With forests and mountains peppered with ancient Greek and Roman ruins, waterfalls and hiking routes, Antalya is both an adventurer’s dream and an urban playground. Home to a romantic old quarter full of great food, music and boutique hotels – alongside the country’s most iconic beachfront – the city is a Mediterranean must-see for any traveller coming to Turkey.
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“Antalya is undoubtedly the most beautiful city in the world,” said the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. And anyone who has been here would probably agree with him: the city is backed by the majestic Taurus Mountains and hemmed in by the cerulean Mediterranean Sea. Antalya offers a beach holiday turned history, hiking and spa trip, and is at its best when used as a jumping-off point for some unforgettable countryside excursions. Here are Culture Trip’s tips on what to do in and around this gorgeous and lively city.
Set against the seaside cliffs and ancient marina, Kaleiçi is the city’s romantic old quarter that houses some of the best dining options and nightlife in Antalya. Cobblestone streets lead you past restored Ottoman mansions and other buildings that have been tastefully converted into restaurants, music venues and cosy boutique hotels. Simply going for a stroll through the atmospheric neighbourhood is a reward in itself, and many streets offer fleeting views of the Mediterranean and the Taurus Mountains.
Pro tip: Get a view of the old quarter from above by heading to the Kaleiçi Panoramic Elevator.
Just as Antalya’s surroundings contain a wealth of historical and artistic treasures, the city centre boasts a thriving cultural scene. The 251 Soul is a great place to listen to jazz, funk and soul artists in an upscale atmosphere. If you’re looking for exhibitions and theatre performances, the Haşim İşcan Culture Centre and Antalya State Theatre offer live stage acts, art galleries and more.
Pro tip: Concert season kicks off in summer, and your best chance to see international and high-profile acts is during this season.
This seaside park is one of the best places in the city centre to take in some sweeping and impressive views of the Mediterranean. Lounge on a park bench in the shade or catch a sunset from the Roman-era Hıdırlık Tower, which rests at the northeastern edge of the park and offers excellent city vistas.
Pro tip: As the park sits on the southeastern edge of Kaleiçi, it makes it the perfect place to go for a meditative or romantic walk before or after a dinner in the old quarter.
Set among the walls of Kaleiçi and catering to electronic and trance music lovers, The Goblin Bar offers a different atmosphere to that of your average club. For a slightly more refined vibe, the concept bar Atöyle (located just behind Karaalioğlu Park) doubles as a music studio and hosts a variety of events, from record listening nights to mulled wine tastings.
Pro tip: For something a little more traditional, check out the live music at Taka Meyhanesi restaurant. The fantastic food and fun atmosphere mean you can have a night out without going too crazy.
Located about two kilometres (just over a mile) west of the old quarter and boasting one the richest collections in Turkey, the Antalya Archaeological Museum houses exquisite statues and artefacts that hail from the civilisations of Lycia, Perge, Rome, Byzantium and more. It’s housed in 13 display halls (including a children’s section), and both art history and archaeology lovers will find plenty to admire here. The museum’s most renowned collection is its ‘Hall of Gods’ display, which features second-century statues and busts of Greek gods and goddesses such as Zeus, Athena and Aphrodite.
Pro tip: Museums in Turkey close on Mondays, so plan your visit accordingly.
Unwind after a day of sightseeing by heading to a hammam. Located a short walk from Kaleiçi, the low-key Demirhan Hamamm is a favourite among Antalya residents. Decompress in the sauna and steam bath and then go for a foam and oil massage, a clay mask or the special bridal and groom packages.
Pro tip: Before the spa treatment, grab your own quality bath towel (peştamel ) from the family-run Aydede Turkish Towels, located in the heart of the old quarter.
Nearly seven kilometres (four miles) in length and set against the Taurus Mountains, Konyaaltı Beach is a great place to hang out with the locals and enjoy a swim in the heart of the city. Large sections of the beach have earned a Blue Flag distinction for the cleanliness of their water and sand, and you can stock up on snacks at the many corner shops located a stone’s throw from the waterfront.
Pro tip: As the local municipality continues to refurbish the beachfront area by adding basketball courts, planting trees and more, now is the time to check out this iconic shoreline.
The beautiful Kurşunlu Falls are located just outside the city in a large natural park. The waterfall forms a natural pool that is home to various freshwater animals. Picnic areas provide a spot for a midday break and a splendid view of the surrounding greenery. While the falls may be harder to reach than the more popular Düden Waterfalls in the city centre, Kurşunlu is more likely to reward your efforts with some well-earned peace and quiet.
Pro tip: Check out the falls in the spring, as they can dry up a bit at the height of summer.
A two-hour drive from the centre of Antalya to the northeast, this national park contains not only the biggest cedar forest in Asia Minor but a breathtaking canyon that extends down the Köprüçay River for 14 kilometres (nine miles). With cliffs reaching up to 400 metres (1,312 feet) in height, this dramatic setting makes it one of the best hiking and camping spots in the country.
Pro tip: Check in with YESIDO, a local adventure group that plans hiking, camping, climbing and rafting activities nearly every weekend.
Roughly an hour’s drive from the city centre, the stunning ruins of the ancient Pisidian site of Termessos are situated in the middle of the Güllük Mountain National Park. At an altitude of 1,000 metres (3,280 feet), the unrestored city includes numerous stone structures and imposing walls. With the magnificent Taurus Mountains as a backdrop, the city’s ancient theatre offers one of the very best views of any such site in the country.
Pro tip: Because it’s an unrestored site, make sure you bring enough water and wear sturdy hiking boots or walking shoes to get the most out of your visit.
This article is an updated version of a story created by Jasmina Kanuric.