Nestled in a valley along a winding river in the central northern region of Turkey is Amasya, an overlooked city that offers travelers a look into Turkey’s rich history and culture. Amasya is known as the city of Kings, for the sons of the sultan who were sent to the city to study long ago.
For travelers in Turkey looking to see more than large cities and resort towns, Amasya is the ideal weekend destination. Here are the top five things to do in Amasya:
1. Explore Harsene Kalesi
Atop a mountain in the center of the city is Harsene Kalesi, the ruins of an ancient fortification. With a ticket, one can easily spend hours exploring the ruins and making the climb to the highest point in Amasya. At the top, a breathtaking view of the entire city can be seen.
2. See the ancient tombs
On the side of the mountain that hosts Haresene Kalesi are the five tombs of the kings of Pontus. Tourists can even walk into one of the tombs. Bodies not included. On the way down from the tombs, stop at the café for a rest and enjoy a cup of Turkish tea.
3. Walk by the river, during the day and at night
During the day, tourists can enjoy looking at old Ottoman houses lining the river, see the statues of the Sultan’s sons, and read about the legend of Fehrat and Shirin, a Romeo and Juliet type story. There are stands selling sweet corn, ice cream, and other confections. Additionally, for a unique Amasya experience, travelers can have a fish dinner on the restaurant boat harbored permanently in the river.
At night, the castle, tombs, and Ottoman houses along the river are illuminated by lights that change color. Tourists and residents alike enjoy walking by the river with friends or a lover, basking in the romantic ambiance.
4. Enjoy the local cuisine
Every city in Turkey is known for a local dish, and Amasya is no exception. A must try is keşkek, a meat and wheat stew that is creamy and rich in flavor. Amasya Mutfağı restaurant, located by the river, serves the best keşkek in the city.
In the summer and into the fall, make sure to try Amasya apples. Nicknamed “The Apple City,” you will understand why Amasya is proud of this moniker.
For a snack, try corum leblebi (fried chickpeas), which can be found at many confection shops along the river and throughout the shopping district.
Turks also love breakfast (khavalti) and they know how to do it right, especially in Amasya. On Sundays, Yamaç Bistro serves an impressive and delicious spread of Turkish cuisine, including: menemen (eggs cooked in tomatoes and peppers), simit (Turkish version of a bagel), and all the Turkish tea you can drink.
5. Take a look in and around Bayezid II Mosque
The largest mosque in Amasya is hard to miss, as its location is in the center of the city, facing out towards the river. For travelers interested in experiencing a working mosque not overrun with tourists, this beautiful 15th century mosque is a must see.
Outside of the mosque is a large green area, where travelers can sit and enjoy nature, or walk around and wander into the ancient library and courtyard nearby.
Being in such a large country, Amasya is a town that gets overshadowed by the larger cities and seaside resorts that Turkey boasts. Amasya is a quaint, charming, and safe city that has much to offer tourists wanting to further explore Turkey and see one of the country’s best kept secrets.