City of Safranbolu

With its special houses and saffron plant that is very rare, Safranbolu is a magical place. Such that, Safranbolu houses are among 18 heritages in Turkey that are on the UNESCO’s world heritage list. In addition to those houses and saffron plant, Safranbolu was also important in history. 

It is located between the Kızılırmak river and Filyos district, and it passed into the hands of different civilizations and different states. This information is derived from archives and traveler notes in history. The whole city of Safranbolu is considered a big museum.

Visiting the city of Safranbolu

No matter how you found yourself in the city of Safranbolu, you should consider yourself lucky. It is one of the places in Turkey that makes you feel like you are in some other world. So do not forget to enjoy your trip to the city of Safranbolu.

Where is the City of Safranbolu located on the map of Turkey?

The city of Safranbolu is in Karabük, which is a part of the Black Sea region. It is on the west side of the black sea and has no seashore, it is located a little inland. Karabük is surrounded by Zonguldak, Bartın, Kastamonu, Bolu, and Çankırı. It is a quite small area, so it could be tricky to find it on a map.

How do you get to the City of Safranbolu?

There are various options to get to the city of Safranbolu according to your starting point. Actually, there are different options for each starting point. This means that you can experiment in terms of your road to the city of Safranbolu.

There is an airport in Kastamonu, which is quite close to Karabük, that you can land in to get to the city of Safranbolu, or you might choose Ankara Esenboga airport to land. 

The city of Safranbolu is 136 kilometers away from Kastamonu airport, but there are no public transportation options that directly goes to the city of Safranbolu from there. But you can use public transportation to get to Kastamonu bus station, and you can take a bus from there to the city of Safranbolu, which will cost you approximately 55 Turkish liras.

If you decide to land in Ankara Esenboga Airport, there will be 240 kilometers of distance between the airport and the city of Safranbolu, which will take approximately 3 hours of driving. Yet like in Kastamonu, you can get to Ankara bus station (AŞTİ) and take one of the buses that go to the city of Safranbolu. The tickets for this ride are approximately 55 Turkish liras.

If you would like, you may also prefer the highway. There are bus services to the city of Safranbolu from many cities in Turkey. The following are some of the examples:

  • Ankara is 3 hours of driving away from the city of Safranbolu
  • İzmir is 7 and a half hours of driving away from the city of Safranbolu
  • Istanbul is 5 hours of driving away from the city of Safranbolu

How long to spend in the city of Safranbolu?

You can fully explore the city of Safranbolu in approximately 3 days. If you are visiting the city of Safranbolu on a Black Sea tour, the time separated for the city of Safranbolu will be quite limited and you will not be able to explore it fully. But if you create a busy schedule with lots of wandering in a day, you can explore the whole city in 2 days. Of course, this duration might change according to your interests and your preferred time to spend in specific locations.

History of the City of Safranbolu

The city of Safranbolu not only witnessed so many different emperors throughout history, but it also witnessed other major changes and got a long way until it got its last statue. Safranbolu is estimated to be at least 3000 years old. 

In the Iliad poem of Homer, the city of Safranbolu was referred to as “Paphlagonia”. In Ancient Rome times, the city of Safranbolu was also as known as Paphlagonia.

In the year 1196, today what is known as the city of Safranbolu was conquered by Turks. To be more specific, Muhittin Mesut Shah, who is the son of the Seljuk emperor Kilicarslan II, conquered here first. 

Until 1354, the Ottomans could not take over these lands. For the first time, the city of Safranbolu was under the rule of the Ottoman empire in the year 1354, by the founder of the Ottoman empire’s son, Prince Suleyman Pasha. Until the year 1423, the city of Safranbolu’s administer was either the Ottoman empire or Isfendiyarids. Neither of them could dominate precisely Safranbolu until 1423.

As the Ottoman empire completely took over the city of Safranbolu in 1423, they attempted to settle Turkmen immigrants here. And in history, Safranbolu lived its brightest period in the 17th century, when it was under Ottoman Empire’s rule. In this period, Safranbolu was located in between the Istanbul-Sinop caravan route, and was used as a place for a stopover, or to spend the night. This feature contributed Safranbolu to development in terms of economy, trade, and people’s sources of income.

Since Safranbolu lived its brightest times while it was under Ottoman rule, it is not a surprise that most of the historical buildings in Safranbolu are from the Ottoman period. Ottoman Empire’s architectural features in the 18th and 19th centuries can be observed very well in Safranbolu, especially in famous Safranbolu houses.

In history, Safranbolu had the feature of being a special sub-province. Those “special sub-provinces” were referred to as “kaza” in Ottoman Empire, and it was referring to a sub-province in which the Muslim judges’ administration center was. Sub provinces were quite important at those times. Through time, Safranbolu has become the “kaza” of different banners. 

If we would move forward to 1927, Safranbolu would be a part of the Zonguldak city. Karabük was a larger part of Zonguldak, and it was containing Safranbolu. But as Karabük started to develop enough to be a city itself in the year 1995, Safranbolu also separated from Zonguldak with Karabük. Now, Karabük is an independent city from Zonguldak and Safranbolu is a part of Karabük.

Safranbolu Houses

Safranbolu houses are one of the main things that make Safranbolu so special and known. These houses are characterized by representing the periods that it was built on in terms of climate, family structure, economy, social values and so on. In addition, Safranbolu houses have quite aesthetic looks.

Safranbolu houses take place in the center of the city of Safranbolu, and this region includes around 2000 houses that represent the famous Safranbolu houses. There are two types of houses, in terms of being used in the summertime or the wintertime. The houses that are being used in the wintertime are in a region called the city, and the houses that are being used in the summertime are in a region called baglar (means vineyard in Turkish). 

Almost everyone in the area owns two houses, one to use in the summertime and one to use in the wintertime. The region called “Bağlar”, which contains the houses for the summertime, is in a higher point of the city in comparison to other regions. In this way, people often prefer this area in the summer to get some relief from the scorching and burning heat of summer.

While this part of the city was being constructed, it is so clear that the daily life of humans, the balance of nature were taken into consideration and it was built with great care and order. The houses are built closely with each other, and the streets are quite narrow. This feature of the Safranbolu houses allows neighbors to get closer and have close, caring relationships with each other. It is not a surprise that a place with so many Ottoman architecture features to be built like this since in the Ottoman period neighborhood was valued a lot.

At the times when Safranbolu houses were built, the family structure was a large multi-member family. If the family had 2 or 3 sons, they would not leave the house once they got married. Instead, the bride and bride’s family would move into their houses. It would be a quite crowded household. When I say the bride’s family, you may think of only her parents and siblings, yet this is not the case. All of the aunts and uncles, even grandparents would move in with them. This is the reason why Safranbolu houses are that big. 

It is known that in some of those households, the house was divided into two parts, in which men and women needed to be set separately. Besides just not sitting together, this practice would include not using the same bathrooms or same rooms.

Safranbolu houses consist of stone, wood, Turkish style tile, and adobe. All of the houses were built in a way that, neither of the houses blocks the neighbor’s view. From each and every house in the area, you can see the public buildings, religious buildings, and monuments. All roads in the region are covered with stones. This is a way to minimize humidity. In addition, the coverage of the roads with stone reduces the risk of flooding and helps the trees get enough water.

Top things to do in the city of Safranbolu

There are lots of fun and interesting things to do in Safranbolu, it is not just consisting of saffron and Safranbolu houses. Besides Ottoman architecture, the city of Safranbolu has lots of things to offer you. The following are some of the places you can visit, and some activities to do while you are in the city of Safranbolu:

Bulak (Mencilis) Cave

This cave is located between the city of Safranbolu and Bulak village, and it is thousands of meters under the Gayüzü mountain. This cave started to form approximately three million years ago, and it is 6 kilometers long. It is ten kilometers away from the city of Safranbolu. Even though arriving at this cave is kind of painful, since the roads have some dangerous bends, and you need to descend 150 stairs to get there. Yet as you walk into the cave, the cool air filling into your lungs will replenish you.

Tokatlı Canyon

In Tokatlı canyon, you can enjoy nature with its 9 kilometers long walking track. Many animals are living in this canyon, from squirrels to gooses. This canyon was formed by the erosion of limestone layers in the region over thousands of years in a natural way. In this canyon, you can find a terrace to see the amazing view and sit for a while.

Yörük Village

Yörük village is 12 kilometers away from the city of Safranbolu, and it will take only 15 minutes of driving to get there. Yörük Village was taken under protection by the ministry of culture and tourism in Turkey. In this village alone, there are nearly 90 registered historical monuments.

Historical Clock Tower

This clock tower, built in the 18th century, is above the castle in the valley where the artifacts in Safranbolu are exhibited. Today, this clock tower is still being actively used. If you would like, you can go inside and go up. It is known that this clock tower is working for over 200 years, without stopping for a second.

Köprülü Mehmet Pasha Mosque

This mosque is a mosque that you can clearly observe the typical features of Ottoman architecture. In the courtyard of the mosque, there is a fountain, a sundial, and a library. This mosque has been restored twice and is open to worship today.

Uluyayla Festival

If you happen to be in the city of Safranbolu in August, this is a festival that you would not want to miss out on. Uluyayla Festival is carried out in the second week of August each year. If you want to get to know the city of Safranbolu and the culture of the city of Safranbolu, Uluyayla Festival is a great opportunity for you to learn more about it.

International Golden Saffron Documentary Film Festival

This film festival is carried out in September each year. It is a sort of festival to protect and promote the culture of the city of Safranbolu in addition to the culture of Turkey. This festival is being carried out since the year 2000 and has two categories. One of the categories is named “professional documentaries”, and the other one is named “the documentaries that need support”. Regardless of your experience and knowledge about filming a documentary, you can join this festival as a competitor. Or you might just want to join as a viewer.

What to eat in the City of Safranbolu?

When you come here, you should not leave without trying traditional dishes and desserts. The city of Safranbolu has different specific foods and desserts, which are not widely known in the whole of Turkey. So, it can be said that you can eat some of the following foods only in Safranbolu. You may find it somewhere else, but these are the foods that Safranbolu is famous for.

Peruhi

Peruhi is similar to what Turkish people call “manti”, which is sort of similar to ravioli with mince and also referred to as Turkish ravioli. The difference between Turkish ravioli and Peruhi, which is special to Safranbolu is that Peruhi has yogurt in it instead of mince. If you are vegetarian and you feel excluded while everyone is eating Turkish ravioli, you must try this. Peruhi is made by putting yogurt inside of the dough with a syringe.

Bükme

Bükme is a type of börek (a traditional Turkish food that is made with dough and various fillings), and it is characterized by having spinach or garden orach. It is also made with a filling consists of both spinach and garden orach.

Kuyu Kebab

You can find kuyu kebab in other regions as well, but the kuyu kebab of Safranbolu is the most popular one among those regions. Kuyu kebab is made with the Boyabat lamb and has an interesting technique to cook. To prepare kuyu kebab, you need to cook a whole lamb in a pit for two and a half hours.

Turkish delight with saffron

As I mentioned earlier, Safranbolu is known for being the handful of places that produces saffron, and you can see so many saffron-flavored foods. One of the most popular foods with saffron flavor is Turkish delight with saffron, and it is quite self-explaining. You might not find Turkish delight with saffron in other regions as easy as you will find it in Safranbolu.

Water simit

Simit is a traditional Turkish food, which is similar to a bagel. Different from other kinds of simits in Turkey, this type of simit is made by boiling the dough in the water first and then it is cooked in an oven. Another difference from other simits around Turkey is that simit has typically sesame on top but the water simit that is special to Safranbolu does not have sesame on top.

Homemade baklava

Baklava is originally belonging to another city in Turkey, yet Safranbolu is known for its homemade baklava. Everyone can make homemade baklava when provided with enough ingredients, but Safranbolu homemade baklava is special, and you must try it out.

What is saffron?

Saffron is a kind of spice derived from a plant, and what makes saffron special is, the plant that saffron is derived from is quite rare and cannot be found everywhere. The Latin name for saffron, which is classified as a bulbous plant, is crocus sativus.

In autumn, the saffron plant blooms with wonderful, purple-colored flowers. It can grow up to 30 centimeters in length and can be used as a coloring or flavoring substance for foods. Its value is widely known not only in the catering industry, but also in medicine, perfumery, and cosmetics.

How to grow saffron?

Growing saffron is a difficult and painful process, which makes it even more valuable. The bulbs must be planted between the dates August 15 and September 15, or else it will not grow as it is supposed to grow. The bulbs should be placed in 10 centimeters depth to the soil. Until it blossoms, you need to take good care of it every single day by nidgeting and ventilating the soil in addition to ejecting harmful weeds from it. It takes lots of time and patient to grow saffron.

Between the dates October 15 and November 15, the saffron starts to blossom. It needs to be harvested within 3 days when the flowers bloom, and they must be harvested before the sun rises. Three stigmas in the flowers are the part that is used as a spice, and since there are only 3 stigmas in one flower, getting saffron spice is quite difficult. To get one kilogram of saffron spice, 150 thousand flowers’ stigmas are needed.

Benefits of saffron

Even though it is really difficult to grow saffron, the benefits are worth the patience and its difficulty. The following are some of the benefits of saffron:

  • It helps to reduce pain during your period
  • It is known that it increases the quality of sleep
  • It lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol
  • It is rich on Omega-3
  • It regulates blood circulation
  • It contains minerals such as magnesium, iron, and potassium
  • It slows the growth rate of tumors.

What can you do with saffron?

As I mentioned earlier, saffron could be used as a flavoring or coloring in foods. It is widely used in dishes that contain meat, chicken, and fish. It has a dense flavor and color, so you must be careful while putting saffron to your food.

If you consume more than one teaspoon of saffron, it could be dangerous, even poisonous. It is not recommended to be consumed by pregnant individuals, since it creates a risk of miscarriage. By consuming it in certain amounts (if you are not pregnant of course), you can mix saffron with honey and eat it that way, or you can brew it like tea and drink it. 

Further information and tips

Since public transportation is not quite satisfactory and there are lots of places you can visit, you might want to get to the city of Safranbolu by car. If you do not have a car, you can always rent one around the airports, bus stations, or in the city center.

As I mentioned earlier, the city of Safranbolu trips in the Black sea region is quite short in time. So, if you want to see everything that the city of Safranbolu offers to you, it is recommended to spare 1 or 2 days to spend in the city of Safranbolu.

Frequently asked questions about visiting the city of Safranbolu

Traveling to somewhere foreign could be difficult, so these are the frequently asked questions that you need to know before visiting the city of Safranbolu.

Where is the city of Safranbolu exactly located?

It is in Karabük, Turkey.

Where can I stay in the city of Safranbolu?

There are different hotels, hostels, and Airbnb options for you to stay.

Is it safe to visit the city of Safranbolu with my kids?

Yes, it is and there are lots of activities that you can participate in with your kids in the city of Safranbolu.

What are the most popular natural places to visit in the city of Safranbolu?

The most popular natural places to visit in the city of Safranbolu are Bulakli Cave and Tokatli Canyon.

Can I see everything in the city of Safranbolu in one day?

If you create a busy schedule then yes, but you can be very tired at the end of the day.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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