22 Most Beautiful and Famous Cities in Turkey (2023 Updated)

If you’re looking for a beautiful and historically rich vacation destination, look no further than Turkey. This country is home to some of the most famous cities in the world, each with its own unique charm and attractions. From Istanbul’s famed mosques and markets to the coastal city of Antalya, there’s something for everyone in Turkey. Each location is famous for something, and each city has a different ‘national dish.’

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Here are 20 of the most beautiful and famous cities in Turkey:

1. Istanbul

Famous foods: Sultanahmet Meatballs, Kanlıca yoğurdu (with sugar), Sarıyer Böreği, and fresh fish by the Bosphorus.

Population: 15.5 million

It’s no wonder that Istanbul is often mistaken as the capital city of Turkey. It is the largest city, and the city’s total area keeps expanding due to the population increase. It’s the city of business. It’s also the historic center of different empires, and it’s the only city in the world on two continents: Europe and Asia. There are relics from the Ottoman era in the city center, such as the Blue Mosque. Discover the palaces the Ottoman Sultans lived through cobbled streets and the luscious parks, which are more like groves. 

This is the city of east meets west. This city’s main appeal used to be that the locals came here chasing their American Dream. Now, immigrants bring along their culture, and this city has become the melting pot of the country. Every dish from all the different cities in Turkey can be found here. 

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2. Ankara

Famous foods: Simit, Çubuk pickles, Beypazarı kurusu (like Tozzetti).

Population: 5.7 million

Ankara is not like all the other modern cities in Turkey because it is the capital city of the Republic of Turkey. As the second-largest city, it was chosen to be the capital because of its situated in central Anatolia. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk wanted his Grand National Assembly to be an unconquerable location. 

The Castle was founded in the 8th century by the Phrygians. If you’re interested in history, you may wish to discover the different empires here at the Ethnographic Museum. Moreover, its Roman Ruins and the Atatürk mausoleum make this one of the best destinations to understand Turkish history. If you’re interested in the many parks, search for Swan Park (Kuğulu Park) for a real photographic moment. 

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3. Izmir 

Izmir is one of the best cities in Turkey

Famous foods: Tulum Cheese, Lokma dessert, and Izmir meatballs.

Population: 4.5 million

Situated in the Aegean Sea region in the Mediterranean, this city has the second most important port. It is the most populated city on the Aegean Coast.

As a city of culture, it hosts international fairs and jazz and film festivals. There are plenty of archaeological sites nearby, including the renowned Ephesus ruins. There is also plenty to see in the city, such as the Izmir Clock Tower, which stands 25 meters (82ft) tall. 

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4. Safranbolu

Famous foods: Safranbolu lokumu, Göbü, Peruhi

Population: 45,000

Safranbolu is a town in the Black Sea region of northern Turkey, once known as an important stopping point for trade routes between Europe and Asia. The Ottoman architecture here includes centuries-old houses that line cobblestone streets – perfect examples of architectural heritage you can explore today!

The name of the town means “saffron city.” Safranbolu was the saffron-growing capital of the Ottoman Empire. Today, the city still produces one of the best quality saffron in the world.

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5. Antalya

Famous foods: Piyaz, Arabaşı soup and the grida fish. 

Population: 2.5 million

Antalya may be the most visited city in the summer. It’s the largest city on the Mediterranean coast, and it’s one of the best places for sea, sun, and sand. Local towns are considered to be large resorts. Particularly, Side city.

Antalya was occupied by Italy for three years after World War. There are plenty of museums including Rumi, toys, ethnography, and even the Atatürk’s House Museum. The Antalya Museum focuses on archaeology. 

Other aspects of culture in this city are the Golden Orange Film Festival, the Sandland festival (a sand art festival at Lara Beach), and the Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival. 

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6. Bursa 

Famous foods: Peaches, Iskender Kebab and Kemalpaşa dessert.

Population: 3.1 million

Once upon a time, Bursa was the capital city of the Ottoman Empire. Nowadays, it’s known for being the home of the Iskender Kebab or, for restaurants serving the dish without a trademark, the yogurt kebab.

Textiles from around Turkey, such as the peshtemals worn in the hammams, come from this city or Denizli. There’s good reason: this city has six hot springs. You can find plenty of silk at the Koza Han – which resembled the grand bazaar in Istanbul. Bursa used to be part of the silk route and was a hubbub or merchants peddling silk. There are plenty of buildings from the Ottoman period and museums to explore here.

Related content: Palaces in Istanbul: 10 Stunning Royal Ottoman Palaces

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7. Şanlıurfa

Famous foods: Çiğ köfte (raw meatballs), Urfa kebab, and anything spicy. 

Population: 2.1 million

If you can’t handle the heat, get out of Urfa. Close to the world’s oldest temple (Göbekli tepe), this city is supposed to be Abraham’s hometown. If you do visit, you may want to explore Balıklıgöl. That is where Nimrod threw the prophet, Abraham, into the fire. 

Officially in Asia, and not Anatolia, this southeast city gets extremely hot in the summer. You’re going to need your sunscreen!

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8. Gaziantep

Famous foods: İçli köfte (Kibbeh), Çiğ köfte (raw meatballs) and baklava. 

Population: 2.1 million

The Capital city of the Holy Pistachio used to flavor Baklava. Humor aside, the Turkish word for pistachio is “Antep fıstığı,” which translates as the nut of Antep. Sometimes erroneously known for being the former Seljuk Capital (in fact, the capital was in Iran), this city was the first in Turkey to receive a European Protected Designation of Origin and Geographical Indication for a product. The product? Baklava, of course.

Like its neighboring city, Adana, the food is spicy, the weather is sweltering, and the people are descended from different civilizations. That may be why it’s crucial to visit the museums here to get a complete understanding of Turkey’s history. Moreover, the famous Gaziantep Zoo is located here. 

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9. Uzungöl

Famous foods: Karalahana sarması, Mısır ekmeği, Hamsili pilav.

Population: 1,500

Uzungöl is a barrier lake that is surrounded by the high mountain ranges and forests of the northern Anatolian plateau. The area is most famous for its fantastic scenery.

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10. Konya

Famous foods: Mevlana Şekeri, Mevlana börek and Etli Pide.

Population: 2.2 million

Konya is really known for three things amongst the locals. It’s Konya or Mevlana candy (Mevlana Şekeri). The ‘meaty bread’ may be up to 2 meters long! Finally, it’s also the home and resting place of Mevlana. Mevlana is the Turkish name for the world-famous mystic, poet, and Sufism leader, Rumi. Therefore, if you want to visit a museum to reflect on his life, you may visit one in this city. It’s also the best place to see the whirling dervishes considering this is their home. There are also about 6 other museums that aren’t Rumi-based. 

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11. Fethiye

Famous foods: Zeytinyağlı enginar (artichokes in olive oil) and domatesli bulgur (tomato with bulgur).

Population: 170,000

Fethiye is another city on the Aegean coast that prides itself on its visitors. It’s known for the Tomb of Amyntas, the Butterfly Valley, which has a vast range of butterfly species, and the Blue Lagoon, which is now a Blue Flag beach. If you’re a fan of paragliding or SCUBA Diving, this may be the best of all of Turkey’s cities to visit. 

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12. Bodrum

Famous foods: Bodrum (Çökertme) kebab, fried zucchini flowers, and stuffed zucchini flowers.

Population: 175,000

If you want to build a house in Bodrum, it must be white. That’s why this Mediterranean city has that village vibe that you’ll find in seaside cities around Europe. If you see blue on buildings, it’s because blue is supposed to ward off envy. 

The International Bodrum Ballet and the Bodrum Baroque Music Festivals draw visitors from other countries. However, you can bet that many people visiting here are celebrities and chic Turkish tourists. 

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13. Ürgüp

Famous foods: Stuffed quinces, Lamb Tandoori, Testi kebab (Pottery kebab).

Population: 34,000

You already know this place by another name: Cappadocia. In fact, this city is the capital of Cappadocia. As a result, it is the capital of Turkey’s most prominent wine-producing region. Not only does this city produce 60% of Cappadocian wines, but it also provides the grapes and the fertile soil needed for molasses (pekmez). 

It’s famous for the balloon rides and the fairy chimneys. If you want to search underground for various churches, houses, and buildings, you’re more than welcome to. There are also plenty of wine tours in this region for obvious reasons. 

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14. Eskişehir

Famous foods: Çiğ Börek (Fried Börek), Haşhaşlı gözleme (poppyseed pancake) and lentil mantı (tortellini).

Population: 900,000

Eskişehir is known as a university town and its hot sulfur springs. Rebuilt after the world war, this city is one of Turkey’s many modern cities. The Porsuk river that runs through this city is picturesque. Just outside the town, you’ll find the Gordion Museum and Dorylaeum, a Phrygian town. 

Visitors have plenty of museums to entertain themselves, from typewriters to a World Museum. Yes, you can see the most notable artifacts reproduced from all the museums on Earth in a museum in this city. 

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15. Antakya, Hatay

Famous foods: Künefe, hummus, and pomegranate syrup. 

Population: 1.7 million

The best part of Turkey’s cuisine comes from this region. The cuisine is described as Levantine rather than pure Turkish, but it’s a favorite amongst the locals of the country. Nearly every type of kebab comes from here. This place is also known for its natural beauty. Before nestling into the other cities in the Republic of Turkey, this city was captured and recaptured many times by different civilizations. That may explain why its food is so delicious and all the archaeological sites. Antakya is a member of the European Association of Historic Towns and Regions.

This is one of the more cosmopolitan cities in Turkey, and you’ll hear Turkish and Arabic spoken in the streets.

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16. Trabzon

Famous foods: Hamsi fish, stuffed palamut fish, and cheesy Trabzon bread. 

Population: 800,000

Trabzon is in the Black Sea region. Its natural beauty makes this city like the loveliest gardens in Istanbul. However, it does have plenty of monasteries and mosques to explore. This city is famous for its folk dancing, music, and witty humor. This region is also known for its fresh dairy products and its love of fish and tea.

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17. Alanya

Famous foods: Taze Bakla yemeği (Fresh Broadbean salad) and İçli bazlama (stuffed, soft bazlama bread).

Population: 350,000

Alanya is a beautiful, Mediterranean city responsible for 9% of the tourist industry and 30% of foreign purchases of real estate in Turkey. Due to its strategic location, this city has been part of many Mediterranean empires. Consequently, there are plenty of castles and towers to keep visitors occupied. Part of the European Association of Historic Towns and Regions, this city is also on the UNESCO tentative World Heritage list.  

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18. Kuşadası

Famous foods: İncir Uyutması (fig & dairy dessert) and Spinach gözleme.

Population: 120,000

This is Turkey’s beach resort without the excesses the south has. There are aquaparks, castles, and Pigeon Island that are nearby. Moreover, nearby towns are known for their meditative atmosphere. This is a hotspot close to several ruins that the locals love to visit. 

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19. Adana

Famous foods: Adana Kebab, liver, Analı kızlı çorbası.

Population: 2.3 million

Once upon a time, Turkey’s center for spicy food was an industrial-based city. Nowadays, this city is opening itself up to fairs, festivals, and entertainment. In the Ottoman Empire, this ethnically diverse town was an essential region for crossroads of different civilizations. In the Republic period, it attracted plenty of foreign direct investment. This city is now known for its citrus and its spicy cuisine in south Turkey. 

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20. Sivas

Famous foods: Kelle tatlısı, Sivas meatballs, tarhana (soup made from sour yogurt), and Sivas Kebab.

Population: 635,000

The home of all the Sebastians. The name refers to people who came from Sebastia, which was the Greek name of this city in the past. Some of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture is in this city. The city is also famous for its healing thermal springs. It was a communications hub for trading routes from north to south (which led to Iraq) and east to west (which led to Iran). There used to be several industries here, but historically, this city was renowned for producing cereal. 

This city was vital in establishing the new Republic of Turkey. It also played an essential role in the World War as the Congress of Sivas was held here. The Congress couldn’t be held in Istanbul or Ankara as Atatürk was acting against the orders of the Ottoman Empire. If you visit, bring your jacket. In the winter, this place is as cold as Moscow.

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21. Mardin

Famous foods: Mardin-style Kibbeh, Onion Kebab, and Dobo. 

Population: 850,000

This southeast city is known for its historical Artuqid architecture (1106-1186). So much so that the old town is now part of the UNESCO Heritage Site lists, and it’s unlawful to construct new buildings. The architecture, which is has been handed down the centuries, creates an open-air museum vibe. There’s a high Kurdish and Arabic population, so visitors may find different flavors compared to other cities in this country. 

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22. Samsun

Famous foods: Pickled green-bean stir fry (fasulye turşu kavurmasi), anchovies and poppyseed çörek.

Population: 1.3 million

Ataturk began the Turkish War of Independence in 1919 in this city. It played an essential part in Turkey’s history, especially in World War I. Located in the Black Sea Region in the north of Turkey, this spot is known for its annual international folk dancing festival. As a former Greek settlement, you’ll find many historical churches. 

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