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Ankara, a lively metropolis, is the capital of Turkey and the second largest city (after Istanbul).

Often overshadowed by Istanbul, Ankara is a destination in its own right. Home for thousands of university students, foreign embassy staff and diplomats it fuses a mix of historical places with interesting art galleries, great restaurants and superb night life to earn a place on any ‘must-visit’ city guide.

 

What to see

Anitkabir (Atatürk’s mausoleum) sits in the center of Ankara on top of a hill and is famous in Turkey for symbolizing the Turkish Republic. Even if you are not familiar with Turkish history, you should take time to visit this imposing monument where inside you will find the founder of Turkey’s mausoleum. Beside the monument is the Anitkabir Museum, which displays the ruler’s clothing, documents, gifts and personal items as well as war artefacts from the Çanakkale (Dardanelle) War.

Listen to the prayer chants as you stand outside Kocatepe Mosque, the largest mosque in Ankara that can hold 10,000 worshippers. When access is open after prayer times, wander inside to marvel at the spectacular Ottoman-Islamic architecture and décor like stained glass window, mosaics and an immense central chandelier.

Take the lift up to the observation terrace of the Atakule Tower. Soaring 125 meters above the ground, this tower is one of Ankara’s landmarks and one of the best spots for panoramic views across the city from the terrace or revolving restaurant.

 

What to do

Roam the Hisar (Ankara Citadel) where you can immerse yourself in the strategic importance of the fortifications as you admire Ankara Kalesi (Ankara Castle). The walls are split by 42 towers, with a striking view from the Ottoman Tower base but beware many of the walls don’t have railings! We recommend taking a taxi from Ulus to avoid a strenuous climb to the citadel. The surrounding cobbled alleyways are filled with houses converted to restaurants where you can stop for a tasty meal after sightseeing.

Located in the shadow of Ankara Castle, the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations is a must-see for lovers of history or archaeology. Exhibits display Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Phrygian and Roman artefacts such as stone tablets, wooden furniture, terracotta urns and statues. The displays are arranged beautifully in chronological order – we recommend arriving early to avoid the influx of tour groups.

Turkey is a country for eating and drinking. Don’t miss your chance to delve into delicious Turkish fare such as sigara börek (deep-fried pastries stuffed with cheese) or döner kebap (doner kebab) which casts a familiar sight throughout Turkey with various types of meat rotating on vertical rotisseries. In Ankara, some of the best eats can be found at street food trucks parked near the Bilkent University.

 

Nearby things to see and do

Get back to nature at the Soguksu National Park that is 70 kilometers north from Ankara. This beautiful natural area is a habitat for many animal and plant species, and is an excellent location for hiking and cycling. Enjoy a forest walk, then head to the nearby town of Kizilcahamam that is famous for its thermal springs.

Best reached by car as there is no bus network nearby, drive to the archaeologically rich area of Gordion that is just under 100 kilometers southwest of Ankara. The area is scattered with tombs (most notably, King Midas’ Tomb), and the small but informative Gordion Museum displays vital items from the Bronze Age and Phrygian periods such as burial caskets, ironwork and ceramics.