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Ankara is the capital city of Turkey and the second largest city in the country after Istanbul. It is located at the heart of both Turkey and Central Anatolia. The population is around 4.5 million.
Ankara is a sprawling, modern city which can appear as little more than a dull, concrete jungle at first glance. As a result, many tourists tend to use it merely as a transit point for getting to places like Konya or Cappodocia. However Ankara does have a lot to offer for those prepared to look a bit deeper.
Ankara has a symbolic significance for the secular Turks. It is the place where a new era for the Turkish people started. It is a symbol for independence, development and Western values.
Ankara is well connected by a good public transport network system. Private and public bus operators compete for your patronage and there are the 'dolmus' minibus transport providers that offer rapid tranfers and get you to your connection points. The underground subway 'Metro' is highly efficient which runs between outer suburbs and the interstate bus terminal 'ASTI'. Taxis are readily available and are probably the best way to get to your destination, relatively inexpensive for the time poor traveller.
Ankara Esenboğa International Airport (ESB) is located some 28 km northeast of the city. International flights are rather low in frequency and scope - apart from Turkish Airlines (THY), Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and British Airways offer direct flights to their respective European hubs.
The brand-new airport terminal was opened in 2007. It features many more gates, a more orderly parking system, and in general, better traffic flow. The road connecting Ankara's airport to the ring road has also been fully renovated.
Ankara is the eastern terminus of the Turkish high-speed rail system (YHT), with frequent fast trains to Konya, and via Eskişehir to Istanbul Pendik. Trains to Eskişehir and Konya take 90 minutes and those stations are within 3-5 km of their town centres, so they are easy day trips. Trains to Istanbul take 3½ hours to Pendik, 25 km east of city centre and involving a 90-minute transfer: see Istanbul page. Pendik is convenient for Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen airport.
The city has a dense public bus network, a two-line subway called Ankara Metrosu and a single line suburban railway called Ankara Banliyö Treni.
For tourists, Ankara’s public transit system, particularly the public bus network, can be difficult to figure out, because maps are rare and all information is in Turkish. Nor is there any access provided for disabled travellers in any form of public transport. Buses and metros tend to be very crowded during rush hours, especially on Mondays and Fridays.
If you know the city well, public transportation, especially the metro, is an ideal, easy, quick and cheap way to get around particularly for longer distances. For shorter distances taxis are an easy, quick and cheap way to get around.
There are two types of public buses in Ankara; those run by the Ankara Municipality named Ankara Belediye Otobüsleri (EGO) and those run by a private corporation named Ankara Özel Halk Otobüsleri (ÖHO). You can differentiate these two types by their colors. EGO-run buses are white and blue while ÖHO-run buses are blue. Both types of these public buses use the same bus network and bus stops.
Dolmuş are private run minibuses. They are as common as buses and run on their specific routes. Guven Park at Kizilay Square is the main stop of dolmuş's, running all sides of central Ankara. You can get in and out anywhere on their route, and they stop the same way you catch a taxi with your hand. The prices range depending on your departure point and destination, but typically not more than a two to three liras.
The Ankara Metro, named Ankara Metrosu, consists of three metro lines, which are called Ankaray and Ankara Metro which is owned and operated by the Ankara Municipality.
The west-east light-rail line named Ankaray and the north-south heavy-rail Ankara Metro line are both mostly underground lines and intersect at Kızılay station.Currently,it is possible to go all stations with one payment.
What to see
Ankara has several historic buildings and landmarks, mostly concentrated around Ulus. On a quick visit, one can get a taste of most important historic places in a day long trip. If you have even less time, two never to miss places are Anitkabir and Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. For longer stays, Ankara has lot’s to offer as the modern capital of Turkey.
Ankara Castle, Cengelhan - Rahmi Koc Museum, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations are all 5 minutes of walking distance, and very close to Ethnographic Museum, State Art and Sculpture Museum, Haci Bayram Mosque, Salt Ulus, Augustus Temple and Roman Baths; all of which are located in Ulus.
Anıtkabir, open daily, museum open daily except Mondays - situated on an imposing hill in the Anittepe quarter of the city is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, completed in 1953.
Hacı Bayram Mosque, located next to Augustus Temple, Haci Bayram Mosque was first built in 1427, but later on modified to its current structure in the 17th and 18th centuries. The impressive interior has a wooden ceiling, and Kutahya tiles.
Atakule Tower, Çankaya. One of the highest structures of the city, with a shopping mall located under the tower.
Ulus and Republican Ankara, the historic Ulus on and around Ataturk Boulevard has many buildings built during the early years of the republic. Once the center of Ankara, the architecture is also effected by the republican revolutions.
Hamamönü, is a recently restored neighborhood with Ottoman style timber Ankara houses, and one of the most interesting parts of Ankara to visit. Located down the hill from Ankara Castle near Ulus, Hamamonu is an entire neighborhood of narrow streets, old houses and historic buildings.
Teleferik, is a newly-built cablecar starting from Yenimahalle metro station. It has two stations and will be extended in the future. For now it is free of charge.
What to do
In order to follow the events and performances in Ankara, online ticket sites of Biletix and Mybilet are good places to check, and both are available in English. Most local newspapers and event websites are in Turkish, and give a wider information about the daily events.
Ankara has annual festivals, including Ankara International Music Festival, Ankara International Jazz Festival, Ankara International Cinema Festival and lot's more, and it is always good to check what's going on in the city.
Ankara Modern Arts Center (Çağdaş Sanatlar Merkezi), opposite the American Embassy in Kavaklıdere, at Atatürk Boulevard has free exhibitions and performances, mostly of local and infamous artists, but sometimes of more impressive ones.
Local and national groups play in Ankara bars and venues especially on the weekends.
Sunny days get crowds fill Tunali Hilmi Road in Kavaklidere, and 7.Cadde in Bahçelievler.
Ankara offers a good selection of cinemas both in Kızılay and Bahçelievler, as well as all shopping malls. There are several concert halls for classical music and opera. Many universities promote concerts and spring festivals but these are sometimes open to their students only. Folk and traditional music is very alive, from small bars and restaurants to big concert halls where you can find local stars.
Depending on your interests, you can find trekking in local parks and in the surroundings, visiting the museums or hunting for the Ottoman or Selçuk remains in the ancient castle. Upscale shopping centers like Armada along the Eskisehir road also offer cinemas and quality restaurants.
Ankara is best known with its "döner kebap". In order to pick a good döner restaurant (there are many) you should take a look at the döner round. it should be rectangular and the cuts must be flat and separated.