Earth : Europe : Turkey : Aegean Turkey : Northern Aegean : Bergama
Bergama is located in north western Anatolia, 16 km from the Aegean Sea. It is a popular tourist destination due to its close proximity to the ruins of the ancient city of Pergamon, and has a population of around 60,000. Pergamon (Ancient Greek: Πέργαμον or Πέργαμος), or Pergamum, was an ancient Greek city on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus (modern day Bakırçay), that became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon during the Hellenistic period, under the Attalid dynasty, 281–133 BC. Pergamon was cited in the book of Revelation as one of the seven churches of Asia. Today, the main sites of ancient Pergamon are to the north and west of the modern city of Bergama.
From the Bayrampasa Otogar in Istanbul, it's a 9 and a half hours trip. Some travelers use the modern city of Izmir (less than 2 hours by bus) as a base for exploring Bergama and other sites nearby (Ephesus, Pamukkale and Çeşme, among others) or the nearer town of Ayvalik (approx. 45 minutes). If you are coming from the centre of Izmir, you will need to first get to the otogar (bus station) which is around 8 km to the east; buses 54, 60, 64 and 191 go there. At the otogar, go to the top floor where there is a Metro Turizm counter, who operate a regular bus service to the centre of Bergama for 12TL (2h journey). When you get off the bus, it is only a ten minute walk to the Acropolis.
The main bus terminal is in the city outskirt (about 7 kilometers away from the city center), so you can either take a taxi or the cheaper shuttle bus to get to the city centrum. But if you're coming from Istanbul and on a Metro Turizm bus, it goes to the city centrum (passing by the main bus terminal).
The Metro Turizm buses from Canakkale leave you on the side of the highway, if you are dropped off on the highway carefully walk across to the Otogar (you can see it visually across the highway). Be careful as it's a busy highway with lots of traffic. There are free Metro minibuses from the Otogar to Bergama city center. You may have to wait 30-40 mins though as their departure coincides with other bus arrivals. You can always take a taxi if you do not wish to wait.
The best and most convenient option from Eceabat or Cannakale is to catch a Soma Sehayat bus which goes directly to the Bergama city center so you don't have to deal with the above ordeals.
The Truva Bus Company runs busses from Canakkale which take five hours (many stops) but be aware - they drop you off on the highway from where you can walk to the Otogar (you can see it on the other side of the highway) or take a taxi which will no doubt arrive in the bus's wake - price negotiable (YTL 10 was the best we heard about)
Most of the downtown/centrum is very navigable by foot. In fact, walking is one of the pleasures of a visit to Bergama. You can walk to all of the popular tourist destinations from the center within 15 minutes, including the Asklepion, The Acropolis (cable car), the Archaeology Museum and the Red Basilica/Hall.
The tourist destinations are quite spread out, though, so you may consider hiring a taxi to get to all the sites. They should be familiar with all of the sites and offer a price to see all of them.
Bergama merits at least two days, although all of the sites can be visited in one day with an early start. It's a joy just to walk the streets. If you take the time to wander the cobbled streets you'll feel that every old home has a unique story to tell.
Open from 8.30am-7pm. For anyone staying in Bergama, it is highly recommended to get to the site right on opening before the hordes of day-trippers start arriving from 9am onward. Head straight to the top for the Temple of Trajan and the best vantage point of the theatre before the crowds hit.
To arrive, walk in the northeast direction (you will clearly see the Akropol on the hill). The cable car runs up east side of the hill. Walking from the center should take no more than 15 minutes. Cable car roundtrip: 8 TL, Entrance fee: 20 TL. (see 'Discussion' of this listing for an "alternate" route to see the Akropol on the cheap)
The best way to see the Acropolis is to only take the cable car up (they will try to sell you a return ticket, insist on one-way) and then walk down the ancient road down via the Gymnasium. Ask someone how to get down the hill via the Gymnasium and they should indicate the way. There are some great sites that you will miss if you take the cable car down, and it's a very easy walk for anyone in good health. You will come upon a building to the right of the path with fantastically well-preserved mosaics and other artifacts, as well as a few other sites and the Gymnasium itself. When you come to the very bottom of the hill you will find a space in the fence where you can exit the area.
In the Acropolis, the remains that you see on the left hand side while going in are the monumental tombs or heroons built for the kings of Pergamon during the Hellenistic period. Shops are situated at their side. When you enter the Acropolis, the remains seen at your left side are the foundations of Propylon (monumental gates) which were constructed by Eumenes II. When you pass to the square surrounded with three stoas of the Doric order you will notice the ruins of the Temple of Athena, built during the time of Eumenes II in the 3rd century BC. It's just above the Theater.
The famous Library of Pergamon, which contained 200,000 books, was situated north of the square. Antonius gave all the books of the library to Cleopatra as a wedding gift. Pergamon's library on the Acropolis (the ancient Library of Pergamum) is the second best in the ancient Greek civilization. When the Ptolemies stopped exporting papyrus, partly because of competitors and partly because of shortages, the Pergamenes invented a new substance to use in codices, called pergaminus or pergamena (parchment) after the city.
The building that has been restored at present is the Temple of Trajan. Trajan started it but after his death Emperor Hadrian (117-138) finished the temple in Corinthian order and it was placed upon a terrace with dimensions of 68 × 58 m (223.10 ft × 190.29 ft). Attempts have been continuing by the German archaeologists since 1976 to erect this temple which has 6 x 9 columns and a peripteros plan (one row of columns around the temple). It is completely marble.
The Theater of Pergamon, one of the steepest theaters in the world, has a capacity of 10,000 people and was constructed in the 3rd century BC. The road in front of the theater leads to the Temple of Dionysos (known in Rome as Bacchus, god of wine). The temple, which arouses interest because of the staircase in front with a height of 4.5 m (14.76 ft) and 25 steps, has an exquisite appearance.
The famous Altar of Zeus in Pergamon is on the south of the theater. Eumenes II (197-159 BC) constructed it as a memorial of the victory against the Galatians. This Altar has the shape of a horseshoe and its dimensions are 36.44 × 34.20 m (119.55 ft × 112.20 ft). It is composed of four parts and the high relieves on it describe the war between the giants and the gods.
The Altar which was taken away from Pergamon in 1871 and carried to Germany by the German engineer Carl Humann, is exhibited at the Museum of Pergamum in Berlin, in a manner conforming to its original. Today the Turkish government is trying to get it back from Germany bringing the issue to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
On the south of the Altar, the Agora (market place) belonging to the 2nd century BC, is situated. In the middle of the Agora there is a small altar. Downwards in the Acropolis, the central city is placed.
To walk to the Asklepion, head west from the city center. As long as you start heading uphill, you're going the right way. It's a 15 minute walk from the center. You can just ask people if you are heading the right way. If you pass a military base, you're good. Entrance fee: 15 TL. Closes at 7.
It is believed that Asklepion, built in the name of Aesculapius, the god of Health and Medicine, has existed since the 4th century BC. It contains premises such as a small theater with a capacity of 3,500 people, rooms where the patients were cured by the sound of water and music, the temple of Asklepion and the library. Here, the dreams of the patients were analyzed by their doctors (priests) 2000 years before Sigmund Freud did. One of the important personalities associated with the Asklepion was Galen (Galenus) from the 2nd c. AD. Archeology has found lots of gifts and dedications that people would make afterwards, such as small terracotta body parts, no doubt representing what had been healed. Notable extant structures in the Asclepieion include the Roman theater, the North Stoa, the South Stoa, the Temple of Asclepius, a circular treatment center (sometimes known as the Temple of Telesphorus), a healing spring, an underground passageway, a library, the Via Tecta (or the Sacred Way, which is a colonnaded street leading to the sanctuary), and a propylon.
Red Basilica (Kızıl Avlu)
You will pass this walking toward the Akropol cable car. Sign on the road says "Bazilika (Redhall)". It looks like a massive pile of red bricks. The huge structure was erected in the 2nd century under the reign of Hadrian as a temple to the popular Egyptian god Serapis. It was later converted into a Byzantine church. It consists of a main building and two round towers within an enormous temenos or sacred area. In the first century AD, the Christian Church at Pergamon inside the main building of the Red Basilica was one of the Seven Churches to which the Book of Revelation was addressed (Revelation 2:12). The forecourt is still supported by the 193 m wide Pergamon Bridge, the largest bridge substruction of antiquity. Winter daily 8:30am-5:30pm; summer daily 8:30am-6:30pm. Entrance fee is 5 TL.
Nowadays, there is a mosque located in one of the buildings. Access to the mosque is not the same as for the archaeological area.
Archaeology Museum (Arkeoloji Muzesi)
Located on İzmir Caddesi in the center of town. This museum contains all of the many artifacts recovered in the archaeological digs at Pergamon. There is a copy of the altar of Zeus (original is in Berlin), and you will see that the sculptures are related to those found in archaeological digs in Aphrodisias. Admission is TL 5.
Between June 18–24, Bergama celebrates its annual festival "Bergama Kermesi", which is already running into its seventy-second anniversary. Bergama Kermesi is a major local event, generally celebrated with the attendance of Turkish celebrities, singers, players, poets, and writers.
There is a lake just to the north of the Acropolis called Kestel Barajı. If you go to the Acropolis, you cannot help but see it below. Looks like it has a nice island in the middle that you can swim to. If you go exploring or swimming (if the water is clean), you should update this! It looks like a nice place to get some sun and go swimming. You can reach it by continuing to walk past the cable car up to the Acropolis.
Bergama is renowned for its high quality carpets. There are approximately eighty villages that still weave Bergama carpets. The history of carpet weaving in Bergama dates back to the 11th century - when Turkish migration started to the area. Bergama carpets have almost always been woven with wool - an attestation to the pastoral life style of the Yörük clans populating the area at the time.
Although the history of carpet weaving in Bergama dates back to the 11th century, most surviving carpets do not age more than 200 years - mainly due to their wool content. The oldest surviving Bergama carpets can be found in mosques in and around Bergama, as well as the archaeological museum in Bergama.
If you traveling by car, Kozak is worth a visit for their pine pistacho (cam fistigi). You may get nice homemade wines, really good and not made for tourists but for local people, so imagine how good!
There are plenty of doner salons and cafeteria style restaurants around town, most without a name. You'll be able to find affordable and tasty food in any of these!
Across the street from the Bergama Archaeology Museum there are several small restaurants where you can find a tall beer for 4 TL. They share a common garden with mature trees and pond. A good place to relax and watch the world go by.
If you are really looking to save money and have a tent, it would likely be possible to camp just west of town near the Asklepion. There are plenty of fields, and it's only about 15 minutes from the center of town.
There buses direct to Istanbul that leave in the morning and the evening (overnight). 50 TL with Metro, 52 TL with Anadolu. Both have internet, leaving around 9:00 and 20:00 from the otogar south of the Archaeology museum, but also passes by the other otogar further from town.
For those heading south to Izmir, Metro Turizm run a minibus from their depot near the town square in the centre of Bergama (ask a local for exact location). Costs 10TL, takes 2.5hrs. The service runs every 30-60mins during the day.
To get from Bergama to Selcuk (Ephesus), transfer at Izmir. Numerous minibuses go from Izmir to Selcuk, takes about 2hrs. In most cases there will be little waiting time in between buses but expect a wait of up to an hour at the Izmir otogar if you had just missed the connection.