By Justin Mays:
Turkey is home to many large urban centers, so we have compiled a list of the best ones to visit, depending upon your interests—whether cultural, culinary, entertainment, or sports. With so many fantastic options it is hard to choose where to go first, so explore this guide, where we catalog each city’s highlights to start you on your journey.
Visit Istanbul for entertainment
Istanbul has it all including the most options for filling up your leisure time. With the highest concentration of museums, theaters, and IMAX in the country, Istanbul is not only the largest city in Turkey but the most fun. Most of the top restaurants in the country are found here and lively bars, and entertainment complexes, round out your nightlife options from Bebek to Belikduzu. Even nature lovers won’t be disappointed as there is access to sailing, rowing, biking, and hiking throughout the city. If you can imagine an activity, you’ll find it in Istanbul.
Ankara , A good place to learn Turkish History
Ankara, Turkey’s capital and second-largest city, is in the heart of Anatolia. Anyone who is interested in the history of modern-day Turkey should first visit its governmental center. When the modern-day republic was formed in 1923, Turkey’s founder, Ataturk moved the capital from Istanbul to Ankara given its strategic and geopolitical importance. Today one will find a cosmopolitan city and administrative center worthy of a visit.
Visit Izmir for coastal living and day trips
Izmir is famous for its laid-back attitude not unlike some of the other best coastal cities to visit around the world. While away your time by sitting by the famous clock tower in Konak and enjoy a meze dinner while gazing out on the sun setting on the Aegean Sea. After enjoying time in the city proper, just a two-hour driving radius around Izmir will get you to pristine beaches, fabulous hotels, ancient ruins, vineyards, and scenery of beautiful olive tree groves and mountains.
Visit Bursa for forests and skiing
Bursa is the best city to visit for easy access to nature. Take the cable car to one of Turkey’s most famous mountains, Uludag, known as Mt Olympus in ancient times, for skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. After exploring the dense beech and fir tree forests head back to the city center to see some historical monuments and shop in the grand covered market.
Visit Adana for Eastern Mediterranean Culture
Those willing to take the time will find a city that is hiding many surprises outside of its commercial areas. As a major agricultural and commercial center of the Eastern Mediterranean at first glance one may not discover all that the city has to offer. Adana is best enjoyed by taking a car from the coast up to the cooler mountain areas. Kebab enthusiasts will head to one of the city’s many grills to try the city’s namesake kebab.
Gaziantep Great if you are interested in local food culture
Gaziantep is famed as the gastronomy capital of Turkey. Pistachio-laden baklava, historic coffee houses, and kebab restaurants are found throughout the city and people will fly from around Turkey for the day to pick up nuts, spices, and sweet treats. The best city to visit for those eager to explore the rich culinary heritage of the area should form a beeline to Gaziantep.
Visit Konya to witness a time-honored tradition
The best city to visit in Turkey in December must be Konya for its annual celebration of Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes. Annually thousands of pilgrims and tourists from around the world descend on the city to celebrate Mevlana Rumi. Konya is the home to Rumi’s 13th-century tomb and is known as the birthplace of Sufism, come to see the whirling dervishes and the ornate Seljuk monuments.
Visit Antalya for resorts and sandy beaches
Antalya is renowned throughout the world as a preeminent resort city. Resort offerings range from local boutique-style to large all-inclusive hotels. The best sandy beaches are around the city including Patara, a glorious 19 km stretch of unspoiled beach.
Visit Diyarbakir for an off-the-beaten-path experience
Diyarbakir is not the first city that comes to mind when visiting Turkey, but this southeastern gem has a burgeoning art scene and its city walls have been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 2015. Located along the banks of Tigris River, Diyarabakir is a great destination for adventurous travelers to explore.
Visit Mersin for small city vibes
Rounding out our list is the 10th largest, best city to visit in Turkey, Mersin. Mersin is a small sprawling city that has seaside promenades, is home to the popular meat wrap, and the tantuni, and has great shopping opportunities. Come and be pleasantly surprised at what the metropolis has to offer.
Turkey is a four-season destination. From summer beaches to winter ski mountains, the fall colors, and spring tulips Turkey has something for everyone all year long.