Ankara, the capital of Turkey and the country’s second-largest city after Istanbul, is a vibrant mix of modernity, tradition, and history. Known for its unique blend of cultures, modern architecture, bustling bazaars, historic sites, and diverse cuisine, Ankara is a city that never fails to impress. With its strategic location in the heart of Turkey, Ankara is also an excellent base for exploring the rest of the country.
Ankara’s history dates back to the Bronze Age Hatti civilization, which thrived in the area around 2000-1700 BC. It was later the center of several significant civilizations including the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires. Each left its distinct imprint, contributing to the rich cultural and historical tapestry that is Ankara today.
Ankara boasts a modern and efficient public transportation system that includes the Ankara Metro, buses, and dolmuş (shared taxis). It also has a high-speed train connection to Istanbul. Renting a car is another viable option, though keep in mind that traffic can be heavy, especially during peak hours. For shorter distances, walking is a great way to explore the city and soak in the local culture.
1. Atatürk Mausoleum (Anıtkabir)
Anıtkabir, the resting place of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – the founder of the Republic of Turkey – is a top attraction in Ankara. The mausoleum’s architecture is impressive, with large courtyards and halls, while the museum provides valuable insights into Atatürk’s life and the history of Turkey.
2. Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
Ranked among the top museums in the world, the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations hosts a rich collection of artifacts from the many civilizations that have called this region home. The museum is especially famous for its collection from the Neolithic age.
3. Ankara Castle
Overlooking the city, Ankara Castle is a must-visit. This medieval fortress provides panoramic views of Ankara and offers a journey back in time with its historic walls and structures. There are plenty of shops and cafes within the castle where you can try some traditional Turkish tea and food.
4. Kocatepe Mosque
The largest mosque in Ankara, Kocatepe Mosque is a beautiful example of Ottoman-style architecture. Its imposing structure, intricate interiors, and peaceful ambiance make it a must-see.
Food and Drink
Turkish cuisine is renowned worldwide, and Ankara is a great place to sample it. Some must-try dishes include “döner” (rotating roast), “İskender kebap” (slices of lamb or beef in tomato sauce, served with pita and yogurt), and “Ankara Tava” (a special casserole with lamb).
For sweets, try “baklava” (a sweet pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey) or “Türk Lokumu” (Turkish Delight).
When it comes to drinks, “raki” is a traditional alcoholic beverage often served with meals. For non-alcoholic options, “çay” (Turkish tea) and “ayran” (a cold yogurt-based beverage) are popular choices.
Ankara is known for its bustling bazaars and shopping districts. The “Bakırcılar Çarşısı” (Coppersmith Bazaar) is famous for its traditional copper works. “Armada”, “Panora”, and “Kentpark” are among the popular shopping malls Ankara’s malls offer a wide range of international and local brands. For traditional shopping, the Weavers’ Road, locally known as “Sulu Han”, is where you’ll find hand-woven carpets and kilims. If you’re looking for spices, the old spice bazaar, “Beypazarı” is your destination. Be sure to also check out the Sunday flea market in the historic neighborhood of “Sam’anlık” for antiques and second-hand items.
Outdoor Activities and Excursions
1. Ataturk Forest Farm and Zoo (Ataturk Orman Ciftligi)
This large recreational farming area is home to a zoo, several small agricultural farms, greenhouses, restaurants, a dairy farm, and a brewery. It’s a perfect place for families to relax, picnic and enjoy the day.
2. Lake Eymir
About 20 km from the city center, Lake Eymir is a beautiful natural retreat. You can rent a bike or take a leisurely walk around the lake, picnic, or even go rowing. The area is also great for bird watching.
3. Explore the Parks
Ankara is home to numerous parks, the most famous being the Gençlik Park with its large artificial lake and several amenities. Others include Kurtuluş Park, known for its ice-skating rink in winter, and Botanik Park, which features a lovely assortment of local and exotic plants.
4. Day Trips
Owing to its central location, Ankara serves as an excellent base for several interesting day trips. You could visit Beypazarı, a town known for its preserved Ottoman-era houses, or the ancient Roman Temple of Augustus in the nearby village of Aizanoi.
Ankara’s nightlife is diverse, with a scene for just about everyone. The city is home to several bars, clubs, and music venues. The “Tunalı Hilmi Street” is popular for its lively atmosphere and collection of bars and restaurants. For those interested in live performances, the city has numerous theaters and concert halls, like the Ankara Opera House, which regularly host a variety of shows.
While Turkey is a secular country, it’s good to keep in mind that it is also predominantly Muslim. It’s recommended to dress modestly, particularly when visiting mosques or religious sites. Always remove your shoes before entering a mosque, and women should cover their hair.
Turks are known for their hospitality, so don’t be surprised if you’re invited for tea or a meal. It’s also customary to greet people with a handshake.
- Currency: The currency in Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY). Credit cards are widely accepted, but it’s also a good idea to carry some cash, especially for smaller establishments and markets.
- Language: Turkish is the official language. English is taught in schools, and while proficiency can vary, people involved in tourism generally speak good English.
- Safety: Ankara is generally a safe city, but like in any major city, it’s important to remain vigilant, especially in crowded areas.
- Climate: Ankara has a continental climate. Summers (June – August) are warm and dry, while winters (December – February) can be cold and snowy. Spring and Autumn are mild and are generally the best times to visit.
- Sim Card: To stay connected, you can easily buy a local sim card from one of the country’s main providers such as Turkcell, Vodafone or Türk Telekom.
Ankara, with its deep-rooted history, lively culture, delectable cuisine, and warm hospitality, offers a unique Turkish experience. Whether you’re a history buff, a food lover, a shopping enthusiast, or an explorer, you’ll find something to enjoy in this vibrant city.
Festivals and Events
Ankara hosts a number of cultural events and festivals throughout the year, which adds to its appeal. Some of these include:
1. Ankara International Film Festival
Held in March, this film festival is one of the most significant film festivals in Turkey, showcasing a wide range of Turkish and international films.
2. Ankara Music Festival
This festival takes place in April and brings together a variety of classical music performances from both local and international artists.
3. Ankara Jazz Festival
Held in May, the Ankara Jazz Festival hosts numerous concerts at various venues across the city, featuring local and international jazz artists.
4. Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival
This unique film festival is dedicated to showcasing films made by female directors from Turkey and around the world. It usually takes place in May.
Some basic Turkish phrases that could be helpful during your travel. Here is a table with the English phrase, its Turkish equivalent, and its Persian (Farsi) equivalent:
|Hoşça kal||Goodbye||خداحافظ (Khodahafez)|
|Teşekkür ederim||Thank you||ممنون (Mamnoon)|
|Affedersiniz||Excuse me||ببخشید (Bebakhshid)|
|Anlamıyorum||I don’t understand||نمیفهمم (Nemifahmam)|
|… nerede?||Where is…?||کجاست…? (Kojast…?)|
|Ne kadar?||How much?||چقدر؟ (Cheghadr?)|
|Özür dilerim||I’m sorry||متاسفم (Motasafam)|
|Kayboldum||I’m lost||گم شدهام (Gom shodeam)|
|İngilizce konuşabilir misiniz?||Can you speak English?||آیا انگلیسی صحبت میکنید؟ (Aya English sohbat mikonid?)|
|Günaydın||Good morning||صبح بخیر (Sobh bekheir)|
|İyi akşamlar||Good evening||عصر بخیر (Asr bekheir)|
|İyi geceler||Good night||شب بخیر (Shab bekheir)|
|Nasılsınız?||How are you?||حال شما چطوره؟ (Haal e shoma chetoreh?)|
|Benim adım…||My name is…||اسم من… است (Esm e man… ast)|
|Çok güzel||Very beautiful||خیلی زیبا (Kheili ziba)|
|Ne yapıyorsunuz?||What are you doing?||چکار میکنید؟ (Chekar mikonid?)|
|Geliyorum||I am coming||دارم میام (Daram miyam)|
|Gidiyorum||I am going||دارم میروم (Daram miravam)|
These phrases should be helpful in a wide range of situations.
Ankara is much more than just the political capital of Turkey; it’s a city that combines the old with the new, history with modernity, and tradition with innovation. It is a city that carries the richness of Turkish culture in every corner and a place where every visitor is welcomed with open arms and warm hospitality.
So, whether you’re planning a short trip or a long stay, Ankara is sure to offer you a multitude of experiences, sights, and memories that will last a lifetime. Pack your bags and get ready to explore this fascinating city that never fails to charm its visitors. With its rich history, bustling markets, delicious food, vibrant nightlife, and scenic beauty, Ankara is undoubtedly a destination worth visiting!