Samsun, in the Central Karadeniz region of Turkey, is the largest city on the Turkish Black Sea coast.
Samsun has a special place in the republican history of Turkey, as this is where the republic's founder, Kemal Atatürk, set foot to start the War of Independence in 1919.
Samsun is a long sprawling city which extends along the coast towards the Kızılırmak ("Red River") delta to the west and the Yeşilırmak ("Green River") delta to the east.
In the city center and close to the seashore is the city's main square, Cumhuriyet Meydanı, north and south of which are Kazımpaşa Caddesi and Cumhuriyet Caddesi.
The city has grown fast: land has been reclaimed from the sea and many apartment blocks and shopping malls have been built. Industry is tending to move (or be moved) east, further away from the city center and towards the airport.
Samsun has a rather warm oceanic climate, like most of the eastern Black Sea coast of Turkey. Summers are warm and showery, although Samsun generally avoids the heaviest of the rainfall during this time. Transitional seasons are pleasant, while winters are cool and wet. Snow is relatively uncommon for the Black Sea coast, but can sometimes fall.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
- 1 Samsun-Çarşamba Airport (SZF IATA, Samsun Çarşamba Havaalanı), Çınarlık Bld., Girişi Pk (23 km east), ☏ +90 362 8848835. There are frequent flights from Istanbul, daily from other big Turkish cities and some international (mainly from Germany) flights in summer. The tramway does not yet reach the airport but if you do not want to pay for a taxi there are buses to the city centre and to Bafra for the Kızılırmak Delta.
There are frequent and reasonably priced buses to Ankara and eastwards along the Black Sea coast to Trabzon and beyond.
- 2 Bus Station (Samsun Yusuf Ziya Yılmaz Şehirlerarası Otobüs Terminali, Samsun Otogarı), Şht. Korhan Ekiz Blv (W 5 km). Servises (shuttle buses) no longer run between the downtown offices and the bus station. The E5 is probably the best bus to the city center. There are also frequent dolmuşes from the bus station to Cumhuriyet Meydanı.
The Hattı train runs once a day from Sivas, which has fast trains from Ankara, and slow trains from the east of Turkey. Trains each way set off around 08:30 and take 8 hours via Amasya and Havza. One other train leaves Amasya early morning and takes 3 hours to Samsun, returning late afternoon - this is shown on the regional or Bölgesel part of TCDD timetables, while the Hattı is a mainline or Anahat train.
This line was closed for years for track upgrading, with the promise of speedy journeys once the work was complete. Passenger services resumed in April 2023 but are as slow as ever; it's not clear if further work on the line is in hand to improve this.
3 Samsun railway station (Samsun Garı) is central, next to the harbour.
The city has a network of trams, buses, dolmuşes, and taxis.
The city travelcard is called Samkart and can be bought at the main tram stops and some shops. It can be used on buses or trams but not dolmuş.
Frequent trams run along the city parallel to the coast, between 19 Mayis University and the stadium, and the tramway may be extended to the airport. Only the main tram stations sell travelcards or tokens.
There are four numbered Dolmuş routes within the city and they are much more frequent than buses - you can always ask the driver details on where to get off, etc. There are also larger dolmuş with higher fares for destinations a little outside the city.
Vehicles rarely stop at the pedestrian crossings without lights.
The central seafront is very easy and pleasant to cycle along as is the Mert River, but there is no connection between the riverside and seaside cycle paths. There is also a separated bike path to Tekkeköy, but again it does not connect to any other bike path. There are private bike rental shops, mainly in Atakum. Bicycles cannot taken on a tram during peak hours (06:00-09:30 and 16:00-19:30).
There are scooters for rent near the seafront, between the golf course and marina.
- 1 Replica of SS Bandırma. This is the replica of the ferry that took Kemal Atatürk from Istanbul to the port of Samsun. Inside, there is a collection of photographs of Atatürk and his comrades. You can also watch a short film.
- Atatürk and his comrades, 19 Mayis Blv. Walking from the bottom of 19 Mayis Blv towards the sea you can see life size models of historical figures; and Atatürk and his comrades alighting from another, partial, replica of the Bandırma at the sea front.
- Amisos Hill (From the city centre take either number 1 (red) dolmus west to its last stop or tram to Baruthane: then walk up. Alternatively take the cable car from Batı Park.). Offers a sea view, Hellenistic era tombs, and cafes in pleasant grounds.
- 2 Mosque (Büyük Camii).
- 3 Mosque (Kursunlu Camii).
- 4 Göğceli Mosque (Mezarlık Cami), Terme Caddesi (Cemil Şensoy Cd.) (Çay Mahallesi in Çarşamba, a town a little further east (~30 km), inside Göğceli cemetery, (Göğçeli Mezarlığı)). One of the rare wooden mosques in Turkey, this one dates back to 1206, and its construction does not involve even a single nail (all wooden parts were inserted through each other).
- 5 Bedestan (Tarihi Bedestan Çarşısı), Namık Kemal Cd.
- 6 Gazi Museum, Gazi Cd, in Mecidiye (Center). A witness to Atatürk's activities while in Samsun. The collection includes some clothes and personal paraphernalia, purportedly belonging to him. It also includes a number of old photographs and maps.
- 7 Archaeology and Ethnographic Museum, 19 Mayıs Blv No. 5 (near Cumhuriyet Center). Dedicated to local history and artifacts, including the golden Amisos Treasure, which may have belonged to King Mithridates IV of Pontus more than two thousand years ago.
- 8 City Museum, Fuar Cd, Kale Mh. So new, the tobacco still smells good.
- 9 SS Bandırma and Independence War Museum.
- 10 Cerrahi Aletler ve Sağlık Müzesi.
- Dönüşüm Müzesi.
- Şeyh Sadi Tekkesi Kuva-i Milliye Ruhu Külliyesi ile Şehit ve Gazi Anı Evi.
- 1071'den 15 Temmuz'a Destanlar Müzesi.
- Canik Toy Museum (Canik Oyuncak Müzesi).
- Sea front — Good for walking or cycling, or you can take a ride in a horse drawn carriage.
- Boat trip. A trip along the coast which takes 2 hours, on a boat named Samsunum ("my Samsun").
Atakum Beach is long, free and sandy and has nice cafes across the small road from the beach, however there is little shade. Children and weak swimmers should beware of the variable depth, especially when there are big waves with rip currents possible, and check whether there is a rope in the sea and a lifeguard on duty.
Fener Beach is women only, has a small daily charge and is suitable for small children in that the water is shallow, it has shade and showers and is sheltered from waves. It is open 08:00-18:00 in summer. Access by public transport involves crossing a busy road, so unless you are staying at the Sheraton you may prefer to take a taxi if you have small children.
Bandırma Beach and Mert Beach are closed as of 2020.
In summer locals love to barbecue in the big parks and drink tea from samovars.
- Atatürk Park (aka Egg Park) (Central). Small and shady: with the famous statue.
- East Park (Doğu Park) (By the sea.). A bosky park with basketball and football areas and a lot of cafes. From here you could walk up the River Mert.
- West Park (Batı Park) (Take dolmus or tram to Baruthane). Big, with plenty of kitsch. A part of the park is dedicated to the Amazons, a legendary all-female warrior society which formed an independent realm in the area, with associated statues and a recreation of an Amazon village. This park is also by the sea but the young saplings didn't have enough time to grow into a canopy yet. There is a cable car to Amisos Hill.
- 11 Çakırlar Korusu (Take the westward tram to Üniversite stop. Walk across to the minibus station and as it is only a few minutes drive most minibuses will pass Çakırlar Korusu. Ask the driver to tell you where to get off. You will see it on the other side of the road: be careful as traffic does not stop for the crossing. To return to the city flag down any public minibus passing the main gate. Or if you have your own transport it is right next to the main road (see map by clicking blue square above) and well signed.). Small nature reserve with boardwalks over wetland forested with ash and elm. Picnic and sports area, restaurant and toilets. Free.
- Arts. If you are interested in arts, you will find a thing or two that you might like. There is a very large and interesting opera building with very cheap weekly shows.
- Go Karting. There is a go kart course in Batıpark (West Park)
- Fishing. The Black Sea is rich in fish varieties.
- Horse riding. There is a center just before Ondokuz Mayis University going out of town.
- Paintball. There is a paintball ground in the locality known as Körfez, somewhat far from city centre.
- Wakeboarding. In summer water skiers are towed around by an overhead circuit, near Dogupark (East Park)
- Festivals. Two festivals are celebrated annually in the city. Some competitions are held during the Bike Festival. On the other hand, concerts of popular singers are to be found during the Festival of OMÜ (Ondokuz Mayıs Üniversitesi). Both festivals are usually celebrated around the end of June.
- 1 Hilas Geothermal Spa, in the hamlet of Hamamayağı (3 km from the Samsun-Ankara road around Ladik; also 5 km from tiny Bekdiğin station, but if travelling by train, you may prefer the greater choice of spas around Amasya), ☏ +90 362 606 04 57. Not being in an earthquake zone, there are no geothermal spas in the city itself. But if you are coming from or going to Ankara or Boğazkale on your own wheels, a relaxing journey break or overnight stopover is possible at Hilas, with a modern small 1.4 m–deep pool for men and another for women, both with adjacent tiny 0.5 m kids pools. Pool temperature is under 28 °C (82 °F) so low enough for slow swimming, and there are steps for easy access. Massage or scrub (kese) can be booked. In summer, there is an outdoor aquapark with separate slides for adults and children. There is a mescid, 2 Zes brand chargers for electric cars and a large garden with picnic tables.
If you are a walker or cyclist heading onwards towards villages with fierce unruly dogs you can buy pepper spray in hunting shops here: let us know if it works.
There are plenty of modern hospitals if you need a quicker or cheaper op than you can get at home. Many doctors and dentists are women if that is important for you, but not all have good English.
Pide is one of Samsun's delicious 'events' and has four different types available Kapalı, peynirli-yumurtalı (cheese&egg), pastırmalı-yumurtalı (spicy bacon&egg) and sucuklu-yumurtalı (Turkish wurst&egg) although there are some further varieties also possible such as spinach, and kavurmalı.
The local people all eat pide every Sunday almost ritualistically. These pides are totally unique to the city, so don't expect to find them anywhere else.
Fried anchovies are delicious in winter.
Tea: always but not only after anchovies. If you find the tea too strong then "çay açık olsun" is the phrase you need.
If arriving by air internationally (direct, or via Istanbul and you have not yet cleared customs) you will need to walk across to the terminal on your right to collect your baggage, and buy duty-free alcohol if you wish.
- 1 Ozanlar Saz Evi. Tiny teashop where you can drink tea or Turkish coffee, and on weekend evenings listen to the musicians jamming under the picture of local saz player made good Orhan Gencebay
There are some hotels close to the beach, for example Hotel Serra.
You can "couchsurf" or there are plenty of small hotels near Ataturk Park (get off your bus or tram at Cumhuriyet Meydan). Or try the "öğretmenevi".
- 1 Hotel Serra (Serra Otel), Liman Mah. Rıhtım Bulv. No:3 (next to the port entrance), ☏ +90 444 70 93, email@example.com. A favourite with sportspeople.
Sheraton or Hotel Amisos.
- Wi-Fi at the airport is slower than the local tortoises.
- Amasya (SW 90 km - 3 hr by train or 2 by coach, Train is the nicest way to travel there: after leaving the outskirts of Samsun in the morning the first hour of the journey is the most scenic; peach orchards followed by a steep green river valley. The train is comfortable with plenty of space: but bring your own snacks or drinks as none are served.). — to the south is a pleasant riverside city with whitewashed houses and plenty of other historic attractions.
- Bogazkale (SW 310 km). A town close to Hattuşaş, which was once the capital of Hittite Empire, indigenous people of Anatolian highlands
- Ordu (NE 175—km (2½ hours)). On the way to more popular cities and sites of eternally rainy and green Eastern Black Sea
- Sinop (3 hrs to west). An ancient fortified port city jutting out on a peninsula into Turkey's northernmost tip
- Sivas (7 hours by train (out of service until 2021 for track relaying) to the south). An important city in Turkish history, today relatively small, but with a lovely Madresa complex, and a gateway to Central Anatolia.
- Trabzon, Trabzon Province. (3½ hours by car, 6 hours by bus). — with its seaside view badly ruined by the Black Sea Highway, is still an important historical city, that is great fun to explore. The main city of the northeast has a lot to offer a visitor, and is the place to stay when traveling to the stunning Sümela Monastery. Take a tour to Lake Uzungöl
- Kızılırmak Delta bird reserve Kızılırmak (literally "red river", due to its colour). The delta is great for birdwatching.
|Routes through Samsun|
|Akçakoca ← Kızılırmak Delta Bird Reserve ←||W E||→ Ünye ( S) → Ordu → Trabzon|
|Varna ← Black Sea ←||W E||→ Concurrent with|
|Chornomorske (Odessa) ← ←||N S||→ Merges with|
|END ←||N S||→ Havza ( W / E) → Merzifon ( W / E) → Çorum|