Kars Castle

Top choice in Kars

Dating from at least 1153, Kars Castle' s hefty, dark-stone walls crown the craggy ridge that dominates the city-centre's northern edge, fronted by a series of historic mosques. Climbing the ramparts offers a series of sweeping views, especially memorable before sunset, but there is no museum and relatively little to see inside beyond gazing at the panorama from the Kale Cafe.

Fun for its legend, if not for its architecture, is the tiny tomb of Celal Baba who had his head sliced off while trying to defend the castle from Mongol attack in 1239. Unperturbed by such a flesh wound, Celal picked up his own severed head and kept on fighting. Or so the story goes.

The fortress was demolished in 1386 by Central Asian conqueror Tamerlane (Timur) and rebuilt several times over the following centuries. During and after WWI, the fortress was once again the scene of bitter fighting.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Kars attractions

1. Taş Köprü

0.09 MILES

This attractive basalt bridge that spans the Kars River, below the castle, was built in 1719 replacing a 16th-century original that had been destroyed by…

2. Beylerbeyi Sarayı

0.14 MILES

In 1579, Sultan Murad III's regional governor (Lala Mustafa Paşa) built an imposing palace on the southern foreslopes of Kars Castle crag. The structure…

3. Mazlum Ağa Hamam

0.15 MILES

Pushkin is known to have bathed at this rectangular 18th-century basalt hamam in 1829, which stands near the river below Kars Castle. These days you'll…

4. Ulu Camii

0.16 MILES

For a great vantage point to soak up the main sights of historic Kars in a single visual sweep, it's hard to beat the forecourt of this 17th-century…

5. Kümbet Camii

0.17 MILES

Below Kars Castle, the imposing, basalt Kümbet Camii was built as a church between 932 and 937 when Kars was (briefly) capital of the Bagratuni kingdom of…

6. Evliya Camii

0.22 MILES

With an especially attractive north facade, the 16th-century 'Mosque of Saints' was built to commemmorate the 11th-century saint Hasan-i Harakani who…

7. Health Directorate Building

0.45 MILES

On this 1907 building, thick paint somewhat mars the facade of floral motifs and mock columns built in typical Kars' Baltic (ie northern Russian) style.

8. Kars Culture & Art Association

0.47 MILES

The address is an unpromising paint shop ('Yeni Akçay Kol. Şir.'). However, if you can find him in, the shop's owner is local historian Vedat Akçayöz who…