Sophisticated Antalya is a definite tourist hub, and with a population approaching the 1-million mark, it’s among Turkey's fastest growing cities. These days the international terminals of Antalya airport are busier even than those in Istanbul. Most visitors are on package tours, but Antalya is a popular destination among Turks, too. Enormous hotels east of the city help accommodate them; however, you can bed down in one of the restored mansions or pansiyons found in the atmospheric Kaleiçi quarter and hardly notice the big urban conglomeration all around. On the hilltop above the harbor are tea gardens and bars with views that extend south to the Bey Mountains and north to the Taurus Mountains.
The shopping streets here have more variety than anywhere else on the Turquoise Coast, although the merchandise, in general, is the same sort of stuff you find all over Turkey. The less expensive clothing shops and jewelry arcades are concentrated east and north of the old town walls, while the old town itself has more decorative souvenirs. Kenan Evren Boulevard, along the seafront cliffs toward the museum, has the most upmarket clothing shops. A short taxi ride to the west of town is Antalya's fanciest mall, the Migros Shopping Center. Set behind the Su Hotel, it has a large supermarket, eight cinemas, and a large food court, as well as 100 shops that represent both international brands (like Swatch, Lacoste, and Tommy Hilfiger) and Turkey's big clothing chains (including Mavi Jeans, LCW for children's clothes, Derimod for upmarket leathers, Bisse and Abbate for shirts, and Vakkorama and Boyner for general clothing).
Atatürk Kulture Merkezi
Also known as AKM, the Atatürk Kulture Merkezi is a cultural complex with an exhibition space and several theaters located in a cliff-top park about 3 km (2 miles) west of the city center. It hosts concerts year-round—look for fliers posted around the city—as well as an annual film festival.
Sitting in this tea garden, looking out to the harbor, sea, and mountains beyond, is one of Antalya's great pleasures. The drinks and snacks are inexpensive, but the views are priceless. It's a good stop on the way to the museum—you can walk or catch the old tram, which leaves from here every half hour.
If shopping in the jewelry bazaar opposite the clock tower has tired you out, try this long-time Antalya favorite. The speciality is chicken roasted over charcoal, but there's also a full range of fish, meat, and mezes to choose from. In summer, tables are spread out in front of the restaurant.
You can't miss this restaurant—it has a spectacular location halfway up the main road from the old harbor with a panoramic view of the Old City and the sea. Inside, airy stone arches give it elegant style despite the fact that this was once the port's petroleum depot. Club Arma is Antalya's most luxurious restaurant, serving octopus carpaccio, lobster, duck, chocolate soufflé, chestnut parfait, and fresh cheesecake, along with a full range of foreign spirits and cigars from a humidor. At 11 pm, the dance club alongside swings into action.
At the eastern end of the harbor, the Mermerli has good prices and a broad menu that includes fish, steak, Turkish grills, and all-day breakfasts. But the location is its best asset. A breezy terrace offers excellent views. It's a good place to eat if you want to relax on Mermerli Beach—the bathing spot is just down the steps, and the restaurant controls access.
If you are kebabed out, this Old City restaurant has some of the best contemporary cuisine on the coast and serves it in an appropriately stylish setting. The menu changes regularly, though it's basically modern European with a touch of Asia and includes items like pork that you don't see too often in Turkey. The owners, English chef Wayne and his Turkish wife Emel, also operate a very cool lounge next door where you can order coffee during the day or cocktails at night.
St. Paul's Place
A friendly, clubby retreat on the southern edge of the old city, St. Paul's Place is run by expats and serves great coffee, American cakes, and home-cooked lunches. It also has a library of exchange books and a nice garden. Warm and
welcoming to all, this Christian religious center sometimes organizes religion-oriented tours and can give helpful advice on faith-based tourism.
Almost opposite the Antalya Museum but hidden a little down the hill towards the sea, this restaurant may well have the best view in town. Owned by an Antalyan former basketball player (aka the Big Man), it's a popular place for locals to come for a special meal. The menu focuses on meat, pasta, pizza, and kebabs. The quality can be hit or miss, but regulars praise the steak and the portions are, well, big.
Seraser Fine Dining Restaurant
With fine food and excellent service, the stylish Seraser aspires to be the best restaurant in all of Turkey. Part of the Tuvana Hotel, it is set in the leafy courtyard of a historic house, with indoor and outdoor dining areas. The menu is conservative European, so don't expect anything Turkish other than the quality ingredients—90% of which are organic. Starters include goat cheese and aubergine soufflé; grouper and chargrilled lamb are popular mains, but do save room for dessert (try the sugarless, flourless truffle cake). With over 300 options, the wine list is equally impressive.
Castle Café and Bar
The perfect start to any evening out in Antalya starts by watching the sun set from the clifftop Castle Café and Bar, next to Hıdırlık Kulesi—you can accompany your drink with some of their sesame-and-garlic dip, known as hibeş.
The province of Antalya has a rich collection of archaeological sites and their assembled finds means a first-rate collection at the Antalya Müzesi. The star is Perge, statues from which fill gallery after gallery, including one just for the gods, from Aphrodite to Zeus. There are also Turkish crafts, costumes, prehistoric artifacts from the Carian Cave, and preclassical statues from Elmalı, with bits of Byzantine iconography and some prehistoric fossils thrown in. One gallery has several fine Roman sarcophagi from the 2nd century AD, including a wonderful one illustrating the labors of a steadily aging Hercules. Upstairs are several coin hordes; the large one from Elmalı was recently returned to the museum after being smuggled to the U.S. Onsite, you'll also find a good, reasonably-priced cafeteria and gift shop. If you have the time, walk to the museum from the center of town along the clifftop promenade, which has a fine sea view.
Dark blue and turquoise tiles decorate the Yivli Minare, a graceful 13th-century cylinder erected by the Seljuk sultan Alaaddin Keykubat I. The adjoining mosque, named for the sultan, was built on the site of a Byzantine church. Within the complex are two attractive türbes (tombs) and an 18th-century tekke (monastery), which once housed a community of whirling dervishes. The monastery is now used as an unremarkable art gallery. The Nigar Hatun Türbe (Tomb of Lady Nigar), next to the monastery, is a 15th-century copy built in Seljuk style. The medrese (theological school) adjacent to the Fluted Minaret has now been glassed in under a bus-station-style roof and is a tourist-oriented shopping center. It sells standard Turkish fare (think pottery, copperwork, carpets, and tiles) but prices are better than at most other resorts along the coast.
Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Cami
Behind the clock tower, this mosque was built around 1600 and heavily restored in the 19th century. Commissioned by a wealthy official who was Grand Vizier for only 10 days, it is one of the finest surviving Ottoman mosques in the region.
Another way to enter the old city is via the Old Harbor, now filled with yachts, fishing vessels, and tourist-excursion boats. If you're in a car, follow the signs to the yat limañ (harbor) and you'll find a convenient, free parking lot behind the quaysides. From here you can head up any of the lanes leading north and east out of the harbor to get to the heart of the old town. Alternatively wander down from Saat Kulesi, forking to the right past the T-shirt and perfume shops, until you reach the bottom.
Suna & Inan Kiraç Müzesi
Fifty yards inside Hadrian's gate, turn left for the Suna & Inan Kiraç Museum: a little oasis in a group of restored buildings with an unusual painted exterior that experts say reflects the way most Antalya houses looked in Ottoman times. The museum is part of a privately-funded research institute and has an excellent library (accessible with special permission), plus a shop that sells a good range of guidebooks. The main display area has interesting pictures of Old Antalya and a couple of rooms with waxworks that re-create Ottoman wedding scenes. The best part of the museum is the restored church in the garden, where there is a delightful display of historical kitsch.
At some point one of the city's Roman towers gained a clock and was dubbed the Saat Kulesi (Clock Tower). Several of the old town's cobbled lanes pass through the wall here. The area, also known as Kalekapısı (Castle Gate), serves as one of the interfaces between the old town and the new.
Shady Karaalioğlan Parkı is a traditional green space with trees, grass, and benches, as well as a view of the Mediterranean. At the northwest end is a stone tower, called Hıdırlık Külesi, which dates from the 2nd century AD. At sunset, sip a drink at the Castle Café and Bar next door and enjoy an unforgettable panorama of the Bey Mountains.
One way to enter the old town is via Hadrian's Gate, a short walk from the main Saat Kulesi intersection along pleasant palm-lined Atatürk Caddesi. The gate was constructed in honor of a visit by the Roman emperor in AD 130 and has three arches, each with coffered ceilings decorated with rosettes. Ruts in the marble road show where carts once trundled through. From here a straight Roman road leads through town past Kesik Minare Camii to the Hıdırlık Külesi and the sea.
If you didn't know that Mermerli Beach was there, you'd never guess it. This small strip of sand and pebbles outside the harbor wall is reached via the Mermerli Restaurant, halfway up the hill east of the harbor. The 11 TL admission price to this quiet oasis in the heart of town includes loungers and umbrellas.
Amenities : food and drink; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: swimming.
Kesik Minare Camii
The "Mosque of the Truncated Minaret" on Hıdarlık Sokak, a few blocks east of Hadrian's Gate, was once the city's cathedral and dedicated to the Virgin. It was probably built in the 5th century AD and later converted to a mosque. It's usually locked, but you can get a good look from the outside.
For many Turks, Antalya is synonymous with the thick crowds of holiday-makers on Konyaaltı Beach, and the packed pebble strand is a hot, somewhat off-putting sight in high season. The city has worked hard to improve the quality of the beach experience, though, with especially impressive results on the 1-km (½-mile) section starting after the museum and ending under the Su Hotel. The beach is largely divided up by concessions, each with its own restaurant, deck chairs, umbrellas, and showers.
Amenities : food and drink; parking (no fee); showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; walking; swimming.