Kayseri

The capital of Cappadocia, Kayseri is best known as the starting point for all excursions into the region. Many travellers see Kayseri simply as the gateway to Cappadocia, without taking the time to visit it. Yet the city offers great opportunities for cultural visits, with its museums and ancient buildings.

So don't hesitate to dedicate a day or two of your stay to discovering this city of a thousand faces. Push open the door of the Hunat Hatun complex, visit the archaeological museum, admire the Great Mosque or, more surprisingly, strap on your skis and hit the slopes of Mount Erciyes! Apart from the ski resort, most of the city's monuments and points of interest revolve around the central square, so you'll have no trouble finding your way around.

Aerial view of Kayseri, Cappadocia (Turkey)

- © Heracles Kritikos / Shutterstock

History of Kayseri

According to historians and archaeologists, the Kayseri region has been inhabited by man since 4000 BC. At that time, the town was called Mazaka. Phrygians, Medes and Persians came and went, making the city one of the most important in Cappadocia. Around 10 BC, in Roman times, Mazaka was renamed Caesarea and officially became the capital of the region. It was not until the 7th-9th century that the city was finally taken by the Arabs, who renamed it Kaisariyah - which later became Kayseri.

Aerial view of Kayseri, Cappadocia (Turkey)

- © JackKPhoto / Shutterstock

Even today, Kayseri contains many treasures of Ottoman and Seljuk architecture, testimony to its history. But the capital of Cappadocia is also a resolutely modern city, with its shops, tramway and green spaces that are much appreciated by the locals.

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What to see in Kayseri

As the commercial and industrial centre of Cappadocia, Kayseri is an easy town to visit on foot, with the vast majority of tourist attractions located around the central square. One of the must-sees is the Archaeology Museum (€1.25 entrance fee), which boasts an interesting collection of ancient artefacts: pottery, clay tablets, alabaster idols, sarcophagi, etc. It's the perfect place to delve a little deeper into the region's 6,000-year-old history.

Ancient sarcophagus on display at the Kayseri Archaeological Museum. The engravings represent the 12 labors of Hercules

- © fpolat69 / Shutterstock

Built in the 6th century and rebuilt in 1124 from black volcanic rock, Kayseri Castle (also known as Kayseri Citadel) stands proudly on Cumhuriyet Square. This imposing building now houses a large bazaar, where you can buy spices, carpets and other typical products.

Kayseri Castle, also known as Kayseri Citadel

- © Heracles Kritikos / Shutterstock

Situated opposite the citadel, the Hunat Hatun complex often goes unnoticed. This large building, built in the 1230s, has everything to delight visitors: alongside a mosque, a medersa (school) and a mausoleum, you'll find traditional Turkish baths and a large market where locals and tourists mingle. And best of all, admission is free.

L'accès au complexe de Hunat Hatun est totalement gratuit

- © savas_bozkaya / Shutterstock

The city of Kayseri is also characterised by its many religious monuments. The Ulu Camii Mosque - the Great Mosque - is the city's oldest mosque. Built in 1140 and renovated in the 13th century, it features a distinctive cylindrical red-brick minaret. The architecture and decoration of the Bürüngüz and Kursunlu mosques are also well worth a visit.

The Bürüngüz mosque is located right next to Kayseri Castle.

- © Nejdet Duzen / Shutterstock

Where can you ski in Kayseri?

Incredible but true: you can ski in Cappadocia! Located around 25 kilometres south of Kayseri, Mount Erciyes is an extinct volcano whose summit is covered in snow all year round. Popular with hikers and skiers alike, this 3,916-metre mountain has its own ski resort, with 2 chairlifts and 2 drag lifts. The slopes are open from mid-November to mid-April, for an unusual experience in Turkey!

A few kilometers from Kayseri, Mount Erciyes attracts many skiers and hikers.

- © attraction art / Shutterstock

What can you bring back as a souvenir from Kayseri?

The town of Kayseri is nestled in the centre of an agricultural region. Much of its industrial activity is therefore food-related. To take home a souvenir of your stay in Cappadocia, go to the market and buy some food that will withstand the journey in the hold. Dried fruit is delicious, as are local spices and sucuk, a kind of large spicy sausage.

Shopping street in downtown Kayseri, Cappadocia (Turkey)

- © AlexelA / Shutterstock

But Kayseri's fame also comes from its textile industry, and more specifically from carpet-making. Coloured red and blue (thanks to plant-based pigments), the wool or silk carpets are the pride of the craftsmen.

Finally, take care if you want to bring back an antique object. Always check its authenticity, as possession of an item belonging to the country's heritage is punishable by imprisonment.

Stand of a traditional carpet merchant in Kayseri, Cappadocia (Turkey)

- © savas_bozkaya / Shutterstock

Where to eat in Kayseri

In Kayseri, as throughout Turkey, every meal is a feast! Turkish food is simply delicious. Starters come in the form of a variety of mezzés: stuffed vegetables, berek, aubergine caviar, etc. For the main course, try the town's culinary speciality, pastrima, made with strips of dried beef and spices. At the end of the meal, candied fruit and baklava make their entrance: for fans of sweet puff pastries with honey!

The Kayseri Loft Hotel Cappadocia

The Kayseri Loft Hotel

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For traditional dishes in the heart of the city, head to the Haci Baba restaurant! You'll find all the typical dishes of Cappadocia, in a warm, no-fuss setting. Housed in a former Armenian palace, the Konak restaurant offers a variety of cuisine inspired by other regions of the country. Unfortunately, the restaurant is a little out of the way and requires a journey by car or taxi.

by Jude JONES
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