It has been continuously inhabited since then. Romans and Byzantines followed the Galatians and made it an important center of culture and arts. Ankara became an important trading center on the caravan route in Ottoman times. Historic remains of those bygone days testify the city’s antiquity.
Pulse of modern Turkey
Despite its long history, Ankara is now better known as a well-planned modern city with broad boulevards, green parks, massive sky-scrapers, elegant government and embassy buildings, plush shopping streets, swanky hotels and glitzy restaurants.
Making of modern Ankara
Kemal Ataturk wasn’t only the builder of modern Turkey; he was also hugely responsible for restoring Ankara’s lost glory. The city had started to decline in the 19th century and was reduced to a non-descript provincial town when Ataturk selected it as the base for directing the War of Liberation.
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As a result of the role this dwindling town played in the war and also because of its strategic location, Ankara was again made the Turkish capital replacing Istanbul, the favorite of Byzantine and Ottoman empires. The city grew rapidly since then.
A unique city
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Ankara lies in the center of Anatolia region on the edge of the high Anatolian plateau that was once the cradle of human civilization. Archaeological remains of some of those ancient and medieval settlements are visible in and around the modern city. Ankara is indeed a unique city straddling between its mystical past and pragmatic present where its hard-working denizens don’t shy away from pursuing hedonistic pleasures.
It offers something for everyone. There is a mystical ambience of old-world charms, if you know where to look for them. But the city’s European character is abundantly evident practically everywhere.
Convenient tourist destination
Ankara isn’t Turkey’s topmost tourist destination; that position goes to the glamorous Istanbul. But the new capital definitely has its distinct appeal to attract travelers from different parts of the world. Many foreigners come here on business because; besides being the national capital it’s also Turkey’s commercial capital.
However, the city’s antiquity blends wonderfully with the European feel of its modernity and that attracts many tourists. It’s also a great place to use as a convenient base for those who want to explore nearby historic and picturesque places such as Anatolia, Cappadocia and the Black Sea coast.
Ankara may lag behind Istanbul in size and glamour but the national capital is a large and presentable city. It’s constantly expanding, proudly asserting its sophisticated and avant-garde character.
Exploring the metropolis
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The downtown’s energetic and vibrant Kizilay area is a good place to start your city tour. It’s the bustling zone of modern shopping and lively open-air cafes. You are also likely to stay in this area where most hotels – big and small, luxurious and modest – are located.
Ataturk Bulvari is the major three-mile long thoroughfare that divides the city from the south to the north. It’s an exceptionally busy and important street where you can get practically everything that you might need during your visit. The most important item on your shopping list should be a map of the city that would help you explore it the way you like.
On the north of Ataturk Bulvari is Ulus Meydani, one of the main tourism hubs of the city. It’s an interesting public square dominated by a magnificent bronze statue of Ataturk astride an elegant horse. The Turkish Republic’s first General National Assembly was held in an iconic building in this area.
Opposite this venerable building is the city’s oldest hotel, the Ankara Palas, where Ataturk often used to stay and hold meetings with his closest associates after it was built in 1927. You, too, may stay here and enjoy more luxury than the great Turk did as the hotel was extensively refurbished to pamper its guests in the early 1980s! In the neighborhood are several shopping centers and plenty of less-expensive hotels and restaurants.
Towards the east of the Ulus, and along the picturesque shopping street of Hisarparki Caddesi, is the Ankara Citadel, the symbol of the city, perched on a 3000 feet hill. It’s said to be originally built as a garrison town by the legendary Hittite King Midas who ruled Anatolia some 3500 years ago. Successive civilizations and several kings in different periods of history ruled over the Citadel and carried out many additions and alterations. The Galatians enlarged the castle and built the city walls after they founded the town of Ancyra, the progenitor of Ankara.
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The Citadel is divided in two parts – an inner castle and an outer castle. Of the 20 observation towers the outer castle once had, only a few still remain. Most of the inner castle towers have, however, survived. Marble and red Ankara stone were extensively used for building these castles which are wonderful examples of traditional Turkish architecture.
But – alas – there isn’t any evidence of the magical touch of King Midas anywhere! Or, perhaps, the golden embellishments were pilfered by vandals!! However, the Citadel is a wonderful place to visit and get mesmerized by the breathtaking views of the city below.
One of the oldest residential areas of the Old Ankara is near the inner castle walls. Most of the houses here are built with timber and brick. Some families still live here but many of these old houses are now being used as restaurants and various types of shops selling souvenirs, antiques, traditional Turkish handicrafts and carpets.
Kemal Ataturk is omnipresent in his favorite city. Visit his monumental mausoleum, Anit Kabir, that took nine years to complete. It’s about two km from Kizilay, built on a hill in the center of Ankara. Although taxis are available, you will enjoy walking along the Mustafa Kemal Bulvari lined with shops, restaurants and hotels.
Another place that must be on your itinerary is the Museum of Anatolian Civilization, even if you aren’t particularly interested in history. It’s housed in a charming 15th century building that was once used as a covered market.
Besides the attractive little shops tucked below the Citadel selling items that attract tourists, you will find a wide range of shopping opportunities, including chic fashion shops, in other parts of this city. Exotic fabrics and clothes are available in plenty here and so are attractive leather goods.
The choice of eateries in this alluring city is pretty wide. Turkey is famous for doner kebabs. These are fillets of meat stacked on a vertical spit and then rotated or turned – doner in Turkish means turning – in front of the source of heat, preferably charcoal. You will also find here plenty of roadside snacking hawkers, swanky restaurants and ultra-modern cafes and bars. Fish and seafood dishes are very popular here. These taste better when taken with the alcoholic local drink called raki.
There are many bars on streets like Tunali, Bestekar and Kennedy where you can enjoy your drinks while listening to live music and savoring tasty snacks that will surely include doner kebabs and fried fish. There are rock bands here that draw huge crowd, and also dance bars that stay open until dawn. Ankara does have a vibrant nightlife.
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There is a veritable galore of hotels in Ankara. The Sheraton in the heart of the City Center is the most glitzy – and also most pricey – hotel in Ankara. Close to it is its closest rival, the Hilton. The Radisson in the Ulus area, the Swissotel on the back alley in Cankaya and the Ramada on fashionable Tunali Hilmi Street are new hotels offering cozy rooms and efficient services. Independent hotels, however, have their own characters like the King Hotel behind the Parliament and close to the American Embassy, and Hotel Midas and Hotel Gold located in the City Center.
If you want your Ankara holiday to be unforgettable, head straight for the Angora House in the delightful Citadel district. It’s a charming boutique hotel in a mansion built during the Ottoman era. And don’t forget the city’s oldest and Kemal Ataturk’s favorite hotel, the Ankara Palas.
Go through the internet and the ranges of hotels available and then select one that you think you would like.
An alluring city
Whether you are coming here on business or pleasure – or a bit of both – the charisma of this alluring city will be stored in your memory forever.