Antalya offers plenty of things to do for everyone. If you want to dose up on sightseeing, you’ll find a fascinating line-up of attractions to keep you busy. The labyrinthine old town is full of atmospheric historic sites, while the city is perfectly placed to act as your base for sightseeing around the outlying area, where dozens of grand ruins await. It’s not all history, though. This city is also a great spot for your launch onto the white-sand beaches of Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. Beach lovers and history buffs will both leave satisfied.
With its turquoise coast, golden sand, intricate Roman architecture, and gorgeous prehistoric ruins, the colorful city of Antalya in Turkey can be overwhelming for some. May be even confusing about what to pick and where to go. But fret not! If you haven’t figured the perfect itinerary, yet – one that includes most of top places to visit in Antalya – check out our nifty guide now.
1. Hadrian’s Gate
Hadrian’s Gate is one of the main (and the most dramatic) entrance gates into the Kaleiçi district. Considerable stretches of the Hellenistic and Roman town walls on the eastern side of the old town have been preserved, and Hadrian’s Gate is the most notable of these sections. Erected in honor of the AD 130 visit by Emperor Hadrian himself, this imposing three-arched marble gateway, flanked by imposing towers, is decorated with rich sculptural decorations. As you walk through the arches look up at the ceiling to view the best preserved carvings.
2. Old Town (Kaleici)
The maze-like Kaleiçi neighborhood was made for strolling. Perfectly restored whitewashed and red-roofed Ottoman mansions line the cobblestone streets, now home to a plethora of boutique hotels, souvenir shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Although it’s more a place to simply breathe in the old-world ambience, there are also plenty of small tourist attractions for those who want to sightsee. The main square (Kale Kapısı) has a fortress gate and stone-clad clock tower, while the 18th-century Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque is worth a look just for its stunning interior tile work. Along Hesapçı Sokak, you’ll find the graceful Kesik Minare (truncated minaret). Destroyed by fire in the 19th century, this is all that is left of a building that started its life as a Roman temple, was converted into a Byzantine church, and finally became a mosque.
3. Antalya Museum
If you’re at all interested in Turkish history don’t miss this excellent museum. The dazzling exhibits here showcase all the best finds from excavation sites across the Turkish coast. Even better, the collection is displayed in exemplary fashion, making Turkey’s rich (and rather complicated) history easy to understand. The large archaeological section offers displays from the Bronze Age to Byzantium, with a particular emphasis on ruins in the nearby area. If you’re short on time make a beeline for the galleries containing the mosaics from Seleukeia, silver hoard display from Aspendos, and divinity statues from Perge.
Side is a seaside resort town on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, which was most likely settled in the 7th century B.C. by the Greeks. It is located about 47 miles east of Antalya on a small peninsula, and close to the town of Manavgat where you’ll find the Manavgat Waterfalls. There are two main beaches, one on either side of the peninsula. The western beach is where you’ll find the majority of the hotels and restaurants. The eastern beach is much quieter due to an archaeological site. Ancient fortification walls add to the charm of this fishing village. Boat rentals, diving, snorkeling, and other typical aquatic activities are available here as well. Between the beach and the laid-back nightlife, Side makes a pleasant vacation spot.
Besides beach activities, Side offers opportunities for exploring history by visiting ruins in and around the town. There are temples of Apollo and Athena, Side’s patron goddess, the remains of the facade of a library building, and Roman bath ruins. The nearby ancient town of Aspendos is worth visiting for its amazingly well-preserved theater. If you’re looking for an indoor activity, the Side Museum, housed in a restored Roman bathhouse, holds archaeological artifacts from the region.
Aspendos has a definite place on the list of places to visit in Antalya, Turkey. It is claimed to be the best preserved colossal Roman archeological site in the world. This ancient town pads the famous Roman theatre which is amongst the top Antalya tourist attractions. Built in 2nd century, Aspendos is capable of mesmerizing you with its bewitching ruins. It’s a perfect site for some sight-seeing and lazy strolling with your companions.
6. Olympus and the Chimaera
The near-twin villages of Olympus and Çıralı sit on a piece of lovely coastline near the overgrown ruins of the ancient Lycian city of Olympus. As well as the ruins, the famed attraction here is the chimaera, a naturally occurring eternal flame that flickers out of the rock cliff above. Olympus is popular with young backpackers and has a reputation for being lively at night, while Çıralı is more laidback and all about chilling out on the beach. Both are perfect for anyone seeking a beach holiday well away from Turkey’s purposely built-up tourist resorts.
7. Antalya Aquarium
Located near Konyaalti Beach in Antalya, the Antalya Aquarium ranks as one of the largest aquarium complexes in the world and is arguably the best attraction in town for those traveling with kids. The complex encompasses 40 themed aquariums, including a 430-foot (131-meter) tunnel aquarium that takes visitors below the surface of the water to observe aquatic critters from all sides.
The aquarium boasts more than just tanks. WildPark houses a variety of tropical reptiles, while the XD Cinema takes visitors on a 3D journey beneath the sea. Perhaps the most unusual of the aquarium’s offerings is Snow World, an area kept at a chilly 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) to help maintain its igloos and abundant snow, made fresh each night.
8. Karain Cave (Karain Magarası)
The Karain Cave is one of the prehistoric places to see in Antalya. These caves are said to be more than 25,000 years old. Ruins from Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Eras have been excavated from here. It includes bones, teeth, weapons etc. Some of the paths in the cave are narrow but all is worth for a peek into the glory of primeval era.
9. Sealanya Dolphinpark
One of the best spots to see dolphins along Turkey’s Mediterranean Coast, Sealanya Dolphinpark is the latest additional to Alanya’s renowned Seapark. Offering a rare chance to marvel at dolphins, sea lions, and seals, visitors are treated to twice-daily dolphin and seal shows, during which professional trainers demonstrate the animals’ acrobatic abilities.
Sealanya Dolphinpark makes a popular day trip from nearby Alanya or Side, and visitors can also opt to combine entrance with the adjoining Seapark, where highlights include tropical reef snorkeling, a stingray tank, and a shark tank.
10. Konyaaltı Beach
Konyaalti Beach is one of the two main beaches in Antalya located on the western side of the city. It’s 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) long and consists of small pebbles and rough sand. Near the beach, you’ll find a park, residential area, bars, cafes, and hotels. At one end of the beach is the Antalya Beach Park where there are more cafes, bars and restaurants with an open-air food court atmosphere. They also have showers, beach chairs and sun umbrellas to rent, and other services for the beach. Towards the west, away from the city, you’ll see the dramatic backdrop of the Beydağlari mountains.
The beach is mostly frequented by locals, and it’s a long enough beach that there shouldn’t be any trouble securing your own space in the sand. If you’re looking for other activities besides sunbathing, there is a water park at the other end of the beach from Antalya Beach Park. Next to that is a marine animal park. You can also take a ride on a banana boat from several different companies in the area.