Goose, Cheese and Russian Remnants: A Visit to Kars, Turkey

In this destination guide we visit Kars, Turkey – a city which is known for its cheese, goose and Russian history.

Exploring Kars

After my lovely half-day trip to Ani – an absolute must-see sight when you find yourself in the area – I had the late afternoon and evening left to explore the city of Kars.

I was dropped off by my taxi in front of my Kars hotel after a 40-minute ride and as it was such a hot summer day I first retreated to my hotel room for a cold shower to freshen up a bit.

As it was lunch time, I couldn’t resist a quick durum kebab from a fast food place next to my hotel to regain full energy levels for the hours ahead.

At around €1 for the kebab and a bottle of water, it certainly was a cheap lunch.

church armenian ani kars day trip
The ruins of the ancient Armenian capital of Ani are a must-see sight when you visit Kars.  ©Paliparan
ani ruins
The ruins of the ancient Armenian city of Ani, which is located some 50 kilometres outside Kars, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. ©Paliparan
kebab lunch
A quick kebab for lunch after my visit to Ani. ©Paliparan

Kars history

The city of Kars is fairly small and can be easily explored in half a day if you are short on time.

With its tree-lined streets and low-key buildings, Kars is actually a pleasant provincial city to visit in Turkey.

However, what makes a visit to this city so interesting is the modern history of this part of Turkey.

After being fought over in multiple battles between the Ottomans and the Russian Empire, Kars was finally conquered by Russia in 1877.

Following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, the city was formally included into the Russian Empire after the warring parties signed the Treaty of San Stefano.

What followed was a minor population exchange as Turkish Muslims fled the city and Russians, Greeks and Armenians moved in.

This was reflected in the demography of the newly established Kars Oblast.

In 1878, Kars was a majority-Muslim city (66.8% Turks, 24.4% Armenians) while in 1897 this changed to a population of which only 3.8% of the people were Turkish while 26.3% were Russian and 49.7% Armenian.

After a brief spell under control of the newly proclaimed Armenian Republic at the end of the First World War, Kars was reoccupied by the Turkish Army in 1920.

On October 23rd 1921, the Treaty of Kars was signed, which officially recognised Kars as being part of Turkey.

governor's house kars turkey
The old Governor’s House with its fine Tsarist-era architecture was the place where the Treaty of Kars was signed in 1921. ©Paliparan

Russian-era architecture

Although in the grand scheme of things the Russian control over Kars was only brief, they did however leave a lasting legacy in the city.

This is mostly reflected in the 19th Century Russian-era architecture of the city centre of Kars, which features some beautiful pastel-coloured stone mansions.

One of such buildings in the city centre houses an appealing-looking café (Kılıçoğlu Cafe Patisserie), which is a fine place for some Turkish coffee and baklava.

kars turkey guide visit
Fine Russian-era brick mansions in the city centre of Kars. ©Paliparan
kars turkey
Thanks to the pastel-coloured buildings from the Tsarist-era, a walk through Kars feels at times like you are walking through a provincial town in Russia. ©Paliparan
Statue in a low-rise residential area. ©Paliparan
city centre houses
Pavement café in the city centre. ©Paliparan
Kılıçoğlu Cafe Patisserie
Kılıçoğlu Cafe Patisserie is located in a Russian-era stone mansion. ©Paliparan
turkish coffee baklava
Enjoying some Turkish coffee and baklava at Kılıçoğlu Cafe Patisserie. ©Paliparan

Mosques and churches

Of all the sights in Kars, the hilltop citadel which overlooks the city clearly stands out.

Just below the hilltop citadel you can find some of the other main sights of Kars such as the Evliya Mosque (Evliya Cami) – the largest in the city – as well as the old Armenian Cathedral.

This 10th Century Armenian Cathedral was converted to a mosque in 1993 and is now part of the same complex as the Evliya Mosque next-doors.

Although I didn’t have time to visit it, another unique reconverted religious building in Kars is the Fethiye Mosque.

This mosque used to be a Russian military cathedral dedicated to Alexander Nevsky and is another fine example of the Tsarist-era architectural legacy in Kars.

evliya mosque kars
The Evliya Mosque. ©Paliparan
armenian cathedral kars
The Armenian Cathedral of Kars. ©Paliparan
armenian cathedral kars
Although it has been nicely renovated, the Armenian Cathedral has been used as a mosque since 1993. ©Paliparan
Fethiye Mosque
The Fethiye Mosque used to be a Russian Orthodox Cathedral. ©Google Maps

Kars Citadel

Having visited the mosque and old Armenian Cathedral, it was time to climb up towards the citadel.

It’s quite a steep climb to get up to the Kars Citadel and although I am in good shape and like to walk, I could definitely feel it in my legs when I finally reached the top of the hill on this extremely hot summer day.

However, the panoramic views over Kars were well-worth the climb up to the top of the citadel.

The Kars Citadel in itself was however a bit disappointing as there wasn’t a great deal to see besides some bare walls.

kars citadel
Located on a rocky outcrop high above the city, the Kars Citadel can be seen from almost everywhere in town. ©Paliparan
kars turkey
Great view over Kars from the steps leading up to the citadel. ©Paliparan
view hammam bridge
View over the old stone bridge and hammam (bathhouse). ©Paliparan
kars citadel
Inside the citadel. ©Paliparan
kars citadel view
View from the top of Kars Citadel. ©Paliparan

Eating goose in Kars

Kars is famous across Turkey for two speciality foods, namely its goose meat and cheese.

On my previous day in Kars, I searched in vain for a restaurant which actually serves goose, as one recommended place was closed and the other one (Kamer Cafe & Restaurant – a great choice if you’re looking for a restaurant in town) temporarily didn’t have it on the menu.

I was therefore extremely happy that with Kars Kazevi Restaurant I finally managed to find a place which had goose on the menu.

Kars Kazevi Restaurant did not only have goose on the menu as house speciality, but it also had some great views over the citadel from its outdoor terrace.

First, I ordered the cold yoghurt soup as starter, which was very refreshing on a hot day like this.

Of course, for my main course I ordered goose, which didn’t disappoint either as this local delicacy was full of flavour.

After the meal, some complimentary tea was offered, which would be highly impolite to decline when travelling across Turkey.

Kars Kazevi Restaurant
View from the terrace of Kars Kazevi Restaurant. ©Paliparan
yoghurt soup turkey
Cold yoghurt soup as starter with the citadel as formidable backdrop. ©Paliparan
goose meat kars
Tasting the famous goose meat of Kars. ©Paliparan
tea turkey
A glass of tea to end a great meal. ©Paliparan

Cheese shopping

The other famous local delicacy in Kars is its cheese – and there are several cheese shops in the city centre where you can taste and buy some of it.

Having bought some cheese to give to some Turkish friends I would visit later on during the trip, I wandered a bit more through the city centre.

When I encountered a nice-looking café, I also made a brief stop for some nargilah and tea to conclude a great day in town.

kars cheese
Buying some Kars cheese. ©Paliparan
nargilah tea
Nargilah and tea in a local café. ©Paliparan


Kars is a fantastic destination in Turkey for anyone looking for a city off the beaten path with plenty of interesting sights to see.

Located some 50 kilometres outside of the city, the ruins of the old Armenian capital of Ani are actually the main sight and the biggest reason why you want to come all the way to this distant corner of Turkey.

However, with its pleasant low-key vibe, leafy streets and Russian-era architecture, there are plenty of things to see in the city of Kars as well.

If you find yourself in town, it’s a must to walk up the hilltop citadel for some sweeping views over the city.

With some good restaurants and famous delicacies like goose and cheese which are well-known across Turkey, foodies will certainly love their trip to Kars too.

If planned well, you can see the sights of Kars in full day with an early morning rise to start your half-day trip to visit Ani, which leaves the late afternoon and evening to explore the sights in the city itself.

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘Khachapuri & Kebabs: A Summer Trip to Georgia and Turkey‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Review: Wizz Air Bucharest to Kutaisi (Airbus A320)
2. A Day in Kutaisi, the Charming Capital of Imereti
3. Caves, Churches and Monasteries – A Kutaisi Day Trip
4. Review: My Warm Guest House, Batumi, Georgia
5. Beautiful Batumi – The Pearl of Georgia’s Black Sea Coast
6. From Georgia to Turkey: Batumi to Kars by Bus
7. Review: Kars Konak Hotel, Kars, Turkey
8. A Day Trip From Kars to the Ancient Armenian City of Ani
9. Goose, Cheese and Russian Remnants: A Visit to Kars, Turkey (current chapter)
10. Review: Dogu Express Night Train Kars to Ankara, Turkey
11. Review: AnadoluJet Ankara to Izmir (Boeing 737-800)
12. Review: Ege Palas Business Hotel, Izmir, Turkey
13. Izmir: Turkey’s Most Liberal and Liveable City
14. Ancient Ephesus: An Easy Day Trip From Izmir
15. A Visit to the Hilltop Wine Village of Sirince
16. A Beach Trip From Izmir to Cesme and Ilica
17. Foça: A Beautiful Seaside Town to Visit From Izmir
18. Flying Back Home With Atlasglobal and TAROM

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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