From the 13th century to the advent of the railway in the early 20th century, Safranbolu was an important caravan station on the main East–West trade route. The Old Mosque, Old Bath and Süleyman Pasha Medrese were built in 1322. During its apogee in the 17th century, Safranbolu’s architecture influenced urban development throughout much of the Ottoman Empire.
The City of Safranbolu is a typical Ottoman city, with typical buildings and streets, and played a key role in the caravan trade over many centuries. The settlement developed as a trading centre after the Turkish conquest in the 11th century, and by the 13th century, it had become an important caravan station. Its layout demonstrates the organic growth of the town in response to economic expansion, and its buildings are representative of its evolving socio-economic structure up to the disappearance of the traditional caravan routes and beyond.
Safranbolu consists of three distinct historic districts; the market place area of the inner city, known as Çukur, the area of Kıranköy, and Bağlar (the Vineyards). Çukur lies in the lower part of the town and has a triangular shape defined by two rivers. Its centre is the market place, surrounded by the houses and workshops of craftsmen. The segregation of the city centre is very typical for Anatolian cities. Kıranköy was formerly a non-Muslim district, with a socio-architectural pattern similar to that in contemporary European towns, with the artisans and tradesmen living above their shops. The houses in this district are built of stone, in contrast to the wooden houses in Çukur, which illustrates how the separation of Muslim and non-Muslim quarters during the Ottoman Period enabled each community to establish settlements according to their own traditions.
The pattern of settlement in Bağlar (the Vineyards) consists of single houses set within large gardens. This district on the northwest slope of the city, looking to the south, was the summer resort for the city.
The streets in Çukur and Kıranköy are narrow and curved, creating a wider view at the corners following topographic lines, and the various consoles of the houses contribute to creating interesting street perspectives. The streets feature stone paving, sloping inwards to evacuate surface water, and older houses are half-timbered, while the spaces between the timbers are filled with various building materials. There are no windows on the street frontage, so that stone walls resemble extensions of garden walls. The main rooms on the first floors are usually panelled with built-in cupboards, fireplaces, shelves and benches. Many of the ceilings are lavishly carved and painted. The rooms serve different purposes and are connected together with halls called “sofa”, which are very important elements of the house.