» Ankara Guide

Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the country’s second largest city after Istanbul. The city has a mean elevation of 850 m (2800 ft), and as of 2007 the city had a population of 3,901,201, which includes eight districts under the city’s administration.

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East and west fuse together perfectly in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara, where shades of the mystical east and ancient civilisations lie partially hidden among 20th-century office buildings, shopping malls and government offices. The city is imbued with the spirit of modernity and youth, this being a student town filled with language schools, universities, colleges and military bases. It also has a vast ex-pat community (most of it diplomatic), which adds to the cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Situated on a rocky hill in the dry, barren region of Anatolia, this humming city can trace its history back to the bronze age, and has been a part of historic events through several great civilisations, including the Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Greek, Romans, Galatians and Ottomans. Alexander the Great was one of the conquerors who stayed in the city for a while, and today’s tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to unearthing the city’s historic attractions. With a population of well over four million, Ankara is a deserving capital city, aptly named as the ‘anchor’ of Turkey, perhaps not always sought after by tourists but certainly entertaining hordes of business travellers and those seriously intrigued with ancient history.

The old heart of the city (Ulus) is centred on an ancient citadel on a hilltop, where many historic buildings have been restored, many having been turned into restaurants serving traditional Turkish cuisine. In this area there are several Roman archaeological sites, and narrow alleys shelter shops selling eastern delights like leather, carpets, copper, spices and jewellery. From the heart outwards, the city spreads across various hills in modern splendour, carefully planned by the city fathers after Turkey’s independence fighter, Ataturk, set up provisional government in what was just a small dusty town back in 1920, after the first World War.

Ataturk brought in European urban planners to create his proclaimed capital, and he lies here today in his lofty mausoleum, the Anitkabir, in a green ‘peace’ park, amid the wide boulevards he created.

Anıtkabir

Anıtkabir is located on an imposing hill, Anıttepe quarter of the city, where the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, stands. Completed in 1953, it is an impressive fusion of ancient and modern architectural styles. An adjacent museum houses a wax statue of Atatürk, his writings, letters and personal items, as well as an exhibition of photographs recording important moments in his life and during the establishment of the Republic. Anıtkabir is open every day, while the adjacent museum is open every day except Mondays.

Ankara Ethnography Museum (Etnoğrafya Müzesi)

This museum is opposite the Opera House on Talat Paşa Boulevard, in the Ulus district. There is a fine collection of folkloric as well as Seljuk- and Ottoman-era artifacts.

Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi)

Situated at the entrance of Ankara Castle, it is an old “bedesten” (covered bazaar) that has been beautifully restored and now houses a unique collection of Paleolithic, Neolithic, Hatti, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian, and Roman works as well as a major section dedicated to Lydian treasures.

State Art and Sculpture Museum (Resim-Heykel Müzesi)

This museum is close to the Ethnography Museum and houses a rich collection of Turkish art from the late 19th century to the present day. There are also galleries which host guest exhibitions.

War of Independence Museum (Kurtuluş Savaşı Müzesi)

This building, located on Ulus Square, was originally the first Parliament building (TBMM) of the Republic of Turkey. The War of Independence was planned and directed here as recorded in various photographs and items presently on exhibition. In another display, wax figures of former presidents of the Republic of Turkey are on exhibit.

TCDD Locomotive Museum

An open-air museum near the railway station on Celal Bayar Boulevard which traces the history of steam locomotion through the locomotives and artifacts on display.

Turkish Air Force Aviation Museum

Museum is near the Istanbul Road, Etimesgut. The museum is home to various aircraft which are or have served in Turkish Air Force (Jets like F-86, F-100, F-102, F-104, F-5, F-4 and cargo planes like C-160 transtall). Also a Hungarian Mig-21, a Pakistani Mig-19 and a Bulgarian Mig-17 are on display in the museum.

Ankara Citadel

The foundations of the citadel or castle were laid by the Galatians on a prominent lava outcrop, and the rest was completed by the Romans. The Byzantines and Seljuks further made restorations and additions. The area around and inside the citadel, being the oldest part of Ankara, contains many fine examples of traditional architecture. There are also recreational areas to relax. Many restored traditional Turkish houses inside the citadel area have found new life as restaurants, serving local cuisine, music and of course, Rakı.

The citadel was depicted in various Turkish banknotes during 1927-1952 and 1983-1989.

Roman Theatre

The remains, the stage, and the backstage can be seen outside the castle. Roman statues that were found here are exhibited in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. The seating area is still under excavation.

Temple of Augustus and Rome

The temple, also known as the Monumentum Ancyranum, was built between 25 BC – 20 BC following the conquest of Central Anatolia by the Roman Empire and the formation of the Roman province of Galatia, with Ancyra (modern Ankara) as its administrative capital. After the death of Augustus in 14 AD, a copy of the text of Res Gestae Divi Augusti was inscribed on the interior of the pronaos in Latin, whereas a Greek translation is also present on an exterior wall of the cella. The temple, on the ancient Acropolis of Ancyra, was enlarged by the Romans in the 2nd century. In the 5th century it was converted into a church by the Byzantines. It is located in the Ulus quarter of the city.

Roman Bath

This bath has all the typical features of a classical Roman bath: a frigidarium (cold room), tepidarium (cool room) and caldarium (hot room). The bath was built during the reign of Emperor Caracalla in the 3rd century AD to honour Asclepios, the God of Medicine. Today, only the basement and first floors remain. It is situated in the Ulus quarter.

Column of Julian

The column, popularly known among the locals as the Belkıs Minaresi (literally the “Queen of Sheba Column”, for reasons unknown), was erected to commemorate a visit to Ancyra by the Roman emperor Julian in A.D. 362. The Corinthian capital dates to the 6th century; the stork’s nest, a permanent crowning feature, is of more recent vintage.

Victory Monument

Erected in 1927 on Zafer Square in the Sıhhiye quarter, it depicts Atatürk in uniform.

Monument to a Secure, Confident Future

This monument, located in Güven Park near Kızılay Square, was erected in 1935 and bears Atatürk’s advice to his people: “Turk! Be proud, work hard, and believe in yourself.”

The monument was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 5 lira banknote of 1937-1952 and of the 1000 lira banknotes of 1939-1946.

Hatti Monument

Built in the 1970s on Sıhhiye Square, this impressive monument symbolizes the Hatti gods and commemorates Anatolia’s earliest known civilization.

Ankara has many parks and open spaces mainly established in the early years of the Republic and well maintained and expanded thereafter. The most important of these parks are: Gençlik Park (houses an amusement park with a large pond for rowing), the Botanical Garden, Seğmenler Park, Anayasa Park, Kuğulu Park (famous for the swans received as a gift from the Chinese government), Abdi İpekçi Park, Güven Park (see above for the monument), Kurtuluş Park (has an ice-skating rink), Altınpark (also a prominent exposition/fair area), Harikalar Diyarı (claimed to be Biggest Park of Europe inside city borders) and Göksu Park.

Gençlik Park was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 100 lira banknotes of 1952-1976.

Atatürk Forest Farm and Zoo (Atatürk Orman Çiftliği) is an expansive recreational farming area which houses a zoo, several small agricultural farms, greenhouses, restaurants, a dairy farm and a brewery. It is a pleasant place to spend a day with family, be it for having picnics, hiking, biking or simply enjoying good food and nature. There is also an exact replica of the house where Atatürk was born in 1881, in Thessaloniki, Greece. Visitors to the “Çiftlik” (farm) as it is affectionately called by Ankarans, can sample such famous products of the farm such as old-fashioned beer and ice cream, fresh dairy products and meat rolls/kebaps made on charcoal, at a traditional restaurant (Merkez Lokantası, Central Restaurant), cafés and other establishments scattered around the farm.

Esenboğa International Airport, located in the north-east of the city, is the main airport of Ankara.

Ankara Intercity Bus Terminal (Turkish: Ankara Şehirlerarası Terminal İşletmesi, AŞTİ) is an important part of the bus network which covers every neighbourhood in the city.

The central train station, “Ankara Garı” of the Turkish State Railways is an important hub connecting the western and eastern parts of the country. High-speed rail services are to be operated between Ankara and Istanbul, beginning in 2009.

The Electricity, Gas, Bus General Directorate (EGO operates the Ankara Metro and other forms of public transportation. Ankara is currently served by suburban rail and two subway lines with about 300,000 total daily commuters, and three additional subway lines are under construction.

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