What to see
The Antalya Museum presents visitors with archaeological artifacts from all around the region, and takes both local and foreign tourists on a journey back in time. Established in 1922 after World War I to protect the artifacts saved from forces invading the area, the Antalya Museum was first housed in the Alaaddin Mosque (located in Kaleiçi, the old city center), but was then moved to the Yivliminare Mosque. Finally, in 1972 it was moved to its current location, where the building houses 14 exhibition halls, a garden and an open-air gallery, with sculptures and a wide range of other artifacts on display. The Museum exhibits statues, pottery, glass and metal works from the surrounding ancient cities of Perge, Side, Xanthos, Termessos, Phaselis and Olympos. Be sure to take a good look at the monumental sculptures from Perge while exploring the museum.
Antalya Clock Tower
Built in 1901 to celebrate Sultan Abdul Hamid II’s 25th year on the throne, the Clock Tower is located where the north-facing castle bastions once stood. The original clock was a gift from the German emperor Wilhem II. The Clock Tower stands on a base, a five-cornered bastion built from stones which are believed to date from the 9th century. With a clock on each side and a bell at the top, the tower itself stands at 8 meters atop the old castle bastion, and a total of 14 meters from the ground. Damaged by a storm in 1945, the old clocks were replaced with more modern ones in 1974.
Once serving as an entrance to the city, this monumental entranceway was built in 130 AD in the name of the Roman emperor Hadrian. It’s one of the region’s most famous Roman monuments and a favorite among photographers. Previously adorned with statues of emperors and empresses of the era, the Corinthian marble columns carrying the stonework and Latin inscriptions survive to this day. This Roman artifact now connects one of Antalya’s most entertaining areas, Kaleiçi, and Atatürk Avenue, famed for its luscious palm trees. Hadrian’s Gate is a must-see for anyone interested in history, archaeology or architecture, and even for those who just like taking pictures!
While exploring the narrow streets of Kaleiçi and discovering the beautiful little bay-windowed houses, you’ll come across the Kaleiçi Museum, the most unique museum in Antalya. After a thorough restoration between 1993 and 1995, the museum reopened in 1996 and has since become one of the most visited places in the city. With an inscription on the doorway of the building indicating that it was built in 1863, the Agios Georgios Church is the museum’s first space, and is one of the five Greek Orthodox churches found within Kaleiçi. The Çanakkale Ceramic Collection is on display in the church’s light, airy interior. A 19th-century, two-story traditional house, is the museum’s second space, and is a perfect example of a typical Antalyan home. The pebble mosaic found at the entrance is just another example of how the city’s history has been attentively preserved. Inside you can find an ethnographic museum reflecting the life and customs of the old city of Kaleiçi. You’ll see classic traditions like “henna night,” “offering of Turkish coffee” and “shaving of the groom’s beard” come to life before your eyes.
Kaleiçi (Old City)
At the top of the list of the most visited places in Antalya, Kaleiçi’s history is simply fascinating. Within the ramparts of the old castle, this is the place to see the best examples of Antalya’s traditional architecture. When walking through the narrow streets of the Old City, you’ll see the bay windows overhead almost touch each other from either side. Most are built from stone masonry with street-facing façades, with secret little gardens at the back, hidden from view. However, there are very few windows looking out on to street level. The stone work on the ground floors of these houses opens out into the gardens. You’ll see that many of these houses serve as hotels, restaurants or cafes as you stroll through the streets of Kaleiçi. Wander through to the gardens of these houses, take a break and cool down during the summer months among the trees and flowers, and relax with a coffee or a bite to eat.
As World War II raged on, the French ship Saint Didier (under German control at the time) was bombed and sunk by British planes on July 4th, 1941, as it was moored in Antalya’s port. After damaging the Iskele Mosque and the surrounding area, as well as causing casualties, some of the reparations paid by the British were used to create the park. Later to become known as the Karaalioğlu Park, it’s now one of Antalya’s most delightful locations, with visitors coming to see its many sculptures and fountains. Among the sculptures in the park, the open palm facing the sky is a favorite, particularly for taking photographs of little ones while they sit on it.
You can see traces of the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman empires in the architecture of this building. Its conversion from church to mosque occurred in the era of Şehzade Korkut between 1470 and 1509, and it was then that a monumental entrance was added to the western façade. After being damaged in a fire, it was restored in 1974. Once called Panagia Church and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it was later to become one of the first Mosques in Antalya. Despite being known by several names like the Panagia Church, Korkut Mosque, Cumanın Mosque and the Grand Mosque throughout history, this religious building is now known by locals as the “Broken Minaret.”
A beach where you can swim, relax and grab a bite to eat, Konyaaltı brings together the warm waters of the Mediterranean within the city center, and is a real favorite for sun-worshipers. Starting at Antalya’s towering cliffs, the 7-km-long pebble beach stretches all the way to the Beydağları mountains. Activities like banana boating, jet skiing and beach volleyball are all available on the beach, or you may just prefer to jump in the water to cool off from the Mediterranean heat. Located near the Antalya Museum and the fact that it’s easily accessible means that the beach is a favorite with tourists, and also has a lot to offer to those looking for a fun night out.
Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque
Believed to have been commissioned by Mehmet Ağa, the mihrab and minbar of the mosque were built from marble, and the building itself is quite plain in appearance. The large dome supported by four smaller semi-domes gives the Mosque’s main space a light and airy feel. Some of the interior’s most eye-catching features include pediments over the doors and windows, dominated by the lively colors of the 18th-century tiles.
The Fluted Minaret
One of the many structures constructed during the Seljuk era, the Fluted Minaret is found opposite the Yivliminare Mosque. Named after the eight flutes in its body, the minaret stands at 38-meters-tall. With a total of 90 steps, it’s the city’s most iconic Seljuk monument. The body of the Fluted Minaret is made of bricks and bright turquoise tiles, and sits on top of a cut-stone base. The contrast of the pink bricks against the backdrop of the blue Mediterranean Sea makes for some impressive photographs and it’s an ideal place to start your tour of the city. The Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev Madrasa, Seljuk and Dervish lodges, and the vaults of Zincirkıran and Nigar Hatun are all also part of the same complex of buildings as the Fluted Minaret and Yivliminare Mosque.
What to eat
Antalya-Style Meatballs Haricot Bean Salad
Throughout Turkey, especially in Istanbul, these bean salads are usually made without this garlic and tahini dressing. But in Antalya, the salad and dressing go extremely well together, particularly with meatballs. Antalya-style haricot bean salad (piyaz) is made using small but very tasty çandır beans. But the real taste of this salad comes from the garlic and tahini dressing. The ‘tarator’ dressing is made from tahini, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, water and a pinch of salt. When visiting Antalya, don’t forget to drop into one of the city’s famous meatball restaurants and try this authentic Antalya specialty.
Burnt Ice Cream
Burnt ice cream (Yanik Dondurma), only to be found in Antalya, is unique in that it leaves a taste of lightly burned cream in the mouth. Made using goat’s milk, this ice cream has become famous as a taste peculiar to Antalya. While boiling the milk for the ice cream, it’s allowed to burn just a little, which gives it its flavor. Another peculiarity of burnt ice cream is the fact that salep is also used in its preparation, and it’s the combination of the two which really create its authentic taste. With burnt ice cream available at most patisseries in Antalya, you’ll have to become a regular at all of them to find the best!