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What to See & Do in Ankara, Turkey

Last Updated on May 26, 2024

Ankara,  Turkey’s capital, is a big city, but you can visit its major sights as though a full day, with an overnight stay, is more relaxed and enjoyable.

The major concentration of historic sites is on or around the high hill topped by Ankara‘s ancient Hisar (Citadel), including the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (map).

The Anıtkabir (Monumental Tomb) of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938), crowns a hilltop in the Maltepe district. The great monument itself and a small museum of Atatürk’s life are open to the public. This is the most precious and respected place for Turks.

Housed in a historic caravanserai holding the artistic wealth of 7500 years, this excellent museum is especially rich in art and artifacts from the Hittite era (2600 to 1300 BCE).

Hisar (Citadel) – Ankara Kalesi

The very oldest part of Ankara is this hilltop fortress, sometimes called the kale. You can wander into its mighty walls and climb to the top to enjoy the view, and you’ll find yourself…in an honest-to-goodness Turkish village! There are many places in the castle such as cafes, art galleries, and souvenir shops. Here, you can enjoy the view, drink Turkish coffee, taste traditional flavors, and buy souvenirs that reflect Turkish culture. Ankara Castle will fascinate you with its historical houses and traditional texture.

Çengel Han Rahmi M. Koç Museum

Rahmi Koç Museum is located in a former caravanserai built in 1522, its displays include Engineering, Road Transport, Scientific Instruments, Maritime, Everyday Life, and others.

There’s a museum shop and two places for meals: the Divan Café (with a delightful outdoor terrace), and the sophisticated Divan Brasserie in the courtyard.

Samanpazarı

Samanpazarı is the Ankara neighborhood known for its antique shops, and serious antique shoppers know that you find better buys in Ankara than in Istanbul. From the fortress entrance, walk east (away from the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations) along Atpazarı Sokak downhill and you’ll pass numerous antique shops. Turn right (south) at the end of the street and continue downhill to the Ahi Şerafettin Mosque on Can Sokak. Keep the mosque on your left and continue downhill past even more antique shops.

Ahi Şerafettin (Aslanhane) Mosque & Tomb

The Seljuk Turkish Ahi Serafettin Mosque & Tomb has been here on the slope of the citadel hill since 1290, though obviously restored more recently. This mosque is one of the oldest and most important buildings in the city.

Hacı Bayram Mosque & Tomb

Hacı Bayram Veli (1352-1430) was a Sufi (Muslim mystic) teacher born near Ankara. He became a follower of Sheikh Hamiduddin Veli, and after the sheik’s death in 1412, he assumed leadership of the sheik’s followers, a Sufi order that became known as the Bayrami. Because of his wisdom and erudition, Hacı Bayram was an advisor to Sultan Murat II (1404-1451), father of Sultan Mehmet II “The Conqueror.”

Haci Bayram’s memory is revered in Ankara, and his tomb and mosque, built on the site of the Bayrami tekke (Sufi lodge), right next to the ruined Temple of Augustus and Rome, is a place of pilgrimage.

Roman Ankara

At the foot of the citadel hill near Ulus Square are the remains of Roman Ankara, including the ruined Temple of Augustus and Rome (right next to the Hacı Bayram Mosque and Tomb), the Column of Julian, and the extensive Roman baths.

Turkish Republic Museums

The founding of the Turkish Republic (1923) on the ruins of the defeated Ottoman Empire is one of the 20th century’s most absorbing national stories. Turkish history buffs will want to visit the two buildings used for the earliest meetings of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi, Turkey’s parliament), now museums, just down the hill from Ulus Square on Cumhuriyet Caddesi. Museum of the War of Independence and the Ankara Republic Museum are side by side.

Presidential National Library

The Presidential Library (T.C. Cumhurbaşkanlığı Millet Kütüphanesi) is the largest and most gorgeous library in Turkey. This magnificent library, which contains a collection of more than 4 million books in 134 different languages and 120 million articles and reports, was opened in 2020. The library is located within the Presidential Complex and is large enough to accommodate 5,000 visitors at the same time. You can visit the library by getting a temporary entrance card with your passport at the library entrance.

Kocatepe Mosque

This mosque, whose construction was completed in 1987, has the distinction of being the largest mosque in Ankara. You should definitely visit this mosque, which will fascinate you with its architecture.

İşbank Museum of Economic Independence

While visiting the Ulus region, you will be interested in the historical building of İşbank Economic Independence Museum (İş Bankası İktisadi Bağımsızlık Müzesi). When you enter, you can get very important information about the history, establishment, and development of İşbank, which has an important place in the Turkish economy, as well as information about local issues such as population policies, economic policies, and health policies. It is very enjoyable to visit this carefully prepared exhibition.

Historical Ulucanlar Prison Museum

This prison museum (Tarihi Ulucanlar Cezaevi Müzesi) is one of the most visited places after its transformation into a museum, which is one of the first prisons built after the proclamation of the Republic, where many criminals, especially political criminals, stayed between 1925 and 2006. Opened in 2011, this museum contains important items such as prisoners' personal belongings, photographs, and court documents. There are also wax sculptures.

CSO Ada Ankara

CSO Ada is the home of Turkish Presidential Symphony Orchestra (T.C. Cumhurbaşkanlığı Senfoni Orkestrası). If you want to spend an evening full of art when you come to Ankara, CSO Ada is the place to go. Here, you can first visit the CSO Museum prepared for the Turkish symphony orchestra, and then listen to the Presidential Symphony Orchestra concert. You can buy your tickets online or at the ticket office in CSO Ada to attend a concert in this architectural wonder building that hosts artists from all over the world. At the same time, there is a very nice restaurant inside that has included dishes from world cuisines in its menu (Kovan Bistronomy).

Gençlik Parkı

The Youth Park (Gençlik Parkı) is one of the places you can relax and cool down during the day through your visit in Ankara. If you have kids, you can spend some fun times in the Lunapark (Amusement Park).

—by Tom Brosnahan, updated by Melike Kocaer

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