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Getting to know Ankara

Ankara, Turkey’s capital, is often overlooked by tourists, which is a shame because the city has a lot to offer. To get a sense of the breadth of Turkey’s history, Ankara is a fantastic place to visit. Ankara’s citadel district, which dates from before the city was elevated to the status of capital, is home to the country’s premier museum as well as Atatürk’s mausoleum.

Ankara’s central location makes it an ideal starting point for excursions into Anatolia’s interior. Consider whether you want to go to Cappadocia, Konya, or Safranbolu while you’re in town.

Anatolian Civilizations Museum

This museum alone is incentive enough to visit Ankara while in Turkey.

It’s the only spot in the country where you can get a sense of Anatolia’s pre-classical human history in its entirety.

In the first hall, the most notable findings from the Neolithic village site of atalhöyük, near Konya, are on exhibit, including a wall painting that some archaeologists believe to be the world’s first town map and the legendary fertility goddess statue.

Further on, there are halls dedicated to the Bronze Age Hittite Empire, which had its capital at Hattusa (200 kilometers to the east), and the Iron Age Phrygian and Urartian Empires, which flourished on the Anatolian steppe.

The most important stone reliefs and statuary from various times are on display in the central Stone Hall.

Several superbly detailed orthostat reliefs from the Hittite site of Carchemish (70 kilometers southwest of Gaziantep), renowned long before its actual discovery as the site of the Old Testament’s Battle of Carchemish between Egypt and Babylonia.


This is Ankara’s most centrally located green area.

Gençlik Park is a favorite area for weekend picnics and evening strolls with local families in the city.

There is a large lake in the park, as well as several promenades with fountains and well-kept grounds.

Luna Park in Ankara, Turkey, occupies a portion of the park’s southeast corner and features a variety of family-friendly rides like carousels and bumper cars as well as a Ferris wheel and two roller coasters.

You may easily pass an hour or two here with your children if you’re traveling with them.

The Archaeology and Art Museum of Erimtan

An great complement to the larger Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Erimtan is the Erimtan Museum’s collection of Classical artifacts.

Two of the citadel neighborhood’s most prominent landmarks can be observed in the same morning or afternoon.

With a contemporary narrative approach, the Erimtan Museum’s private collection is brought to life, allowing visitors to learn more about everyday life in the ancient world.

Its lower hall features frequent temporary exhibitions, often focusing on specific archaeological sites or Turkish culture, in addition to its permanent collection.

Periodically, classical music performances are held on the museum grounds.

The Citadel District

One of the most atmospheric things to do in Ankara is to stroll through this area.

The citadel (Kale) area comes from the Byzantine era and is surrounded by defenses built in the 9th century that are still massive in sections.

Inside, rickety Ottoman-era cottages line tiny cobblestone lanes, some of which have been lovingly repaired in recent years, while others are slowly deteriorating into varying stages of dilapidation.

The Eastern Tower (Sark Kulesi) is the primary attraction inside the inner walls, with views across modern Ankara from its crenellated ramparts.

The twisting pathways of the inner citadel area’s main gate, called as Parmak Kapisi, are full of traditional artisan workshops, antique shops, and cafes.

A fantastic place to look for souvenirs is in this area of the city.

The Roman Remains of Ulus

After the establishment of the modern Turkish state, Ankara was envisioned as the nation’s new capital and is often referred to be a contemporary metropolis.

However, this location has been inhabited since the Bronze Age.

In the Roman era, Ankyra became renowned as the capital of the Roman province of Galatia, and Emperor Augustus made it so.

Ulus’ downtown sector is home to the last remaining Roman ruins.

Pay a quick visit to the Temple of Augustus and Rome on Haci Bayram Veli Caddesi to appreciate the significance of ancient Ankyra.

Nearby, next door to the Haci Bayram i-Veli Cami, there are only incomplete remains of the temple’s once-imposing walls.

The Roman Baths on ankiri Caddesi are the most extensive collection of Ancient Ankyra ruins.

While you’ll have to stomp through the weeds to see it, the enormous imperial baths complex’s foundations, as well as several stone reliefs and some surviving arched remains, can plainly be seen.

Veli Cami Haci Bayram

This 15th-century mosque, dedicated to Muslim saint and founder of the Bayramiye dervish order Haci Bayram Veli, is a prominent destination for those seeking religious enlightenment.

Non-pilgrims will be more interested in the surrounding area than the mosque itself when making a stop here.

Early evenings find local families congregating in the beautiful gardens and renovated Ottoman homes surrounding the mosque.

Also included are remnants of Augustus’ temple walls that rub up against the mosque (and which originally housed its madrassa) along with shops selling religious memorabilia to pilgrims.

It’s also a great place to see the citadel neighborhood in all its glory.

The Museums

There are two galleries in Ankara’s downtown area worth a visit, despite the city’s lack of a modern art culture.

Perhaps the most significant of these institutions is the Ankara Museum of Art, which houses an extensive collection of Turkish paintings and sculptures from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Türkocagi Sokak, Hacettepe).

All of Turkey’s best-known artists are represented here.

The Cer Modern (3 Altinsoy Caddesi, Sihhiye) in Ankara is the best place to see just modern art.

Exhibitions are held regularly at this gallery, which is housed in a derelict train depot near Ankara’s train station, showcasing the work of both Turkish and international artists.

The Ankara State Opera House

It is a great place to see the city’s cultural scene in action.

The Ankara State Opera House is the city’s best option if you’re looking for a night of culture.

Turkish State Opera, Ballet, and Theater acts may all be seen in this theater, which serves as a hub for visitors.

From September through June, the venue features a diverse lineup of performances and activities, ranging from cutting-edge theater to classical ballet.

The theater not only serves as the headquarters for all of the country’s theater and cultural organizations, but it also serves as a key venue for local festivals and big-name classical music performances from around the world.


A day journey to Gordion, the Iron Age Phrygian capital, is best done from Ankara.

The fabled King Midas lived here, and Alexander the Great severed the Gordion knot here as well.

Yassihöyük, a tranquil farming village in Phrygia, is home to the ruins of ancient Phrygian metropolis (96 kilometers southwest of Ankara).

In the settlement, there are two primary locations.

Most notable is the Midas Tumulus, a 50-meter-tall artificial mound containing the Phrygian king’s grave.

However, there is no indication that the monarch buried here was in fact the mythical Midas of Greek folklore.

You can get to the tomb by walking down a tunnel in the tumulus, however the artifacts recovered inside are in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, not on-site.

Tumulus-related artifacts can be found in the little museum located across the street from this tumulus.

Atatürk Mausoleum (Anitkabir)

The most popular tourist destination in Ankara is also Turkey’s most important modern pilgrimage site.

The mausoleum of Atatürk (Mustafa Kemal), the founder of the Turkish state, is located on a hilltop just west of the city center.

The site, which is centered on a wide plaza, features a significant museum complex in addition to the main mausoleum with its extravagant use of marble.

It includes exhibits about Atatürk’s War of Independence, which resulted in the formation of Turkey as a modern nation, as well as exhibits on Atatürk’s life.

From the arcade that runs along the plaza’s edge, you may get a great view of Ankara.

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