If you did a quick survey of a sample of people and asked which city is the capital of Türkiye, many would tell you Istanbul. But you and I both know that they are wrong.
So, what is the capital of Turkey? Ankara is the Capital.
Here is your guide on what to see and things to do in Ankara. Plus, ideas for day trips to take and on how to get to Ankara, Turkey.
While Istanbul is undoubtedly Türkiye’s largest city, it isn’t the Turkish capital; that particular honor falls to Ankara, located in the center of this huge country.
A visit here will also show you a slightly different way of life, as it’s far more traditional in this part of the country compared to the westernized beach resorts on the south coast or the tourist feel of Istanbul.
There is plenty to see and do in Ankara. It’s also the final resting place of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey Republic of Turkey and a hugely inspirational and important figure for all Turks, even today.
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Map Of Ankara Things To Do & Places To Eat
Things To Do In Ankara – Capital City In Türkiye
There are many historical buildings of importance in the city of Ankara, but the metropolis itself is beautiful to walk around and explore. You’ll find a great blend of old and new, and the surrounding area is also fascinating to explore if you want to get out of the hustle and bustle for a few hours.
1. Ankara Castle – Ankara Citadel
Ankara Castle is in the Ulus area of the city, dating back to 476 BC. The castle was originally a defensive fortress, and you can still see the military influence in its architecture today.
Despite its age, Ankara Citadel (Ankara Kalesi in Turkish) is relatively well preserved, and it has four strong walls around the outside and 42 towers along the top section.
It’s not the easiest walk to get to the castle, and you will need comfortable walking shoes, but you’ll have your mind blown when you see the panoramic views of the city. If you love views, this is one thing to do in Ankara for you.
Around the castle, there is also an excellent selection of souvenirs to check out, including antiques.
One of the most famous buildings in the whole of Ankara, if not the country, is Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Atatürk. Not only is this Ataturk’s final resting place, but it is also the site of a large War of Independence Museum and Ataturk himself. You’ll undoubtedly learn a lot, and it’s a very somber and important spot in terms of Turkish history.
You will need comfortable walking shoes as this one is one of the things to see in Ankara that is quite large and separated into four sections – all requiring lots of walking. In the first sector of Anitkabir, you can see Turkish soldiers carrying out their daily parades.
You’ll be able to walk around Peace Park with a dazzling display of flora and fauna, and you’ll also be able to visit the Ceremonial Plaza before entering the Hall of Honour, which is where Ataturk’s tomb is located.
3. Atakule Tower
This spot will give you a fantastic view of the city. Atakule is a huge communications tower that opened in the late ’80s and stood 410 feet high.
There is an observation deck where you can check out the entire city below you, and you can also eat at a great height. This is one of those places to visit in Ankara, with a view and a top-class restaurant that rotates a complete turn every hour. You must book a table here way ahead of time to avoid disappointment!
4. Cengelhan Rahmi Koc Museum
If you’re visiting Ankara as a family, this is what to do in Ankara with children.
Sat right next to Ankara Castle, this museum is full of exhibits on the world of transportation and communication, with airplanes and old telephones in abundance. Many shows are interactive so that children can learn something while visiting, and they will undoubtedly love the train ride around the grounds.
5. Gençlik Park
When the weather is warm, everyone heads to Genclik Park! This is a huge outdoor space with a Ferris wheel, swimming pool, green space to roam, fountains, miniature train rides, an amusement park, and even an open-air theatre.
Kids will love all the attractions, and the park’s size means it doesn’t tend to feel too crowded most of the time. There are also eating spots, and you can take a picnic if you want to. If you stay until the early evening, you’ll also be treated to the daily light show over the swimming pool.
If you fancy a spot of modern-day shopping, then ANKAmall is for you. This is the country’s second-largest shopping mall, and it’s packed with high-street names and smaller boutique stores. Covering a huge 1890,000 square feet, you’ll need those comfortable shoes again! Of course, you’ll find eateries and plentiful activities for the family.
7. Kocatepe Mosque
Kocatepe Mosque is not only beautiful in design, but it’s also the largest mosque in the capital city of Ankara. It’s not that old, with construction beginning in 1967; however, you can see it from any point in the capital, so it’s undoubtedly a domineering sight. It’s also large, as it can fit 24,000 people inside at any one time.
The interior is natural, and with massive domes and chandeliers, it’s breathtaking in its design. The many colorful stained glass windows allow the sun to stream in, casting an ethereal glow.
8. Haci Bayram Mosque
Many beautiful and historical mosques exist in Ankara, but the Haci Bayram Mosque is one of the most famous. Dating back to the 15th century, the mosque is stunning on the outside and the inside, with beautiful architecture to enjoy.
If you go inside the mosque, remember that this place of worship will be closed during religious holidays and Friday prayers. It would be best if you also respected mosque etiquette.
9. Ahi Şerafettin (Aslanhane) Camii
This is the oldest mosque in the city, built in the 13th century. The mosque boasts Seljuk architecture, which makes it unique in the city as this style was used in a different era than other more ornate mosques. While visiting, check out both the incredible ceiling inside and Ahi Şerafeddin’s tomb.
10. Roman Baths
The Roman baths of Ankara are one of the Ankara sights that are like a window to the past. Inside, you will find statues and carvings dating back to the Roman period, with the baths built by Emperor Caracalla in the 3rd century.
While these are no longer functioning baths, you can explore the three main rooms: the hot bath, the warm bath, and the cold bathroom. Many people say they can feel the history when visiting this particular spot, so it’s the perfect place in Ankara for history buffs.
11. Shop ‘Til You Drop
Ankara has some great shopping opportunities, but the local markets are the best spot to head for bargains. You’ll find spices, fruits, clothes, textiles, jewelry, and souvenirs on offer, and remember to haggle for the best price.
Several local markets exist in the city’s center and the Ulus district. The Old Quarter in the middle of the city is also a great spot, with many cobbled, winding streets.
12. Take a Walking Tour
You’ll find lots of walking tours throughout the city, and many are free or highly cheap if not. A group of you will walk around the city with the help of a guide, stopping at the main sights. If you’re staying at a hostel, you’ll usually find walking tours on offer, so remember to ask.
13. Museum Of Anatolian Civilizations
The Anatolian Civilizations Museum is a must-visit in Ankara, located right in the heart of the city. You’ll find countless exhibitions and artifacts dating back through history, including some from the Paleolithic era.
Museum lovers should know that this museum previously won an award known as “European Museum of the Year.” This prestigious award is given annually to European museums that have demonstrated excellence in various aspects of museum work, such as innovation, accessibility, and engagement with visitors.
14. Ankara State Opera House
The State Opera House is a stunning place to visit whether you catch a play or a performance. The building is so beautifully designed, and it’s really opulent. Many people head here to watch ballet and opera, which often occur between September and June.
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Best Restaurants & Late Night Snacks In Ankara
Photo Credit: 326 Antakya
Antakya 326 Dürüm Esat
If you are a foodie, head to this restaurant to try the local specialty – Antakya Usulü Soslu Tavuk Döner Dürüm. However, this non-fussy, doner kebab restaurant will have your mouth watering with just about anything on the menu, should you decide to try something else. Grab a seat outside and enjoy watching the city under the shade of a lantern-filled tree.
If you need a late-night snack, Aspava is a place everyone should try once. With many locations around Ankara, this is a doner wrap restaurant franchise you won’t find elsewhere in the country. Each location in the city offers slightly different menus, so check them out online to see if they have what you’re looking for. They are a little shabby, which is why we say visit after a long night out on the town.
Day Trips You Can Take From Ankara
You can visit several nearby popular spots easily as a day trip from Ankara and return within a day. Here are some of the best day tour ideas:
- Kartalkaya Ski Resort: if you’re visiting Ankara during the winter and are a skier or snowboarder, head to nearby Kartalkaya. Even beginners will find something here, but the place is stunningly beautiful, even if you go just to admire it
- Beypazari: around two hours from Ankara city center, you’ll find Beypazari, a small town famous for its history and old architectural styles. This is also the home of the region’s carrot industry, so if you like carrots, you know where to go!
- Safranbolu: this is a UNESCO World Heritage site about 3 hour’s drive from Ankara. It’s famous for its Ottoman period buildings and cultural spots. Don your comfortable shoes, walk around the cobbled, winding streets, and check out the small souvenir shops before stopping for a glass of Turkish cay
- The Ruins of Hattusa: dating back to the Hittite Empire, these ruins are from the 13th century BC and are a must-visit if you’re in the Ankara region. Considering their age, The ruins are well-preserved, and the city walls are almost intact
- Gordion: this small town is renowned as the home of King Midas and dates back as far as the 8th century BC. It was also the Phrygian Empire’s capital and is home to many ruins and archaeological sites to explore
Where Is Ankara & How To Get To Ankara City
Being the capital city, of course, Ankara has its international airport, and you’ll find direct flights heading into that airport all year round. However, many people also travel to Istanbul and connect to Ankara from there. If you decide to do that, the flight from either of the Istanbul airports will take just one hour.
You can also choose to drive to Ankara from any major city in Türkiye or go via a long-distance bus. There are far too many combinations to mention here, but let’s give you an example of road distances from Istanbul.
If you choose to drive from Istanbul to Ankara, you’ll need to travel 450km, but the road is direct, high quality, and quite scenic. You can also choose to go by bus, and Turkey has several high-quality long-distance bus providers, including Kamil Koc, Pamukkale, and Metro. The bus will take you around 7 hours, depending on traffic.
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We’ve already mentioned that Ankara is Türkiye’s capital, and this is where all the central Government buildings can be found. There are many beautiful architectural buildings around Ankara city, and you’ll find plentiful history too.
Ankara used to be called Angora, and its first historical settlements can be dated back to the Bronze Age. Several empires have conquered the city, including the Persians, the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans. However, Alexander The Great was the first to conquer Ankara, back in 333 BC, before being taken over by the Roman Empire in 25 BC.
The city of Ankara is the modern name, derived from the Celtic language, from the word for anchor, Ancyra. This makes sense as Ankara is not only the Turkish capital but is located very centrally within the country.
Until 1923, Ankara was established as the capital of the new Republic of Turkey, growing from a relatively small city into a huge and bustling city.
Although Ankara is never one of everyone’s “favorite cities” in Turkey, city explorers always enjoy watching the daily life in Turkey’s capital, and I am sure you will, too.
So, now, do you feel ready to enjoy Ankara, Turkey?