Before Antalya became arguably the top summer resort town in Turkey, it was the ancient city of Attalia, founded during the Hellenistic period before becoming part of the Roman Empire. As such, the old town is a hugely important site in the country where Europe and Asia meet, harking back to a rich past.
Feeling inspired? You can explore Antalya as part of Culture Trip’s epic 12-day Turkey tour, led by our local insider.
You’ll easily find Kaleiçi by walking or taking a cab to Kale Kapısı, the main square, which stands out thanks to the Saat Kulesi (clock tower), built during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdül Hamid II. You’ll also know you’ve made it to the square when you see the statue of King Attalus II of Pergamon, who founded the city of Attalia around 150BCE. From there, you can enter the old town by walking into Uzun Çarşı Sokak, opposite the clock tower.
Once you’re on Uzun Çarşı Sokak, make sure to see the beautiful Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Cami, an Ottoman mosque built in the 18th century. If you wander towards the top along Hesapçı Sokak, you’ll inevitably come upon the grand ruin of Hadrian’s Gate, built in 130CE to commemorate the visit of Roman emperor Hadrian. Make sure to pay attention to (and shoot some photos of) the beautifully ornate floral motif friezes and cornices. A little further down on Hesapçı Sokak, you’ll find the ruins of the Kesik Minare Cami (Broken Minaret Mosque), a former Roman temple built in the second century that later became a Byzantine church and then, in the 13th century, a mosque.
From there, walk down to the ancient harbour by taking the Kırkmerdiven (40 Steps), built by the Venetians who occupied Antalya in the 15th century. At the base of the steps, you’ll find yourself in the ancient Roman Harbour, which was the main artery from the second century BCE until the late 20th century, when a new port was built near Konyaaltı Beach. Nowadays, the historic harbour is home to yachts and tour boats as well as cafes and bars. Walk to the southwestern edge to gaze upon the stunning Hıdırlık Kulesi, a stone tower supposedly built by the Roman Empire in the second century that later became a fortification and lighthouse.
Once you’ve taken in all the sights, make sure to wander around the narrow cobblestoned streets to admire the Ottoman-era houses, many of which have been restored and turned into small hotels. One of the historic homes also houses the Suna-İnan Kıraç Kaleiçi Museum, which focusses on ethnography and also happens to contain an Orthodox church in the beautiful garden. You can also do some shopping in one of the many little stores selling souvenirs, or just sit down at a cafe for a much-needed rest in the shade. If you happen to be in Kaleiçi in the evening, walk to Karaalioğlu Park (the southwestern edge of Kaleiçi) for a stroll accompanied by an immense, colourful view of a magnificent sunset.