sights / Architecture

Safranbolu information

Getting there
Bus: from Ankara and İstanbul to Karabük, then minibus
Car: Ankara-İstanbul hwy to Gerede, then north
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Hidden away in hill country, Safranbolu boasts a glorious collection of old Ottoman houses so beautifully preserved that it qualifies as a Unesco World Heritage site, on a par with Florence. It's a place to slow down and enjoy ambling along narrow cobbled lanes, observing traditional trades and crafts practised just as they were in Ottoman times.

During the 17th century, the main Ottoman trade route between Gerede and the Black Sea coast passed through Safranbolu, bringing commerce, prominence and money to the town. During the 18th and 19th centuries Safranbolu's wealthy inhabitants built mansions of sun-dried mud bricks, wood and stucco, while the larger population of prosperous artisans built less impressive but similarly sturdy homes. Safranbolu owes its fame to the large numbers of these dwellings that have survived.

The weather, too, can play a part in this unique experience: summer thunderstorms periodically close over the sunken valley like a heavy black lid, and you can watch the lightning-pierced darkness drawing on inch by inch until finally the light is gone and the rain bursts down onto the tiled roofs. Simply magic.