Most travelers haven’t heard of Kastamonu (Turkey) or know very little about the city, but that’s no surprise — Kastamonu is one of the Black Sea region’s best-kept secrets.
Even better, Kastamonu has everything you need as a tourist destination, but without the tourists! The city is well-known for its delicious cuisine, including its famous pastirma, Çekme Helva, and meat-stuffed bread (but more about that on our Where to Eat in Kastamonu section!). It’s also home to hundreds of beautifully-preserved Ottoman houses (like those in Safranbolu) yet with much less crowds. Finally, Kastamonu has a small-town atmosphere but with a big heart — and you’ll be glad you visited this charming city once your trip is over!
If you’re intrigued and want to know more, this Kastamonu travel guide will be your loyal companion in discovering this eclectic and cozy destination. We go over everything you need to know, including what to do in Kastamonu, the best attractions, what and where to eat, and where to stay in Kastamonu.
KASTAMONU: The Basics
Why visit Kastamonu? What is Kastamonu known for?
While this city is still very much off the typical tourist path, there are many reasons to travel to Kastamonu! If you’re looking for a city with almost no crowds of tourists, delicious food, and beautiful Ottoman houses, then definitely add Kastamonu to your itinerary. 🙂
🍖 Kastamonu Pastırma: Kastamonu is renowned for its delicious pastrami that the mere mention of this culinary treasure instantly makes locals think of Kastamonu the minute they hear the word pastırma. The city’s unique pastrami-making tradition has been perfected over generations, resulting in a distinctive flavor and texture that is truly unforgettable.
🏰 Kastamonu Castle: Standing as a testament to Kastamonu’s rich history (and architecture skills), Kastamonu Castle is a must-visit historical landmark. This imposing fortress has witnessed centuries of events and offers panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.
🪞 Beautiful Ottoman-era houses: Speaking of architecture, Kastamonu also has more than 400 beautifully-preserved Ottoman-era mansions scattered all around the city! These houses showcase intricate woodwork, and taking a leisurely stroll through streets lined with these charming houses is like stepping into a living museum.
💬 A Strong Accent: Last but certainly not least, Kastamonu locals are famous for their accent – just watch this video. 🙂
How many days do you need in Kastamonu?
If you’re on a short schedule, you can see Kastamonu in one day as long as you plan your trip in advance. For example, you can visit the city’s main museums in the morning, enjoy some local food at a place like Penbe Han for lunch, go shopping for souvenirs at the bazaar, and climb up to Kastamonu Castle during sundown.
If you have a few days, you can also add on a day trip to the ancient site of Pompeiopolis (42 km by car), see Valla Canyon (115 km) via observation deck, or chill out on a beach in İnebolu (90 km).
Kastamonu regional specialties
Pastırma — The most famous food in Kastamonu is none other than pastirma! This is a traditional Turkish cured meat product that’s prepared by seasoning beef with a mixture of salt, garlic, and various spices, then air-drying it to achieve its distinct flavor and texture. Interestingly, the name pastırma comes from the Turkish word bastırmak, which means ‘to press’ (which is the third step – the meat is seasoned and pressed up to 16 hours before drying).
Etli Ekmek — A gozleme-style bread with pieces of pastrami baked inside.
Banduma — A Black Sea classic. Pieces of boiled chicken are placed on lavash-style bread and topped with sauce and crushed nuts. It’s a very cozy dish that’s much more delicious than what we just wrote (you have to try it!)
Çekme Helva — The most famous dessert of Kastamonu and a recipe that’s hundreds of years old! While the ingredients are very simple (flour, sugar, butter, lemon, water), it’s very addictive and a must-buy souvenir! Sepetçioğlu is one of the best places to buy some.
Elma Eğşisi — A refreshing cold drink that’s local to Kastamonu. Local wild apples are boiled and strained, then made into a thick drink. You can also find jars of Elma Eğşisi sauce sold in stores around Kastamonu — just take a bit of the sauce, dilute it with water, and you have your own drink. 🙂
If you’re looking to try authentic Kastamonu food, we recommend eating at Penbe Han. The building itself is a traditional caravan built in the late 1400s, and was used as a trading center for honey and cotton (the word penbe is Persian for cotton). Nowadays, the restaurant is famous for having an entire menu of traditional Kastamonu dishes like etli ekmek, banduma, elma eğşisi, and much more. Other excellent options include Cem Sultan Bedesten, Münire Sultan Table, and Eflanili Konağı (which is a traditional Ottoman house converted into a restaurant!)
How to Get to Kastamonu
By Airplane — Kastamonu has its own airport — Kastamonu Airport, or KFS for short, and there are direct flights from Istanbul’s domestic Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) and international Istanbul Airport (IST).
We recommend researching prices beforehand and comparing airports, as you can often get a better deal if you fly from SAW airport. You can also try your luck and fly into Ankara Airport (ESB) and take a bus from there.
By Bus — Kastamonu is serviced by dozens of bus routes, from local Black Sea cities like Sinop, Safranbolu, Zonguldak, and Samsun, as well as major cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya, and so on. To avoid very long bus journeys (Izmir to Kastamonu is a whopping 16-hour ride!), we recommend either flying into Kastamonu Airport (see above) or flying to Ankara and taking the 4.5-hour bus from Ankara to Kastamonu instead.
By Car — Kastamonu makes for an excellent stop along a Black Sea roadtrip, as it’s very accessible and close to cities like Amasra, Safranbolu, Sinop, Ankara, and so on. In fact, Kastamonu is one of the main stops on our 2 Week Black Sea Road Trip Itinerary — click the link to learn more!
Alternatively, we recommend RentalCars if you’re looking to rent a car in Turkey.
Getting Around Kastamonu
While Kastamonu’s center measures about 6 kilometers (3.7 mi), most of Kastamonu’s tourist attractions are conveniently located within walking distance.
If you’re arriving by bus, it’s about a 9 kilometer / 12 minute taxi ride from the main bus station to the city center. Likewise, you can find plenty of taxi kiosks around the center — just type in “Kastamonu taksi durağı” in Google Maps for the nearest one.
What to do in Kastamonu
Climb to the top of Kastamonu Castle
The most famous tourist attraction in Kastamonu is none other than its historical castle, which was built in the 12th century and is the highest point in the city. The outer walls were unfortunately damaged over the years, yet the inner castle has remained relatively well-preserved to this day.
While the hike up is a bit challenging due to the elevation (and a sloping path), the view of Kastamonu is worth it! We recommend visiting just before sunset for the best experience. Entrance is free.
See the Traditional Ottoman Mansions
While Safranbolu may be the most popular city to see traditional Ottoman houses, Kastamonu is another excellent destination (without the tourist crowds!).
There are more than 400 or so Kastamonu Ottoman-era houses and mansions, with most being characterized by their signature overhanging second floor, intricate wooden details, and outlined windows.
Some of the best-preserved Ottoman houses can be found in the Akmescit, Ismail Bey, and Hepkebirler (center) neighborhoods.
See the Home Tombs
One of the most unique landmarks in Kastamonu are the Ev Kaya Mezarları, which literally translates to Home Rock Tombs. As you can guess from the name, the Home Tombs are rock-cut tombs that were carved into the rugged cliffs by Paphlagonians in the 7th century BC. In fact, they’re the oldest rock tombs in the province!
You can climb up to the tombs via the stairs (keep an eye out for an information board) and take a closer look inside. The Home Tombs don’t have a location marker on Google Maps, so click here for the coordinates.
Go People Watching at Nasrullah Square
Nasrullah Square, the heart of Kastamonu, is a bustling multi-level square where the past and present come together. Surrounded by traditional Ottoman-era buildings and the square’s namesake, Nasrullah Mosque (built in the 16h century!), the square is an excellent place to experience the local atmosphere.
Enjoy some tea or Turkish coffee at one of the cafes, try the city’s famous pastrami or helva at Erdem Sepetçioğlu, or go souvenir shopping. Nasrullah Square is also an excellent place to take a lunch break, as many of the city’s landmarks are within walking distance.
Learn Kastamonu’s History at the City Museum
Discover Kastamonu’s vibrant past and unique cultural heritage at the Kastamonu City Museum, which was established as a “Documentation and Archive Center” in 2002 and renovated with new exhibits in 2018. The museum has four main themes, including Kastamonu’s geology and wildlife, archaeology/history, architecture, and culture/society.
While the exhibits aren’t translated to English yet, you can easily spend one to two hours looking at all the interesting artifacts and reading their descriptions (just be sure to have Google Translate open!) Just behind the museum is the historical Kastamonu Clock Tower and a cafe with an excellent view of the city.
Where to stay in Kastamonu
One of our favorite hotels during the trip! Besides being one of the top-rated hotels in Kastamonu, it’s run by a very nice and hospitable family 🙂
The hotel has 20 rooms in total (16 standard + 4 family rooms), which are comfortable and very spacious. As a cute little fun fact, each of the rooms is named after a city or town in Kastamonu’s province!
A simple yet filling Turkish-style breakfast plate was included. The hotel is located on a quiet street and just a short 5-minute walk to the city center, and there’s street parking in front of the hotel (valet) as well as a free and very spacious parking lot across the hotel.
A typical Ottoman mansion with modern rooms. While it’s located close to Kastamonu’s city center, the hotel is on a quiet street.
Park Dedeman Kastamonu
The creme de la creme of hotels, Park Dedeman has absolutely everything you could ever want in a hotel, including a lounge, fitness center, terrace, in-house restaurant, pool, hammam, and spa!