Safranbolu is a typical Ottoman city that has survived to the present day. It also displays an interesting interaction between the topography and the historic settlement. 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 in public and domestic architecture that exercised a great influence on urban development over a large area of theOttoman Empire.
The site of Safranbolu has been occupied by human settlements since prehistory, as evidenced by rock-cut tombs. Turkish Peopleconquered the town in the 11th centuryand in the 13th century and it became an important caravan station on the main east-west trade route. Surviving buildings from this early period include the Old Mosque, Old Bath, and Medresse of Suleyman Pasha, all built in 1322.
The caravan trade reached its apogee in the 17th century, when the central market was extended to meet the requirements of travellers. Many buildings survive from this period, including the Cinci Inn with its 60 guestrooms (1640-48), Koprulu Mosque (1661) and Izzet Pasha Mosque (1796), as well as many stores, stables and baths.
The Old Town preserves many old buildings, with 1008 registered historical artifacts. These are: 1 private museum, 25 mosques, 5 tombs, 8 historical fountains, 5 Turkish baths, 3 caravanserais, 1 historical clock tower, 1 sundial and hundreds of houses and mansions. Also there are mounds of ancient settlements, rock tombs and historical bridges. The Old Town is situated in a deep ravine in a fairly dry area in the rain shadow of the mountains. The New Town can be found on the plateau about two kilometers west of the Old Town.
The name of the town derives from ‘saffron’ and the Greek word ‘polis’ (city), since Safranbolu was a trading place and a center for growing saffron. Today saffron is still grown at the village of Davutobası which is 22 km east of Safranbolu and probably one of thebest quality saffrons in the world.
Safranbolu was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1994 due to its well-preserved Ottoman era houses and architecture.