Gaziantep Part II – What to eat, drink & buy, when to go, how to get there & where to stay

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This busy Gaziantep pide shops was hard to walk past, it smelled so good!

The two devastating earthquakes that struck south eastern Turkey in the early hours of Monday and again around midday, 6 February 2023 continue to effect the people of Gaziantep. However the city is once again welcoming visitors. Tourism dollars go some way to normalising life but there is still a lot to be done. If you want to help from outside Turkey, have a look at this post TURKEY EARTHQUAKE – How you can help. If you’re planning to visit here are my suggestions on where to eat, what to buy, where to stay and how to get there. Details are correct as of October 2023.

Food and drinks in Gaziantep

Now that you’ve finished visiting some of the sites I described in Gaziantep Part I – History and what to see I bet you’re hungry. That’s good, because there’s a cornucopia of food available in Gaziantep, so much so Gaziantep was added to the gastronomy category of the UNESCO Creative Cities network in 2015. The region is full of fields teeming with pistachio trees and tobacco stalks, and is famous for many meat dishes, There’s Alinazik, Ayva kebab, Beyran Çorbası and lahmacun just to name a few. Don’t forget to leave some space for something sweet though. Baklava is Gaziantep’s most famous treat, although helva and pekmez, a thick preserve made of grapes, mulberries and other fruits, are also very popular. Vegetarians will be in their element as there are plenty of non-meat traditional regional dishes to get your taste buds dancing. They’re extremely tasty and even die hard meat fans will enjoy them.

There are a lot of different restaurants to eat at in Gaziantep, and the following are ones I highly recommend. The first two I found on my own and the third was chosen by the press trip organisers who invited me to Gaziantep on my second visit. These three get a mention because the food they served was extraordinarily good. I’ve eaten a lot of Turkish food over the years, in private homes, at esnaf lokanta (tradesmen restaurants), franchises, bistros, bus stops, train stations, otogars, cafes and upmarket Michelin entry restaurants in Istanbul and all over the country and I don’t use adjectives lightly. Believe me, some of the food I tasted in Gaziantep I’ve never seen anywhere else. Each dish was made fresh and if you’re a spice lover like me, you’ll be in heaven.

If you see an asterisk next to the dishes I list under each restaurant description it means I’ve tried them in Gaziantep myself. Many depend on seasonal ingredients so not everything is available all the time. In these cases there’s no asterisk beside the name but I definitely plan to try it next time.

If you see an asterisk next to the dishes I list under each restaurant description it means I’ve tried them in Gaziantep myself. Many depend on seasonal ingredients so not everything is available all the time. In these cases there’s no asterisk beside the name but I definitely plan to try it next time.


Yesemek Gazıantep Mutfağı
Şekeroğlu Mah, Hamdi Kutlar Cad No 51/1-B

The interior of Yesemek Gazıantep Mutfağı in the old town centre reminds me of my Auntie Win’s house. She left school at age 13 and went into service for a rich family. At 16 she worked in a factory, eventually marrying my uncle Ted, also from a working class background. He was an engineer and made a clever land deal so when I knew them their house was packed to the rafters with paintings, ceramics, ornate furniture and numerous items from Japan, China, the Middle East and other countries where my uncle had worked. Their collection was eclectic and random, representing their vast range of interests.

Yesemek is much the same. There are radio sets through the decades sitting atop bow front glass wood cabinets filled with random statuary, record singles, cut glassware and French ceramics. Old sewing machines and doll collections share shelves with packaged herbs and homemade sherbets. Before you can immerse yourself in what feels like someone’s home, you have to get past the food. It’s displayed in a long counter to the right of the entrance. Don’t be afraid to point and ask questions. The helpful staff will explain what everything is. A lot of the dishes they serve are common to other restaurants in town so you can use this information elsewhere.

*Fırık Pilavi

Fırık is boiled, pounded unripe wheat, cooked with green lentils, salça (Turkish tomato paste), onion, oil, butter and chicken stock, seasoned with black pepper, pul biber (chilli flakes) and salt.

Fırık Pilavi

Arap Cici should definitely be on your table when you visit Gaziantep

*Arap Cici (Cacıklı) köftesi

These small fried small balls of bulgur are about the size of a hazelnut, served on a bed of cacik. Yesemek makes theirs with spinach and yoghurt rather than the more usual version using cucumber.

*Beyran çorba

This slow cooked lamb neck soup is to die for (sorry sheep). The cooking process renders the meat exquisitely tender. It’s traditionally consumed at breakfast but you can eat it throughout the day, provided they don’t sell out!

Pancar Aşı

Aşı means vaccine in Turkish and soups with this name are believed to ward off winter and other ills. Pancar is beetroot and so not my favourite, but I will try this soup one day. Promise!

*Içli kofte

I love içli kofte and these ones were superb. The bulgur casing was thin and crisp, a perfect complement to the succulent ground beef and pine nut mix inside. They are well sized, not too big, so order at least one to try.

*There were two other dishes I ate but I forgot to write down the names. You understand don’t you? I didn’t want them to go cold! One dish consisted ofSwiss chard with chickpea, lamb, yoghurt and mint and the other was eggplant with rice, served so it looked like a dolma that had been opened out. If anyone knows either of the names for these dishes please let me know.

*Zerde sütlaç

The Zerde Sutlac was as velvety and tasty as it looks

This is an unsweetened rice pudding with a thick layer saffron that gives it a lovely light taste, without being too sweet.

*Ikram Reyhan şerbeti

This is a lovely and sweet, cherry tasting şerbet drink made to the kitchen’s own recipe. Secret of course.

Evirgeç Mantı Evi (Gaziantep Yöresel Ev Yemekleri)

I’m pleased to confirm that this restaurant, about a 20 minute walk away from the castle along Atatürk Bulvarı, is still open for business. It’s at number 58B on the right hand side of the boulevard and is located below street level. You’ll be able to see the sign easily enough. Leave your things at one of the simple wooden table and chairs covered with pretty striped cloths, and note the clean tiled floor and walls as you head straight for the refrigerated display cabinet in front of the open kitchen. The day’s dishes are lined up for you to choose from. They do have menus and a photos of all the dishes they cook up on one wall. Certain items they cook to order while others aren’t available every day or only at certain times of the year. Some of the staff speak a little English and all of them go out of their way to explain as best they can what each dish contains and make sure you’re happy with your selection. We went there three nights in a row and loved everything we ate. As with Yesemek, a lot of dishes cooked and served in Evirgeç Mantı Evi are common to the region so if you missed something elsewhere, it might be available here or vice versa.

Yuvalama soup is surprisingly refreshing on a hot day.


This stew has tender pieces of meat bathing in a chickpea and yoghurt broth. It’s traditionally served as a Bayram morning dish or at weddings. I could eat it year round.

*Pırpırım Aşı

Pirpirim is the name given to wild purslane (semizotu) with purple stems found in the Gaziantep region. It’s the star of this popular winter stew with green lentils, dried kidney beans, boiled chickpeas, bulgur, green, sweet and hot red peppers, tomato, onion, garlic, salça (both sweet and hot), salt, lemon, olive oil, mint and black pepper.


This is the local version of şakşuka, made with eggplant and tomato.

*Çağla Aşı

A soup made using almond buds, chickpeas, yoghurt and too many other ingredients to list. It tastes divine.

*Asma yaprağı A regional version of dolma combining vine leaves, unripened hard grapes and dried tomatoes with oil.


Usually a winter dish, zucchini is stuffed with a mixture of mince meat, onion, salça, pul biber, chickpeas, fresh parsley and dried mint cooked in oil. Served with a drizzle or a whole side dish of yoghurt


Eggs, butter, yukfa sheets or lavaş breads are cooked together in a pan, seasoned with salt and black pepper, and garnished with parsley and pul biber.

Loğlaz Piyazı

The Gaziantep on piyaz uses red kidney beans, onion, garlic, parsley, pul biber, sumac, olive oil and lemon.


A stew made of lamb, leeks, onions, chickpeas, strained yoghurt, eggs and various spices.

Kuşleme kebab

Tender lamb cooked on a grill that I saw everywhere I went in Gaziantep. We planned to try it almost everyday, but got sidetracked eating all the other dishes mentioned above. That’s good for you because now you have a personally curated guide of what to eat. I’m happy too because it gives me another reason to go back to Gaziantep.

Atatürk Blv No 119, Daire 1

The inner courtyard at Batahan.

If you haven’t read Gaziantep Part I – History and what to see yet, now is a good time as it includes a full history and description of Beyazhan. It gets another mention here because I ate at the Beyazhan Butik Hotel and Restaurant located in the centre of the han (our table was in the upstairs section) when I went to Gaziantep a second time courtesy of the Turkish Ministry of Tourism.

My companions were from Turkey, Poland, France and Roumania, so we had a lot to talk about. The food was really good and I’m pretty sure we were served Kuşleme kebab but by the time the platter reached me there was none left. I’m not complaining. I ate more than was good for me of everything else and enjoyed watching people at the adjacent tables singing along to the entertainment provided by a man playing the ney while his companion sang.


I like my coffee az şekerli. You?

I’ve already mentioned the Ikram Reyhan şerbeti at Yesemek but you can of course get coffee in Gaziantep. I wouldn’t go just anywhere though. When the urge strikes make for Tahmis Kahvesi on Bugday Pazari Sokak, in the old town centre. A tahmis is the place where coffee is pounded and in the past mortars, the bowls holding the coffee beans, were made of walnut, with the pounding tools shaped out of stone.

This photo of Tahmis Kahvesi is from the press trip I took in August 2022. It was lovely and cool inside.

Tahmis Kahvesi was built by Mustafa Ağa in 1638 to generate income for a mevlevihane a lodge used by dervishes. Several hundred years later the complete structure, cafe, shops and an inn were completely destroyed by two huge fires between 1901 and 1903. A sheikh attached to the mevlevihane, Feyzullahoğlu Şeyh Mehmet Münip Efendi spent 130,000 kuruş of his own money to rebuild Buğday Han, the Tahmis Coffeehouse and 33 shops. I don’t know what that amount would be worth at today’s rates but I’m pretty sure it was a lot. Luckily for us all, it is still going strong. While you sip your drink and admire the décor decide for yourself if the rumour Sultan Murat IV dropped in for a coffee during the Baghdad Campaign is true or not.

Papirus Cafe
Noter Sokak No 10

Homes like this one make me wish I'd been born in a previous century. It must have been glorious in it's heyday.

Deep in the heart of the Bey Mahalle, the Bey neighbourhood, you’ll find the Papirus Cafe. The name is misleading as the origins of this building are Armenian, not Egyptian. People come to drink coffee in a large courtyard shaded by a crisscross of grape vines but the real attraction is the former glory of an impressive Armenian family home, with wooden panelled metal ceilings, trompe l’oiel paintings on cornices and blue and white cupboards recessed into the walls. The cafe is open from 8.30 to 22.30 seven days a week.


One tray or two?

Gaziantep is the home of baklava and with over a hundred baklavaci (baklava makers) in the city producing this wickedly good pastry, pistachio and honey treat, you are more than spoiled for choice. I doubt it’s possible to get bad baklava in Gaziantep. They just wouldn’t be able to stay in business. I don’t know if locals would say I ate the best baklava in Gaziantep but my oh my it was very, very good.

Erçelebi Baklavacı
This shop was just around the corner from our hotel and my husband and I came across it by chance. We couldn’t pass their window without stopping and of course, going inside. I tried their chocolate soğuk baklava, the midye baklava that’s light on pastry and has lots of filling, havuç baklava, which is wedge or carrot shaped and hence the name, and also their burma kadayif. Before you ask how I managed all that, I had a mixed plate with one small (OK smallish) piece of each. Not all at once mind. We went back a few times. Honest!

Katmer is less sticky and sweet than baklava but just as addictive.
I didn't have time to ask his name but he did give me permission to take his photo. Always ask first!

I ate even more baklava on my second trip but also go to eat some katmer. I’ve eaten it in Istanbul, but never the genuine Gaziantep version. It’s rich in butter and oil and the pastry is gloriously flaky combined with generous sprinklings of pistachios. If I were the young guy you can see making katmer in the photo I’d be happy too, but probably not that slim.

Another local speciality to look out for are kahpe. They are small biscuits flavoured with mixed spices and have a slightly aniseed taste.

Where to shop and what to buy

Now it’s time to burn off some of that energy with looking at and probably buying some souvenirs and presents to take back with you.

Coppersmiths’ Bazaar & Kapali Carşisi nearby
The bazaar area consists of single-storey shops, many with arched entrances made of smooth cut hard limestone called keymıh, opening onto the street or narrow passageways. There are several different pazaar areas, including the Bakırcılar Çarşısı and Zincirli Bedesten, The exact date of the construction of the shops in the copper market isn’t known, but it’s thought to have been built in the 19th century.

As well as taking a box of baklava back as a souvenir (provided you don’t eat it all on the plane), Gaziantep is famous for two other things, both of them beautiful and useful.

Which colour is your favourtie?

Kutnu is a type of fabric that’s been produced in the region since the 16th century. The name is derived from the Arabic word kut’n meaning cotton. The sheen of the fabric comes from silk threads coloured with plant based dyes, giving it a luxuriant finish. It will be familiar to fans of historical Turkish miniseries as it was used to make the gowns worn by the Sultans. Channel your inner Valide Sultan and choose from a range of items such as scarves, bags, cushions and even slippers. The type of loom the fabric is woven might have changed over time, but the method and more importantly the quality have remained the same. 

I love the yemeni I chose. They make perfect stylish at home slippers.

Most people who come to Gaziantep buy themselves a pair of yemeni, and I am no different. Yemeni are a type of heelless shoe first made in Yemen that were brought to Turkey via Aleppo around 700 years ago. They have been made in Gaziantep ever since. The leather comes from the hides of different animals like goat, sheep or manda (that’s buffalo), and they’re dyed and moulded by hand into slipper-like shapes, some with and others without decorative stitching. There are dozens of yemeni shops in Gaziantep selling their shoes for similar prices. A bit of bargaining is acceptable but before you get carried away, do remember each pair of shoes is unique and not mass produced.

As a result you just have to keep trying on yemeni until you find a pair that fit comfortably. I tried on ten or twelve pairs at four or five different shops (I have odd sized feet) before I found a pair that fitted perfectly at Sarıbal Yemenicilik Hayri Usta. At the time his shoes were slightly cheaper than at other places, but that might have changed since my visit last year. All the men working in the yemeni shops I visited were very nice and didn’t try to pressure me to accept a pair of shoes I wasn’t happy with.

When to go

Temperatures in Gaziantep reach the 30s (celcius) in June through to September. It can get as hot as 38+ degrees in July and August. Although it’s a dry heat it can be accompanied by searing winds, which makes exploring the streets too hot for comfort. It does sometimes snow in winter with the highest falls occurring in February. This makes autumn and spring the best times to visit.

Getting around

Aside from a few sloping hills around the castle area, the majority of Gaziantep is set on a flat plain. Provided you have a reasonable level of fitness most sights are easy to reach on foot. This gives you a chance to stop at will and soak up the atmosphere. As always in Turkish cities I recommend wearing closed shoes, maybe runners or walking sneakers as there can be broken sections in the pavements and unexpected objects waiting to catch you unaware.

One other important thing to note about Gaziantep is the issue of toilets. Unlike almost everywhere else I’ve been in Turkey, I didn’t find any women’s toilets (and often men’s either) open in the mosque complexes. Mosque complexes are my go to for toilet stops so I found this quite strange. Luckily most restaurants are OK with you using theirs, as long as you ask politely.

Where to stay

Gaziantep has a range of modern hotels and converted traditional family buildings called konak (the word changes to konağı when there’s a name in front of it) to stay in. I’ve stayed in both and prefer the modern options simply because the rooms are usually bigger, at least in my price range. I’m an unpack everything and spread it all over the room kind of traveller, which is much easier in a larger space. When I want to find a place to stay I use


Here are more helpful tips for planning your trip

For FLIGHTS I like to use

Don’t pay extra for an E-VISA. Here’s my post on everything to know before you take off.

However E-SIM are the way to go to stay connected with a local phone number and mobile data on the go. Airalo is easy to use and affordable.

Even if I never claim on it, I always take out TRAVEL INSURANCE. I recommend Visitors Coverage.

If you’re planning to visit Gaziantep I know you’ll want to spend a couple of days (or more) in Istanbul. I’m a big advocate of public transport and have included all the information you need to get to and from Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport. However I know it’s not suitable for everyone all the time so when I need to be picked up from either airport in istanbul, I use one of these GetYourGuide website AIRPORT TRANSFERS.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: Let me guide you around Kadikoy with my audio walking tour Stepping back through Chalcedon or venture further afield with my bespoke guidebook Istanbul 50 Unsung Places. I know you’ll love visiting the lesser-known sites I’ve included. It’s based on using public transport as much as possible so you won’t be adding too much to your carbon footprint. Then read about what you’ve seen and experienced in my three essay collections and memoir about moving to Istanbul permanently.

Browse the GetYourGuide website or Viator to find even more ways to experience Istanbul and Turkey with food tours, visits to the old city, evening Bosphorus cruises and more!

Now that you have all the information you need, it’s time to go. I hope you have a fabulous time in Gaziantep (and Istanbul) and come back full of stories about your wonderful experiences, and the food! Feel free to share them with me in the comments.

However you travel, stay safe and have fun! Iyi yolculuklar.


Note: I visited Gaziantep twice in 2022, the first time on my own and the second time as part of a press trip. I’d like to thank TGA and the Turkish Ministry of Tourism for the invitation.


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  1. I am so sad about the earthquakes and the terrible loss of so many lives. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Türkiye.
    Thank you for your posts. I have been reading about Gaziantep and Diyarbakir a lot because I have always wanted to go there. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find a travel partner who is prepared to go there and I don’t want to go alone. I am 60+ and my husband doesn’t want to travel overseas anymore. Non of our group tours go that far. I am saving your posts and I hope I will be able to visit Gaziantep in future.

    1. Hi Trix, Thanks for your words and kind thoughts. It is a terrible time and everyone is shocked and grieving. I hope one day, when the sun shines on everyone again, you will fulfill your wish and get to south east Turkey.

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