Looking for tips on what to do in Antalya, Turkey?
As part of our city guides series, we interviewed Ellen Rabiner who has lived in Antalya for over two years.
Ellen shares with us her insider travel tips on what to do in Antalya, Turkey for those looking for the best places to see, eat, stay, drink, and explore.
Take it away Ellen…
Why Visit Antalya, Turkey?
Ataturk once described Antalya as “the most beautiful place on earth“.
While that might be a bit of biased hyperbole, there is no doubt that Antalya has some stunning views. The marina surrounded by dramatic cliffs and ancient city walls, the beach with the Taurus Mountains in the backgound, and the charming old city of Kaleici all make Antalya a photographer’s dream.
Karaalioglu Park and the Taurus Mountains
Best Things to See and Do in Antalya
The most beautiful part of Antalya is Kaleici’s harbor, and the best way to spend a day is to take a boat trip from here. You’ll get to see Antalya’s coastline, swim in pristine coves, and eat freshly caught and grilled fish.
On a boatride from Kaleici
If you’re interested in the Ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, you must visit Antalya’s Archeological Museum, where the artifacts from ancient cities of the region are displayed.
Best Neighborhood to Explore in Antalya
The most interesting place to explore is the old city, Kaleici. It’s surrounded by ancient stone walls, including a Clock Tower and a Roman arch known as Hadrian’s Gate.
You’re guaranteed to get lost in the winding cobblestone streets, but don’t worry, that’s part of the fun, and the locals are used to giving directions.
The Kaleici area is the only part of town where you’ll see Ottoman architecture, as both Lara and Konyaalti are full of modern concrete apartment buildings.
A street in Kaleici
Where to Eat in Antalya
If you’re on a budget, you’ll find most basic Turkish restaurants have similar menus and prices. Your choices are meatballs, doner, chicken shish and lamb shish. The same choices are offered in most places inside Kaleici, though the prices are a bit higher.
For lunch you can go to an Ev Yemekleri (home cooking place) and choose four courses from the buffet for around 5 Lira ( 3 dollars). This usually includes soup, salad, a casserole of meat, chicken or vegetables, and rice pilav or pasta.
For traditional Turkish food that’s a cut above, try Guneyliler. They’ll start you off with mezes (appetizers) and fresh baked bread before you even order anything. My favorite meal is to split a kilmali pide (Turkish pizza with chopped meat) and then order Ali Nazik, a dish made with marinated lamb on a bed of mashed eggplant and topped with a yoghurt sauce.
For grilled meats the place to go is 7 Mehmet. They also have a good selection of mezes as well as excellent service and elegant surroundings. You might want to wear your good jeans for this one.
There are lots of good places for fish, including Lara Balik Evi, Alara (which has an incredible view), and the establishments at the old harbor.
Kaleici’s marina, a great place to eat fish
Where to Drink in Antalya
Kaleici is full of bars, or Meyhane (bars serving meze and light meals).
In season, the beachfront restaurants are also active night spots. You’ll hear a mixture of Turkish and American music at most places. Local favorites are Ayyas, Dolma and Shaker Pub.
Live music at Ayyas Meyhane in Kaleici
Best Places for a Night on the Town in Antalya
See above “where to drink”. There isn’t much more nightlife than that. Although if you’re here from October through May you can have a night at the Symphony, Opera or Ballet.
Where to Stay in Antalya, Turkey
If you want to soak up atmosphere, stay in Kaleici.
If you want to soak up the sun, stay in Konyaalti. The trendy Hillside Su is the place to be if you can afford it, but there are many inexpensive hotels in Konyaalti, some steps from the beach like the Ozbekhan .
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive beach resort, try Porto Bello.
Baki Beach, site of Porto Bello Resort and Ozbekhan Hotel
Any Markets or Shopping Areas in Antalya
Definitely make a point of visiting the local market in your area. These produce markets take place a different day of the week all over Antalya, so ask your host for the day and location of the one in your neighborhood.
The local weekly market (pazar) in my neighborhood.
And you’ll want to shop in Kaleici for souvenirs, carpets or spices.
Major Events and Festivals in Antalya
Antalya’s International Piano Festival (November-December) presents world-class musical performances, from classical stars like the Moscow Virtuosi to jazz to the comedy duo of Igudesman and Joo.
The Golden Orange Film Festival (October) features International independent films, and is the largest film festival in the country.
The Efes Jazz and Blues Festival comes in July.
Best Way to Get Around Antalya
The public transport system is primarily an extensive bus and dolmus (minibus) service, but as a visitor you can likely get by using just the trams, which are easier and more confortable.
If you are staying downtown, you can take the tram to the Museum and the beach in Konyaalti.
Is Antalya WiFi Friendly?
A few restaurants are now offering wifi, but it’s not the standard yet. There are still Internet Cafes around town, and most likely internet available wherever you stay.
Read more: How to stay internet safe and private when using free Wi-Fi [/ybox
Best Time of Year to Visit Antalya
The best time to visit Antalya is October. The intense heat of the summer has passed, most of the tourists are gone, and the Mediterranean is at perfect swimming temperature. You’ll also have the entertainment options of the Symphony, Opera, and Ballet, which are on hiatus over the summer.
Getting There and Away?
In most cases you will have to fly to Istanbul and change there for a flight to Antalya.
Turkey is a big country, and although there’s a good bus system, a bus ride from any major city to Antalya would be a long haul. A few discount airlines offer direct flights from Germany and the UK, so check with the carriers that serve your airport.
Best Insider’s tip for Travelers to Antalya
My advice would be to avoid the attractions built for tourists ( Aquapark, Dinopark, etc.) and instead take a drive outside the center and watch women cook over a stone oven while men are herding goats.
It’s a chance to see Antalya as it was a generation ago, and how much of rural Turkey still is today.
I Love Antalya because _______
I love Antalya because of its smell of night-blooming Jasmine, the colorful Bouganvilla blooming year-round, the snow-capped mountains I see from my balcony, and the relaxed atmosphere conducive to enjoying it all.
More Posts about Turkey
More Resources for Antalya
Check out these helpful travel guides:
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Turkey
- The Mediterranean coast Rough Guides Snapshot Turkey (includes Antalya, Alanya and the Hatay) (Rough Guide to…)
Ellen Rabiner is an opera singer and former lawyer who writes about Antalya and and other travel destinations on her blog, Ellen in Turkey. You can also find her on facebook and twitter.