Gaziantep is one of the top destinations in the southeastern region of Turkey. The historic old town here is filled to the brim with restored Seljuk and Ottoman buildings and sights, and it is also home to an abundance of wonderful museums, including the Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum. Despite all these sights, many tourists come here just for the food. The city is renowned throughout Turkey for the country’s best baklava, and there are around 200 pastry shops where you can dig into this famous Turkish sweet.
Note: Due to security and safety concerns, please consult travel advisories before visiting this region.
Read also:Explore Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia)
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. When opened it became the world’s largest mosaic museum. The craftsmanship of these Roman-era works of art is beautiful and would once have decorated the floors of Zeugma’s many grand Roman villas. Some pieces are rightly regarded by experts as some of the best examples of Roman mosaic work in the world. Especially look out for the famous ones Gypsy Mosaicwith its intricate and stunningly lifelike details.
Location: Sehitkamil Caddesi
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 command of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. The citadel towers over the northern edge of Gaziantep’s ancient city, atop the hill of Tell Halaf, which is known to have existed as early as 3500 B.C. is solved. The small Gaziantep Defense and Heroism Panoramic Museum inside the citadel is dedicated to the local population who defended the city against the French in 1920.
Location: Kanber Sokak
3 Gaziantep Archaeological Museum
The city’s archaeological museum displays finds excavated from surrounding sites, including Zincirli, Karkarnisand Sakçaközu. It’s a small collection, but history buffs will still appreciate a visit here, especially for the Hittite remains in the Karkamıs exhibitions. The site of Karkam was first excavated by a British Museum team in the years leading up to the First World War, and one of the two archaeologists in charge of the site was TE Lawrence, later known as “Lawrence of Arabia ” for his heroic actions in the war that helped lead the Arab Revolt. There is also an extensive collection of ancient seals from the Near East on display.
Location: İstasyon Caddesi
4 Gaziantep City Museum
Housed in the restored Bayazhan Building, this great little museum uses dioramas and multimedia shows to tell the story of Gaziantep in an interesting and fun way. Once you’ve finished visiting the exhibitions, sit in the central courtyard for a coffee or browse one of the stalls here selling local crafts. The museum is also occasionally used as a cultural center for visiting musicians and artists. See if there’s an event happening while you’re in town.
Location: Atatürk Bulvarı
5 Ethnographic Museum Gaziantep
Delve into the city’s past at the Ethnography Museum, where well-curated dioramas detail scenes of Gaziantep’s daily life through the centuries. Don’t miss the beautiful Ottoman costumes. The museum is housed in a beautifully restored Ottoman mansion, which still retains its original layout, with rooms reserved for women and rooms for receiving and entertaining guests. A walk through the rooms will give you insight into the lifestyles and rituals of the Ottoman era.
Location: Hanefioǧlu Sokak
6 Emine Göǧüş Culinary Museum
Say the name Gaziantep to a Turk and they will 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 boards guide you through Gaziantep’s most famous dishes, which of course include the sticky, syrupy delights of the city’s baklava, but also many savory dishes that have an extra-spicy kick compared to many of the Turkish cuisine. You’ll likely leave the museum hungry, so study the information boards while you’re in the museum and then join your new acquaintance to sample some local flavors for lunch.
Location: Köprübaşı Sokak
7 Gaziantep Mosques
Gaziantep has a wealth of mosques from different time periods. A walk in the central old town area is a good chance to visit some and appreciate their different architectural features. The Kurtuluş Mosque (from Eyüboǧlu Caddesi) started life as a church and has been finely restored in recent years. The Alaüddevie Mosque (Şehitler Caddesi) and Tahtani Mosque (Eski Gümrük Caddesi) both contain striking Islamic architectural features. If you have a particular interest in mosque architecture, head outside the old town to the south-west of the city where you will find the well-preserved 11th-century city Mosque of Ömeriji.
Location: City center
Founded by the Seleucid ruler Nicator I, Belkis-Zeugma rose to prominence under later Roman rule and was a prosperous merchant city until its destruction by the Sassanid Persian army in 252 AD. Excavations here in the 1990s revealed a treasure trove of Roman mosaics that adorn the floors of the beautiful 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 part of the archaeological site, but the area that still lies above the water is worth a visit, especially if you have 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.
Location: 50 kilometers east of Gaziantep
When the Birecik Dam opened in 2000, the quiet village of Halfeti and nearby Rumkale and Savaş villages fell victim to Turkey’s march towards 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, although there is a slightly surreal edge to sightseeing here, with mosque minarets protruding defiantly from the dam water and abandoned village homes tumbling towards the shore. To get the best views, take a boat trip from Halfeti to Rumkale (where there is one fortress on a cliff) and further to Savaş.
Location: 102 kilometers east of Gaziantep
Next to the city of Sakçagoz are five ancient settlements, where excavations have revealed 12 levels of occupation dating from the Stone Age to the 1st century AD. Found on the smallest mound are the remains of a palace, with an antiquity and defensive wall, as well as sphinxes and stone blocks with reliefs from the 8th century BC. (now showing in Ankara’s) Museum of Anatolian Civilizations). Excavations at the site of Karahüyükthree miles northeast, have revealed a thriving early Bronze Age settlement, with a wealth of finds dating back to the Chalcolithic period.
Location: 50 kilometers west of Gaziantep