The capital of Turkey, Ankara, once had a bit of a boring image. Forget that! It is a lively city with plenty of sites worth seeing. And Ankara is now closer than ever with direct flights from Alanya Gazipaşa Airport. We show you what a day of sightseeing in Ankara can look like.
Our first stop after the airport, is Ulus. Ulus is located in the centre of town and was once the beating heart of ancient Ankara. Ulus means ‘nation’ and besides interesting historical sites, you’ll find here many banks, shops, restaurants and office buildings too.
Feeding the pigeons in Ulus
In the centre of the Ulus square (Ulus meydanı), is a statue which is called the Monument of the Republic and placed there in 1927 to commemorate the War of Independence. An even bigger attraction than the statue, are the hundreds of pigeons on-, under-, and it, sitting, sleeping and flying. We wade our way through the masses of birds and buy two boxes of bird seeds at the food street vendor. It’s a powerful sight to see all these pigeons flutter as the grains are scattered around. According to the seller the pigeons are ‘always hungry’.
The Old Parliament
Further along on Ulus Square, is the first Parliament building. It is now the Museum of Independence and houses a fine collection of photographs, furniture and documents that reflect an important image of the War of Independence. The building was designed by the architect Salim Bey and had to be finished hastily as otherwise it could not open for the first inaugural meeting of Parliament (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi). Which took place on April 23, 1920. The building is now a museum.
One part of the city you should not miss while visiting Ankara, is Hisar, where the Castle of Ankara is situated. Ankara was built on several hills and the castle is on top of one of them, at an altitude of 978 metres. It is a short walk from the Ulus square to the taxi stand at the foot of the hill. Yes, we let the driver take us up.
The last time we visited the castle, was about eight years ago, and at that time the area was downright messy and worn out. But in recent years the municipality has carried out major renovation work and part of this historic area is fixed up tremendously. Still, the castle is not preserved as you might expect, but much has been done in the immediate vicinity.
On the road to the castle we pass the restored Anatolian houses. Some are still inhabited by the owners, others are transformed into art, antiques, gift shops and restaurants. Closer to the top are many non-renovated houses and you see real life in this area. But that makes a visit to the citadel so much fun. It isn’t a site, closed by the government which can only be visited by paying for it. Amidst the ruins there are people living, children playing and cars driving. As we walk to the top, an elderly woman runs from one of the homes with her hands filled with handmade, crocheted bags. They displays them on the stone steps and will try to sell them during the day.
The main entrance is located opposite the entrance of the most impressive museum in Turkey: the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. This museum alone is already worth a visit to Ankara, so that we are planning a next time.
When you walk down after your visit to the castle, take the street called ‘Samanpazarı’ (straw market). An experience in itself. Here the antique dealers, the furniture makers, craftsmen and 1001- things stores are located.
A visit to Ankara isn’t complete, without having seen Anıtkabır. Here is the Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, leader of the Turkish War of Independence and founder and first President of The Republic of Turkey. It is a special site for the Turks and also foreigners that visit the location are often very much impressed. Almost all parts of the monument have symbolic significance.
Like the “Lions road’ the most important access to the tomb. It is a 262 metre long path, flanked by statues of Lions, representing the 24 Oğuz Turkish tribes. The stones on the path, are all 5 centimetres apart so everybody approaching Anıtkabır must look down, and thus shows the proper respect on their way to Atatürk’s Mausoleum.
At the end of the Lions Road is the Ceremonial Square, designed for 15.000 people. The ground is decorated with 373 patterns of Turkish rugs.
Then there is the Hall of Honour, with the symbolic sarcophagus of Atatürk’s tomb. That tomb lies directly beneath the sarcophagus in a special room which ceiling is covered with gold mosaic stones.
The park landscaped around the monument is called ‘Park of Peace’ and was built in memory of Atatürk’s famous statement: ‘Peace at Home, Peace in the World’. It includes flowers and plants donated by 25 countries.
And do not leave without a visit to the museum where you get a picture of Atatürk’s life and the War of Independence.
Those who after all these sites still have the energy can visit one of the many shopping malls in Ankara. For example: Anka Mall, one of the first and largest shopping centres in the city. But also Armada and Kent Park are a good choice with a wide variety of shops.
Travel and transport
From Alanya you can take a plane to Ankara from Gazipaşa Airport. Or you can take one of the comfortable touringcars which will bring you there in approximately 8-10 hours.
In Ankara you can make use of relatively inexpensive and easy to find public transport everywhere. From the airport there are buses and down town you can get on a dolmus. Taxis are easy available everywhere, and very affordable.
Other sights to see in Ankara
In this article we have only focused on a few of the highlights that you could see and do in one day. But of course there is much more to experience and discover. Ankara has many interesting neighbourhoods, such as the busy Kızılay, luxury Çankaya or student like Bahçelievler. There are archaeological sites such as Roman excavations of significance. There are impressive mosques (Aleaddin mosque, the oldest in Ankara and Kocatepe Mosque, the largest in the city), that are well worth visiting. Ankara has many beautiful parks, such as Gençlik Parkı, Botanical Gardens and Kuğulu Park which is famous for the swans which were a gift from the Chinese government. And do not forget the many museums …
In short: Ankara cannot be captured in one day, there is always a good reason to go back again.
This article was published in Hello Alanya Magazine October 2015 and updated on February 24th 2017.
Important information: We do our best to keep our content updated, however, changes can occur. Therefore we strongly advise before making a trip, that you check availability and costs of transportation and also any opening hours and/or entrance fees.