The First Step (İlkadım)                                Population: 640,000

Old name: Amisos, Enete, Peiraieos, Pompeiopolis, Simisso

Festival: 19 May (celebrating Atatürk’s arrival in Samsun)

Once a rather scruffy, uninspiring port town midway along the Black Sea coast, Samsun has been given a whole new lease of life by the authorities who have decided to home in on the role it played in modern history to make it more appealing. It was with his arrival in Samsun on 19 May 1919 that Atatürk set in train the sequence of events that led to the Turkish War of Independence (1919-22) and the founding of the Turkish Republic, hence the district in the centre of Samsun that glories in the name of İlkadım (the First Step).

Around town

Atatürk’s role in Samsun’s history is commemorated in the Mantika Palas, an early 20th-century building originally designed as a hotel that played host to him on three separate occasions. The Gazi Müzesi (closed Mondays) is spread over two floors and displays lots of photographs of Atatürk as well as a reconstruction of the room in which he stayed.

On the eastern outskirts of the city there’s a reconstruction of the steamship Bandırma which brought Atatürk from İstanbul to Samsun. Onboard you can inspect a room equipped with mannequins apparently attending a planning meeting.

There are several Atatürk statues dotted about town, including the fine equestrian “Statue of Honour” version in the namesake Atatürk Parkı which was designed by Austrian sculptor, Heinrich Krippel, and made in Vienna before being brought to Turkey in 1927 (Krippel was also the sculptor of the first-ever statue of Atatürk at Sarayburnu in İstanbul).

Near this the Kurtuluş Yolu (Liberation Way), on the site of a rather ramshackle old market, leads down to the waterfront and yet more mannequins, this time stepping forth from a cut-down version of the Bandırma to embark on the journey to war.

Most of Samsun’s attractions are strung out along what is now an impressively landscaped waterfront. The town even has three beach clubs, complete with sunbeds, pedaloes, flumes and all the other paraphernalia required for a good day out. In between them run parks with running tracks, cycleways and exercise machines. The Samsun Kent Müzesi (City Museum) occupies two old railway buildings. Despite praise for the exhibits, it appears to be closed at the moment (2024). Not far away is the Panorama 1919 Samsun Museum which I have yet to visit.

What was once a fairly uninspiring small dock is now the Sevgi Gölü (Lovers’ Lake) with black-necked swans swimming around amid a series of tea gardens. Behind this comes a small zoo, and a much more impressive suspension bridge across the railway tracks that comes straight from the pages of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne book of town-centre regeneration.

am4Ali Paşa HanıAround Samsun’s İstiklal Caddesi there are some mansion houses of Moda-like magnificence, while in the market area to the west of Cumhuriyet Meydanı there are a few superb early 20th-century buildings, one of them housing the Belediye (Municipality), another the Garanti Bankası.

Heart of this part of town is a small clocktower dating back to 1886. If you walk west from it along İskele Caddesi you will come to the Yalı Cami that dates back to the 14th century; its name is a reminder that the sea used to lap against its walls and that the Sahil Yolu (Coast Road) was built on reclaimed land.

Not far away in Buğday Pazarı Caddesi the wonderful little Ali Paşa Hanı used to form part of a complex with the mosque. Today it’s slated for redevelopment. One can only hope that the swallows whose screeches usually fill its courtyard will be allowed to continue raising their young here into the new era.

In 2012 an Amazon Park on a small offshore island was added to Samsun’s attractions. You can hardly miss it as there’s a giant statue of an Amazon in front of it. It’s west of the town centre near the funicular to Old Amisos.

Old Amisos

At first glance Samsun appears entirely modern but there has actually been a town here, albeit slightly to the west of the current centre, since the Chalcolithic (Copper) Age, some 5,000 years ago. That town, called Amisos, continued into the Hellenistic and Roman eras, and excavation of the twin tumuli in the Baruthane district uncovered a pair of stone-cut tombs, one of them retaining some paintings that made it a one-off find for this part of the world.

The tombs are now incorporated into an Archaeological Park, accessible by cable-car from in front of the giant statue of an Amazon. The cable-car deposits you in front of the Amisos Cafe, a local authority-run restaurant with great views, very reasonable prices and absolutely no alcohol.

From there a wooden boardwalk winds round and offers admission to the cave-like chambers of the northern tomb which are decorated with stylised columns. Unfortunately the painted southern tomb is closed to visitors who can only peer through the grille at what looks like some rather crass rebuilding.

The southern tomb provided some finds for the Archaeological Museum (closed Mondays) in the town centre but the most impressive items on display there actually came from another tomb which was uncovered in the nearby Cedit neighbourhood.

This tomb appears to have been built in the 4th century BC and then reused in the 1st century AD when the deceased were buried with some magnificent golden jewellery, including a wonderful pair of ear-rings in the shape of Nike, the Roman goddess of victory, and some bracelets with clasps in the form of female faces. The museum also houses a fine mosaic pavement dating back to the 5th century.

In March 2024 the museum reopened on a new site. Its pride and joy is the 64-piece Amisos treasure trove unearthed in 1995 and dating back to the 1st century BC.  I have yet to see it.


In 2006 a new “Atatürk Birth House”, a copy of the original in Thessaloniki in Greece, opened in Kutlukent, seven km east of Samsun on the Ordu road. An imposing three-storey house with wooden shutters, it’s been provided with a replica kitchen, bedroom and sitting room, as well as with more photographs and a collection of outfits just like those Atatürk can be seen wearing in the pictures.am3

The house is only open on weekdays.


Hotel Amisos. Tel: 0362-435 9400

Samsun Park Hotel. Tel: 0362-435 0095

Şahin Otel. Tel: 0362-435 2001

Vidinli Hotel. Tel: 0362-431 6050

Transport info

Samsun airport lies east of the centre in Çarşamba; Havaş shuttle buses connect it with the town centre.

There are regular buses to Ankara and İstanbul, and along the Black Sea Highway to Sinop and Trabzon.

As of 2019 Samsun has a 36.5km-long tramway system running from Ondokuz Mayıs Üniversitesi (19th May University) in the west to the Samsun Ondokuz Mayıs Stadyumu (19th May Stadium) un the east, passing through the city centre on the way.

Take any bus along the coast road east to get to Kutlukent.

Day trip destinations







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