Cosmopolitan Antalya, backed by the majestic snow-capped Taurus Mountains and fronted by the crystal blue Mediterranean Sea is Turkey’s most second visited destination. Popular with Turks, it is also a holiday haven for Europeans, and this is evident in the significant amount of all-inclusive hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and bars scattered throughout the main town and surrounding holiday resorts.
Since the tourism boom of the 1980s, local council officials and entrepreneur executives have implemented countless ideas to accommodate visitors and tourists and thanks to the Mediterranean weather, visiting out of season from the touristic summer months, still provides a sun filled holiday.
Naturally, a population of more than 1 million gives an idea of the large landmass of the area, and the vast diversity of things to do that indicates you could spend a whole month in the region and still not see it all. Therefore, we’ve narrowed it down to the main highlights and places that are easy to access. If you have just one day in Antalya, the following are our recommendations of where to go and they are all based in the main city.
Quaint Kaleici: The Old Town
In the heart of Antalya City, palm-lined boulevards lead to Kaleici, the old part of town, famously landmarked by the ancient three arches Hadrian's gate built in 130 AD. The area has much more historical buildings than the famous old Ottoman houses lining the cobbled street including the truncated minaret, a few streets away from the more famous fluted minaret dating from the 13th century. Built during the reign of Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad, it is the well-known symbol of the old town, and the adjoining mosque is still in use.
Saat Kulesi, the clock tower dating from 1244 is a prominent landmark, but this sits in the opposite direction to an exciting area to explore, which is the harbour. The waterfront lined with refreshments and watering holes is exceptionally well maintained and a pleasant area to stroll. From here, two choices exist of attractions. Heading south, descend a staircase nearby to the sandy Mermeli Beach or alternatively, walk a slight distance further to relax and enjoy the traditional tea gardens of Karaalioglu Park and its circular Hidirlik Tower dating from the 2nd century BC.
If you love history, though, head in the opposite direction from the harbour front, to one of Turkey’s most famous buildings that is the Antalya Archaeological Museum. Established in 1922, a marvellous collection of artefacts from early civilisations up to present day sits within its walls. With 13 exhibition halls and an open-air gallery, more than 5000 objects including Roman sculptures, Bronze Age urn burials, and relics from the time of Saint Nicholas cover 7000 square metres so dedicate a fair amount of time to exploring it.
Nearby Konyaalti beach that along with Lara beach is one of the two most famous beaches of Antalya, stretches for 7 kilometres. Have a quick dip or spend the rest of your day relaxing, swimming and snorkelling.
Antalya Mini-Park and Aquarium
However, you may still have energy, in which case 15 minutes’ walk away will bring you to the doors of Antalya Mini-city Park. Consisting of numerous iconic landmarks from around Turkey, it is an excellent way to explore Turkey without travel. See the mini version of Istanbul’s maiden tower or the smaller reconstruction of 135 AD of the Celsus library of Ephesus that was the third largest in the ancient world. Marvel at the mini replica of the old Sumela monastery or see a bird’s eye view of the remake of Aspendos theatre.
Also within the Konyaalti district is the Antalya Aquarium that to date is receiving rave reviews. Using state of the art technology and focusing high on aquamarine life, as one of the biggest aquariums in the world, they want to offer entertainment, inspiration, and education all at once, making this a great place to visit if you are a family. However, it is also popular with couples and solo travellers, because as well the leading aquarium sections, they have a 131-metre water tunnel and a tropical reptile house. Scheduled underwater shows and fish feeding are also on the daily agenda.
By now, your day should be coming to an end, in which case we recommend heading back to the Konyaalti beach district or the harbour to enjoy a delicious meal with a beautiful sunset view, in one of the many established restaurants.
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About Antalya: As well as being a popular holiday destination, the Antalya region is a mecca for expats. Buying cheap property in resorts like Side, Alanya, and Belek, they enjoy a Mediterranean lifestyle at half the cost of their home countries. Read our region guide here.
The Second Most Visited Holiday Destination: We mentioned at the begging of the article that Antalya is the second most popular holiday destination in Turkey and this article explains why. As well as the weather, it includes the diverse character of regions, the Turkish Riviera, ease of transport needs and much more.
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