting are big business. Every summer, many people arrive to depart on a three-night, four-day tour to the Antalya region. Kayakoy ghost village on the outskirts is a top visited attraction.
Cappadocia: Many people think Cappadocia is a city, but it is a region. Still, as a top-visited destination, should be on everyone’s list if they visit the country. The principal town to stay, Goreme, is home to the open-air museum, full of cave churches and monasteries, but other attractions include a hot-air balloon trip and touring the underground cities like Derinkuyu. They are not major cities in Turkey, like Istanbul, or Antalya, but add a quirky twist to your travels. More about hot air balloons in Cappadocia.
About Us: We are Property Turkey, an investment specialist with offices in Istanbul, Antalya, Bodrum, Fethiye and many more destinations. We’ve put our in-depth local knowledge to good use, and you can read more advice, destination guides and tips for travelling, living and working here in our blog about Turkey.
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