How to Spend 48 Hours in Ankara, Turkey

A view of Turkey's capital city at night
A view of Turkey's capital city at night | | © Jorge Franganillo/Flickr

Turkey’s capital city is much more than a center for everything bureaucratic. From the walls of an historic castle overlooking the city all the way to its trendy shopping streets, Ankara has plenty to see and do in two days.

Day One

Visit Ankara Castle and Hamamönü

Start your day in Ankara by going back to its historic roots and wandering around the famous Ankara Castle, one of the city’s oldest sites and dating back to the Roman, Seljuk, and Ottoman Empires. After taking in the amazing view, make your way down to Hamamönü or the Old Quarter and enjoy the Ottoman-style timber houses, and stop by one of the many arts and crafts shops to buy handmade souvenirs.

Lovely old timber Ankara houses in Hamamönü | © Ankara’dan / Flickr

Eat lunch at Süha’nın Yeri

After working up an appetite, drop by Süha’nın Yeri to eat the famous döner, which is cooked over a wood fire. This is a great place to get a quick bite with the locals (more specifically a döner sandwich accompanied by ayran yogurt drink) and continue on your way.

Eat baklava at Baklavacı Hacıbaba

Of course, no meal is complete without some dessert, and Ankara has plenty of sweet treats on offer. Make sure to try some baklava in the city’s most famous baklava shop, Hacıbaba. Open since 1949, you’ll find every kind of baklava variety prepared perfectly.

Visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

One of Ankara’s most important museums, the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, hosts exhibitions that focus on Anatolian archaeology from the Paleolithic era to the Neolithic, as well as the Assyrian, Hittite, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman Empires.

The large range of displays at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations | © Carole Raddato / Flickr

Eat dinner at Trilye

You’ll have to make reservations in advance at this excellent seafood restaurant that’s also a bit on the fancier side. Definitely one of Ankara’s best restaurants, Trilye serves up freshly prepared Aegean and Mediterranean meze and the day’s freshest catch, best accompanied by a few glasses of rakı.

Day Two

Visit Anıtkabir

Anıtkabir is not only the the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Turkish Republic, but also an architectural masterpiece. Composed of concrete, travertine, and marble, the structure is as beautiful as it is imposing.

The imposing mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk | © David Stanley / Flickr

Eat lunch at Cafemiz

Cafemiz is one of Ankara’s most popular cafes, and you’ll see lots of locals meeting up here over coffee, tea, and cake to discuss life. Cafemiz also has a great lunch menu, which you can enjoy in their rococo-style interior or the garden, complete with floral patterns and shiny chandeliers.

Buy some Turkish candy at Ali Uzun Şekercilik

If you want to take back some sweet treats from Ankara as a souvenir, make a stop at Ali Uzun, Ankara’s historic candy shop that has been around since 1935. You’ll find akide şekeri (Turkish hard candy) with hazelnut, mint, strawberry, lemon, or cinnamon, as well as lokum (Turkish delight), helva, pişmaniye (floss candy), and almond paste.

Visit CerModern

If you’re into modern art, then CerModern is the place to go during your Ankara visit. The city’s most important hub for contemporary art, the museum features exhibitions from Turkish and European artists, as well as a great café and plenty of events and workshops.

The modern facade of Ankara’s main modern art museum at night / Courtesy of CerModern

Eat dinner at Bursa Hacıbey Kebabcısı

At the end of day two, it’s time to eat some excellent kebab! Bursa Hacı Bey Kebabçısı has been open since 1961 and serves up some of the best döner kebab in town as well as other varieties of kebab in all their delicious glory.

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