- I About Ankara
- II Ankara Esenboğa Airport
- III Getting around
- IV Things to see and do in Ankara
Featuring a population of almost 4,000,000 residents, Ankara has a dynamic student community, which lives up the city’s social and night life.
Gateway to deeper Anatolia, Ankara bears a 4000-year history, touches of which you will trace among scattered ancient, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine ruins. Recent history monuments adorn the capital’s streets and squares as well.
Ankara is Turkey’s capital, and its second city in size after Istanbul. Literally and figuratively, it is located at the heart of both Turkey and Central Anatolia, the surrounding region. The population is around 4.5 million.
Ankara is the administrative hub of Turkey and a huge university town, so it has a large population of government workers and university students. As the national capital Ankara is home to a large population of foreign diplomats and embassy staff, it offers goods and services that might be more difficult to find in other Turkish cities — for example you will have no problem ordering a cappuccino or a hamburger.
Ankara is a sprawling, modern city which can appear as little more than a dull, concrete jungle at first glance — most non-local Turks view Ankara as a depressive and grey city with nothing in offer other than the boring world of politics. Consequently, many visitors tend to use it merely as a transit point for getting to places like Konya or Cappadocia, however Ankara does have a lot to offer for those prepared to look a bit deeper — as the proud capital of the Turkish Republic, it is easy to trace the steps of the early republican years here, whether it be in the shape of the fine buildings of the first national architecture movement or the 1940s monuments following the totalitarian aesthetics of the era. Local museums abound with some of the best pieces of art in the country, ancient and modern. And since it originally lies on the mostly barren Central Anatolian steppelands, Ankara vigorously pursued a policy of tree planting, which resulted in many parks and forestlands around the town, which add to its charms.
Like most Turks, the locals are generally friendly and helpful to tourists. Ankara has a large university student population and many young people can communicate in English. Having said that, it’s still a good idea to have a Turkish phrasebook or dictionary on hand.
Apart from the old town in and around the citadel near Ulus, and unplanned shanty town neighbourhoods here and there built hastily by new immigrants from countryside in the last five decades, most of Ankara, which was a provincial town of 20,000 people in the early days of the Republic, is a purpose-built capital due to its strategic location at the heart of the country, although the history of settlement in the vicinity is millennia old.
While the biggest claim to fame of the town used to be the long-haired local breed of goats named after the former name of the city (Angora), out of which high quality mohair textiles were produced, today the few places where you can spot them in the city is the lawns in some parks or at the sides of clover-leaf interchanges on the highways—in the form of cute sculptures.
The “downtown” area of this large city is around Kızılay Square (Kızılay Meydanı, named after the headquarters of the Red Crescent, the Turkish equivalent of the Red Cross, now replaced by a modern shopping mall) which has a fair number of transportation links to almost anywhere in the city. To the north, Kızılay Square is connected by a wide avenue, Atatürk Boulevard, to the squares of Sıhhiye (Ottoman Turkish for “sanitary works” as this has been the site of the building of the Ministry of Health since the foundation of the republic), marked by an unmissable Hittite monument in the middle of its roundabout, and Ulus (“nation”, the site of the major institutions of the early years of the republic, such as the old parliament), which has a large equestrian monument of Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the republic, at its side. Ulus, the adjoining Hisar district around the hilltop citadel, and Hamamönü just south of it down the hill form the old town of Ankara.
To the immediate south of Kızılay lies the upmarket districts of Kavaklıdere, Gaziosmanpaşa and Çankaya. The city’s most expensive hotels and restaurants are found in this region, as are most of the embassies and consular services.
Southwest of Kızılay, past the aptly named Bakanlıklar (“ministries”) district, İsmet İnönü Boulevard (named after the second Turkish president) leads into the area collectively known as Eskişehir Yolu (literally “the road to Eskişehir”), which is lined by most of Ankara’s large and afforested university campuses and the buildings of the administrative institutions, including the National Parliament. The area morphes into exurbs several tens of kilometres out of the city, which eventually give way to the wide open steppe.
Weather in Ankara
As any other part of the Anatolian highland, the winters are cold and usually snowy. Temperature is regularly below the freezing point during this season, but it rarely drops below -15°C. Thanks to the low levels of relative humidity, the hot and dry summers are more comfortable than coastal regions of Turkey. Average daily temperatures in midsummer are around 30°C. Daily temperatures can reach 35°C and above, but is not common and usually last no more than a few days. Summer nights are cool, though, so be sure to bring at least a cardigan with you to wear outdoors. Spring and autumn are the wettest seasons, but with an annual precipitation of 415 mm (i.e. a semi-arid climate), you are unlikely to get much wet during your trip to Ankara, anyway.
Ankara Esenboğa Airport
Is the only civilian airport in Ankara. International flights are rather low in frequency and scope – apart from Turkish Airlines (THY), only Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and British Airways offer direct flights to their respective European hubs. Iran Air also has two weekly flights to Tehran. For other carriers flying into Turkey, a flight into Istanbul is necessary, followed by an air transfer to Ankara by Turkish Airlines or Anadolu Jet (a low cost brand of Turkish Airlines). – EasyJet also offers discount flights to and from Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) and Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg in the summer months (until October 25) and to and from Istanbul and London Luton airport all year round for fares as low as £22. | Is the only civilian airport in Ankara. International flights are rather low in frequency and scope – apart from Turkish Airlines (THY), only Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and British Airways offer direct flights to their respective European hubs such as Frankfurt and London.
The only means of public transport are public busses numbered 442 (4 TL with one pass cards). It starts from the airport and follows a main artery to Ankara, passing through almost all central points, including train station, Kızılay, AŞTİ (intercity bus terminal). You can expect it to be rather crowded and as they don’t have separate sections for luggage, you might get exhausted at the end of the journey. One common way to travel to and from airports in Turkey is HAVAS but recently their services were temporarily suspended due to some legal issues with Ankara Metropolitan Municipality. Until the issues are solved, there won’t be any HAVAS service. Until then Ankara Metropolitan Municipality started their own shuttle service called Belko Air. They follow a similar route to the public transport, from airport it takes you to train station, Kizilay, and AŞTİ. You can put your luggage in luggage compartment. It costs you 11 TL. You can take a taxi as well but that would cost you around 100-140 TL one way, metered.
Travel by train to Ankara
Ankara is the eastern terminus of the Turkish high-speed rail system (YHT), with frequent fast trains to Konya, and via Eskişehir to Istanbul. Trains to Eskişehir and Konya take 90 minutes and those stations are within 3-5 km of their town centres, so they are easy day trips. Trains to Istanbul take 4½ hours; they also stop at Pendik, 25 km east of city centre and convenient for Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen airport (10 km, taxi or bus).
Destinations east of Ankara are served by slow overnight trains. The main services are to Diyarbakir and Kurtalan (the Guney Kurtalan Express), to Erzurum and Kars (the Dogu Express), and to Tatvan (the Vangölü Express), thence by dolmus to Van. From Van a train runs once a week to Tabriz in Iran, with onward trains to Tehran.
For times and reservations (strongly recommended) see TCDD Turkish Republic State Railways website.
A high-speed line is under construction from Ankara eastwards, and the first section to Kayseri and Sivas might open by 2020. The railway from Turkey to Georgia and Azerbaijan currently only carries freight, but passenger trains are expected to start in autumn 2019. International trains to Syria and Iraq are all suspended indefinitely.
Travel by bus to Ankara
If you are travelling from places other than Istanbul, you will find buses fast, inexpensive, and modern. Watch out for the drivers spraying your hands with lemon cologne if you do not like it.
Ankara Intercity Terminal
The buses terminate at this bus station (otogar), a huge, two-storey building with extended wings on sides. Most of the cities in Turkey have direct buses to the capital of Turkey. From Istanbul to Ankara, the bus trip takes around 6 hours and one way fare is between 55 and 85 TL. The fare varies by bus companies. Usually big companies like Pamukkale, Kamil Koç, Metro and Ulusoy have higher rates when other regional bus companies have lower prices, however the trip takes around 8 hours when you prefer these cheap regional bus companies. There are a lot of online services for buying tickets, but most of the time, companies’ own websites offer lower prices.
The city has a dense public bus network, a two-line subway called Ankara Metrosu and a single line suburban railway called Ankara Banliyö Treni.
For tourists, Ankara’s public transit system, particularly the public bus network, can be difficult to figure out, because maps are rare and all information is in Turkish. Nor is there any access provided for disabled travellers in any form of public transport. Buses and metros tend to be very crowded during rush hours, mainly on Mondays and Fridays.
If you know the city well, public transportation, mainly the metro, is an ideal, easy, quick and cheap way to get around particularly for longer distances. For shorter distances taxis are an easy, quick and cheap way to get around.
Travel by bus to Ankara
There are two types of public buses in Ankara; those run by the Ankara Municipality named Ankara Belediye Otobüsleri (EGO) and those run by a private corporation named Ankara Özel Halk Otobüsleri (ÖHO). You can differentiate these two types by their colours. EGO-run buses are white and blue while ÖHO-run buses are blue. Both types of these public buses use the same bus network and bus stops.
Ankara Municipal Buses
The Ankara Municipal Buses, named Ankara Belediye Otobüsleri (EGO), consists of an extensive and dense bus network, and is owned and operated by the Ankara Municipality.
Payment system for municipal buses is based on multi-use magnetic cards which are also used for the metro; starting from the smallest available which is the 1-unit card which costs 1.65 TL, 2-unit cards which cost 3.30 TL, 3-unit cards which cost 4.95 TL, 5-unit cards which cost 8.25 TL, 10-unit cards which cost 16.50 TL and 20-unit cards which cost 33.00 TL. A free transfer with the magnetic cards is possible within a duration of 45 minutes between the bus lines and metro lines. The magnetic cards cannot be purchased in buses and have to be purchased beforehand at kiosks and metro stations.
No stops and maps are displayed in the buses and bus stops nor announced by voice in the buses. However all current bus information is available online at the EGO English website. In addition, apps for smartphones are available with the same functionality.
Ankara Non-Municipal Public Buses
The Ankara Non-Municipal Public Buses, Ankara Özel Halk Otobüsleri (ÖHO), consists of an extensive and dense bus network, operated by a private corporation.
Payment system for non-municipal buses is with cash. The ticket, which is only a one-way ticket, is purchased in buses at a cost of 2.75 TL.
Unfortunately, no stops and maps are displayed in the buses and bus stops nor announced by voice in the buses.
The Ankara Metro, named Ankara Metrosu, consists of two metro lines, which are called Ankaray and Ankara Metro which is owned and operated by the Ankara Municipality .
The west-east light-rail line named Ankaray and the north-south heavy-rail Ankara Metro line are both mostly underground lines and intersect at Kızılay station.
The Ankaray line runs between AŞTİ (Ankara Şehirlerarası Terminal İşletmesi – Ankara Intercity Bus Terminal) and Dikimevi. The line is 8.7 km long (8.0 km underground and 0.7 km surface railway) and has 11 stations
The Ankara Metro line, runs between Kızılay, the town center, to Batıkent in the northwest. The line is 14.7 km long (6.5 km underground, 4.5 km surface, and 3.7 km elevated railway) and has 12 stations.
Payment for the subway is based on multi-use magnetic cards which is also used for the municipal buses; starting from the smallest available which is the 1-unit card which costs 1.65 TL, 2-unit cards which cost 3.30 TL, 3-unit cards which cost 4.95 TL, 5-unit cards which cost 8.25 TL, 10-unit cards which cost 16.50 TL and 20-unit cards which cost 33.00 TL. A free transfer with the magnetic cards is possible within a duration of 45 minutes between the bus lines and metro lines. The magnetic cards can be purchased at kiosks and metro stations.
All stations are announced both on a display and by voice in the metros.
By Suburban Railway
Ankara Suburban Railway (Ankara Banliyö Treni) consists of a single line, between Sincan and Eryaman in the west, through the town center, to Kayaş in the east. Trains run every 15 mins between about 06:00 and 22:00 . The line is 37.0 km long, all of it above ground, and has 24 stations. There’s nothing of visitor interest near the outlying stations, but Eryaman is an interchange with YHT trains to Konya, Eskişehir and Istanbul Pendik.
Buy tickets in cash at any station. A one-way ticket costs 1.70 TL and a return ticket costs 3.00 TL.
The entire line was closed for over a year due to construction at Ankara station and surrounding tracks, but it re-opened in April 2018. It’s owned and operated by Turkish State Railways.
Taxis are numerous in Ankara and are recognizable by their yellow color and word Taksi on top of the car. All licensed taxis have the letter T in their license plates.
The fare shown on the meter reads according to distance traveled. The ride will start from 2.20 TL, and the rate is 1.90 TL per kilometre. The rates for day and night are same. Tipping is not done other than rounding the fare to the next 50 kurus or 1 TL.
Occasionally, some taxi drivers will refuse to start the meter and try to negotiate a fixed price, mainly with tourists. But most taxi drivers will start taximeters at all times. You should avoid these cabs and simply take another one as you will almost certainly end paying too much. Many taxi drivers, even though very few of them speak a foreign language, will understand your requested destination and instructions. Tell them then to put the taximeter on. Taxi drivers do normally work with the taximeter, so they will not be surprised at all when you ask them to put it on. Emphasize to the taxi driver that you will pay for the meter price before getting in.
Always try to stop a taxi that is passing by on the road or find a legitimate taxi stop.
If you are not familiar with the city and see that you are a tourist, the taxi driver may drive a detour in order to charge you more. Insist on going to the destination that you want, and have a map to show them your destination, to avoid a detour.
Also beware that all taxis are required to have the designated license plate with the letter T apart from their yellow colouring.
Be careful about what notes you hand them for payment; some taxi drivers have tried to pretend that the 50 TL note that was handed was just a 5 TL note. Occasionally taxi drivers may actually also rip notes you give them, and tell you it is no good, in order to make you hand them a 50 TL note. So, make sure the notes are not ripped, and is actually the right one before you hand them over. Do not buy their quick-sell tricks and also do not allow them to round the price up to the higher denomination.
Ankara’s metro features two lines and is complemented by an efficient bus network. The metro runs from 6.15 am to 11.45 pm. Taxis are still quite inexpensive and pretty easy to find throughout the city, with night fare costing 50% higher than day fare.
Things to see and do in Ankara
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is unquestionably the top highlight when it comes to sight-seeing. Housed in a 15th-century “bedesten” (roofed market), it features artefacts gathered from archaeological sites all around Anatolia. Covering the periods from Palaeolithic Era to Roman times, it houses fascinating displays of ancient treasures from several civilizations, including Assyrian, Hittite, Phrygian, Lydian, Greek and Roman.
From ancient to recent history, Anit Kabir is Kemal Ataturk’s mausoleum. Walk up Lion Road, lined with 12 pairs of lion stone statues, to reach the tomb of modern Turkey’s founder. A small museum, dedicated to Ataturk, also stands within the site.
A set of Roman ruins lies around the area of Ulus. The ruins include the remains of the Temple of Augustus and Rome, the ground plans of some Roman Baths from 3rd century, the Column of Julian and the relics of a Roman Theatre which dates back to 200 BC.
Ankara’s Citadel is surrounded by medieval walls and encloses a picturesque well-preserved quarter of old Ankara. Sark Kulesi (castle), on the top of the citadel, offers visitors a bird’s eye view of the city. Cengelhan Industrial Museum and a 12th-century mosque are also located on the hisar (Turkish for citadel). Craftsmen and antique stores lay around the citadel and are worth a visit if you are not on a strict time schedule.
Apart from Sark Kulesi, the top of Atakule Tower is another great spot for captivating city views. Take the glass-lift to get to the top, where you can also enjoy a meal at the on-site revolving restaurant.
Folk art enthusiasts must not miss a visit to Vakif Eserleri Muzesi, where fascinating Turkish carpets and other crafts are presented. Most of the carpets on display were donated to mosques, while other exhibits include Ottoman manuscripts, fine wood-carves and tradional painted tiles.
Ankara might not have to show an equivalent to Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque, but Kocatepe Camii is still an imposing structure and a major place of worship for the locals. Although constructed relatively recently, during the 80s, it is one of the world’s largest mosques. Less impressive than Kocatepe Camii, Haci Bayram Camii bears a richer history, which dates back to the 13th century when the mosque was first erected. Dedicated to Haci Bayram Veli, an honourable and historic dervish, this mosque features fascinating tile works, which were added to the building during the 18th century. Dozens of religious shops are scattered around the mosque, where local pilgrims and visitors can buy traditional wooden toothbrushes.
Take a break from sight-seeing to enjoy a relaxing stroll at Ankara’s Botanical Gardens near Atakule, or spare some time at the tea gardens of Youth Park; however, keep in mind that single women should be very cautious when visiting Youth Park.
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