|WARNING: Warning: On February 6th 2023, Gaziantep was hit by a devastating earthquake. Many of the city's buildings and landmarks including the castle are badly damaged or collapsed.|
Gaziantep is a city in Southeastern Anatolia. Although it is a major city in Turkey (counting almost 2 million inhabitants) and known as the Turkish capital of gastronomy, it counts very few international tourists. It has a quiet atmosphere and the locals are friendly (but never pushy, including in the bazars).
Set in the western reaches of the Southeastern Anatolian plateau, Gaziantep is a surprisingly large (with a population of almost 2,000,000) and modern city.
Among the locals, the city is informally known by its old name, Antep. The honorific gazi (Turkish for "veteran"), now an official part of the name, was added in 1921 in honour of the fierce resistance of the locals against the French (who ruled neighbouring Syria between 1920 and 1946) who occupied the city for a number of months in 1921, after Ottoman Turkey and its allies lost World War I. G.Antep, which can often be seen on some signs, is a compromise between the shorter, colloquial name, and the longer, official form.
Gaziantep Airport. 15 km from city center. You can reach the city center from the airport with the Havaş shuttle service (13 lira, departs after all incoming flights).
The bus station (otogar) of the city is quite a few kilometers out of town. It is connected to city centre by local public buses, which cost 0.95 TL one-way. A taxi ride from the program to the center should cost around ~100 TL (May 2023). Buses from Mersin on the Mediterranean coast in the west take around 5 hours and cost 200TL, while the service from Urfa in the east takes 4 hours and also costs 25 TL.
- 1 Gaziantep bus station (Gaziantep Otogarı).
As of 2022, passenger services are starting to return to Gaziantep. Trains have been cancelled for the last five years due to major track works in preparation for a new commuter rail system. While the new system, Gaziray, launched in late 2022 it will still take some time until long distance trains such as the famous Toros Express from Istanbul will return. A regional service from Nizip do operate daily. The nearest town served by long distance trains is Narlı, about 30 kilometers north, which sees one daily train from Adana.
International trains from Aleppo and Mosul are cancelled and with no end in sight for the Syrian Civil War nor the turmoil in northern Iraq, they are most likely not to be reinstated in the near future.
- 2 Gaziantep railway station (Gaziantep Garı), İstasyon Cd (2½ kilometers north of city centre, tramway T1 terminated 250 m south of the station).
Gaziantep has an extensive public transportation system with both buses, trams, suburban rail as well as a small bike share program. Services are operated by Gaziulaş.
There are three tram routes with the north-south running T1 being the most useful for tourists as it connects the railway station with the central districts. Notice that while the station is named Gar (Turkish for station) the tram actually stops 250 m south of the railway station.
The city center is reasonably compact and walkable. Additionally, there's the suburban commuter railway which
Taxis are plentiful and cheap, perfect for tired feet and taxi drivers always put on the meter (apparently no negociation is possible). Besides, you will find “taxi buttons” pretty much everywhere around the city: just press it (once!) and a taxi should arrive shortly.
Gaziray suburban trains run every 30 min from Başpınar in the west through city centre to Taşlıca east. Tourists are unlikely to use them.
- 1 Archaeological Museum (Arkeoloji Müzesi), İstasyon Cd 2 (corner of Kamil Ocak Cd and İstasyon Cd, just south of train station), ☏ +90 342 324-88-09, fax: +90 342 324-38-22. Daily 08:00-17:00. This local archaeological museum, which also has a small cafe inside, is wheelchair accessible. Post-2023 earthquake status: closed to visits. 40 TL.
- 2 Gaziantep Castle (Gaziantep Kalesi). First built by the Romans this castle was a major battle ground during World War I as well as the Turkish War of Independence. The museum showcases this well, even if the talk on national heroes might come off as a little too detailed and boring for non-Turks. The view from the top of the castle is worth the entrance itself. Post-2023 earthquake status: heavily damaged and not open to the public. It is however possible to see it by walking around it.
- 3 Cuisine Museum (Emine Göğüş Gaziantep Mutfak Müzesi), Karagöz Mah, Sadık Dai Sok No:16 (South of the castle, there's many hard-to-miss signposts), ☏ +90 342 232 6616. Interesting museum on traditional Turkish cuisine and tools used for food preparation. 1 TL (0.50 TL for students).
- 4 Zeugma Mosaic Museum (Zeugma Mozaik Müzesi), Hacı Sani Konukoğlu Blv, ☏ +90 342 325-27-27, fax: +90 342 324-38-22. Daily 09:00-17:00 (Apr-Oct), 08:30-17:00 (Nov-Mar); last entry: 16:30. The museum hosts stunning mosaics excavated at nearby Zeugma (about 50 km east), a city of antiquity known for its pontoon bridge crossing the Euphrates, and is mostly submerged under the waters of the Birecik Dam now. Post-2023 earthquake status: reopened to visits. 150 TL per person; audio guide is 60 TL (can be shared between 2-3 persons easily) and is worth it.
- 5 St. Mary's Armenian Church (Kurtulush Jami) (Corner of Tufan Hamam Sk. and Cami Sk.). Grand old Armenian Church with white stone walls with black checkered edges. The church was converted to Kurtulus Mosque after the Armenian Genocide but architecturally remains nearly intact. Right in the center of the city. Post-2023 earthquake status: heavily damaged.
Visit the castle, explore the bazaars and don't forget the museum. There are a lot of museums in the center of city, especially some of them are close to castle. You should go Mosaic Museum (close to stadium), Medusa Museum (Glass Museum), Martyr's Museum, Dervishes Museum (Mevlevihane), Hasan Süzer Etnographia Museum.
Walk around the narrow streets of the old town: between Attatürk bd. and Eyüpoglu cd. Sit in one of the Syrian-style cafes located in adorable courtyards and enjoy a tea, a lemonade or a meal.
Gaziantep is a quiet and peaceful city, it has a lot of parks, walking around the city in the parks is very pleasant.
You can buy a lot of traditional things in Gaziantep. You should try Bakırcılar Çarşısı, a traditional bazaar in the center of the city. You can buy baklava, nargile (hooka pipe), yemeni (local leather shoes), among other things. You can also find all sorts of copper arts and crafts in the copper bazar and in the shops around the castle: jewellery, decorative keys, tea pots and all sorts of dishes.
Antep is known as the gastronomy capital of Turkey, and meals there are one of the highlights of visiting the region. So enjoy yourself.
The local cuisine is heavily influenced by its southern neighbours. The city is renowned for its local, spicy variety of kebab (Antep kebabı), available in many places. Make sure you enter a place that is crowded and order ayran with your kebab. Try a lahmacun, which is minced, marinated, spiced meat with minced vegetables on an extremely thin, crunchy dough. Lahmacun can be made with garlic or onions, but the Antep variety is with garlic. Dolma and sarma, vegetables wrapped in vine leaves, are among the vegan delicacies not to be missed.
You should have already taken the cue from the groves along the highways leading to Gaziantep; this is a pistachio-growing region. Many stores offer this local product (known in Turkish as Antep fıstığı, "the nut of Antep", a naming which surpassed the older Şam fıstığı, "the nut of Damascus", used during the Ottoman period). The roasted form seasoned with salt is a lot tastier than fresh. Those flavoured with spices are perhaps even more.
Upon finishing your dinner, make sure to have a baklava made with pistachios. Also, you can try the hot desserts with a scoop of ice cream on top.
Many of Antep's drinking establishments are basically for picking up women. However there are some nice birahanes ("beer-houses") where you can enjoy a quiet drink in peace.
A good place to have drinks (and possibly international food) is Treff Bistro, in the middle of the festival park. Make sure you ask about the prices first as it can be quite expensive (especially alcohol).
- 1 Yunus Hotel, Bey Mah. Kayacık Sokak No 16, Şahinbey (off Atatürk Boulevard, parallel to Hürriyet Caddesi behind the Post Office), ☏ +90 342 221 1722, email@example.com. Two stars in city centre with very clean rooms and free Wi-Fi. Staff are exceptionally friendly, although there is not a lot of English. 35 TL/50 TL low/high season for a double room including breakfast.
- Allstar Sevcan Hotel. Three stars in city centre. +90 342 220 66 86.
- Tugcan Hotel. Five stars in the city. +90 342 220 43 23
- Hotel Burak, Alabey Mah. Hürriyet Cad, 27, Şahinbey, ☏ +90 342 220 4990, firstname.lastname@example.org. It is a good hotel, in a perfect location. In February 2010, it was possible to bargain the price from the original 45 TL down to 35 TL, including the dinner and a very good breakfast. Obtaining the reduction will depend on the season, the manager, and the ability to bargain. 35 to 45 TL/single room.
- 2 Uğurlu Hotel, Bey Mah. Kayacık Sok. No 14 (next to Yunus Hotel), ☏ +90 342 220 96 90. 100-140 TL, but bargainable down to 80 TL for a double room, including breakfast.
From city's otogar you will find numerous agents selling tickets to dozens of destinations including Istanbul, Konya, Van, Dogubeyazit, and Antalya to name a few. Buses leave frequently. Shop around for the best price.
Urfa, the next major city to the east, is the obvious destination if you are heading that way. Somewhere around the Euphrates River on the way, you will find that it is time to say goodbye to the 'West', and be welcomed into the world of the 'East'. Even the language of choice on the streets will change, with the Turkish words thinning out more and more towards the east, even if you are still in Turkey.
Halfeti is a picturesque riverside old town in the northeast, off the highway to Urfa, partly inundated under a dam lake on the Euphrates. Sharing a similar fate, Zeugma, the origin of the rich mosaic collection now in exhibit in Gaziantep is also nearby.
However, before taking that direction, you might want to hit up to the north first, to Kahta for a visit to the Mount Nemrut, the summit of which is adorned with huge statues dedicated to the ancient gods.
If ancient statues scattered about the countryside sound interesting, the remote site of Yesemek near İslahiye (21 km southeast of İslahiye, 100 km southwest of Gaziantep) may also be worth checking out. This was a stone quarry used by the Hittites (a Bronze Age nation that was the first to found a state in Anatolia ever) as a statuary workshop. Later, it was abandoned and hence some of the half complete statues never made to the locations that they were intended to stand at first and dot the hillside of Yesemek instead since then. Daily 08:00-17:00, free. Post-2023 earthquake status: closed to visits.
|Routes through Gaziantep|
|Adana ← Osmaniye ← Nurdağı ( N / S) ←||W E||→ Nizip → Şanlurfa|
|Adana ← Osmaniye ← Nurdağı ( N / S) ←||W E||→ Nizip → Şanlıurfa|
|Kahramanmaraş ← Narlı ( E) ←||N S||→ Ends at|
|Tokat ← Malatya ←||N S||→ Kilis → Öncüpınar/al-Salameh|