Top things to do in Antalya
Antalya is a port city on the coast of the Mediterranean in southwestern Türkiye. Situated on the Gulf of Antalya, the city enchants with its great beaches and historic charm. Initially called Attalia, it was founded as a seaport more than 2,000 years ago by Attalus II Philadelphus, a king of Pergamum, and has been inhabited continuously since then. The city has managed to preserve its cultural richness from the past to the present. Antalya today is not just a centre of beach tourism but also a place that holds priceless treasures of ancient civilisations. So check out my suggestions on what to do in Antalya!
Take a tram ride on Nostalji Tramway line
The retro tram passes and makes stops near the main attractions of Antalya. The tram departs from the shady coastal Karaalioğlu Park and continues down the beautiful Ataturk Boulevard before turning and moving along Jumhuriyet Street. Its final stop is on Konyaalti Street near the beach. There are 11 stops during the journey. Since the retro tram is the public transport of Antalya, the fare does not differ from other public transport in the city. The tram runs every 30 minutes and the travel time is 24 minutes. Keep in mind that this is a straight, not a circular route. The map below shows the tram route marked in blue.
Go back in history by looking at city walls
The defensive walls of Antalya were built in the Hellenistic period, and the history of their renovation and expansion illustrates the history of the city itself. During the renovation, which was carried out in Roman times, numerous towers and gates were incorporated into the walls, the greatest of which was the well-preserved Hadrian’s Gate. In the 19th and 20th centuries, long stretches of the walls were intentionally demolished. As a result, only seven towers and several sections of the walls have been preserved to this day.
Enter the old town through Hadrian’s Gate
Hadrian’s Gate was built in 130 AD to commemorate the visit of Emperor Hadrian to the city. It was incorporated into the city walls and has become a major gateway to the city. Although it may be hard to believe, the true dimensions of Hadrian’s Gate were revealed only in the 1950s, after which the gate underwent renovation. Currently, it is one of the highlights of a visit to Antalya and a place where almost every tourist wants to take a photo. Today, Hadrian’s Gate connects modern Antalya with its ancient past. The beautiful gate demonstrates a stunning contrast between contemporary city life and the historic ambience of Kaleiçi (Antalya’s old town).
Walk around the old town
Kaleiçi, or the old town of Antalya, located in the heart of Antalya, is a charming district filled with boutique hotels, museums, historical artefacts, stylish cafes, restaurants, and stores. It is surrounded by walls, with entrance gates at both the east and west ends. Enclosed within the walls are approximately 3,000 houses with tile roofs that showcase the region’s unique architecture and reflect local customs.
Learn local history at Ethnography Museum
Those who want to learn about Antalya’s recent history and folklore should visit the Ethnographic Museum of Antalya. Located in Kaleiçi, the museum consists of two historic mansions from the Ottoman period. Different artefacts are exhibited in both sections of the museum, called Lower and Upper Mansions. The Lower Mansion houses Turkish-Islamic artefacts, while the Upper Mansion, where animations are predominant, exhibits objects reflecting the day-to-day life of the Ottoman period. There are also several exhibits in the garden of the mansions, like inscriptions from the Seljuk and Ottoman periods, tombstones, cannons and cannonballs.
Take a walk around the historic marina
In the south of the Kaleiçi district lies the historic marina, home to cruise boats that offer daily tours showcasing the region’s stunning waterfalls and cliffs. Today, it is primarily a tourist area suitable for walking and recreation. Next to the lighthouse on the breakwater, you can find a statue of Fatma Doman, who was born in 1927 in Antalya and was the last guard of the Kaleichi Pier lighthouse – from 1956 to 1983.
Watch the sunset from Kecili Park observation terrace
In Kaleiçi, there is an observation terrace with a balcony made of glass, offering a fabulous view of the marina. Next to the observation terrace is the small Kecili Park, where you will find unusual goat statues made of wood. There are also cafes in the park where old folks sip tea and younger ones drink beer while enjoying the view.
Admire Hidirlik Tower
The 14-metre tall Hıdırlık Tower is situated in the historic Kaleiçi district adjacent to the large Karaalioğlu Park and close to the seashore. The tower was built for defensive purposes in the second century.
As you walk north from Hıdırlık Tower, you will come upon the first terrace. The terrace provides a spectacular view of Konyaalti Beach.
Stroll through Karaalioğlu Park
Karaalioğlu Park is a must-visit destination in Kaleiçi, covering a vast area of 14 hectares. The park features three roads parallel to the sea, which end in three observation terraces on the seashore. Karaalioğlu Park trees, plants, flowers, and bird species reflect the flora and fauna of Antalya. Have a drink or meal in one of the many restaurants in the park.
The sculptures in the park are popular with tourists who take many pictures and selfies. These sculptures include the Worker and Son, the famous Frog and Hand sculptures, the monument to poet Nâzım Hikmet, and the statue of Don Quixote.
See Nazim Hikmet monument
Nazim Hikmet was a Turkish poet, playwright, and novelist usually defined as a ‘romantic communist’. He was sentenced to 28-year in prison for encouraging Marxist views in both the Turkish army and navy. He spent much of his life travelling, particularly in Russia and Poland, before dying in 1963 in Moscow. This monument was erected in 2010 on the 47th anniversary of his death.
Wonder about the statue of Don Quixote
The statue of Don Quixote by Cahvar Goktas can be found in Karaalioğlu Park, between the second and third terraces. It stands adjacent to the park’s famed Chinese tree and is perched on the cliffs with mountains as its backdrop. ‘Don Quixote’ is a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes, the first modern author, often regarded as one of his finest literary works.
Be careful when choosing your dining place in Kaleiçi
The restaurant prices reflect the fact that Kaleiçi mainly caters to tourists. Sometimes the price of a particular dish may vary even twice, so check prices before making your decision. An excellent restaurant with decent prices and delicious food is next to the entrance to the old town. It is called Old Town Restaurant.
Address: Kaleiçi, 2. İnönü Sk. No:43
I also recommend you see two sights farther from the old town:
Marvel at Lower Düden Waterfall
Düden Waterfalls are one of the most visited sites in the Antalya area. There are two Düden Waterfalls on the Düden River: Upper and Lower. The Lower Düden Waterfall is a unique beauty in Düden Park in the Lara district of Antalya. This waterfall is where the waters of the river meet the Mediterranean Sea, flowing from a height of about 40 metres. The speed of the cascading waters forms fantastic and scenic views over the sea. This massive water attraction can be seen from both the sidewalk and a boat. You can reach the Lower Düden Waterfall from the centre of Antalya by bus or minibus in some 45 minutes. You will also find a variety of boats that sail from Antalya to the Lower Düden Waterfall.
Taste Turkish coffee at Düden Wonderland restaurant
While visiting the Lower Düden Waterfall, I suggest you taste Turkish coffee at Düden Wonderland restaurant because of its excellent taste and the opportunity to watch how your coffee is prepared. If you like strong and full-bodied coffee like espresso, try Turkish coffee! Despite its name, this drink did not originate from Türkiye. In the 16th century, it was introduced to an Ottoman governor stationed in Yemen, who brought it to Türkiye. It is a type of strong caffeine drink that is made in a special pot called cezve. Turkish coffee has a strong, bold, and bittersweet taste.
Ride Tünektepe cable car
Tünektepe is a beautiful hill terrace about 600 metres above sea level, where the Bey Mountains meet the Mediterranean Sea. One of the best ways to observe Antalya from a bird’s view is to catch a ride on the Tünektepe cable car. You will see a spectacular view of Antalya and get fresh air with the scent of pine trees, all while being able to take amazing pictures of the skyline. The cable car ride begins at Sarısu station next to Konyaalti Beach. The ride to the top of Tünektepe takes about 10 minutes. The cable car has 36 cabins for 8 people each and it can easily carry 1,200 people per hour. You can find restaurants and cafes at the top. The facility is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. every day except Mondays. It is better to call before you go since the cable car might not be operational due to bad weather conditions, even if they seem good on the ground level. Unfortunately, I did not get to ride the cable car as it was closed because of the strong winds at the hilltop.You can buy tickets on the site or use your Antalya card. The most convenient way to get to Tünektepe cable car station is by using bus KL08. You can get there from the city centre in about 40 minutes.
You will need an Antalya card to get around the city by public transport. The card can be purchased at the tram stop near Antalya airport or at a kiosk in Antalya bus station. Use Google Maps to get information about public transport in Antalya. Kaleiçi is only available for pedestrians and taxis. I did not get a chance to see Yivliminare Mosque and Kaleiçi Panoramic Elevator, but if you want, you can include it in your visit to Kaleiçi.
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Author: Anita Sane