Exploring the Historical Kars Castle and Stone Bridge in Turkey

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It was on my itinerary for Turkey to visit the Kars Castle and Stone Bridge, both of which are hundreds of years old. These places take me back to the period that connects me with several key moments in Kars and Turkey’s histories. Moreover, Kars Castle is a symbol of Kars, and is visible from anywhere in the city.

Kars Castle and Stone Bridge

History and information about Kars Castle

Kars Castle is a former fortress that was built by Bagratid Armenia in A.D.1153. It remains a significant landmark of Kars to this day. As a fortress that was constructed for defense purposes, Kars Castle was the location at which the people of Kars successfully defended against Mongolian, Georgian, Persian, and Russian forces.

In the early 19th century, the castle lost its military function. It was later severely damaged during the Russian occupation of Kars during the Ottoman-Russian War of 1877-1878.

In terms of its architecture, Kars Castle was built out of basalt masonry. It features a small mosque, Janissary barracks, tombs, several mansions, and an ammunition depot. It originally has 22 towers; however, only seven of them remain intact today. The castle also had four gates, of which two are still in use.

Kars Castle and Stone Bridge

The historical Kars Castle in Turkey

Nowadays, the castle occasionally hosts events like music concerts, Islamic religious events, and traditional ceremonies.

Access and explore the Kars Castle

Kars Castle is open to the public and the top and interior are accessible via a set of stairs. Walking around the outer walls give visitors a rare glimpse into life of a traditional Ottoman home, as the mansion once belonged to Ahmet Tevfic Pasha, who served as the Governor of Kars in the 19th century.

The property appeared dilapidated when I visited; however, with a bit of imagination, you can conceive what it was like to live during this important period of history.

Kars Castle and Stone Bridge

The traditional Ottoman home of Ahmet Tevfic Pasha

In the winter, the stairways are ice-rink slippery, and there is nothing to hold onto. If you decide to take the stairs to the top, be sure to walk slowly and watch your feet. Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with a panoramic view of the city of Kars and the river.

Kars Castle in Kars Turkey

In the winter, the stairways to the top of the Kars Castle is super slippery,

From the top of the tower, you can see that this Russian outpost does not have any skyscrapers; only traditional properties. The city is divided by the Kars River between the north and the south.

Kars Castle and Stone Bridge in Kars Turkey

View of Kars from the Kars Castle

Kars Stone Bridge

On the south side of Kars Castle is a stone arch bridge over the Kars River that was built in 1579. The bridge collapsed during a flood in the Spring of 1715 and was reconstructed by Faji Aboubakir Karahanoglu in 1719.

Kars Castle and Stone Bridge

Kars Stone Bridge

During the years of Russian occupation, the inscription on the bridge was destroyed as Russians intended to erase all traces of the Turkish. The bridge was also significantly damaged during this era. Eventually, the offspring of those who first constructed the stone bridge decided to rebuild it.

The bridge is 153.5 in length. There was only a couple of individuals on the bridge during my visit; as such, I was able to enjoy a peaceful and relaxing walk with a winter view of the river on both sides.

Kars stone bridge

River view from the Kars stone bridge

While it is not quite the thriving commercial hub it was back in the early days, Kars River remains an important highway that connects the north and south of Kars and continues to connect the city and the people.

Related articles that will help you plan your travels to Kars:

Lalezar Café

If you want to get some treats and beverages, I recommend you visit Lalezar café, which is located diagonally across the street from Kars Castle. It has a gorgeous interior, and plays beautiful music.

This café has amazing tea and coffee, and their Turkish pastries are delicious. It is a nice place to take a break. The owner of the café is particularly friendly and warm.

Lalezar Café in Kars

Inside the Lalezar Café

Where to stay

The hotel Katerina Sarayi is only a few steps away from the Kars Castle and is perfectly positioned with the Kars River running in front of it. It is a 10-minute  walk from the city center and offers friendly service, complimentary breakfast, and free parking. I did not stay in this hotel, but I walked around the property. The hotel was originally a Russian Military Hospital; it has a gorgeous terrace and a rich Russian interior.

There is a selection of  several good hotels in the city center that are only walking distance of the castle and the river. I stayed at the Kars Konak Hotel, which is another great option. The hotel offers a delicious free Turkish breakfast and unlimited tea. The service was fantastic, although the employees there speak limited English.

Eastern Express from Ankara to Kars in Turkey

View of Kars’ night skyline from my hotel room in Kars Konak

Have you visited Kars Castle and the Stone Bridge before? Please share hare your experiences below!

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things to do in Kars Turkey

Julie Cao
 

Julie is the creator of Always On The Way. She lived in Hawaii and now resides in London (Ontario, Canada). In 2017, she went on an overland trip from Bogota Colombia to Puerto Williams, the southernmost city in the world. She believes travel is not only about visiting tourist attractions but more about getting to know the culture, people, and the place.

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