Is Ankara Worth Visiting? 10 Reasons To Vist The Turkish Capital

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Post author Nicky

Written by our local expert Nicky

Nicky, originally from the UK, is now a local in Turkey. She moved to Marmaris, Türkiye for love 12 years ago and is now your Turkey travel planner.

Ankara is the capital of the Republic of Turkey, and is often underrated, especially with the common misconception favoring Istanbul. Yet, as the heart of the Turkish Republic, the question arises: is Ankara worth a visit?

My answer is a resounding yes.

I urge you to consider a trip to Ankara for an experience that’s both authentic and deeply rooted in tradition, distinct from the well-trodden paths of Istanbul, Izmir, and Antalya.

Having explored Istanbul myself on numerous occasions, I appreciate its charm. However, Ankara presents a unique blend of authenticity and tradition, making it a must-visit. If your understanding of Ankara is limited to its role as the capital, it’s time to delve deeper.

In my travel guide, I explore why Ankara is a pivotal part of any journey through the Turkish Republic. Discover why Ankara is worth a visit, offering a window into the vibrant spirit and rich history of the region. Let this guide be your starting point for an enriching journey into the heart of Turkey.

A Little Bit About Ankara, The Capital Of Turkey

Ankara is a city that sits in the central part of Türkiye, around 444km away from Istanbul, which is around 5 hours away by road. We know that it’s the capital city and where most of the country’s government buildings can be found, but there’s so much more to it than that.

I’ve mentioned that Ankara is often overlooked because of Istanbul’s popularity, but hopefully, the rest of this guide will change your mind. Ankara is the second largest city in Turkey by population, following Istanbul, and it packs a punch.

You see, Ankara is a perfect blend of history, culture, and modernity. Steeped in rich heritage, there are countless historical sites, and the city is known for its magnificent landmarks, such as the iconic Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Türkiye. This grand structure stands as a symbol of national pride and offers visitors a glimpse into the country’s past.

Beyond its historical significance, Ankara is also a thriving cultural hub. The city boasts numerous art galleries, museums, and theatres, which showcase Turkey’s vibrant arts scene. The Ankara Opera House and The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations are must-visit destinations. The city also hosts various festivals throughout the year, celebrating music, dance, and theatre, ensuring that there is always something exciting happening.

10 Reasons To Visit Ankara & What Makes It Worth A Visit

1. Historical Sites And Cultural Heritage Make It Worth Visting

Ankara Roma Hamami. Ruins of ancient Roman baths in Ankara.

Ankara has a long history dating back to the Bronze Age, and it is home to numerous historical sites such as the ancient Roman Temple of Augustus, the majestic Ankara Citadel, and the grand Anıtkabir, which pays tribute to the founder of modern Türkiye, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and is also his final resting place.

You should definitely head to Ankara Castle; while there, make sure you check out the most stunning view over the city – it took my breath away, and I forgot to take a photo – and make sure you take the time to wander around the city at your own place. There are hidden historical gems everywhere, and because Ankara is in the center of the country, you have a much more authentic and traditional time.

You’ll see families going about their business, men sitting in tea gardens playing board games, and women cooking gözleme in the markets. For me, Ankara is a place you can visit and then honestly say that you’ve seen the real Türkiye.

 2. Vibrant Arts And Entertainment Make Ankara Worth The Trip

Things to do in Ankara - Ankara, Turkey - November 09, 2021: Front view of Anitkabir. Editorial shot in Ankara.

Ankara is a hub of cultural activities with its bustling arts scene. The city hosts various international festivals, including the Ankara Film Festival and the Ankara Music Festival. You can also explore the city’s many art galleries, theatres, and concert venues that showcase talented local and international artists.

But it’s not just cultural entertainment because Ankara is known for its modern-day fun, too. There are plenty of concerts, shows, and nightlife to enjoy. The Kızılay area is an enjoyable place at night, with clubs and bars open until the early hours.

Basically, you can choose the type of entertainment you want according to how you feel on the day.

3. Delicious Anatolian Cuisine

I am all about the food, and Ankara offers a diverse range of delicious Turkish cuisine. From the flavourful kebabs and mouthwatering mezes to the delectable baklava and traditional Turkish tea, you will be treated to a gastronomic delight. The city is also known for its cozy cafes and rooftop restaurants that offer stunning views of the city while enjoying your meal.

The most famous meal you’ll find is Ankara tava, which is a mixture of meat and vegetables in a casserole style and served with rice or bulgur. It’s super filling and so flavourful.

While you won’t struggle to find international food in Ankara, it’s less common than in places like Izmir, Fethiye, Antalya, and Istanbul – and that’s a good thing! It means you can try traditional food and fall in love with the fantastic flavors.

4.  Stunning Architecture Makes Ankara Travel A Plus

Most Beautiful Mosques In Turkey - Kocatepe Mosque

Ankara boasts a mix of modern and traditional architectural styles, so it’s an excellent place for people who love different building styles. You should definitely explore the iconic Kocatepe Mosque, which is one of the largest mosques in Turkey, or marvel at the striking Ottoman Empire-style houses in the old quarter of Ulus.

In contrast, the city’s skyline is adorned with impressive skyscrapers and modern structures that showcase Ankara’s progress. Put simply, it’s a wonderful blend of old and new.

5. Natural Beauty

Spectacular natural landscapes surround Ankara. Escape the city and visit nearby attractions like the picturesque Lake Eymir, where you can go for a peaceful walk or enjoy various water sports activities. You can also explore Anıtkabir Park, a sprawling park that offers scenic views and a tranquil environment for relaxation.

Ankara Castle offers fantastic views, and it’s a great spot to grab some amazing photographs of the city’s landscapes and beyond.

6. Shopping Paradise

Ankara is a shopping paradise, with its bustling markets, modern shopping malls, and boutique stores. From traditional Turkish carpets and textiles to modern fashion brands and handicrafts, you can find a wide variety of unique treasures to take home as souvenirs.

Remember to do a spot of haggling when you visit the markets and bazaar. You never know how much you save, and as awkward as you might feel at first, it’s surprisingly easy once you get used to it!

7. Warm And Welcoming People Make It Worth Visiting

Best Places In Turkey To Visit For Every Kind Of Traveler - Ankara - Kocatepe Mosque

The people of Ankara are known for their warm hospitality and friendly nature. You will be welcomed with open arms and experience the famous Turkish hospitality, making your visit to Ankara an even more memorable one.

English is widely spoken in Ankara, so you shouldn’t have any issues with being understood. However, if you venture out of the main city center, it might be helpful to know a few words of Turkish. This is an excellent thing to do anyway, and local people will certainly appreciate your efforts.

8. Plentiful Festivals And Events

There are many different festivals and events that take place throughout the year, including the annual Ankara International Film Festival. The Ankara Jazz Festival lures music enthusiasts every year, and the Hıdrellez Festival, celebrated in the spring, welcomes the arrival of the new season with music, dance, and a multitude of activities symbolizing rebirth and renewal.

Ankara also embraces its roots during the Ankara Çubuk Cherry Festival, an enchanting display of the city’s cherry orchards and delicious local produce.

9. Travel To Ankara Is Affordable

Compared to other popular tourist destinations in Turkey, Ankara offers relatively more affordable travel options. Accommodation, food, and transportation tend to be more budget-friendly, allowing you to experience the city’s delights without breaking the bank.

Of course, if you choose to stay in the center of the city, you’re probably going to pay a little more, but several Airbnb options will save you cash. You can also look to stay just outside the city center and keep some cash in your pocket to spend while you’re exploring.

10. Central Location For Exploring Türkiye

Fast train between Istanbul and Ankara
Fast train between Istanbul and Ankara

Ankara’s central location in Turkey makes it an excellent base for exploring the country. You can easily plan day trips to nearby attractions like the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia or the ancient city of Hattusa. Additionally, Ankara’s well-connected transportation system allows for easy access to other major cities like Istanbul and Izmir.

Ankara is the ideal base for checking out what the capital city of Turkey has to offer and then exploring it a little further.

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Is The Turkish Capital, Ankara Safe?

Things to do in Ankara Turkey - Ankara and Kocatepe Mosque

Ankara is generally considered to be a safe city for travelers. However, it’s always a good idea to stay informed about the current situation and take normal precautions to ensure your safety, such as avoiding crowded or unfamiliar areas at night and keeping an eye on your belongings.

It’s exactly the same as in any other large city, especially a capital city. There are the usual petty crime risks, and always remember to keep an eye on your belongings in busy areas due to the possibility of pickpocketing.

It’s possible that you may see a large gathering of people from time to time, e.g., a protest. If you do, stay away from it and go somewhere else until it disperses. There is rarely trouble, but you don’t want to find yourself embroiled in a situation you’re not totally informed about.

Just enjoy your holiday and keep your common sense at the forefront of your mind, and you’ll have a wonderful time in Ankara.

FAQ About The Capital City Of Turkey

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What is the best time to visit Ankara?

Ankara experiences a continental climate, which means hot and dry summers and cold winters. The best time to visit Ankara is during the spring (April-May) and autumn (September-October) when the weather is mild and the city’s parks and gardens are in full bloom.

How do I get to Ankara?

Ankara is well-connected by air, rail, and road. The city has its own international airport, Esenboga Airport, which is served by numerous airlines. You can also reach Ankara by train from major cities in Turkey or by bus.

Where can I stay in Ankara?

Ankara offers a variety of accommodation options to suit every budget. From luxury hotels to cozy boutique hotels and budget-friendly hostels, you can find the perfect place to stay in the heart of the city or in more relaxed areas.

What are the must-visit attractions in Ankara?

Some of the must-visit attractions in Ankara include the iconic Anıtkabir (the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk), the impressive Kocatepe Mosque, the historic citadel of Ankara, the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, and the Ataturk Forest Farm and Zoo.

Is it safe to travel to Ankara?

Ankara, like any major city, has its own safety concerns, but it is generally a safe city to visit. As a tourist, it is advisable to take common safety precautions such as being aware of your surroundings, avoiding isolated areas at night, and securing your personal belongings.

What should I try from Ankara’s cuisine?

Ankara is known for its delicious cuisine. Don’t miss the opportunity to try some local dishes such as Ankara Tava (a meat and vegetable dish), Dallama (stuffed lamb or goat), or the famous Kızılay Döner (a mouthwatering Turkish kebab). Make sure to also try traditional Turkish tea and sweets like baklava.

Are there any unique shopping experiences in Ankara?

Yes! Ankara offers a wide range of shopping opportunities. You can explore the bustling streets of Kizilay for modern shopping malls and boutiques. For a more traditional experience, head to shops in the old market area of Hamamönü, where you can find handmade crafts, textiles, and souvenirs.

Can you recommend any day trips from Ankara?

Absolutely! If you have time, consider taking a day trip to the nearby attractions such as the Haci Bayram Mosque and Mausoleum, the ancient Roman Temple of Augustus in Ancyra, or the beautiful Salt Lake, located about 70 kilometers from Ankara.

How can I get around Ankara?

Ankara has an efficient public transportation system, including buses and metro lines. Taxis and ride-hailing services are also readily available. It’s advisable to obtain an Ankarakart, a contactless smart card that can be used for various forms of public transportation.

Is there anything else I should know before visiting Ankara?

As a respectful visitor, it’s important to observe local customs and traditions. Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites. Also, remember to carry a valid identification document with you at all times, as it may be required for certain activities or attractions.

So, Is Ankara Worth Visiting?

So, is Ankara worth a visit? Yes! Now you can see just how much there is to see and do in the capital city Of Turkey, and it’s probably a major surprise that it often gets so overlooked by visitors.

Ankara has a traditional vibe but has a modern feel to it all at the same time. It’s a place that manages to weave together old and new, with friendly locals to give you advice and tell you stories you’ll love every second of your time.

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