A sun-kissed Turkish resort that grows in popularity by the season, Antalya offers one of the richest holidays you can imagine. Here you can enjoy memorable natural scenery, swim in the clear waters of the Mediterranean, feast on mouth-watering local cuisine and relax in the reliably hot climate of one of Europe’s most tranquil seaside towns.
Yet these traditional beachside activities are certainly not all Antalya has to offer. This is also an area of extraordinary historic significance, situated at an important crossroads for many ancient civilisations.
Here are five of the most magnificent historic sites to be visited in the region.
Where better to start on an Antalya holiday than Kaleici, the town’s glorious historical district? A walk around this part of the city constitutes a trip through the centuries, where startling evidence of a host of long-past cultures stands behind each and every corner.
Any tour of Kaleici should begin in Kale Kapisi, the main square, where the imposing, muscle-bound figure of the city’s father, Attalus II stands. From here, a quick stroll north takes you to the bustling Iki Kapilar Jani bazaar, which has been one of Antalya’s most important marketplaces for six centuries. To the south is the beautifully ornate Tekeli Mehmet Pasa Camii, a brilliantly restored 18th century mosque.
Then there are the gorgeous Ottoman-era homes, the imposing figure of Hadrian’s Gate, the preserved beauty of the Roman Harbour, Yivli Minare and much, much more.
Holidays to Antalya are not complete unless they include a trip to the city’s most important symbol – the Yivli Minare. Situated just across the square from one of the city’s many striking mosques, this fluted minaret has stood proudly since the 13th century. Around it you can find the Yivli Minare complex, where the Mevlevi Tekke monastery is situated, while 14th and 16th century tombs can also be explored nearby. That makes this single site a treasure, especially if you are a history buff on holiday.
Within the walls of Antalya’s stunning museum, you will find a collection of artefacts spanning the breadth of human civilisation. From exhibitions on the Stone Age and items from the ancient city of Lycia to statues of the Olympians that stand tall in the Hall of Gods, walking from one room to another can genuinely feel like a trip through the ages.
The highlight for many, and one of the museum’s most controversial exhibits, is the Elmali Treasure, a bounty of Lycian coins that were taken from Turkey back in the early 1980s before being returned in 1999.
Balik Pazari Hamami
Soaking up the historical significance of Antalya doesn’t just mean walking from site to site in the baking heat. At the Balik Pazari Hamami, you can observe one of the city’s most important cultural sites while enjoying the height of relaxation. This is the Fish Market Bath, which has stood for more than seven centuries and is one of the most popular of its kind in the city.
Antalya package holidays are not complete without a trip to Aspendos, the home of one of the Roman world’s best preserved theatres. Constructed around AD 161 by Emperor Marcus Aurelius, it is a beguiling example of the era’s architecture. In particular, it is cited as the best standing example of ‘Eastern’ Roman theatres, which tend towards straight, multi-storey pews around a highly elevated stage.
Since a restoration in the 1930s, the theatre has staged shows, including operas and plays, and it remains one of the most popular nights out in the region. Book a ticket and you will see why. The acoustics in this venue are extraordinary which, along with the unique setting, make it a sumptuous, hypnotic place to enjoy a live performance.
Suna nan Kirac Kaleici Museum
While it might lack the imposing size and depth of the Antalya Museum, the Suna nan Kirac Kaleici Museum makes up for it in terms of charm and allure. Housed in a restored Antalya mansion, its chief subject is ethnography and inside you will find incredibly detailed pieces, crafted to display moments, rituals and scenes from the city’s history, most particularly its Ottoman era. Take a walk to the Aya Yorgi church just behind the house to marvel at a fantastic array of ceramics.
Antalya is a gateway to some of the most extraordinary history in this most historic of regions. Whether you’re a committed history buff or a casual, curious tourist, there is a near endless number of amazing sites to discover and ancient cultures to experience.