Once a small, unassuming capital, Ankara has since blossomed to become a truly international city with an air of sophistication that permeates its wide, cafe-lined streets. Without ever leaving the city, visitors can learn volumes about Turkey’s ancient and modern history through rich museums, fascinating temples, Ottoman-area villages and haunting mausoleums.
The city has somewhat of a split personality due to its rapid development upon becoming the Turkish capital in 1923. Before then, the city was nothing more than a sparse town know mostly for its production of angora. Remnants of the old city still survive around the citadel, the original settlement’s cornerstone. Today, it is the part of Ankara that best rewards an aimless stroll. The authentic old-world atmosphere permeates the cobbled streets, lined with ramshackle Ottoman-era wooden houses and mansions recently restored to their former glory. Although the original walls were built more than 3,000 years ago by the Hittites, the ones that envelop the district today were built in 859 by emperor Michael III. Still, they are an impressive sight, and walking along them gives visitors a glimpse into the city’s history.
The Ak Kale, or White Fortress, dominates the citadel’s northern end. From the top of the fortress, visitors can look out to the city’s northeastern edge, where Pompey defeated Mithridates the Great in an epic battle in 74 BC. The ruined tower on the fortress’s east side also offers stunning views of the city and beyond.
The capital’s most important ancient monument is the Temple of Augustus and Rome, built between 25 and 20 BC. The inscription on the outer wall tells the story of the emperor’s most impressive deeds, a testament that was carved into every temple dedicated to him throughout the entire Roman world. Ankara’s is the only surviving one, and it has lasted through the temple’s conversion into a Christian Church and later into a madrasa. The most beloved Muslim saint in Ankara, Bayram Veli, is buried in the tomb at the temple’s entrance.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations offers additional information on these sights and about Anatolia’s history from the Stone Age through the classical era. The museum’s outstanding archaeological collection is arranged in chronological order, and exploring the exhibits is like walking through time.
The Ethnographic Museum is also worth a visit. Housed in a grand white-marble building, the museum contains an impressive collection of artifacts dating back to the Selcuk period, including carpets, domestic utensils, woodcarvings and furniture.
The museum was the original resting place of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the leader who shaped modern Turkey, before his body was moved to Anit Kabir, his own mausoleum. Two stone lions guard the main entrance, which takes visitors to a lush central courtyard. Two towers dedicated to freedom and independence reach toward the sky, and inside is a collection of photos detailing the mausoleum’s construction. The mausoleum itself lies at the central courtyard’s head, set off by huge bronze doors. Soldiers stand guard, but visitors are welcome to pay their respects to the leader.
Nightlife in the city revolves around its sophisticated restaurants and its student cafes. During the warmer months, outdoor seating spills out onto the sidewalks and courtyards feature impromptu clubs that put on live music shows starring local bands. In the cooler weather, the atmosphere heats up inside posh lounges and lively pubs as locals and expats gather to enjoy tall glasses of fruity raki, a local wine that is as sweet as the scenery in Ankara.
Ankara Geographical Location
Ankara is located to the west of Turkey’s center and is its second largest city.
The population of Ankara is approximately 4,450,000.
Turkish is the official language of Turkey and while there are many minorities of languages spoken in addition. The Turkish constitution does not permit other languages to be taught in schools as a primary language.
Ankara Predominant Religion
- 99.8% Muslim
- 0.2% Other
Although there is no official religion in Turkey there are mandatory religious classes taught in schools that focus solely on the Muslim religion.
The Turkish Lira is the official currency of Turkey.
Ankara’s summers are usually hot with cold and snowy winters due to its elevation and inland location.
Ankara Main Attractions
- Anatolian Civilizations Museum (Anadolu Medeniyetleri Muzesi)
- Ataturk Mausoleum (Anitkabir)
- Kocatepe Mosque (Kocatepe Camii)
Other Attractions in Ankara
- Sengul Hamam
- Ankara Citadel (Hisar)
- Haci Bayram Mosque (Haci Bayram Camii)
- Ethnographic Museum