15 Best Things To Do in Bodrum
Bodrum has been a top tourist resort since before even Pliny the Elder was gallivanting the ancient world, back in the first century AD. He actually took time out of his busy schedule to visit Bodrum, back when it hosted one of the seven wonders of the world that Antipater of Sidon was raving on about 250 years earlier: the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Bodrum History (a brief pit-stop)
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was, as you can probably guess, a mausoleum. But while we all know and use the word ‘mausoleum‘ today (well, sometimes), it actually comes from king Mausolus, the ruler of Caria who was buried inside the monument at Halicarnassus (the old name for Bodrum). He got off on having a big-ass grave, and while he wasn’t around to witness it, plenty of other people said it was pretty cool too.
Another interesting thing about Halicarnassus, or Bodrum for you new-age folk, is that it was home to one of the greatest travellers of the ancient world, Herodotus. In fact, most of our knowledge of the ancient world comes directly from this man’s exploits. Unfortunately, he was born a few hundred years before the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was built, so he had to make do with wandering through Egypt, Libya, Syria, and just about every other hotspot on the Mediterranean Sea.
While the mausoleum has since been reduced to rubble, you can still go to the spot where it once stood. And in the time since the devastating (and entirely theoretical) earthquake, several hundred years ago, Bodrum has developed a few other things worth seeing. It wouldn’t be much of a place if the only thing to do in Bodrum was stand on a patch of old rubble now, would it?
15 Best things to do in Bodrum
1. Wander through Bodrum Castle
If you’re a history lover, Bodrum is far more than a crumbled crypt and the birthplace of a famous historian. It had hundreds of years worth of conflict stuffed in between then and now. A lot of this circulated around Bodrum castle.
Also known as the Castle of St Peter, Bodrum castle stands proud against the shimmering blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The location of Bodrum castle has been fortified and used as a strategic defensive position for over 3,000 years, but it wasn’t until about 500 years ago that the Knights Hospitaller decided to build a full-on castle.
As with most old cities, the stones used to build the Castle of St Peter were recycled. They came from the rubble of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. The knights likely figured that King Mausolus didn’t need that many bricks compared to the amount they needed to protect them from the stirring Ottomans. Even with the castle, the Ottomans took control shortly afterwards, along with Rhodes and other parts of Greece, located very close geographically to the bay of Bodrum.
In the 16th century, Suleiman the Magnificent (a name given to him because he basically took over everything from Turkey to Serbia) took control of Halicarnassus, and by 1895, Bodrum castle was a prison.
Nowadays it’s a great place to visit and spend a few hours absorbing the history (or play with the cats).
There are plenty of nooks and crannies to poke your head into, and once you get onto the walls, you’ll have a stunning view over the sparkling sea.
2. Explore the Ruins of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
While the mausoleum no longer exists, you can still visit the ruins of where it once stood. There’s a small entry fee and a little museum on site which will give you more information about its construction and destruction.
One of the best things to do in Bodrum for history buffs, the mausoleum is an easy tick in your 7 ancient wonders list. Good luck visiting the Hanging Gardens of Babylon…
When strolling around the site, I couldn’t help trying to imagine what it must have been like a few thousand years ago, and what must have happened between then and now to leave us with a mound of mis-matched stones.
Like most of Turkey, these ruins are home to dozens of cats too. They’re all over the place and most of them are friendly.
3. Visit the Museum of Underwater Archaeology
With such a vast and impressive history, and being situated close to the Aegean Sea and a Greek island (or 300), it’s no wonder that Bodrum possesses a myriad of underwater artefacts. The Bodrum peninsula has long been a strategic position of much importance to multiple empires.
But Bodrum’s underwater archaeology museum is not just the first of its kind, but also the biggest and best in all of Turkey. You’ll find it nestled away inside the castle of St Peter.
From Bronze Age shipwrecks to a large collection of pottery, the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology has much to offer. Its most prized exhibit is Serçe Limanı Glass Wreck room, a room that showcases a 16-metre long Byzantine ship that sank in 1026 AD. You’ll also find some of its cargo displayed around the room.
The Museum of Underwater Archaeology is also home to several multimedia displays which talk about the process of performing underwater archaeology, and how the science all began. It’s well worth a visit, especially if you’re already passing through Bodrum castle.
4. Sample the Turkish Cuisine
When in Turkey, right? Turkish food is some of the best in the world. From fresh seafood to traditional pide, mouth-watering iskender to manti dumplings, Bodrum is a great place to sample Turkish cuisine. While it’s not as famous as Gaziantep for its food, it’s still a great introduction to authentic Turkish cuisine.
You should also try authentic Turkish delights! They’re not like the stuff you get back home – although you can get that too – it’s way better. Turkey is famous for other sweets as well. Baklava, anyone? Turkish sweets are delicious and can be found all over the place in Bodrum, especially in the more touristy areas around Bodrum bay. They make great souvenirs, too.
You can’t visit Turkey without trying Turkish tea either. It’s everywhere so you’ll struggle to escape it. It’s often offered for free after meals. You’ll notice a similar thing with Turkish coffee…
Being so close, it’s no surprise that Turkish food has a lot of similarities to Greek food. Both are delicious in their own right, but both also have unique nuances that aren’t found in the other’s culture.
5. Go for a Dip Off the Bodrum Peninsula
The area surrounding Bodrum is home to dozens of beautiful beaches. While you might need a car to access a lot of them, there are some within walking distance from Bodrum town centre. Gümbet beach is the one that was closest to where I stayed, but I was there in January so going for a swim wasn’t super appealing. In the summer period, you can do plenty of water sports off this beach.
There’s also Bodrum municipality public beach which is right in central Bodrum. Other gorgeous beaches around Bodrum include:
- Yahsi Beach
- Aspat Beach
- Yalıkavak Public Beach
- Gümüşlük Port Beach
- Ortakent Beach
- Bodrum Yali Public Beach
- Kumbahçe Beach
Not all these beaches are near Bodrum town centre, but they can all be reached by a short drive.
6. Catch a Tan on a Bodrum Boat Trip
With so much sea around, you’ll want to get out on a boat tour and see it up close. You’ll also get fantastic views of Bodrum castle from the water. If you stroll down to Bodrum harbour, you’ll be able to find lots of boat trips.
I was working there in cold January so I didn’t do any tours. I explored mostly on foot and saw everything from the ground level. However, if you’re going there on holiday, it’ll likely be warm and you can take a day trip or two.
Sailing around the Turkish riviera is one of the coolest things to do!
7. Stroll Through the Ancient City of Pedasa
Located almost 4 miles from Bodrum city centre, Pedasa is an archaeological site that you can explore. Pedasa was an ancient city state that lost its independence around 400 BC when Alexander the Great gave it to Halicarnassus, along with five other nearby cities.
Today, you can roam through the ancient ruins and find spectacular vistas over the Turkish countryside.
When I was there, I got a taxi from Bodrum town centre to the entrance to Pedasa. There were a few people there, but it was relatively empty. I spent an hour or two exploring the site, then walked back to Bodrum through the forested hills…
8. Go Hiking in the Hills
There are a few trails that you can hike right outside of Bodrum. If you’re up for a long jaunt, you can go directly from Bodrum town centre, though it can be good to do what I did for Pedasa and get a taxi to the top and then hike back down. It can be quite steep but I didn’t meet a single soul while I was there.
A word of warning: I did bump into a big gate at one point on the trail. While Maps.me had it marked as a walking trail, it appeared to go through public property. After I’d already been walking for a few hours, and there was no other way to go, I climbed through a hole made by some sheep (who were still standing there), and continued down the path. I saw no signs of civilisation other than that big fence. Forty minutes or so later and I was back in the outskirts of town.
This is one of my favourite things to do in Bodrum because you get amazing views from the top of the hill, and on the way down. You can even make out the Bodrum windmills in the distance which were right next to where I was staying.
9. Watch the Sunrise from the Abandoned Bodrum Windmills
The 18th century windmills are perched upon a hill in between Gumbet and the city centre. As I was staying in Gumbet, I walked past the windmills almost every day to get to town. While they’re completely abandoned now, they were in use as recently as the 1970s.
However, I made a special effort a few times to head there early in the morning. You get the best sunrise view in town, and there’s no one around so you can explore the windmills and climb to the top. Just be careful as they are practically crumbling to bits.
As the windmills run north to south, you can also come for a nice sunset.
10. Learn About the Sea at the Maritime Museum
Bodrum obviously has strong connections to the sea. The Maritime Museum is a great place to explore that a little more. Avoiding the usual navy stuff found in sea museums, The Bodrum Maritime Museum specialises in seashells that have been gathered by a local couple over the past 60 years. The exhibits are accompanied by scientific and cultural explanations that help you learn a little about each of the shells.
And there are some crazy ones there, too! It’s a fun little place to spend an hour or so. It’s not very big, but there are so many quirky and colourful shells that you can end up spending longer there than you expected.
11. Check Out the Boats at the Milta Bodrum Marina
Bodrum harbour is one of the most prestigious harbours in the entire Mediterranean. Known under its more professional name, the Milta Bodrum Marina, you’ll probably pass through here anyway if you’re heading on a boat trip or trying to find the castle of St Peter. It runs right along the coast in the centre of town so you don’t have to go out of your way to find it either.
A truly massive thing, it can store 475 boats and gets 2.5m visitors per year. It boasts a gym, art gallery, food stalls and even a bazaar. The slogan for the Milta Bodrum Marina is: “We are in the heart of Bodrum. We are the heart of Bodrum.”
12. Head to the Zeki Muren Arts Museum
The arts museum is dedicated to the eponymous musician and actor, and it’s also the last place he lived before his death. A super famous singer in Turkey, this museum offers an interesting glimpse into his personal life, as well as his astounding career. Any fans of his will be sure to have this at the top of their Bodrum things to do list.
13. Get Out the City Centre
While the old town is cute, it’s not as impressive or sprawling as the ones in Istanbul or Antalya. It’s also likely that you’ll be there anyway as it’s the most interesting part of town. It’s where everything is happening. But that’s not always a good thing.
Sometimes it’s good to get off the beaten track a little bit and explore what the real Bodrum is like. If you can, walk instead of taking a taxi and you’ll find yourself in more authentic neighbourhoods. Bodrum is a small and safe city so it’s perfectly fine to wander.
14. Visit Bodrum Theatre
A little-visited Roman theatre sits not far away from the ruins of Halicarnassus. If you’re interested in the ancient history of the area, then Bodrum theatre is a must-see. While it’s not particularly large, especially compared to some of the theatres you’ll find in other Roman cities, it has a nice view and is free to enter from what I remember.
When I was there, I sat down with a notepad for an hour or so and only saw two other couples come to visit. It’s a great place to get a feel for the ancient world all within walking distance from the centre.
15. Meander Through Myndos Gate
Another one for the history lovers, Myndos Gate was one of the original entrances to the fortress of King Mausolus. Back in the day, this wall wrapped itself around the entire city of Bodrum, stretching on for seven kilometres. Now, you’ll find patches of half-rubble here and there, but Myndos Gate is the most impressive remnant. The stonework is phenomenal.
I walked through there regularly as the local supermarket is nearby, and there was a cat that lived there that would always try to walk on my feet as I went by. If you wanted, you could walk from here to the theatre and Halicarnassus and then down to the marina and the old town. With a population of less than 200,000, Bodrum is thankfully quite small.
Enjoy Your Time in Bodrum
A beautiful place to visit for your holidays, as well as a great destination for longer stays, Bodrum is one of the most popular seaside resorts in Turkey. Whether you like being on the sea, exploring ancient ruins, or getting lost in markets and old towns, Bodrum will have something for you. For those more into a little nature, the nearby Pedasa and other hiking trails are easy to get to from the town centre itself.
If you want to venture further afield in Turkey, check out our other posts for the country. Or if you’re gonna hop on a boat from Bodrum to Greece, be sure to discover all the amazing things you can do in Greece. Yelena and I first met in Corfu, after all.