Where to Visit in Kayseri
Kayseri is a large industrialised city in Central Anatolia, Turkey, and the capital of Kayseri province. Historically known as Caesarea, it has been the historical capital of Cappadocia since ancient times. The Kayseri Metropolitan Municipality area is composed of five districts: the two central districts of Kocasinan and Melikgazi, and since 2004, also outlying Hacılar, İncesu and Talas.
As of 31 December 2021, the province had a population of 1,434,357 of whom 1,175,886 live in the four urban districts, excluding İncesu which is not conurbated (i.e. not contiguous, having a largely non-protected buffer zone).
Kayseri sits at the foot of Mount Erciyes (Turkish: Erciyes Dağı), a dormant volcano that reaches an altitude of 3,916 metres (12,848 feet), more than 1,500 metres above the city’s mean altitude. It contains a number of historic monuments, particularly from the Seljuk period. Tourists often pass through Kayseri en route to the attractions of Cappadocia to the west. Kayseri is served by Erkilet International Airport and is home to Erciyes University.
Kayseri was originally called Mazaka or Mazaca and was known as such to the geographer Strabo, during whose time it was the capital of the Roman province of Cappadocia, known also as Eusebia at the Argaeus, after Ariarathes V Eusebes, King of Cappadocia (163–130 BC).
In 14 AD its name was changed by Archelaus (d. 17 AD), the last King of Cappadocia (36 BC–14 AD) and a Roman vassal, to “Caesarea in Cappadocia” (to distinguish it from other cities with the name Caesarea in the Roman Empire) in honour of Caesar Augustus upon his death. This name was rendered as Καισάρεια (Kaisáreia) in Koine Greek, the dialect of the later Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire, and it remained in use by the natives (nowadays known as Cappadocian Greeks, due to their spoken language, but then referred to as Rum due to their previous Roman citizenship) until their expulsion from Turkey in 1924. (Note that letter C in classical Latin was pronounced K. When the first Turks arrived in the region in 1080 AD, they adapted this pronunciation, which eventually became Kayseri in Turkish, remaining as such ever since.)
Kayseri has a cold semi-arid climate in the Köppen climate classification (BSk), or a temperate continental climate in the Trewartha climate classification (Dc). It experiences cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers with cool nights. Precipitation occurs throughout the year, albeit with a marked decrease in late summer and early fall.
The city is served by Erkilet International Airport (ASR) which is a short distance from the centre of Kayseri. It offers several flights a day to Istanbul. Kayseri is connected to the rest of country by rail services. There are four trains a day to Ankara. To the east there are two train routes, one to Kars and the other to Tatvan at the western end of Lake Van. As the city is located in central Turkey, road transportation is very efficient. It takes approximately three hours to reach Ankara, the same to the Mediterranean coast and 45 minutes to Cappadocia. A notable ski resort in winter and accessible for trekking in summer, Mt Erciyes is only 30 minutes’ drive from the city centre.
Within the city transportation largely relies on buses and private vehicles although there is also a light rail transit (LRT) system called Kayseray which runs to the inter-city bus terminal and to Talas.
Kayseri has several culinary specialities including mantı, pastırma and sucuk. Another speciality is stuffed zucchini flowers made with köfte, garlic and spices. Nevzine is a traditional dessert.
Republic Square, Kayseri Castle, Kayseri Clock Tower, Bürüngüz Mosque, Hunat Mosque, Kayseri Bazaar (Kapali Carsi), Forum Kayseri, Surp Asdvadzadzin Virgin Mary Church Research Library (Surp Asdvadzadzin Meryem Ana Kilisesi Araştırma Kütüphanesi), Ataturk House Museum, The National Struggle Museum.
Inside the centre of Kayseri the most unmissable reminder of the past are the huge basalt walls that once enclosed the old city. Dating back to the sixth century and the reign of the Emperor Justinian, they have been repeatedly repaired, by the Seljuks, by the Ottomans and more recently by the current Turkish government.]In 2019 Kayseri Archaeology Museum moved from an outlying location to a new site inside the walls.
The Grand Mosque (Ulu Cami) was started by the Danişmend emir Melik Mehmed Gazi who is buried beside it although it was only completed by the Seljuks after his death.
There are many magnificent reminders of the Seljuk supremacy in and around the walls as well as many much smaller kümbets (domed tombs) of which the most impressive is the Döner Kümbet (Revolving Tomb). The oldest surviving Seljuk place of worship – and the oldest Seljuk mosque built in Turkey – is the Hunat Hatun Mosque complex which still includes a functioning hamam with separate sections for men and women dating back to 1238.
Near the mosque is the Sahabiye Medresesi, a theological school dating back to 1267 with a magnificent portal typical of Seljuk architecture. Very similar is the Avgunlu (Havuzlu) Medresesi which now serves as a large bookshop-cum-cafe in a park.
Another Seljuk survivor is the grand Halikılıç Mosque complex which has two spectacular entrance portals. It dates back to 1249 but was extensively restored three centuries later.
Post-dating the Seljuks is the Güpgüpoğlu Mansion which dates back to the early 15th century but is open to the public with the furnishings it would have had in the late 19th century when it was home to the poet and politician Ahmed Midhad Güpgüpoğlu.
Close to the walls is Kayseri’s own Kapalı Çarşı (Covered Market), still a bustling commercial centre selling cheap clothes, shoes and much else. Deep inside it is the older and very atmospheric Vezir Han which was commissioned in the early 18th century by Nevşehir-born Damad İbrahim Paşa who became a grand vizier to Sultan Ahmed III before being assassinated in 1730.
The Kayseri suburb of Talas was the ancestral home of Calouste Gulbenkian, Aristotle Onassis and Elia Kazan. Once ruinous following the expulsion of its Armenian population in 1915 and then of its Greek population in 1923, it was largely reconstructed in the early 21st century. The Greek Orthodox Church of St Mary, built in 1888, has been converted into the Yaman Dede Mosque. Similarly attractive is the suburb of Germir, home to three 19th-century churches and many fine old stone houses.
Mount Erciyes (Erciyes Dağı) looms over Kayseri and serves as a trekking and alpinism centre. During the 2010s an erstwhile small, local ski resort was developed into more of an international attraction with big-name hotels and facilities suitable for all sorts of winter pastimes.
The archaeological site of Kanesh-Kültepe, one of the oldest cities in Asia Minor, is 20 km northeast of Kayseri.
Ağırnas, a small town with many lovely old houses, was the birthplace in 1490 of the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, and a house traditionally associated with him is open to the public as a museum. Beneath it there is one of the underground cities so typical of Cappadocia. The restored church of St Prokopius dates back to 1857 and serves as a cultural centre. The small town of Develi also contains some attractive old houses. The 19th-century Armenian Church of St Mary has been turned into the Aşağı Everek Cami (Lower Everek Mosque).