After a short stop in Aydin, it was time for me to move to Antalya, the next destination during my travel across Turkey, in July and August 2019. I originally planned to go there directly from Kusadasi, where I spent a week on the beach. I wanted to continue my summer holiday, but in a different place. Earlier this year, when I planned this trip, I also considered Bodrum and Fethiye. But, I’ve been to both places before, plus hotels were progressively more expensive there. So, I decided to go to Antalya.
The only way to travel from Kusadasi to Antalya is by bus. But, there are no direct buses between these two cities. You first have to go to Aydin and then from Aydin to Antalya.
So, as I had to go to Aydin, I stopped there for two days and took a respite from the sun and the beach. After two enjoyable days in Aydin, I was ready to proceed with my travel plan. I was looking forward to continuing my summer holiday in one of the most famous resorts in Turkey.
Antalya is a big city, much bigger than I thought it would be. In fact, when I looked on the map, to get an idea about its size, I saw that it covered large area. But, unless we properly understand the scale of the map, we can’t really know for how big the place is.
There are over a million people living in the metropolitan area, although that’s of little relevance for visitors to Antalya. Personally, I was really only interested in its central area and the beaches, where I wanted to spend several days, sunbathing and swimming.
I had a bit of a struggle when I had to decide where to stay in Antalya. Certainly, I wanted to be in the city centre, but at the same time, not too far from the beach. However, that’s almost impossible in Antalya, primarily because the city is so big. As you will see in this and the next post, you have to carefully consider your preferences. In fact, in my next post, I will give you some useful tips on where to stay and what to do in Antalya.
THE HADRIAN’S GATE
In this post, I will talk about the city and its historical heritage. Antalya is an old city and there is a lot to see. The Hadrian’s Gate, built in the name of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, testifies about the city’s long existence.
He visited Antalya in the year 130. Otherwise, most of what you can see in the city today is from the Ottoman era.
Kaleiçi is Antalya’s old historical area. Only fragments of the wall that used to encircle this area in the past remain, including the Hadrian’s Gate, the entrance into Kaleiçi from Atatürk street.
Kaleiçi is magical. Before I went to Antalya I knew that, the same as in most other Turkish cities, there would be an old historical centre, a remnant of the bygone Ottoman era.
But, I was not prepared for such a beautiful historical town. Most structures in Kaleiçi are from the 18th and the 19th century, although the mosques within this area are older.
When you see Kaleiçi, you immediately realise that Antalya is a big and important tourist resort. As you can see in the photos in this post, they beautifully restored the whole area and brought all buildings back to their former glory.
It’s difficult for me to convey the amazement that I felt when I saw such beautiful structures, in perfect condition. Apparently, a very few people live in this area, most buildings are small, family run hotels.
When you walk around Kaleiçi, you will also see a lot of restaurants, coffee shops and various touristic shops that mainly sell souvenirs and other similar items.
In fact, you can buy almost everything there. There are also shops that sell beautiful, but slightly expensive carpets.
You will see small shops at every corner and they create a very picturesque image of the historical area.
There is also a section which is a proper bazaar, the same as in other Turkish cities. But, the bazaar in Kaleiçi is really only for tourists, unlike in other places that I visited in Turkey, with fewer tourists and where you predominantly see the local people shopping.
THE AHI YUSUF MOSQUE (1249)
Certainly, the small Ahi Yusuf Mosque does not look like a typical mosque. You can’t see a minaret. I realised that this building was a mosque only when I literally stood in front of it.
This 770 years old building is the Seljuk era construction, built at the time when Antalya was part of the Seljuk Empire.
Unfortunately, the mosque was closed and there was no one there that I could ask to open it for me, so that I can visit the mosque inside.
This is not the only mosque in Kaleiçi, however most other mosques are more recent Ottoman era buildings, although when you think about it, they are also centuries old.
THE ANTALYA PORT
While you are in Antalya, make sure that you visit the port. I nearly missed it. A friend of mine, who worked in Antalya as a tourist rep over the summer, took me there one evening, when we went for a walk around Kaleiçi.
Basically, when you enter Kaleiçi at the Hadrian’s Gate and you walk all the way through, you will arrive to the port, at the other end of this historical area.
But, you can’t see the port from the Old Town, because of the wall. Rather, when you arrive to the wall, you have to pass through it, to reach the port. That’s why I missed it, when I went for a walk on my own, I didn’t know that it was there.
You will see a lot of touristic boats in the port, which you can take for various sight seeing excursions. I didn’t do any of that, because I primarily wanted to go to the beach.
THE CLOCK TOWER
The Clock Tower marks what used to be the upper limit of the Old Town. Built in 1244, it was part of the wall that encircled the city in the past.
Almost directly opposite of the Clock Tower, you will see the Pazar Hammam. This historical structure is no longer a bath-house, today you can find various shops inside.
Also in the same square where the Clock Tower is, there is the Attulus II Philadelphus statue. He was the king of Pergamon and the founder of Antalya.
In the photo below, behind the statue, you can see a pedestrian shopping street, where you will find various Turkish chains that sell clothes, shoes and other items. There are some coffee shops and restaurants in that street too, so that’s one more area where you can go for a walk.
I also went there, it was interesting and very busy, especially in the early evening hours.
YIVLIMINARE MOSQUE (1373)
The Yivliminare Mosque minaret dominates Antalya’s skyline and it’s probably the strangest thing that you can see in the city, because of its size and also because it’s different from minarets that you can see in Ottoman era mosques.
In fact, this mosque was originally built by the Seljuk Sultan, Alaeddin Keykubad I, in 1230.
However, the mosque was reconstructed in 1373 and that year is shown on the inscription at the entrance of the mosque. At that time, Antalya was part of an expanding Ottoman state, under Sultan Murad I.
Interestingly, that was the first time for me to come across the major Seljuk era construction, during my travel in Turkey. In all other places that I visited before Antalya, Ottoman heritage dominates everything else. That’s also because Istanbul, Bursa and Izmir were never part of the Seljuk state.
There is of course a lot of Byzantine heritage in Istanbul, but I didn’t pay any attention to it, because of the time constraints and because it’s so vast that it requires a complete separate attention.
This mosque is included in a UNESCO List of Tentative World Heritage Sites. In reality, its minaret is the most impressive, but I think that the mosque is also very interesting, especially because it’s so different from Ottoman mosques.
In fact, it is the prime example of the Seljuk era architecture, that I would also see in Konya later.
Not far from the Yivliminare Mosque, there is a statue of the first Seljuk conqueror of Antalya in 1207, the Seljuk Sultan Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev I.
THE REST OF ANTALYA
Outside of the Old Town, you will find some Ottoman heritage, like the Balbey Mosque, that you can see in the photo below. I saw some other mosques too, but I didn’t visit any of them. I went to Antalya to be on the beach, so I had neither time, nor inspiration, to explore all historical sites in detail.
The rest of Antalya is a modern city, with the modern-day constructions everywhere.
Both, Atatürk and Abdi İpekçi streets are full of shops, restaurants and coffee-shops and they are very interesting to see. That’s also how Antalya looks outside of its old historical centre.
I am glad that I went to Antalya. For you, even if you go there outside of the touristic season, it’s worth a visit, because of its historical Old Town. Kaleiçi is simply magical.
But, Antalya is a big city and going to Antalya can mean a lot of things, especially for people that go there to spend a week or two, by the sea.
I was there for five days and I went to the beach almost every day. In my next post, I will write about my experiences and will give some useful tips with regard to where to stay while you are there and which beach is the best to go to.