Discover the rich heritage of Turkey’s capital city. Ankara is full of ancient architecture and historical monuments. These are our top tips for a journey back in time.
Ankara is not only the administrative capital of Turkey, but the historic capital too. The oldest settlements in the city are thought to date back to 2500 BC. They belonged to the Hatti civilization. The power of the city has changed hands many times since then, belonging to the Phrygians, Lydians, Galatians and other civilizations.
Today, the city, the second largest after Istanbul, has a population of over 4.5 million. It is a successful commercial and industrial hub, whose heritage plays an important role in the culture.
Ankara Citadel and Castle
The most significant piece of history is the citadel, Ankara Kalesi, which dominates the skyline overlooking today’s modern city at a height of 978 meters. It’s a constant reminder of Ankara’s rich past. There is no concrete evidence as to when the fortress was built but many believe it was originally a garrison built by the Hittites. During the Galatian period, the castle was enlarged and the foundations and walls were built above the city.
The citadel is made up of the inner and outer castle. The outer castle, which used to have 20 towers, is mostly ruins now. The inner castle has been well preserved, being built from marble and red Ankara stone. It contains 42 pentagonal towers and covers a space of 43km². This area is lined with traditional houses and a mosque. It is also full of restaurants and cafés serving delicious local dishes, and some fantastic gift shops for all your souvenirs. This is also one of the city’s oldest residential areas making it great place to take a stroll through historic alleys and streets.
Ataturk Mausoleum (Anıtkabir)
Anıtkabir is a memorial and museum dedicated to the life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938). He was an army officer and nationalist leader who went on to become the first president of the Turkish Republic. The reforms he put in place revolutionized and modernized the nation.
The architecture and structure of the building is impressive. The mausoleum stands proudly on Observation Hill (Rasattepe) overlooking Ankara. The best way to enter is through Peace Park, up the steps to Lion Road, named after the avenue lined with neo-Hittite stone lions leading to the main courtyard. Peace Park surrounds the memorial. It is made up of tree species from regions across Turkey and from foreign countries. In total, the park contains over 48,500 trees and plants.
Inside, the main hall is beautifully decorated in red marble and colorful mosaics, taking you though the ages of civilization. Atatürk’s 42-ton sarcophagus lies within a tomb on the north side of the building. Many of his personal effects can also be viewed and an interactive show takes you on a journey of his life.
You can’t fail to be impressed by both the internal and external architecture of this stunning place of worship. This is the largest mosque in Ankara and is visible from almost anywhere in the city. It was built between 1967 and 1987. As you approach the mosque, the scale of the building is incredible.
The mosque is open for visitors but restrictions do apply. The serene marble interior, stained-glass windows and ceramic blue, red and white mosaics that decorate the walls and ceiling are the biggest attractions. Black and gold script depicting writings from the Koran decorate the upper walls. Inside the sense of space and serenity makes it clear why this is the center of worship for the people of the city.
Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
There is a good selection of museums in the city, but the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi) provides fantastic insight to what shaped Turkey’s past. It presents a unique exhibit of Anatolian archaeology and human civilizations. It contains an interesting collection of artifacts from the Paleolithic Age to the present day. You can see some of the earliest records and excavations in history in the form of antiquities, statues, artifacts, ceramics and sarcophagi.
Indulge yourself at Sengül Hamam
A trip to Turkey is incomplete without experiencing an authentic Turkish bath, or Hamam. Sengül Hamam is located in Ulus. Built in the 15th century, it is a piece of history in itself. It is in fact only one of two ancient Hamams still in use in Ankara. Today, it welcomes both men and women in separate quarters. As well as baths, you can choose from a variety of treatments to sooth and revitalize the body.
Whether you want to bathe in historical surroundings or delve into the diverse heritage of this fascinating city, there is much to explore in Ankara. The Radisson Blu Hotel, Ankara makes the ideal base to discover all that this ancient capital has to offer.