Ankara, Turkey’s capital, is a big city, but you can visit its major sights in as little as a half-day if you’re in a hurry, though a full day, with an overnight stay, is more relaxed and enjoyable.
The major concentration of historic sights is on or around the high hill topped by Ankara‘s ancient Hisar (Citadel), including the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (map).
Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
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). Note that the museum is undergoing renovation and extension work, and only two exhibit halls are open through 2014.
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! Except for the lack of crops and livestock, the people here live the village life. More…
Çengel Han Rahmi M Koç Museum
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), or the sophisticated Divan Brasserie in the courtyard.
Samanpazarı is the Ankara neighborhood known for its antiques shops, and serious antiques 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 antiques 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 antiques 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. Unfortunately, it is usually open only atprayer times, so if you’re eager to visit this 700+-year-old mosque, plan to arrive about 15 to 20 minutes after the call to prayer.
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 sheikh’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.
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. More…
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.
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.
—by Tom Brosnahan
Museum of Anatolian Civilisations