How to Spend 24 Hours in Ankara, Turkey

Watch out for traditional simit sellers walking the streets of Ankara, Turkey
Watch out for traditional simit sellers walking the streets of Ankara, Turkey | © john wreford / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Feride Yalav-Heckeroth
10 September 2021

The capital city of Turkey may not be as flashy as Istanbul, but it certainly has enough charm to keep you happily occupied for 24 hours. From historic sights, art galleries and museums to shops and restaurants, we’ve rounded up the best ways of spending a delightful 24 hours in Ankara.

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Visit Anıtkabir

Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, is a must-visit in Ankara | © Hilke Maunder / Alamy Stock Photo

Certainly the most important sight in Ankara is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Turkish Republic. The imposing and stunning structure is made of concrete, travertine and marble. It ascribes to the aesthetic of the Second National Architecture Movement and was designed by Emin Halid Onat and Ahmet Orhan Arda.

Admire some art at CerModern

Get your art fix at CerModern | © NECDET GURSOY / Alamy Stock Photo

Located in a former train depot, CerModern is one of the largest hubs in Turkey for contemporary art, featuring artists from all over Europe in engaging and notable exhibitions. The gallery also hosts many workshops, including CerLiterature, Understanding Art seminars and CerKids (art-centric workshops for children). The cafe at CerModern is also worth a mention, due to its striking architecture as well as its menu of wholesome, homemade dishes.

Do some souvenir and antique shopping at Çıkrıkçılar Yokuşu

Go souvenir shopping in Ankara old town | © Davidovich Mikhail / Alamy Stock Photo

Walking up and down this open-air bazaar district in Ankara is a great way to get some souvenir shopping done. You’ll also find lots of copper goods, handmade jewellery, antiques, ornaments and even clothes for reasonable prices. The cobblestoned walkways of Çıkrıkçılar ascend the hill, offering great views of the city from between the streets of this traditional Turkish market.

Eat lunch at the Çengelhan Brasserie

Enjoy historic vibes and delicious food at the Çengelhan Brasserie | Courtesy of Divan Çukurhan hotel /

When you get a little hungry from all that shopping, make sure to have your lunch at the Çengelhan Brasserie, part of the lovely Divan Çukurhan hotel. A former Anatolian caravanserai, dating back to 1522, this stunningly renovated stone structure with a glass roof has a very historic vibe to it. The menu reflects the interior with excellent traditional Turkish and Ottoman dishes.

Learn about Turkey’s ancient past at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

Turkish history is on show at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations | © Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Another essential sight in Ankara’s old town is the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which occupies the now-renovated storage building of the former Ottoman Mahmut Paşa bazaar. Inside the museum, you’ll find excellent exhibitions revolving around Anatolian archaeology, from the Paleolithic era to the Neolithic, as well as the Assyrian, Hittite, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman Empires. The stunning displays include bronze, gold, marble, silver and glass objects that go as far back as the second half of the first millennium BCE and are arranged chronologically.

Do some shopping on Tunalı Hilmi

Tunalı Hilmi Street is one of the liveliest places to go shopping and to mingle with the locals, who are either rushing between stores or hanging out at one of the many cafes and restaurants. You’ll find all the major brands on this street, but make sure to check out the very large branches of Beymen and Vakko, Turkey’s most well-established luxury fashion brands.

Take a break in Kuğulu Park

Relax and watch the swans at Kuğulu Park | © Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo

For Ankara locals, Kuğulu Park is pretty nostalgic, as most people will have been here at some point in their lives to feed the swans in the small pond. Take a seat to get a bit of rest, and observe the daily life of Ankara’s locals.

Eat dinner at Trilye

Enjoy fresh seafood at Trilye Restaurant in Ankara | © Trilye Restaurant

This is one of the best seafood restaurants in Ankara, where the food is just as good as the gorgeous decor. Choose from Trilye’s daily made Aegean and Mediterranean meze, and, then, continue on to the day’s freshest catch, grilled to perfection and best accompanied by a few glasses of rakı.

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