Much less glorious and cosmopolitan than Istanbul, Turkey’s capital Ankara is still outgrowing its Anatolian profile and evolving into a sophisticated political, financial and educational centre.
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’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.