Sometimes you come across an unheard-of destination that’s just so very special, you’re torn between a desire to keep it to yourself - and wanting to share it with the world. Trabzon, a real pearl on the Turkish Black Sea Coast, is one such place - at the moment only known to a few - but really loved by all who do. Discover why below.
Trabzon, an underexplored historic gem
Once the capital of an empire founded in 1204, Trabzon is spectacularly perched on a hill overlooking the sea, against a backdrop of lush green mountains. As an important stop on the Silk Road, this ancient city totally captivated western travelers throughout its long history: writers ranging from Marco Polo to Rose Macaulay were entranced by its intrigue, luxury, exotic customs, golden towers and glittering mosaics.
Today the gilded roofs are long gone. Trabzon is now a largely undiscovered, buzzing modern commercial and cultural centre. But it’s still home to a fabulous myriad of museums, monasteries, mosques, tombs, caravanserais, bath-houses, a covered bazaar, city walls - with magnificent architecture, markets and super-friendly, hospitable people.
Psst! Planning a longer trip through Turkey? Check out these top UNESCO sites.
An Authentic Square
The city’s vibrant social life centres on Atatürk Alanı- also known as Meydan - a lovely, plane-tree-shaded square fringed by leafy tea gardens, restaurants and patisseries. Eat deliciously, drink and soak up the ambiance before heading west to the atmospheric cobbled alleyways of the Bazaar and the old walled city. Rub shoulders with the locals as you barter with the local coppersmiths in the restored, 16th century covered market.
Don’t miss the 13th century monastic church of Aya Sofya - home to some of Anatolia’s most outstanding Byzantine frescoes. And the soaring walls and massive columns of Trabzon’s ruined Byzantine citadel are still impressive. Inside, you’ll find the 10th-century church of Panaghia Chrysokephalos - the Virgin of the Golden Head - the city's cathedral and where many of its rulers were married, crowned and buried.
Rewind and Unwind
Travel back in time to Atatürk Kosku, a charming old hillside villa, preserved as a monument to Atatürk - the Turkish Republic’s Founder and President - who stayed here in the 1920’s and 30’s. Then take a break from exploring to relax in one of Trabzon’s many tempting bath houses: the (men only) Sekiz Direkli Hamami is thought to be Turkey’s oldest working hammam.
Seize the chance to visit the stunning Sumela Monastery - around 50km south of Trabzon - set in the amazing natural beauty of the Altındere National Park. The monastery itself is perched on a cliff face, 270m above a deep gorge: when you look at it from the valley floor, it seems to magically float between the earth and sky. With its main chapel covered inside and out with magnificent frescoes, Sumela is, quite simply, breath taking.
Stay in Iconic Style
Enjoy another great discovery in Trabzon… set in the heart of this amazing city, the vibrant new Radisson Blu Hotel has 162 fabulously designed rooms with stunning views of the city or Black Sea. Perfect for leisure and business travelers, it has two stylish restaurants, excellent meeting and event facilities, Free high-speed, WiFi - plus a superb spa & wellness center.
If you’re looking for a refreshingly different destination, far from the madding tourist crowds, then Trabzon is the perfect gem of a place where you can escape to enjoy a deliciously authentic travel experience.