10 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Bodrum
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Bodrum is Turkey's Turquoise Coast at its most vibrant. This is a holiday destination du jour, with a marina full of bobbing yachts ready to whisk you out onto the Mediterranean; a handful of ancient attractions for sightseeing; and a town filled with photogenic, old, whitewashed houses.
Once the ancient city of Halicarnassus, by the late Ottoman era, Bodrum had turned into a simple fishing village, but all that changed in the 1940s when tourism entered the fold. Now during summer, this town buzzes with energy as tourists come from all over the world to soak up Bodrum's charm. If you happen to visit out of season, though, you can still catch a hint of the old village atmosphere. Find the best places to visit with our list of top tourist attractions in Bodrum.
See also: Where to Stay in Bodrum
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Castle of St. Peter
Lording over the seafront, the Castle of St. Peter is at the top of every visitor's things to do in Bodrum list. The Knights Hospitallers of St. John built the structure between 1402 and 1437, and knights of the various nationalities of the order were entrusted with the defense of particular sections of the walls. Among the various towers are the French Tower; English Tower, with a sculpted lion on its west wall; and the Gatineau Tower, which leads to the dungeons.
During the reign of the Ottoman sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the castle passed into Turkish hands and a mosque was built inside. Today, many of the vast halls inside the castle display the exhibits of Bodrum's Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
2. Museum of Underwater Archaeology
This absolutely brilliant museum inside the Castle of St. Peter is a must-see attraction, even if you don't have an interest in underwater archaeology. The layout of the exhibits is clearly organized, and the dazzling artifacts are complemented by slick multimedia displays. After the entrance, with its huge amphorae collection and a glass-blowing workshop that kids will find fascinating, you enter the Glass Wreck Hall, which displays a 16-meter ship that sunk in AD 1025.
The French Tower is home to another dazzling underwater find — the cargo of a classical Greek ship that sunk in the 4th century BC. In the Uluburun Wreck Hall and adjacent Treasure room is the museum's crowning glory — the excavated finds recovered from several Bronze Age shipwrecks.
Address: Castle of St. Peter, Kale Sokak
3. Boat Trips & Things to Do on the Water
Bodrum is all about the sea. The vast amount of visitors that arrive are here for a lazy holiday of sun, sea, and sand. Boat trips are the most popular way to get out on the water, with hundreds of tours on offer during the summer months, ranging from a couple of hours to multi-day yacht trips down the coast. Many resorts also offer kayaking, fishing, and jet-skiing as well.
Bodrum harbor is home to plenty of yachts ready to whisk you out onto the Aegean Sea for a boat trip. There are both half- and full-day trips on offer that promise hours of sunbathing on board, simply soaking up the scenery of the turquoise sea, the rocky coast of the Bodrum Peninsula, and the tiny islets offshore with lots of swimming stops included. A great option is the full-day Bodrum Peninsula Cruise with lunch, which includes a chance to swim, snorkel, and sunbathe, as well as explore the island of Kara Ada. If you don't fancy joining a group trip, and would like to make your own itinerary, you can also hire a yacht with crew for the day privately.
4. Sunbathe on the Bodrum Peninsula Beaches
Outside of Bodrum town, the Bodrum Peninsula is home to several beaches, which get crammed full of sunbathers soaking up the heat during the summer months. The towns of Ortakent (with two strips of sand: Fink beach and Stone beach), Bitez, and Turgetreis all have good beaches on offer, but there are plenty more to search out if you have the time. The entire peninsula is popular with both domestic and European tourists, so don't expect to find an isolated patch of sand. During the height of summer, this is one of Turkey's most popular places to be and going to the beach is the top thing to do.
It doesn't look like much these days — you may need to put your imagination hat on — but this pile of ancient marble and rubble was once one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Mausoleum of Mausolus was built in Halicarnassus (Bodrum's ancient name) by the architect Pytheos as the final resting place of King Mausolus (376-353 BC). When finished, the impressive towering structure measured 46 meters high and was decorated with magnificent friezes by the most celebrated Greek sculptors of the day.
Despite damage by earthquakes over the centuries, it was only finally destroyed by the Knights Hospitallers, who used its stones to build the Castle of St. Peter. The modern day site, in a peaceful garden setting, is worthy of a look if only just to say you've seen one of the seven ancient wonders. There's also a helpful scale model of the original mausoleum on site.
6. Myndos Gate (Myndos Kapisi)
One for the supreme history fiends on a hunt for the remnants of Halicarnassus, this gate is the last remaining chunk of King Mausolus' once sturdy fortress walls, which wrapped around the ancient city for seven kilometers. For tourists who enjoy a bit of poking about, plenty of small ruins are nearby, including a scattering of tombs and mosaic fragments left in situ, as well as the sparse remnants of a 4th-century BC moat. None of these remains in themselves have a wow-factor, but combined they make an interesting hour or so of exploring.
7. Bodrum Theater
Bodrum's ancient theater may be small by Roman standards but it has been beautifully restored, and the views from the upper tiers, out towards the mountains, are superb. In its heyday during the 4th century, it would have held 13,000 spectators. If you're here in summer, Bodrum uses the theater for a program of events and concerts. Check out if there's anything on while you're in town, as seeing a performance within the theater is the best way of imagining how it would have been used in the grand era of Halicarnassus.
8. Marina and Shipyard
It's the crystal blue Mediterranean that calls most visitors to Bodrum, and yachting is big business here. The marina is a sailor's and sea-lover's paradise, crammed with bobbing yachts of all shapes and sizes. There are dozens of options to get out onto the water, with excursion vessels offering day trips (or longer) around the coast, visiting islands and hidden coves for sunbathing and swimming. If you follow the marina road farther west, you'll come to the Ottoman shipyard, which has some interesting tombstones and great marina views.
9. Explore the Old Town
Just behind the Castle of St. Peter is Bodrum's most interesting area. The narrow pedestrian alleyways here are lined with vine-draped, whitewashed, and stone-cut cottages that look like they fell off a postcard. Much of Bodrum has been modernized, so this is one of the few parts of town where you can still get a feel for the fishing village it once was before tourism moved in. It's an incredibly charming place for a late afternoon wander, and heaven for photographers. There are plenty of cute boutiques and cafés in this area if you need to sit down and relax after strolling.
10. Shop at the Bazaar
If you're looking for some retail therapy, Bodrum has it all. The modern bazaar area is an upmarket take on an original Turkish market, with proper shops rather than stalls. It offers less room for bargaining but what it loses in authenticity, it makes up for in choice. There's everything here, from gorgeous Turkish and Central Asian textiles and colorful local pottery to a bling-fest of gold shops and snazzy beachwear. A lazy afternoon meandering between the shops after a morning of sunbathing is what Bodrum is all about.
Where to Stay in Bodrum for Sightseeing
- Luxury Hotels: El Vino Hotel & Suites is a four-star boutique hotel in a peaceful location but still only a walk into Bodrum town. It has a panoramic rooftop terrace with a pool, and breakfast is included.
The Marmara is one of Bodrum's most high-class hotels with views across the entire town stretching out to the sea, a vast pool area, top-end restaurant, and rooms bedecked with chic modern furnishings.
- Mid-Range Hotels: The family-friendly Voyage Bodrum has a long private beachfront, big pool area, games room, and a popular spa and sauna offering a vast range of treatments.
Another affordable resort is the Forever Club, always popular with tourists due to its welcoming staff, big private beach, outdoor pool, basketball court, and spa with traditional Turkish bath facilities.
- Budget Hotels: In a great central position, near St. Peter's Castle, the friendly Hotel Istankoy Bodrum has a sociable pool area, good-sized rooms with excellent facilities, and a restaurant. Breakfast is included.
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Island Hopping: With plenty of ferries heading to the Greek islands, Bodrum is a main entry or exit point to and from Turkey. If you want to combine a Turkey and Greece holiday, this is a great place to start. From Bodrum, you can catch regular ferries to Rhodes, with its main town of medieval walls and cobblestone alleys, as well as to Kos.
Heading up the Coast: From Bodrum, head north up the coast to visit one of the world's best preserved Roman city ruins at Ephesus, Turkey's most famous archaeological site. To visit the ruins, you could base yourself in Kusadasi, with its harbor, castle, and beach resorts, or in Selçuk, with its pretty cobblestone alleys, Byzantine and Roman ruins, and the excellent Ephesus Museum.