Ancient and modern at the same time, Antalya is a fascinating destination on the Turkish Riviera. Offering a blend of stunning beaches, colourful festivals, ancient history and plenty of shopping opportunities, it's a place that combines the allure of a world-class beach resort with everything you'd expect from a city-break destination. Founded over 2,000 years ago, ancient Attalea was an important Roman trading city -- so much so that the Emperor Hadrian built an impressive arch, which still stands. In fact, a surprising amount of ancient Antalya remains intact (including the Hidirlik Tower), while there are also historical gems from the later Byzantine and Ottoman eras, such as the Yivli Minaret, a symbol of the city. Another attraction is Kaleiçi, a neighbourhood of winding alleyways, centuries-old mosques and bazaars with wonderful views across the harbour. But the centre isn't the whole story in Antalya -- far from it. The Antalya Museum lies just outside the city centre and its Roman statues and other artefacts are a must-see. And, if the heat becomes too much, the city also has a couple of fine beaches that are within walking distance of the Old Town.
Antalya is a superb base to explore the Turkish Riviera. You can head to even more impressive ancient sites, including Perga (the region's Roman capital) and the stunning mountaintop theatre at Termessos as well as an unbroken chain of beaches. When you bundle in some of the best, sunniest weather of anywhere in the world, it's easy to see why this corner of Turkey is a traveller's dream. With history, culture and beaches, it satisfies on almost every level.
Things to Do
Whether you love history, shopping or lounging around on unspoiled beaches, Antalya won't disappoint. There are activities for active holidaymakers to hike, places to relax and places to enter a completely different world -- a world of gods, battles and emperors. Here are some highlights:
Walk in ancient footsteps in magical Kaleiçi
The modern city has over a million inhabitants, but Antalya is still concentrated around Kaleiçi -- its tiny, beautiful ancient core. Ruled by Romans, Byzantines, Seljuk Turks and Ottomans, this district features an array of fascinating monuments, from the triumphal arch of Hadrian, the "grooved" Yivli minaret and the Kalekapısı Tower as well as the thriving bazaar. Everything spills down towards the harbour, where you can round off your tour with a meal of fresh seafood or authentic Turkish kebabs.
Shop till you drop at the bazaar
The bazaar is an adventure in itself, and one of Antalya's foremost attractions. Be sure to spend some time wandering through its alleys and perusing the stalls, where you'll find fabrics, boutique clothes, craft souvenirs and plenty more besides. Check out the leatherworking stalls in particular, as handmade leather shoes and accessories are a Turkish speciality, and make sure you pick up some sweet treats like baklava and halva as well.
Learn about ancient Turkey at the city museum
The Antalya Museum is reckoned to be among Turkey's finest. Located just outside the historic centre, it hosts a massive collection of ancient statues and other items, giving a vivid impression of what life was like thousands of years ago. Must-see exhibits include the finely carved sarcophagi, the stunning Lycian coin portfolio, the collection of ancient children's toys and the statues of the Three Graces -- it all adds up to a feast for art and history lovers.
Sunseekers can always hit the beach
Hitting the beach is almost inevitable on the Turkish Riviera. Many people pass straight from the airport to nearby resorts like Kas, but visitors to the city itself can easily access excellent sunbathing and swimming beaches too. Konyaalti is a favourite spot thanks to its safe swimming conditions and children's park, and there's a small swimming beach next to the harbour. Both are within easy reach of central Antalya, so you can balance visiting historical sites with perfecting your tan.
Make the climb to stunning Termessos
If you love spectacular views, then visiting Termessos is essential. Located around 15 miles northwest of Antalya itself, Termessos was constructed at an altitude of 1,000 metres on the slopes of Mount Solymos and was so impregnable that even Alexander the Great couldn't take it. Nowadays, its theatre is a major attraction, but it's the views from the Taurus Mountains that really inspire visitors.
Calendar of Events
A dynamic economic and cultural centre, Antalya has a pretty busy events schedule, and here are some highlights that you may want to visit:
The Antalya Film Festival. Taking place every October, the city's Film Festival is one of Turkey's most prestigious. Attracting big stars to the palm-fringed boulevards of the Riviera, it's just like a Turkish Cannes and generates quite a buzz as the competition for the Golden Orange heats up.
Magic Break. A major electronic music festival, Magic Break takes place in late April and brings big name DJs and producers to the Turkish Riviera. Hosted by a 5-star resort in nearby Alanya, it's a great opportunity to party all night long within easy reach of Antalya's many urban attractions.
The Elmalı Oil Wrestling Competition. Oil wrestling is a venerable tradition in Turkey, and some of the most skilful exponents come from the Taurus Mountains. Every year, the mountain town of Elmalı hosts a three-day wrestling event that draws the finest grapplers from all over Turkey. Now in its 658th edition, it still draws huge crowds as locals back their favourite contenders.
The Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival. Taking place just down the coast in the resort of Aspendos during late August and September, this festival is a fantastic option for music and dance lovers. While the music is a major draw, the setting is stupendous as well as events take place in the town's ancient Roman theatre. It's truly an enchanting experience.