Turkey takes pride in its history, ancient architecture, turquoise coasts, diverse cuisine, to name a few. Among its major tourism magnets are Cappadocia, Istanbul and many others in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions. Unlike many capital cities, Ankara has less dizzying traffic, more affordable dining and accommodation and lower crime rates. When in transit in Ankara, you might as well spend a few days here to see what the capital has to offer.
Anitkabir is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and first president of the Turkish Republic. Situated on the top hill of Mebusevleri Mahallesi, embrace the panoramic view of the sprawling city below. It’s frequented by school tours, local and foreign tourists. Make sure to wear enough to keep you warm if you want to visit during cold winter months as it can get really windy and colder up there; whilst if you choose to visit in the spring or summer, you may find yourself chilling out on the green area of pine trees afterwards for at least another hour more.
2. Ankara Castle
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A nearly 30 minute-walk from the base of the hill (at a normal pace), lo and behold the ever so alive memento from the glorious days of the Seljuk, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. If you begin your climb westward, you’ll pass the ruins of the Roman Bath. The main entrance to the castle is to the east, and right before it is the Koc Museum and narrow streets of antique and souvenir shops. During the steep climb, you’ll also pass by numerous run-down houses which are in huge contrast to modernity right before your eyes when you reach the topmost part of the castle. As you stand on the battlements, enjoy photographing the city at a 360 angle.
3. Koc Museum
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Located in the district of Ulus in Altindag (approximately 30 meters from the main entrance to Ankara Castle, the Koc Museum is in memory of the late Rahmi M. Koc. Inside were memorabilia of early industry, transport, and communications. Be fascinated with the huge collections of traditional and modern models of homes, antique locomotives, cars, early farming tools and equipment, and replicas of pharmacies and dental clinics in the old days. For less than $2 entrance fee, the museum is worth visiting.
4. Dikmen Vadisi
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When in Ankara, spend at least an hour or two of your time in this sweetie in the heart of the city. The Vadisi (Valley) is an enormous area of trees, plants, and fountains and it provides a perfect area for walking, jogging and riding a bicycle with its 3-km long paths. Dikmen Vadisi is quieter and less frequented by locals and its surrounding neighborhoods during the cold winter months. Between the spring and summer would be a perfect time to chill out here and enjoy the many beautiful colors of spring and is also a healthy alternative to air-conditioners during the hot summer months for its cool fresh air and shades.
5. Ulus District
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Located in the middle of the metropolitan area of Ankara, the district of Ulus still lives up to its reputation as the heart of old Ankara. It is popular for affordable shopping, second-hand furniture shops, Genclik Park, Haci Bayram Mosque and the newly finished one called Melike Hatun Mosque, and the historic Ulucanlar Cezaevi (Ulucanlar Jail) – Turkey’s historic jail during the revolution in the 80s and 90s. This is also where you can find unique arts and crafts perfect for souvenirs.
6. Ataturk House Museum
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Prior to your travel to Turkey, you must already have heard about one of the most popular names in history – Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey. This museum was the iconic leader’s residence between 1921 and 1932, gracing the street of Ciftlik Caddesi with greatness and humility. The museum reflects the great Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s deep passion for farming and agriculture.
7. Kocatepe Mosque
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It is the largest mosque in Ankara, housed at a walking distance from Kizilay (the capital’s commercial hub), built between 1967 and 1987. Ever since it opened in 1987, it has been one of the top iconic symbols of the country’s capital. It is a magnificent subject to photograph at night, most especially if you are on the city’s elevated areas. Kocatepe Mosque provides peace and comfort of the mind conducive to taking that time off to reflect.
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Being one of the best and biggest malls in Ankara, here you can find the best local and international brands, excellent restaurants, cafes and high-end cinemas perfect for spending your free time with your friends and family. There is also a huge supermarket on the basement level, as well as a spacious parking area just one more floor beneath it. You can find Panora AVM (Panora Shopping Mall) in the quiet elite neighborhood of Oran, approximately 11 kilometers from the commercial area of Kizilay Square. Right across from it is another great mall called One Tower that opened just recently.
If you do not own a car, it is pretty easy and inexpensive to get there by taking the public transport called “dolmus” from Kizilay for only 2.75 Turkish Lira which is equivalent to $0.60. Among the most popular and huge malls for your shopping needs are Armada, CEPA, Kentpark, Next Level, Gordion, and AnkaMall. You should also come to Nata Vega to see its pride called Aqua Vega – a giant aquarium, another must-see, especially for your children and old loved ones. Annexed to it is another mall called Anatolium with a few shops, cafes and a huge IKEA store for your home and garden needs.
9. Kizilay Square
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Kizilay Square is considered the heart of the city for being the commercial hub. It is where you can find a lot of foreign language schools, law offices, restaurants, shops, banks, etc. You won’t get lost when you are in Kizilay as it is where the metro routes begin and end, as well as other public transport modes such as the big city buses and “dolmus.”
- Dolmus (pronounced ‘dol-mush’) – a small blue bus that doesn’t need AnkaraKart
10. Elmadag Ski Resort
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You won’t get bored in Ankara during the winter season. Elmadag Ski Resort is not like your Alpine dream but it sure is a good destination for friends and families to have fun riding a sled, skiing, and snowboarding. It also has cable cars that you can ride for a more fantastic experience. Lodges are also available for overnight stays.