Places to Visit in Kayseri

A 4,000 Year-Old Trading Centre

Like many human habitats of Anatolia, Kayseri has a long history and a rich cultural heritage. Located 20 kilometres to the city centre, Kultepe Mound is the most important example of this heritage with a 6,000 year-old history. The importance of Kultepe is not due only to its long history. Kultepe became a trading centre during the 2nd millennium BC, which was one the earliest examples, and excavations unearthed important artefacts from the Bronze Age, the Age of Assyrian Trading Colonies, and the Hittites Era. Among them are the cuneiform tablets containing the oldest written documents of Anatolia which provided some valuable insight into the periods, on which little was known.

Kultepe as one of the first trading centres of the world imprinted its characteristic on Kayseri of past and present, and Kayseri has always been a city renowned for its trading. The trading that had started with the Assyrian Trading Colonies between 1950 and 1850 BC continued over the Royal Road passing Kayseri on the way connecting Sardes and Susa in the 5th century BC. During the Seljuk rule, Kayseri became one of the crucial cities on the Silk Road, which was the principal trading route. Today Kayseri maintains its historical heritage as an important centre of commerce and industry.

Due to its strategic location Kayseri changed hands between the states competing for domination, and many civilisations that played a role in its history left their imprint on its cultural treasures. The mounds with a history of thousands of years, some was excavated and arranged as open air museums; the reliefs on rock faces sculptured by the Hittites; the Roman burial structures; the rock-hewn churches from the early periods of Christianity; the structures adorning city centre built during the Danishmend, Seljuk and Ottoman eras render Kayseri a city where ancient and modern live in harmony, a cultural heritage site worth a visit.

Places Where History is Still Alive

The pre-lslamic past of Kayseri province can be traced in its counties and villages. In the city centre the most prominent monumental buildings were built during the Danishmend, Seljuk and Ottoman eras.

The Christian Monuments in Kayseri

One of the oft-visited sites in Kayseri is the Soğanlı Village of Yeşilhisar County.

The village is an important centre of Cappadocia and there are about fifty rock-hewn churches in its environs. Because of the natural characteristics of the rock, some of those churches were built with features of a usual structure, such as domes, vaults, and columns.

The churches built in quite a long period between the 4th century and 11th century were adorned with the frescoes depicting Biblical stories. While each deserves in its own right a visit, the most striking churches with their architectural features and frescoes are the Kubbeli Church, Karabaş Church, and St. Barbara Church.

While Soğanlı is the most important centre of Kayseri for rock-hewn churches built in different centuries, it is by no means the only place. There are many rock-hewn churches and monasteries, some of which were decorated with Biblical stories and are as splendid as the well-known examples in Cappadocia, in theErdemli Valley near Kayseri, in the Derevenk Valley of Talas County, at Tavlasun, in the Germir Village and in Gesi. Another important settlement where Christian churches and monasteries from different eras can be seen is Ağırnas County. The County has also the distinction of being the birth place of Mimar Sinan, the architect royal who built masterpieces in İstanbul as well as other principal urban centres defining the cityscapes of most of those cities. The house where he was born is a museum now situated in Aşağı Pınar neighbourhood, and the subterranean city used by the first Christians is also in the same area. As indicated by the worshipping spaces the subterranean city was used up to the 13th century.

 Islamic Monuments 

The Danishmend Principality, ruled between 1080 and 1178, eternalised their contribution to Kayseri with the Grand Mosque (known also as Cami-i Kebir) situated besides the Covered Bazaar. The mosque was commissioned by the Danishmend ruler Melik Mehmet Ghazi in the mid-12th century.

Another structure from Danishmend Era is the Gülük Mosque situated at the Melikgazi County. According to its inscription, it was substantially repaired in 1211 during the Seljuk reign. This is a must see place in Kayseri as the mihrab of the mosque is one of the masterpieces of Seljuk art of glazed ceramic tiles.

Kayseri reached its most prominent position during the Seljuk rule. When it was conquered by the Seljuk sultans, it became one of the three major cities of Seljuk together with Sivas and Konya, and it was rapidly rebuilt with many facilities for healing, trading, and madrasah for education as well as mosques. Those structures are the living proof of the city’s prominent position in trading and learning.

Most of the Seljuk structures in Kayseri are mosques and tombs of city’s notables. The Lale Mosquesituated in Lale neighbourhood is one of the largest mosques of Kayseri. On its south­eastern wall there is an adjacent tomb.

The Hunat Hatun Complex, built in 1238, comprises a mosque, a madrasah, a tomb and a public bathhouse. Each building has its own specific features to enjoy, but the masonry work of the whole complex is exceptional, and you may easily spend hours without noticing the passage of time there. The complex is a foundation commissioned by Hunat Hatun, the wife of the famous Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat I. The monumental portals of the eastern and western facades of the mosque, and the Tomb of Hunat Hatun were cited as one of the best masonry work of Seljuk arts and crafts. The master quality workmanship of the intricate carvings covering the Tomb’s facades is awe inspiring.

Kayseri was also an important centre of learning during the period of Seljuk Empire. There are many madrasahs, some independent while others ancillary to a religious complex, indicating that aspect. TheSeraceddin Madrasah built in 1238 is located next to the Hunat Hatun Complex. While its layout conforms to the plan of Seljuk madrasahs, it differs from them in decorations. The structure is completely plain without any decoration and resembles a stronghold more than a madrasah in that sense. The Sahabiye Madrasahwas built in 1267 and famous as a successful establishment because of its many prominent learned graduates. Like many other Seljuk structures the most interesting feature of the madrasah is its monumental portal. The Hacı Kılıç Mosque and Madrasah, built in 1249, is among the monumental structures of Kayseri. Externally the mosque and madrasah resemble a fortress with towers set in the corners. Its masonry work is also exquisite like many other Seljuk era structures.

As mentioned previously, the civilisations that have passed left their mark on Kayseri. The heritage of Eretna Principality is the Köşk Madrasah which was built in 1339, and the building indicates that the characteristic of Kayseri as a centre of learning was not lost with the changing time. While the Dulkadiroğlu Principality ruled in Kayseri and its environs for a short period of time, their heritage was the Hatuniye Madrasah. Built in 1432 the madrasah is a continuation of Seljuk style in its layout, the grand portal and the carved stone decorations.

The tombs and kümbets (large tombs) built for Sultans, their wives and family members, and for the notables are important pieces of the architectural heritage of Kayseri.

Each is a masterpiece in masonry and stone carving. One of the most beautiful structures of Kayseri is Döner Kümbet. It has an attractive stone carved decoration. Each facade of the dodecagon plan tomb is decorated with legendary creatures, and designs containing plant patterns and geometric shapes. The grave belongs to the Seljuk Princess Shah Cihan Hatun. Çifte Kümbet was commissioned in 1247 for Melike Adil Hatun, wife of Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat. Other examples are the Tomb of Kutluğ Hatun built in 1349 with a decorated entrance portal; Sırçalı Kümbet which derived its name from the tile decorations once covered its facades, a 14th century structure without a certain date of commission, and the Tomb of Melik Gazi which was built in the 12th century, situated in the Melikgazi Village of Pınarbaşı County.

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The first important structure from the Ottoman Period is the Kurşunlu Mosque. It was designed and built by Mimar Sinan as a gift to his birthplace, Kayseri. Displaying all splendour of classical Ottoman architecture the mosque was built in 1585.

As Kayseri continued to be an important trading centre during the Seljuk and Ottoman eras, many of the important structures are commercial buildings. To ensure that the traders travel in safety and comfort, caravanserais built along the roads and in the city centres of Anatolia by the Sultans. One of the most glorious examples of them is Sultanhani Caravanserai built by Seljuk Sultan in present day Bünyan County. Another example is the Karatay Caravanserai again in the same county. Both structures date back to the 13th century.

The foremost example of Ottoman stopover structures is the Kara Mustafa Paşa Caravanserai which was built in 1670 as a part of a religious complex. The Vezir Caravanserai was built in 1727 and in line with the inner city Ottoman caravanserais, it was laid out as a two storey building centred on a courtyard.

The Kapalı Çarşı (Covered Bazaar), Pamuk Caravanserai which is a 15th century structure and Bedestenwhich was built in 1497 are other trade related structures representing the commercial background of Kayseri.

There are also many buildings in Kayseri which were developed by alterations and additions carried out by later civilisations. The Kayseri Castle is an example of such structures, which has reached our times in quite a well preserved state. The city walls were first built during the Roman Era to defend Kayseri which was under ceaseless threat of attack due to its strategic importance, and during the Byzantine Era they were shortened and reduced. During the Seljuk and Ottoman eras it was repaired several times but remained under constant use.

Museums Displaying the History of Kayseri 

Kayseri Archaeological Museum: The artefacts found in Kayseri and at the mounds and tumuli around the city are on display at the museum. Some of the artefacts are from the Chalcolithic Age dating back to the 5500 BC. The most valuable artefacts without a doubt are the cuneiform tablets containing the earliest commercial correspondence and records of the Assyrian Trading Colonies. The reliefs carved on rocks, statues and stelae from Hittites which played a very significant role in the history of Anatolia are also among the important artefacts. Phrygian ceramics unearthed at the Kültepe Mound are displayed in the same gallery. The second gallery is devoted to a later part of Kayseri’s history, to the artefacts of Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras. Among them are exquisite Roman sculptures, and especially the sarcophagus of Heracles must be seen and admired.

Address: Gültepe Mah. Kışla Cad. No: 2 Melikgazi

Tel: (+90 352) 222 21 48/49

Ethnography Museum: The museum is housed in a very interesting building, the Güpgüpoğlu Mansion. The earliest record of the house dates back to 1419 and it is one the earliest examples of mansion houses in Turkey. Some parts of the museum were designed to make the visitors feel in an Ottoman house, and other sections are used as galleries displaying Seljuk and Ottoman artefacts such as clothing items and manuscripts.

Address: Cumhuriyet Mah. Tennuri Sokak Melikgazi

Tel: (+90 352) 222 95 16

Gevher Nesibe Museum of Medical History: It consists of two buildings, one of which was a healing centre and the other was a madrasah, a centre of learning. They now serve as a museum displaying artefacts shedding light to the medical practice in the history of Seljuk Empire. According to the inscription over the entrance portal of Sifahane (healing centre), it was commissioned following the last will of Gevher Nesibe who was the sister of Seljuk Sultan Giyaseddin Keyhusrev I and who is believed to be buried in the tomb at the madrasah. Gevher Nesibe was very saddened that no cure was available for her ailment; therefore, she willed that the doctors trained here would heal the other patients. One of the interesting sections of the Museum is Bimarhane, the mental hospital, where the patients were treated with music. The Museum displays various medical instruments and an operation table used during the Seljuk Era, and the rooms used by patients, nurses and physicians can also be seen.

Address: Mimar Sinan Park Tel: (+90 352) 437 52 72

Alternative Options for the Visitors to Kayseri

Mount Erciyes, the symbol of Kayseri, is the highest mountain in Central Anatolian Region. It is a volcano which became extinct long time ago and which is preferred by mountaineering enthusiasts for climbing. Moreover, with its modern facilities, developed infrastructure utilities and ski pistes, Erciyes is the most important centre for winter sports in the region.

To the north of Erciyes, 70 kilometres from Kayseri, is Sultan Sazlığı (reed bed) which is the home of about 300 bird types and approximately 400 plant varieties. In this respect it is a must-visit natural heaven for nature lovers.

Shopping, Food and Drink 

Kayseri has a rich local cuisine and its handicrafts are recognised as one of the best of Turkey. The Bünyan Carpets, which associate its name with the town they have been woven, are one of the most valuable handcrafted souvenirs that can be purchased in Kayseri. Another county of Kayseri is also associated with carpet weaving, namely Yahyali; the knotted pile carpets of Yahyali differ from the Bünyan Carpets with woollen warp and pile knotting yarns, a distinction dates back to the 14th century. Soğanlı Village of Yeşilhisar County is famous for handcrafted rug dolls made by village women.

The rich cuisine of Kayseri rendered some tastes closely associated with the city. The fried and boiled mantı(filled dumplings), sucuk (spicy sausages) and pastırma (highly seasoned air-dried cured beef) which can be consumed as a separate dish or added to various dishes to improve the taste, are identified with Kayseri.Aşmakarna (handmade and dried pasta prepared in late summer and used in winter to make a thick soup or consumed similar to macaroni dishes), arabaşı (the thick chicken soup served with specially baked soft dough), kesme çorbası (a kind of soup prepared with homemade noodles) and güveç (“meat and vegetables slowly baked in a clay pot) are other well-known tastes of Kayseri. Tasting mantı, which can be prepared in 26 different ways, is a must in Kayseri.

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