Industrialization came to neighboring Karabük, a steel-making town that now exhibits an agèd steel mill of early 20th-century design, but it spared neighboring Safranbolu.
In the 1970s Turkish artists and photographers noticed this unspoiled historic gem of a town and began efforts for its preservation.
In the 1980s tourism authorities saw its value, and the government pledged to preserve it. Modern structures were prohibited in its historic neighborhoods, and traditional artisans were encouraged to ply their crafts in restored workshops. Costumed staff in cafés and restaurants serve Ottoman cuisine.
By 2013, most of the craftsmen and women seem to have opened boutique hotels or shops selling souvenirs—not as interesting as traditional crafts, but a lot easier and more profitable.
Today Karabük and Safranbolu are one continuous urban agglomeration, with Safranbolu being just a district of the bigger city. Parts of it, such as the Çarşı district in the valley, are still mostly preserved and are popular with Turkish day-trippers.
To avoid the crowds, plan your visit for a weekday and avoid weekends if possible.
Landmarks include the Cinci Han caravansaray, now filled with shops, and the Cinci Hamam, a historic Turkish bath still in operation (different hours for men and women).
Stroll along Safranbolu's cobbled streets and visit its graceful, well-preserved half-timbered houses, many of which have huge water pools in them to cool the air on warm summer days.
Direct buses run from Istanbul and Ankara to Karabük, from which city buses run you to Kıranköy, the modern hilltop district in Safranbolu, and Çarşı, the historic district down in the valley about one km (6/10 mile) beyond Kıranköy. More...
—by Tom Brosnahan
|Transport to & in Safranbolu|