SAFRANBOLU: Under the Impact of Tourism and the New City Dwellers*

İbrahim CANBULAT, M. Arch


Photo: Ironsmiths’ Market


Site Name: City of Safranbolu

Year of Inscription: 1994

Id N°: 614

Criteria of Inscription: (ii) (iv) (v)

  • By virtue of its key role in the caravan trade over many centuries, Safranbolu enjoyed great prosperity and as a result it set a standard for public and domestic architecture that exercised a great influence on urban development over a large area of the Ottoman Empire Criterion (ii).
  • Safranbolu has preserved its original form and buildings to a remarkable extent Criterion (iv).
  • …continuous efforts must be made to preserve the traditional townscape Criterion (v).


it is known that money was minted by Dadybra in the second-third centuries AD (Ramsey, 1890, 193; Oaks, et al., 2001, 4: 43-44). Based on Byzantine historians, Cramer (Cramer, 1832, 1: 238) writes that Dadybra was a patriarch settlement. In the official registers of Rome, it was regularly stated as one of the 6 cities of Paphlagonia starting as of AD 325 (Ramsay, 1890, 196-197). Most important of all, it has always had the attribute of being a strategic point due to the fact that it is at the junction of the secondary caravan roads connecting Central Anatolia to the Black Sea ports.

Climax in 18th Century

Safranbolu was a province of the Kastamonu Sanjak and in the 18th century, providing that the port duties of Inebolu are excluded from the evaluation, Safranbolu that had tax revenues even higher than Kastamonu became the largest economy of the Sanjak. Following The Celali Uprisings Safranbolu’s success in industry and trade should actually be attributed to a more liberal environment as for some time the Ottomans governed the economy through the local notables. We know that the most important element of the Safranbolu economy in the 18th century was the operation of the caravans. This brought Safranbolu material wealth as well as cultural wealth which was the result of intercultural relations. All these were the igniters of perfect city scape and impressive mansions and of course high level social life.


Beginning of 20th Century, Safranbolu lost all important economic activities:

  • New highways and railways (1934) diminished caravan operations.
  • Tanneries lost competition against modern processes mainly foreigners.
  • City dwellers of Safranbolu migrated to big cities.
  • Very first heavy industry (Iron & Steel) of the new Turkish Republic was made in the vicinity of Safranbolu (1937-9).

Conservation Efforts

  • After the European Architectural Heritage Year (1975) Safranbolu became a conservation domain for academic corps.
  • Municipal Consul ratified a conservation decree (1976) which was the first in Turkey.
  • Some land marks and mansions were restored.

Acquaintance with Tourism

  • TTOK (Turkish Auto Club) purchased and restored a mansion as first hotel in Safranbolu Historic Center (1991).
  • Conservation City Plan has been made (1991).
  • Local governor promoted bed and breakfast facilities, created a cooperative for the hoteliers and provided training (1993).
  • Safranbolu became UNESCO World Heritage (1994)


  • Iron and Steel Industry technically bankrupted and privatized (1995).
  • This caused a mass investment in tourism and related economic activities.

Document1.jpgChart: Population, Hotel Bed Capacity and Hotel Accommodation in Time

Effects on Physical and Social Structures

  • Mass tourism created heavy traffic impact on the originally pedestrian historic center.
  • Environmental Capacity is surpassed, especially in the weekends.
  • Over 90 historic mansions revitalized to high density mid-level hotels. Reconstruction and face-lifting boomed.
  • Majority of houses are emptied to be sold to hoteliers where by left dilapidation.
  • Historic shopping district turned to souvenir shops.
  • Social life was terribly effected in the historic district. Consumer prices are increased. Younger generation left historic city and moved to new settlements. Average age of the dwellers is getting higher.

*) This is the resume of the presentation at World Heritage Watch Symposium, İstanbul July 8-10, 2016.