While Eskişehir is laid back, with the placid Porsuk River running through it, the city exudes a youthful vibrancy from its vivid centuries-old homes, local delicacies, and thermal hammams.
By Marzena Romanowska
With its name literally translating into “old city,” one would expect the dignity and seriousness of a centuries-old settlement from Eskişehir. However, unlike its name, the city is vigorous and lively, densely populated by young students from the two major local universities, and planned with the young in mind. Ideal for cycling, particularly on both banks of the Porsuk River, the city might bring to mind European towns, which obviously had served as inspiration for the city’s development after thousands of migrants from Crimea and the Balkans settled here in the nineteenth century. Those Western influences are first and foremost reflected in the local mindset, but also in city’s cuisine, culture, and cultivated traditions.
Relying mostly on their student customers, restaurants and bars in Eskişehir are very reasonably priced. The two must-try local foods include çiğbörek—a deep-fried, crisp pastry with meat filling popularized by the local Crimean Tatars—and Balaban kebab, which might bring to mind another Turkish staple dish, the almighty İskender Kebab. Balaban kebab has yogurt and tomato sauce served directly on a slice of pide bread with grilled chunks of meat, unlike İskender which is a variety of doner kebab.
Eskişehir’s oldest neighborhood, Odunpazarı, is where many local artisans work and reside. The city’s most picturesque quarter is a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets surrounded by the famous, colorful houses from two centuries ago, and has turned into a hub of handmade creativity.
Visit Odunpazarı Modern Museum (OMM), a must visit cultural sight that opened in September, 2019. Designed by the world acclaimed Japanese architects Kengo Kuma and Associates, the building is inspired by Odunpazari’s traditional wooden Ottoman houses. Besides the outstanding architecture, the museum exhibits collections of the founder and art collector Erol Tabanca and other contemporary artworks from Turkey and abroad.
Your head will spin after seeing the array of ateliers and workshops creating anything from carpets to glass, so make sure you do not lose focus—the places you will want to visit in the first place specialize in objects made of lületaşı, or sepiolite. This soft stone is extracted locally in Eskişehir, which produces the most in the world, and makes excellent material for decorative objects, accessories such as rings and bracelets, and high-quality meerschaum tobacco pipes. Artisans place the raw stone in water in order to soften it to facilitate further sculpting. Once the design is complete and dry, the stone objects lose most of their weight, becoming very light and ideal for everyday use. If you would like to learn more, click here to learn about the stone or visit the local sepiolite museum Eskisehir Meerschaum Museum (Eskişehir Lületaşı Muzesi).
Social life in Eskişehir revolves around the Porsuk River. This is where you go for a stroll, meet with friends, or enjoy your Saturday afternoon coffee. The river also makes the city easy to navigate, passing near all the major sightseeing locations. During warm months, you can hop on one of the gondolas that offer rides along the river to explore the city from a different perspective. In winter, when the city is usually covered with blankets of snow, thermal hammams along Hamamyolu Caddesi provide a warm alternative to outdoor activities. Whichever season you prefer, Eskişehir will make you feel welcome and provide enough entertainment to fill a weekend away from home.
How to get there
With the high-speed train service, getting to Eskişehir from Istanbul has never been easier. Trains depart from Pendik three times a day on the comfortable, two-and-a-half-hour journey. For more info visit yolcu.tcdd.gov.tr.
Although there are no direct flights to Eskişehir, nearby airports in Ankara and Konya provide convenient connections to and from Istanbul.
Where to stay
Divan Express Eskişehir is conveniently located halfway between the train station and the city center within walking distance from the local Özdilek shopping mall and Acibadem hospital. Often preferred by business travelers, the hotel offers comfortable accommodations for short- and long-term stays.
For those who like a bit of history in their travel, Porsuk Thermal Boutique Hotel, one of the city’s finest examples of architecture from the early republican period, is the place to head to. Its hammam is connected to one of the many local thermal springs, pouring minerally-enhanced hot water directly into the facility. Call 0222 322 11 00 for reservation.
If you travel to Eskişehir by car, you will definitely want to leave it somewhere central and explore the city on foot. Espark is a large shopping center located in the heart of the city and is open until late. Most of the key locations in the city center are a mere five- to 20-minute walk. If walking is out of the question, simply follow the tram line that connects all the key locations.
Eskişehir to-do list
- Walk along the Porsuk River and enjoy a cup of your favorite beverage at one of the riverfront cafes.
- Bathe at one of the thermal hammams on Hamamyolu Caddesi.
- Try crispy çiğbörek at Kırım Tatar Çibörek Evi. Şeyh Şemsettin Sokak No.15/1, Odunpazarı, Eskişehir; T: 0222 220 65 10.
- Do not leave without the perfect photo of the colorful, old buildings in the Odunpazarı neighborhood for your Instagram account.
- Decorative objects made from lületaşı make the best kind of souvenir. Since the stone is easy to sculpt, it makes the ideal material for practicing the skill at home.