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Fly to Ankara with Qatar Airways, for an intoxicating blend of ancient and modern – a stunning backdrop to an exotic break. Ankara is Turkey’s capital, with a recorded history stretching back to the Bronze Age and Hatti civilisation. The city’s skyline is sprinkled with reminders of its long and illustrious heritage, from Roman and Phrygian ruins to Ottoman castles and Byzantine temples.
Ankara is also bristling with the architectural marvels of its present, from state houses and consulates to shopping centres and hotels.
The most famous of Ankara’s attractions is likely its Citadel, which can be seen from any point in the city on a clear day. Although its exact age isn’t known, it is thought to be over 3,000 years old. In addition to housing an irregular plaza, the Citadel walls house another surprise: a traditional, Turkish village – right in the heart of a bustling metropolis.
Also worth your time is Ankara Castle, which may be crumbling, but remains a lively hotspot. Outside, you will find several souvenir shops and cafés, while within you will come face-to-face with antiquity. Discover the ancient space used by previous inhabitants, who built small houses that not only remain intact, but serve as current-day homes.
The nearby Museum of Anatolian Civilizations gives further insight into how the people of the city used to live.
If you’ve had your fill of architecture and archaeology on your trip to Ankara, the city has many greener parts from which to choose. Take in the sights and tranquil atmosphere of Kugulu Park, an immaculately kept sanctuary in which to unwind or enjoy a picnic. It also serves as a refuge for the city’s thriving swan population. Over time, the long-necked birds have become used to humans and will even deign to be fed by them.
For the more energetic traveller, Karagol Lake offers spectacular views of the city and its surroundings, and if you feel like stretching your legs even more, you can trek around the adjacent mountains.
If you are taking children on your visit to Ankara, then it’s worth paying a visit to the Ataturk Farm and Zoo. Here, youngsters can meet working farm animals and view more exotic species, including monkeys, big cats and numerous species of bird. The farm also sells fresh produce, including cheeses, or you can eat at the traditional restaurant in its grounds.
If you want to get to know a culture, then there’s no better way than through its food. Turkish cuisine is an eclectic mix, reflecting the numerous civilisations to have left marks throughout the millennia. It’s not all restaurants and cafés, though; you’ll find some of the tastiest food sold by street vendors, including dishes such as pitta breads, kebabs and meatballs.
But whether you’re eating at a restaurant or on a street corner, you can’t take a trip to Ankara and not sample some good, strong Turkish coffee. It’s often served with a glass of water, just in case you feel the need to dilute it.
There are some superb restaurants to be found within the city walls, specialising in fresh, seasonal fish and frequented by local politicians and diplomats. And if your sweet tooth needs to be indulged, seek out the local bakeries, where you can enjoy a sumptuous range of pastries and cakes.
Shopping in Ankara requires some planning. It is advisable to decide what you’re after before you embark on your retail adventure. This is because there is so much choice that you could easily spend a day wandering through markets and bazaars and come home empty-handed.
If you want modern shops, then head up to Kavaklidere, where you will find Tunali Hilmi Cadessi – one of the newest shopping centres in the city. It offers contemporary stores, music shops and plenty of cafés. However, if you want something more traditional, seek out Ankara Kalesi, the city’s antique district.
Although Kizilay is one of the finest shopping areas in the city, it is also one of the most crowded. If that doesn’t bother you, then you’ll find yourself sifting through designer boutique shops, small craft stands, innumerable bookshops and hidden-away shopping arcades.
Essential facts about Ankara
Enjoy a hassle-free journey with all the information you need to know before your trip