Culturally reach and diverse, Turkey attracts 40 million tourists each year. That’s right: Turkey is one of the most popular destinations in the world.
Although most people consider Istanbul the country’s greatest attraction, the capital Ankara is one of the most popular cities in Turkey, and has plenty of reasons in itself for you to plan your Turkish holiday, sort your Turkey visa, and hop on a plane. Keep reading to find the top things to do and see in Ankara and our best Ankara tourism advice.
You’ll be able to see Ankara’s fortified citadel in the distance from almost anywhere in the city. This is where it all started, about 3,000 years ago. The citadel (hisar) was the original town, built by Ankara’s founders.
The thick ancient walls built to keep enemies out now protect a treasure of intricate lanes, fine restaurants, and breath-taking lookouts. The inner Turkish village hidden right in the heart of this modern capital city is just one example of the mix of ancient and new that Turkey has to offer — and will give visitors a good idea of what traditional Turkish life was like centuries ago.
Enter the citadel through the Finger Gate (Parmak Kapısı) and start walking your way to the top. Along the walls, you will spot rows of marble sarcophagi, columns, and ancient inscriptions. As you approach the white fortress (Ak Kale) the climb will get steeper: this impressive tower offers some of the best views in town.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
Right next to the citadel is located one of the most fascinating archaeological museums in the world. The museum of Anatolian civilizations will take you on a tour through millennia of human history, with some artifacts dating over 7,500 years ago.
The museum’s rooms are arranged as a chronological spiral and contain some of the finest testimonies of Anatolian and the Near Eastern ancient civilizations.
Opening hours are 9 am – 5 pm, all year round. The only exceptions are the mornings of religious festivities when the museum remains closed to the public. Get there by walking a steep hill or taking one of the many taxis in the area.
In general, Ankara is one of the best places to go for museum lovers. Archaeology, ethnography, industrial and national history, carpets… there are plenty of reasons to visit Ankara’s museums.
Beyond Archaeology: Places Worth Visiting in Ankara
But if you’re not really the museum type, is Ankara worth visiting? Absolutely! Tourist attractions in Ankara go well beyond strolls around ancient ruins.
Ankara is a buzzing modern city. Join the Ankara youth and enjoy plenty of live music, festivals, and cultural events — as well as some of the best restaurants and cafes in the country.
Head to Ankara in April if you want to experience the international music festival that every year sees world-renowned artists and symphony orchestras perform in the capital. The following month, film enthusiasts gather for the Flying Broom film festival, when movies shot by the most promising female directors are shown for the first time.
If you’re a lover of nature and marine life, visiting the Aqua Vega aquarium is a must. Aqua Vega is one of the largest aquariums in Europe and the third largest tunnel aquarium in the world. 250 different marine creatures live here — visit them from 10 am to 8 pm.
Finally, you can’t miss out on the Anıtkabir, the monumental tomb of Kemal Atatürk, founder and first leader of the Turkish Republic. Through the ceremonial courtyard (a spectacle in itself, paved with mosaic tiling and surrounded by marble collonades and arcades) you’ll reach the actual mausoleum. Remember to remove your hat as a sign of respect before approaching the huge cenotaph carved out of a single stone block. The mausoleum is free to enter and open between 9 am – 5 pm.
Is Ankara Safe?
Visitors worried about safety in Ankara can rest assured. Crime levels in the Turkis capital are very low (from mugging to car theft and violent crimes) and locals of both sexes report to feel safe walking around town alone at night.
However, common sense should always be applied. Pickpocketing is not unusual in crowded places and in proximity of major tourist attractions (just like it happens everywhere else). Preventive practices may include avoiding carrying valuables with you to such places, and keeping your belongs close at all times.
A completely different type of risk may come from the lack or poor conditions of sidewalks in several areas. Tripping and falling over can easily occur if one doesn’t pay close attention at all times.
In case you need assistance, the Ankara law enforcement has a dedicated police section with officers and staff trained in several languages (including English, French, German, and Arabic). You can contact them by calling +90 312 384-06-06, 384-08-11/6350-6353.
So, are you ready to leave yet? Make sure to pack comfortable shoes, a hat for the sunny season, and to complete your Turkish visa application on time. Bonne voyage!