10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Gaziantep
Brimming with restored Seljuk and Ottoman architecture, Gaziantep's historic old city is one of the top destinations in Turkey's southeastern region. Heading up the list of its attractions is the Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum (home to one of the world's most famous collections of mosaics) but there are plenty of other brilliant little museums dotted around town.
Gaziantep is also one of Turkey's most well-known foodie destinations, heralded across the country for producing the best baklava, and many travelers are here solely for the food. There are approximately 200 pastry shops where you can sample this famed Turkish sweet. Find out more about the best places to visit with our list of the top tourist attractions in Gaziantep.
Note: Due to security and safety concerns, please check travel advisories before visiting this region.
1. Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum
Top of the list of things to do in the city is this state-of-the-art museum (opened in 2012), which displays the fine mosaics unearthed during the excavation of the nearby Belkis-Zeugma archaeological site. On opening, it became the world's largest mosaic museum. The craftsmanship of these Roman-era artworks is magnificent and would have once graced the floors of Zeugma's many grand Roman villas. Some of the pieces are rightly regarded by experts as some of the best examples of Roman mosaic work in the world. Look out particularly for the famed Gypsy Mosaic, with its intricate and stunningly life-like detailing.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Gaziantep
2. Citadel (Kale)
This Seljuk era citadel (built in the 12th and 13th centuries) occupies the site of an earlier Byzantine fortress built under the Emperor Justinian's command in the 6th century. The citadel towers over the northern edge of Gaziantep's Old City, sitting atop the hill of Tell Halaf, which is known to have been settled as early as 3500 BC. The small Gaziantep Defense and Heroism Panoramic Museum inside the citadel is dedicated to the locals who defended the city against the French in 1920.
3. Gaziantep Archaeological Museum
The town's archaeology museum displays finds excavated at surrounding sites, including Zincirli, Karkamis, and Sakçaközu. It's a small collection, but history lovers will still appreciate a visit here, particularly for the Hittite remains in the Karkamis exhibits. The Karkamis site was first excavated by a British Museum team in the years leading up to World War I, and one of the two archaeologists in charge of the site was TE Lawrence, who went on to find fame as "Lawrence of Arabia" for his exploits in the war helping to lead the Arab Revolt. There is also an extensive collection of ancient Near Eastern stamp seals on display here.
4. Gaziantep City Museum
This great little museum, set in the restored Bayazhan building, uses dioramas and multimedia displays to tell the story of Gaziantep in an interesting and fun way. When you've finished touring the exhibits, sit down in the central courtyard for a coffee or browse through one of the stalls here that sell local crafts. The museum is also occasionally used as a cultural center for visiting musicians and artists. Check out if any event is happening while you're in town.
5. Gaziantep Ethnography Museum
Dive into the town's past at the ethnography museum, where well-curated dioramas detail scenes of Gaziantep daily life down through the ages. In particular, don't miss the beautiful Ottoman costumes on display. The museum is based in a wonderfully restored Ottoman mansion, which still has its original layout, with rooms reserved for females and rooms for receiving and entertaining guests. A wander through the rooms allows you insight into the lifestyles and rituals of the Ottoman era.
6. Emine Gögüs Culinary Museum
Say the name Gaziantep to a Turk, and they'll usually start talking about food. This city is known as one of the country's culinary capitals, so it's no surprise that there's a museum dedicated to its food. The layout and excellent information panels guide you through Gaziantep's most famed dishes, which of course include the sticky, syrupy delights of the town's baklava, but also plenty of savory dishes that have an extra-spicy kick compared to much of Turkish cuisine. You'll most likely walk out of the museum hungry, so study up the information panels while in the museum and then head out with your new knowledge to taste some local flavors for lunch.
7. Gaziantep Mosques
Gaziantep has a wealth of mosques from different time periods. A stroll in the central old city district is a good chance to visit a few and appreciate their different architectural elements. The Kurtulus Mosque (off Eyüboglu Caddesi) started off life as a church and has been finely restored in recent years. The Alaüddevie Mosque (Sehitler Caddesi) and Tahtani Mosque (Eski Gümrük Caddesi) both feature striking Islamic architectural features.
If you have a particular interest in mosque architecture, head outside the Old City to the southwest town district where you'll find the well-preserved 11th-century Ömeriji Mosque.
Founded by the Seleucid ruler Nicator I, Belkis-Zeugma rose to prominence under later Roman rule and was a prosperous city of trading merchants until its destruction by the Sassanid Persian army in AD 252. Excavations here in the 1990s revealed a treasure-trove of Roman mosaics gracing the floors of the fine Roman villas. The best examples of these mosaics can now be viewed in the Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum.
The opening of the Birecik Dam in 2000 resulted in the flooding of some of the archaeological site, but the area still above water is worthy of a visit, especially if you've viewed the mosaics in Gaziantep. Some of the less-important mosaics have been left in situ, and as you walk around the site, you can clearly make out the plans of these once grand villas.
When the Birecik Dam was opened in 2000, the tranquil village of Halfeti and the nearby Rumkale and Savas villages became victims of Turkey's march to modernization. These traditional villages, with their old Ottoman architecture, were partially submerged under the dam water, and many villagers were resettled by the government. The villages make a lovely day trip from Gaziantep, though there's a slightly surreal edge to sightseeing here, with mosque minarets poking defiantly out of the dam water, and abandoned village houses tumbling right down to the shore. To get the best views take a boat-trip from Halfeti to Rumkale (where there's a fortress on a cliff) and on to Savas.
Beside the town of Sakçagoz are five old settlement mounds, where excavations have revealed 12 levels of occupation dating from the Stone Age to the 1st Century AD. Finds on the smallest mound include the remains of a palace, with an ante-room and defensive wall, as well as sphinxes and stone blocks carved with reliefs that date to the 8th century BC (now on display in Ankara's Museum of Anatolian Civilizations).
Excavations at the site of Karahüyük, five kilometers northeast, have revealed a flourishing Early Bronze Age trading settlement, with a wealth of finds that date back to the Chalcolithic period.
Where to Stay in Gaziantep for Sightseeing
- Luxury Hotels: Grand Hotel Gaziantep is a five-star hotel, with recently renovated rooms, all with city views; an included breakfast; a gym; and a decent location about equal distance between the historic center and the Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum. Divan Hotel Gaziantep is the town's most contemporary hotel, with big rooms decked out in cool neutrals, a restaurant, indoor pool, gym, and spa, plus breakfast is included.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Hampton by Hilton Gaziantep has an excellent central location within walking distance to sights, with modern rooms, a gym, restaurant, and included breakfast. Ali Bey Konagi is a more intimate choice, in a restored 100-year-old mansion that's right in the center of the historic district. Rooms and public areas brim with old-fashioned charm, with Turkish carpets and antiques, and breakfast is included.
- Budget Hotels: Asude Konak is another central choice in the historic quarter of town, in a charming stone and wood building. Breakfast is included; service is friendly; and rooms are decorated in traditional Turkish style, full of wood detailing and silverware antiques.
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Heading East: Gaziantep is a great place to start a road trip east. From here, head to Mardin for its old churches, hilltop castle, and famous monasteries out of town, then continue on to Sanliurfa to visit Turkey's famous Göbeklitepe archaeological site.
Back on the Tourist Route: The southeast only gets a handful of Turkey's tourism numbers but is easily combined with some of its more well-known attractions. From here, strike out to Cappadocia for the Byzantine monasteries carved into volcanic rock and its famous hot air ballooning, then head back west to Konya, home to the whirling dervishes and the Mevlana Museum before ending up in Ankara (Turkey's capital) to visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilization, the Atatürk Mausoleum, and the Gordion archaeological site.