Ankara Tourist Attractions
TownscapeAs with Istanbul, Izmir and other Turkish cities, the lure of employment in its industries and rapidly developing service sector draws huge numbers of people to Ankara from the countryside.
Many Ankarans live in suburbs known as "gecekondu" (built overnight), in simple housing much like that seen in Turkish villages. The modern face of the city shows itself in the broad avenues of the post-1923 planned New Town and in other more recent city-center developments. Here are found the wide boulevards, the pedestrian precincts, the streets of western-style shops and boutiques, the luxury hotels and top-class restaurants which are the hall-mark of a confident, forward-looking metropolis.The population of greater Ankara continues to grow and as of 2007, exceeds 5 million. The urban sprawl extends from Yenikent, near Sincan in the Mürted Ovasi, eastwards for more than 50km/31mi to the Bayindir dam, and from Baglum in the north, southwards for 35km/22mi to Gölbasi, a popular destination for day-trippers, on the Mugan Gölü.It is often said that Ankara is not worth visiting. This is far from true. On the contrary, the old quarter around the citadel offers the discerning traveler an insight into a three thousand year-old cultural history which is still in some respects alive today.TransportWhen Ankara became the capital of Turkey transport links were almost non-existent - it was the terminus of the Anatolian railroad, a branch of the Baghdad line. Expansion of the rail network, giving access to the Soviet Union, Syria and Iran, followed the opening up of the country by long-distance roads. Now flights between the capital and all the main provincial towns have been augmented by recently instituted air services to international airports around the world. Thus Ankara today is the hub of nearly all Turkey's major transport and communications links and, as the geographical, political, economic and intellectual center of the Republic, has largely emerged from the shadow of "the secret capital" - Istanbul.HistoryNeolithic finds from the area around Ankara testify to early settlement by Hittite farmers in about 2500 B.C. The first town of any importance known to have existed here was in the Phrygian period (about 1200 B.C.). The name Ankyra, first recorded as belonging to an Achaemenid staging post on the imperial route from Susa to Sardes, may also date from this time. Phrygia's decline saw Ankara become part of the Lydian Empire before the Lydians, led by, among others, Croesus (560-46), were themselves defeated in the wars against the Persians (559-29 B.C.). Subsequently the town passed, as did Anatolia as a whole, to the Achaemids.After 227 B.C. the Tectosages, a Galatian tribe who had migrated across the Dardanelles, made Ankara their capital, calling it Galatia. Victory over the Galatians in 189 B.C. then brought the city, the region and the whole kingdom of Galatia, under Roman rule. After periods in the possession of the Pergamum Empire and the Pontic King Mithridites the Great (until 74 B.C.) Roman rule resumed, and under Augustus (Greek: Sebastos) the town, now with some 200,000 inhabitants and known as Sebaste Tectosagum, became the capital of the Roman province of Galatia. A later emperor, Caracalla (211-17) rebuilt the walls of the citadel and constructed a large public baths.With the arrival of Christianity Ankara became the seat of a metropolitan. It was the venue of several Councils of the Church, including those of 314 and 358, and when the empire split into East and West in 395 it was absorbed by Byzantium. Then followed centuries in which Islamic occupation alternated with Christian reconquest until the final triumph of the Ottomans in 1403. Situated as it was on the great Anatolian caravan route, the city, now known as "Engüriye" (Angora to Europeans), enjoyed almost undisturbed peace and prosperity under Ottoman rule.Following the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the Grand National Assembly, convened under the terms of the National Pact, met for the first time in Ankara on April 23rd 1923. On October 13th that same year Ankara was proclaimed capital and a few days later the new Turkish Republic was born. A competition was held for the design of a modern metropolis with a population expected to reach 300,000 by 1990. Building began in 1928, the prize-winning scheme having been submitted by the German town planner H. Jansen and architects C. Holzmeister, P. Bonantz and B. Taut.Ankara has many museums including the Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, first President of Turkey. The museum features a statue of Atatürk, his writings, letters, photographs and personal items. The Ethnography Museum contains a collection of folklore items and Ottoman artifacts. Ankara is also the site of archeological findings and modern monuments. The Roman Bath, Ankara Citadel and Temple of Augustus are highlights of the archeological sites that are well-preserved.Other cultural attractions in Ankara such as the Turkish State Opera and Ballet, the state theatres and concert halls provide significant opportunity for tourists to to discover the vibrant culture of Turkey.
Ahi Elvan Camii
This small 13th century mosque south of the Arslanhane Camii in Ankara was renovated in 1413, resulting in the building seen today. Endowed by the Ahi brotherhood it is a typical "forest mosque", with a flat timber ceiling supported on twelve wooden columns. Note also the carving on the staircase pulpit and window shutters (1413/14).
On the Istanbul Caddesi, the main road west out of Ankara, the Çubuk Çayi is spanned by an old seven-arch bridge. An inscription on its west side attributes its construction to the Seljuk governor Kizilbey in 1222.
Although restored in intervening centuries, the Alaeddin Camii, in the inner citadel immediately behind the Parmak Kapi in Ankara, was built in 1178 at the time of the Seljuk Sultan Izz Eddin Kiliç Aslan II. The carving on the staircase pulpit is particularly fine.
Atatürk Mausoleum, designed by Emil Onat, is a fine example of Turkey's modern architecture.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is located in the 15th C Mahmut Pasa Bedesteni, once a covered bazaar with 10 domes. The museum contains an extensive collection of pieces ranging from the paleolithic era to classical times.
Adjoining the Mahmut Pasa Bedesteni in Ankara, on its northeast side, is the Kursunlu Han, also part of the museum but used for research and other such activities rather than for displaying the collection itself. The building incorporates a laboratory, library, lecture hall, and workshops. Documentary and other evidence suggests that the caravanserai dates from before 1450 and was erected by another of Mehmet the Conqueror's Grand Viziers, Mehmet Pasa. The income from the 58-roomed two-storyed han with its cellars, stabling and shops funded a free kitchen for the poor of Üskükar.
A visit to the Atatürk Orman Ciftligi, a model farm which at one time lay within the afforested area outside the city, is one of Ankara's most popular outings. It has good restaurants and a swimming pool shaped like the Black Sea.
About 300m/330yds north of Ulus Meydani in Çankiri Caddesi (south side) in Ankara are the remains of the Roman baths constructed by the emperor Caracalla between 212 and 217. The baths, probably dedicated to Aesculapius, god of health, were burnt down in the 10th century. They originally comprised several changing rooms and at least ten rooms containing baths with water at different temperatures. These would have ranged from a frigidarium (cold), to a piscina (swimming pool), tepidarium (lukewarm) and caldarium (hot). In front of the comparatively well-preserved lower floor of the baths with its covered passageways and heating system, can be seen the palaestra, where bathers did their exercises. Also on display are fragments of columns and capitals as well as some interesting Byzantine gravestones.
Built in 1289 at the time of the Emir Seref Eddin, the Arslanhani Camii, on the south side of the citadel hill, is Ankara's oldest mosque. Prior to the construction in the 1970s of the Kocatepe Camii it was also the largest. Originally called the Ahi Seref Eddin Camii after its founder, the mosque became known as the Arslanhani Camii on account of a Roman stone-carving of a lion which once stood in the courtyard. The mosque is part of a complex (külliye) of several buildings all endowed by Seref Eddin. These include a medrese and an early 14th century octagonal Seljuk broach-roof türbe on Roman foundations, situated across the alleyway immediately on the left next to the mosque entrance. The main portal of the mosque has stalactitic decoration and incorporates pieces of Byzantine and Roman masonry. Although in plan the mosque is a typical five-aisle Seljuk basilica, the ceiling over center aisle being slightly raised, the multi-columned prayer hall reveals it as one of the few "forest mosques" in Anatolia, the ceiling of elaborate stepped timbering being supported on two dozen wooden columns with Romano-Byzantine capitals. Note also the prayer niche of blue faience tiles with pierced stucco stalactitic vaulting, and the staircase pulpit (1209) in richly carved walnut.
This wide tree-lined thoroughfare, Ankara's main traffic artery and principal shopping street, runs for 5km/3mi from north to south linking the Old City (Ulus Meydani) and New Town. At day's end the section between Lozan Meydani (Lausanne Square) and Ismet Inönü Meydani is crowded with people taking the evening air. South of Ulus Meydani both sides of the boulevard are lined with public buildings including the opera house, the Turkish broadcasting corporation, the university, as well as banks and insurance company offices. The New Town proper begins south of the railroad viaduct at Lozan Meydani. Here there is a huge replica of a "sundisc", one of the famous Hittite ritual "standards" discovered at Alacahüyük, examples of which are on display in the Hittite Museum. From the square an extensive pedestrian precinct with restaurants and shops, mainly on the left of the road, stretches parallel with the Atatürk Bulvari to well beyond Kizilay Meydani.Immediately southwest of the square lies the government quarter, with fine buildings housing various government departments and ministries. Most were designed between 1928 and 1935 by the German architect Clemens Holzmeister. Above them towers the Turkish Parliament building (viewing possible) on the Ismet Inönü Bulvari. Further up the hill are the districts of Kavaklidere, where many foreign countries have their embassies, and Çankaya, a residential area in which are located the Presidential Palace (Cumhurbaskanligi Köskü, built by Holzmeister in 1932) and the Atatürk Evi.
Çubuk Baraji I
The 12.5million cu.m/16.3million cu.yd capacity Çubuk Baraji I, situated about 10km/6mi north of the city center of Ankara not far off the Çubuk road, was the first of several reservoirs designed to secure the capital's water supply. Constructed between 1929 and 1939 it also serves local people as a recreation area (several restaurants near the dam at the southwest end). Because it was found to be gradually silting up, a number of other reservoirs have since been built in the vicinity of Ankara. These include the Çubuk Baraji II (24.6million cu.m/32million cu.yd; about 50km/31mi north of the city) and the Bayindir Baraji (20km/12.5mi east) where there are tea houses and a swimming pool.
In the 1930s a solitary black pine (pinus negra) growing on a north-facing slope half way up Ankara's "Apple Mountain" (Elma Dag: 1,862m/6,111ft; a few kilometers southeast of the city) came suddenly to scientific prominence. With the help of other evidence it enabled the geographer Herbert Louis to demonstrate that large parts of Central Anatolia were formerly forested.
From 1938 to 1953 the body of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk lay in state beneath the dome in the central hall of the Ethnographic Museum in Ankara. Gracing the forecourt is a monumental equestrian statue of Atatürk (1927) by the Italian sculptor Canonica, with scenes of the War of Independence depicted in relief. Today the museum's ten departments house a comprehensive collection of Turkish crafts dating back to Seljuk times; they include costumes, household utensils, weaponry, musical instruments, carpets, rugs and woodcarvings. Particularly noteworthy are the throne of the Seljuk Sultan Keyhusrev III (1264-83) and the sarcophagus of Ani Seref Eddin.
The "Youth Park", a large green expanse south of Ulus Meydani in the heart of Ankara, was another of Atatürk's inspirations. Laid out as part of the development of the New Town it replaced what had previously been a swamp. Together with the adjoining "Luna Parki" (entrance fee), the Gençlik Parki with its tea gardens and restaurants, fountains and artificial lakes (pedalos) is a source of great pleasure to Ankarans - as also is its "Wedding House" to the capital's bridal couples.
Haci Bayram Camii and Haci Bayram Türbesi
Haci Bayram, founder of the Bayrami order of dervishes in Ankara, is revered as one of the country's holiest men. Active here around the turn of the 14th/15th century, he was pronounced a "veli" following his death in 1430. His tomb and the adjacent mosque (1427) which he endowed (adjoining the Temple of Augustus) are among the most visited places of pilgrimage in Turkey and the scene of much devotional activity. The türbe door and window frames are elaborately carved in the Early Ottoman manner. The beautifully ornate wooden doors are now in the safekeeping of the Ethnographic Museum.
Standing high on a ridge overlooking Ankara is the Citadel, with foundations from the time of the Galatians.
Hükümet Meydani (Julian's Column)
In the Old Town of Ankara, the rectangular Hükümet Meydani, 200m/220yds or so northeast of Ulus Meydani, is adorned with the 15m/49ft high Julian's Column (also known as the Belkis Minaresi), probably erected in A.D. 362 to commemorate the visit of the Emperor Julian Apostatas. The shaft of the column is horizontally grooved and the Byzantine capital embellished with a leaf pattern.
The Kizilay Meydani, situated at the intersection of Atatürk Bulvari, Gökalp Caddesi (east) and Gazi Mustafa Kemal Bulvari (west), lies at the very heart of the New Town of Ankara. Lined with modern shops and offices its real name is Hürriyet Meydani (Independence Square). The unofficial name by which it is universally known was taken from a building belonging to the Red Crescent (the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross) which once stood on the northwest corner. In the southern corner stands a memorial (1932-36), designed by Holzmeister and executed by A. Hanak, symbolizing the three national virtues: patriotism, creativity and the desire for peace.
Located in the Kocatepe district of Ankara east of Kizilay Meydani the new Ottoman-style Kocatepe Camii is the largest mosque in Turkey. Built in the 1970s it is the most obvious manifestation of the Islamic revival to be seen in Ankara today.
The Temple of Augustus and of Rome is regarded as one of the cities most important antiquities, and dates to the 2nd C BC.
Ankara's opera house, in the Atatürk Bulvari immediately adjacent to Gençlik Parki, was the first to be built in Turkey. Designed by the German architect P. Bonatz it was created from a former exhibition hall.
Tabiat Tarihi Müzesi
The mining institute (M.T.A. Genel Müdürlügü; Maden Tektik ve Arama Enstitüsü), 5km/3mi outside Ankara on the Eskisehir road, has a small but interesting museum with numerous fossils.
Situated at the heart of the "Ulus" district immediately to the west below the citadel, this square, with its bronze equestrian statue of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1926) by the Austrian sculptor Krippel, is the focal point of Old Ankara. Among the streets radiating off it are the Hisarparki Caddesi (east), on either side of which lies the city's traditional business quarter, and the Cumhuriyet Bulvari (southwest). To the right on the Bulvari is a venerable old building where, until 1925, the Turkish parliament used to meet and where, on April 23rd 1923, the Grand National Assembly convened for the first time. Resplendent opposite stands the city's oldest hotel, the Ankara Palas, where Atatürk and his closest advisers gathered for discussions during the Republic's early years.
The red porphyry "New Mosque", opposite the central prison in the easterly district of Dörtyol, was founded in 1565 by Cenabi Ahmet Pasa, governor of Ankara under Süleiman I. It was probably the work of the great Ottoman master builder Sinan or one of his pupils. The pulpit and prayer niche are of white marble. Next to the mosque there is a türbe.
Ayas, about 70km/43mi west of Ankara, principal town of its district, has some typical Pontic half-timbered houses, an old and interesting wooden mosque, and well-known thermal springs. There are more mineral springs at Ayas Içmecesi, a small place some 20km/12.5mi further west.
In otherwise treeless steppe country near the village of Beynam, about 35km/22mi southeast of Ankara on the road to Bala and Kirsehir, are vestiges of a large forest, further evidence that vast areas of Central Anatolia were at one time densely wooded.
The district town of Beypazari, on the site of the ancient Lagania Anastasiopolis, enjoys a lovely setting (scenic rock formations) on the southern edge of the Pontus Mountains about 100km/62mi west of Ankara. It boasts not only an interesting Old Town with Pontic-style houses but also a number of 15th century mosques (including the Ala Eddin Camii) and an Ottoman caravanserai, the Sulu Han.
The verdant countryside around Sehler Yaylasi, a resort in the hills just to the south of Çamlidere about 100km/62mi northwest of Ankara, is a popular place of escape in summer. Sehler Yaylasi is also the venue for a famous wrestling competition held annually in a large wooden arena set among the trees.
One of western Anatolia's most intriguing landscapes is encountered a few kilometers west of the small lignite mining town of Çayirhan, where the Nallihan road crosses the northern arm of the Sakarya Dam (Sariyer Baraji; 84sq.km/32sq.mi, 1.9 billion cu.m/2.5 billion cu.yd). On both sides of the road different colored layers of clay and marl lie exposed, producing a striking effect. (N.B. In wet weather the softened clays become treacherous.)
A very famous gold and electrum Hittite statuette (Bronze Age, ca. 2000 B.C., now in the Hittite Museum) was discovered in a grave near the village of Hasanoglan (or Hasanoglu) some 37km/23mi east of Ankara. Nearby is a weathered rock relief, possibly Roman, and in the village itself Roman mitones from the first century A.D.
North of the district town of Haymana, in Haymana-Kurd territory about 60km/37mi southwest of Ankara, the remains of a Hittite shrine (death cult) are to be found at Gavur Kalesi (Fortress of the Infidels) near Derköy. The site, on a 60m/200ft rock plateau further fortified with cyclopean walls, was occupied also in Phrygian and Roman times. Among the features dating from the Hittite period is a huge tomb, the underground burial chamber of which retains its false vaulting. It is known from textual sources that the ashes of the dead were interred in tombs like these following cremation. The site is approached along a paved processional route above which there is a rock relief, carved at the height of the New Kingdom, depicting the weather god Teshub and his son Sharma in the presence of an enthroned goddess.Haymana itself has a thermal bath (the ancient Myrica Therma) beneficial for rheumatic and gynaecological complaints.
About 85km/53mi northeast of Ankara the ruins of a fortress of Roman origin can be seen on a volcanic cone overlooking the district town of Kalecik; they are thought to be ancient Acitoriciacum. The Byzantines enlarged the stronghold in the 11th century to secure the nearby ford over the Kizilirmak against the Danishmendids. Segments of the bastion and foundations still survive, fashioned from huge blocks of volcanic rock. Spanning the Kizilirmak is an Ottoman bridge.
1,400m/4,600ft up in the eastern Köroglu Daglari, roughly 64km/40mi north of the capital, there are a number of popular summer resorts with springs, pools and a small mountain lake (Karagöl) with crystal-clear water. The main resort is Kizikuyu (Karagöl).
Although this 20m/65ft-high hüyük (old settlement mound; east of the Konya road, 30km/19mi south of Ankara) has little to show today in the way of ruins, it has yielded relics of every era from the Copper Age to Seljuk times. The foundations of a Phrygian citadel were exposed during excavations between 1937 and 1945 (finds in the Hittite Museum).
Occupying the site of ancient Manegordos, Kizilcahamam is the center of a rice growing area in the Kirmir Çayi valley 75km/47mi north of Ankara. It is well known as a spa for treating rheumatic and gynaecological complaints (baths in the upper part of the town) and as a source of (bottled) mineral water. Kizilcahamam also has several carbonated radioactive thermal springs (50°C/122°F) containing arsenic, bromine and iron. The forested valley southwest of the town is now a conservation area and nature reserve (Soguksu Milli Parki).
Soguksu Milli Parki
The 1,050ha/2,600acre national park west of Kizilcahamam was established in 1959 to safeguard the natural forest of the upper Kirmir Çayi catchment area and create a groundwater reservoir. Whole villages had to be re-sited in the process. With its open-air theater, cafes and picnic places the park is popular for excursions. Ranging in altitude from 950m to 1,716m/3,120ft to 5,630ft, the tree cover is predominantly coniferous forest but with some stands of oak (quercus pubescens). Wolves, foxes, wild boar, brown bears and more than 160 species of birds, including such birds of prey as Egyptian vultures, booted eagles and buzzards, live here in the wild.
Ankara Metro (Light Rail)
Ankara's Metro system is a work in progress, with some lines completed, others under construction, and still more that are being contemplated.In addition to the metro lines there is also a rail system that serves the outer communities of Ankara.
Map of Ankara Attractions