Samsun for me was a lot of wasted time. For a large city with such a long history, the sites were mostly uninteresting and uninspiring. I felt my full day there was too much, and a half day would have served it well enough.
Samsun was founded by the ancient Greeks as Amissós (Αμισσός), which was the mythical home of the Amazons, a tribe of fierce female warriors. The city was later known as Sampsoúnta (Σαμψούντα), part of the historical Póntos (Πόντος) region.
While I may be unforgiving of Samsun as a city, I have nothing but great things to say about the people. Everyone I interacted with was friendly and had a great sense of humor. The people were the highlight for me.
Another highlight was the food. Samsun is known to have some of the best pide (kind of like a pizza) in all of Turkey. You can find them all over town. I lived on pide during my day in Samsun.
Getting to Samsun is possible by bus and plane. The bus terminal is located quite a ways out of the city center. If arriving by bus, ask your bus company if there is a shuttle service to the city center. I arrived on Metro Turizm and was able to take advantage of their shuttle to Cumhuriyet Meydanı.
The airport, Samsun-Çarşamba Havalimanı, is located to the east of the city. There are several flights daily from Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, Pegasus, and Onur Air. A shuttle service run by Bafaş can take passengers to the airport. Ask your hotel where to catch it because it’s new since my visit.
Getting around Samsun can be done on foot in the city center and via light rail. There are light rail stations conveniently located near the city center at Cumhuriyet Meydanı and Amazon Adası (Baruthane İstasyonu). The rail system is run by Samulaş. With a jeton (token), the fare is 4TL (as of November 2016).
I stayed at the Otel Altay, not too far from Cumhuriyet Meydanı. I thought it was in a bit of a seedy area and the room wasn’t all that great, but the staff more than made up for it. The manager was a friendly guy who was quick-witted and helpful. I paid 60TL for the night.