*Featured photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen
Anıtkabir is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, also known as the “Father of the Turks”. Built on a vast area in the middle of central Ankara in 1952, Anıtkabir receives thousands of visitors every day. It is open every day between 9am – 4pm. Entrance is free.
The Anıtkabir complex comprises of 4 main sections: the Mausoleum (Hall of Honor), the Ceremony Square, the Lion Road and the Anıtkabir Museum of Atatürk.
Atatürk’s tomb is located in an inaccessible underground chamber. However, you can visit the Hall of Honor where you will find Atatürk’s symbolic monumental tomb. This is the most important part of Anıtkabir.
To get to the Mausoleum and the Ceremony Square in front of it, you will have to walk past the Lion Road, a 262-meter-long road, adorned with 24 lion statues on both sides representing the old Turkic tribes. The Ceremony Square is a vast area overlooked by the Mausoleum, where crowds of thousands gather to revere Ataturk on important national holidays.
The Anıtkabir Museum of Atatürk is a 3000-meter squares museum complex underneath the Hall of Honor and consists of 4 sections. In first section, Atatürk’s personal belongings are exhibited. In the second section, you will find oil paintings depicting scenes from the Gallipoli War and the Turkish War of Independence. The third section includes galleries and artworks giving information about the reforms and revolutions implemented during Atatürk’s era. The final section boasts a huge collection of Atatürk’s books (3123 books to be exact) and provides information about Atatürk’s life and the construction of Anıtkabir.
It is not known when and by whom the citadel was built. The Ankara Citadel carries the markings of the ancient residents of Anatolia, such as the Hittites, Galatians, Phrygians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans. In 1832, the citadel took its final form after a restoration that was funded by Ibrahim Pasha, the son of the Ottoman Governor to Egypt, Mehmed Ali Pasha. During the restoration, many marble blocks were acquired from the surrounding Roman sites and, today, it is possible to see stone building blocks embedded into the castle walls with inscriptions in Latin carved into them.
The alleys within the citadel and around it are full of small shops where you can find a wide range of goods such as spices, copper artisanal works, as well as handicraft workshops and fine examples of carpentry works.
You’ll also find many cozy cafes and coffeeshops around the citadel, where you can try out the local specialties or relieve your fatigue with various beverages.
Considered to be the prime touristic site of the city, the Ankara Citadel beholds many attractions around it. The most notable spots visitors should see are the Rahmi Koç Museum, the Erimtan Archeology Museum and the Anatolian Civilizations Museum.
The Rahmi Koç Museum is made up of two historical structures: Çengelhan, an old inn remaining from Suleiman the Magnificent’s era, and Safrahan, a 16th century caravanserai. It is a technology and industry museum built in 2005 by the Koç family, the wealthiest and most influential family of Turkey. Around 4 thousand objects are being displayed in the museum, giving a comprehensive insight into the industrial history of both and Turkey and the world. The 30 galleries of the museum boast a wide range of collections of marine technologies, products and methods used in pharmaceutical industries, agricultural machines, aviation equipment, olden transportation vehicles, rail transportation items, toys, and instruments for communications, science, maritime navigation, and much more. Moreover, there are also galleries about Atatürk and Vehbi Koç, the founding father of the Koç family, who was one of the first industrialists and businessmen in Turkey. In addition, there is a nice café where you can get some rest and taste delicious specialties. The entrance fee for the Rahmi Koç Museum is 15 liras for adults and 10 liras for students. Note that the museum is closed on Mondays. On weekdays and weekends, you can visit the museum between 11am – 5pm.
The Erimtan Archeology Museum was founded by Turkish businessman, Yüksel Erimtan. In 2015, three old houses near the Ankara Citadel were restored and turned into the museum building where many objects in Yüksel Erimtan’s personal collection of Hittite, Urartu, Roman and Byzantine artifacts are now displayed in contemporary ways. The entrance fee is 12 liras for adults and 7 liras for students. Visiting hours are the same as for the Rahmi Koç Museum.
3-Anatolian Civilizations Museum
Undoubtedly, the most popular museum in Ankara, Anatolian Civilizations Museum, boasts a vast collection of artefacts unearthed in Anatolia carrying marks of various civilizations.
The museum has sections focused on the Paleolithic Age, Chalcolithic Age, Old Bronze Age, Assyrian Trade Colonies, Old Hittite and Hittite Imperial Ages, the Phrygian Kingdom, the Late Hittite Kingdom, the Urartian Kingdom, and Classical Periods.
Given the award for “Museum of the year in Europe” in 1997, the Anatolian Civilizations Museum is a must-see site in Ankara.
Entrance for the museum costs 45 liras and is free with a Museum Card. The museum can be visited between 10am-5pm during the summer period (1 April-1 November) and between 8.30am-6pm during the winter period (1 November-1 April).
Atakule, one of the oldest malls in Ankara, is perhaps the most notable landmark of the city. With its glorious 125-meter-long (410 feet) observation tower, it abuts and oversees the colorful Botanical Park of Ankara.
The Ankara Roman Bath is a 3rd century BC bath complex built by the Roman Emperor Caracalla in honor of the God of Medicine and Health, Asclepius. It is spread over a vast ground in the central district of Ulus.
The Roman Bath complex, covering an area of approximately 65,000 m2, is an open-air museum where you will find around 1000 stoneworks, including tomb steles, tablets and architectural pieces, that are scattered among the ruins. These stoneworks chiefly date back to the Roman and Byzantine times.
The site can be visited between 10am-7pm in the summer period (1 April-1 November) and between 8.30am-5pm in the winter period (1 November-1 April). The entrance is 10 liras, or free with a Museum Card.
6-Hacı Bayram Veli Mosque and the Temple of Augustus
Hacı Bayram Veli Mosque, built in 1427, is one of the most prominent religious structures in Ankara.
It was devoted to Hacı Bayram Veli, who was an important personality in Islam and a respected Muslim scholar. Maintained and restored with abundant care throughout the centuries, the interior of the Hacı Bayram Veli Mosque is adorned with the finest examples of traditional Kütahya china artworks.
Right alongside the Hacı Bayram Veli Mosque, you will find the ancient temple of Augustus, which is the most intact remnant of the Roman period in Ankara. Built on top of an ancient Phrygian temple which was devoted to the Phrygian Goddess Kybele (Mother of Gods) and God Men (God of Moon), this 1st century BC temple was constructed during the Emperor Augustus’ rule.
During excavations, many important findings have been unearthed. An epigraph titled Res Gestae Divi Augusti (Augustus’ Deeds), written in Latin and Ancient Greek about the life and achievements of the emperor, was found on the walls of the temple.
Today, the temple stands well-preserved and receives thousands of visitors every day. There is no regulated visiting hour, so it is open to visitors 24/7. However, the temple is protected with glass fences, so it is only possible to walk around it and observe the temple from behind the fences.
Kızılay is the heart of Ankara, therefore of Turkey as well, and is the liveliest area of the city. Kızılay does not boast a specific attraction nor any historical sites. However, it is indisputably the best place to get a good picture of the daily life in Ankara and to see how people go about their days. The streets and alleys of Kızılay are full of shops, where you will find pretty much everything for reasonable prices, and countless cafes and restaurants. I highly recommend you to explore Kızılay thoroughly and get absorbed into the busy and colorful metropolitan life of Ankara.
8-Tunali Street and the Swan Park
Kızılay is the busiest part of the city, however Tunalı Street is the most vivid and pleasant street of the city. Adorned with small shops and cafes on both sides, Tunalı Street is a popular icon of Ankara and a youthful part of the city.
At the beginning of the Tunalı street, you will find Ankara’s famous Swan Park, where there are many elegant swans (as the name suggests), ducks and pigeons. Like many Ankarans have done at least once in their lives, you can get a cup of bird food for one lira and feed these feathered residents of the park.
Kocatepe, built in 1987, is the largest mosque in Ankara. In comparison to other mosques in the city, Kocatepe is relatively newer. Located at a short walking distance from Kızılay, Kocatepe is a must-visit spot in Ankara.
Hamamönü is one of the historical neighborhoods of Ankara. Restored in the past few years by the municipality of Altındağ, Hamamönü takes you back to the 19th century Ottoman era with its beautiful streets and old mansions. Prior to the restoration works, this area was in an appalling condition of neglect. However, with the comprehensive tourism organization implemented to the area, Hamamönü’s popularity has skyrocketed. Today, regardless of the time and day, this area is flocked to by the locals and tourists photographing its quaint, peaceful streets, and grabbing some lunch in its many cafes and having a cup of Turkish coffee.