From 13th to 15th century, Kastamonu was the capital of Candaroğlu (also known as Jandarids and Isfendiyarids), a Turkic principality ruled what is now Western Karadeniz (or, as known in ancient times, Paphlagonia), which, in 1461, fell to Ottomans, which started as another small Turkic principality and took control of others one by one. Kastamonu continued to be one of the important centres of Asian Turkey, in addition to being the capital of a large province extending all the way from Istanbul's Asian suburbs to Sinop during Ottoman period.
Nowadays, with a population of 91,000 as of 2010, Kastamonu is one of the smaller mid-sized cities of Turkey.
The city lies elongatedly along the banks of a river. The southern part forms the historic core (although traditional cityscape is pierced by modern concrete constructions at parts), while the northern half of the city is built completely within the last decades. All around this linear city is sparsely-wooded higher mountains.
A ride from Istanbul normally takes 8 to 8½ hours from the main otogar in European Side, and an hour less than that from the smaller otogar in Asian Side, including a break around the mid-way. However, there are some reports that some local (i.e., Kastamonu-based) bus companies take the same route in 12 hours, as they tend to stop at every and each town along the way. Metro Turizm and Ulusoy both are reliable nation-wide bus companies with quite frequent connections between Istanbul and Kastamonu. The price for a one-way ticket on this route ranges from 40 to 45 TL.
From/To Ankara, a bus ride—which crosses the beautiful Ilgaz Mountains—takes around 4½ hours, including a stop about an hour south of Kastamonu, costing 25 TL pp one-way. Metro Turizm offers connections on this route, too.
Direct buses to nearby locations on the Black Sea coast (e.g., Sinop) and to far away major cities of the country (e.g., Izmir) are also available, but for locations south of Ankara, you are better off taking the buses to Ankara and changing to another one for your final destination there to save time.
Kastamonu's otogar lies at the northern outskirts of the city. Buses from Istanbul cross the city from one end to another before arriving at the otogar, so it's possible to get off at the city centre without the need to get to the otogar first. If you somehow happen to find yourself at the otogar, just get to the bus stop on the road bordering the otogar, from which you can get into an urban bus to the city centre for 1.25 TL. They have about 5-min intervals and take about 15 minutes to get to the city centre.
Metro Turizm also has offices on the main street of city centre from where you can buy outbound tickets and take the free shuttle buses to either the otogar or another intercity bus stop south of the city (depending on your direction) when leaving the city.
Kastamonu lies in a somewhat remote location, off the major highways traversing the country.
From Istanbul, the easiest route would be to take the motorway/toll-road O-4/E80 eastwards until Gerede exit, then hitting northwards D755 30 km east of Gerede. D755 will take you to Karabük, from where you should take eastwards D030 to Kastamonu, via Araç. The road is quite winding at parts of this route (especially as you get closer to Kastamonu), although the highway is mostly a segregated, 2 lanes per direction one.
From Ankara, the easiest route is taking eastwards D140 to Kalecik via Akyurt first. From Kalecik, hit northwards D765, which will take you to Kastamonu via Çankırı and Ilgaz. The road goes through a 1800-odd meters high pass through the Ilgaz Mountains before arriving at Kastamonu, and is unique in Turkish highway system that it wasn't surfaced by the usual asphalt concrete but rather by cobblestones to assist the vehicles in icy conditions.
The main street of the city lies along the banks of the river that bisects the city—northbound traffic following the lanes along the eastern bank, and the southbound traffic following the lanes along the western bank—which is spanned by numerous pedestrian and vehicular bridges. There is a wide array of blue public buses following the whole length of this street, costing 1.25 TL one-way pp. The neighbourhoods and narrow alleys on either side of the river has no public transportation at all; however as the distances are not very long, walking around is a feasible option.
The old town is dotted by historic half-timbered houses (although a bit weary and in need of a renovation), elegant 19th century stone buildings, numerous mosques dating back to Candaroğlu and Ottoman eras, and pleasant ancient bazaar buildings (not entirely unlike the nearby and much better known Safranbolu, although Kastamonu's old town is partially replaced by modern, ugly buildings). On the top of a rocky hill (about 200 mt higher than the city itself) to the southwest of the city is the quite well-preserved citadel (free admission as of Apr 2011), overlooking the old town and a large part of the rest of the city. The foundations of the citadel date back to Byzantines, however it was the Candaroğlu who gave it its current shape. The climb up there through the narrow uphill alleys of the old town is a bit strenuous (and takes around 20 minutes) but the view is worth the effort.
On the opposite side across the river—which is spanned by, in addition to numerous modern bridges, by an ancient stone bridge, although the both ends of its originally 3-arch span were extensively rebuilt to allow for the passage of two modern streets—around the southern end of the city is the historic governor's office backed by a pleasant clocktower dating back to Ottoman period on the top of a hill.
Local sweet halva (çekme helvası) can be found at stores all over the city, starting from 1 TL for 100-gr packages or 2 TL for 300-gr packages.
There is a large shopping mall at about the midway between two ends of the city, on the main street, between the old town and the newer northern suburbs. In addition to a number of other stores, it hosts a large Migros supermarket.
Local etli ekmek is kind of a large pizza, topped by cheese and spicy bacons (pastırma), quite dissimilar to the dish known by the same name in the Central Anatolian city of Konya. You'll find numerous eateries all around the city serving etli ekmek, and along with a soup and some salad, it costs around 7-8 TL.
There are hotels along the main street of the city. However, if you happen to show up during one of the numerous-year-round ceremonies in the nearby military garrisons—which are one of the most important local livelihoods as much of local trade evolves around them—when families from all over the country visit the city to see their conscripted sons, be ready to face outrageously high rip-off rates or even unable to obtain a room.
Ilgaz National Park, just half an hour's drive to south of Kastamonu, off the highway to Ankara, is centred around the Ilgaz Mountain, which, with its dark green spruce forests and snow-white vistas even in April, offers an almost Nordic landscape in the middle of Turkey, starkly contrasting with the windswept hills and treeless steppes of Central Anatolia further to south. Ilgaz also offers wintersport activities and accommodation (ranging from resort hotels to wooden bungalows).