Gateway city to the so-called ‘Turkish Riviera’, Antalya lays claim to some of Turkey’s finest restaurants, museums and historic architecture, says Kieran Meeke
1. About: Turkey’s Mediterranean Coast is steeped in history and dotted with ancient ruins dating back to the Greek Empire. Antalya is the capital of the region and a sprawling city — in 2011 it overtook New York in a list of the world’s most visited by number of international arrivals. While most are coming to enjoy the sunshine and beaches of the ‘Turkish Riviera’, this ancient city is well worth exploring for its shopping, cuisine and heritage.
2. Hotel: The ultra-modern Hillside Su Hotel’s all-white, minimalist decor and subdued lighting is brought to life by a warm welcome from the staff. Only nine miles from the airport and a short walk from the city center, it has a large pool, sun terrace and spa as well as a Blue Flag beach on its doorstep. www.hillsidesu.com
3. Attraction: Antalya Archeological Museum has some 30,000 artifacts of which about 5,000 are on display at any one time. Roman and Greek displays form the core of the collection but there are also Byzantine and Ottoman treasures in its 13 galleries. One hall is dedicated to finds in the ancient city of Perge and the museum is an essential stop for anyone who intends to explore the region’s many historic sites. www.antalyamuzesi.gov.tr
4. Building: Of the gates that once pierced Antalya’s sturdy city walls, only one remains: Hadrian’s Gate. Built in the style of a Roman triumphal arch to mark Emperor Hadrian’s visit to the city, its original southern tower is still intact while the northern one was rebuilt in the 13th century. The gate guards the entrance to the old town of Kaleici and its paving bears deep grooves carved by centuries of cartwheels.
5. Shop: Antalya’s old bazaar and market district runs north from the gate at Kalekapisi along Kazim Ozalp Caddesi, also called by its former name of Sarampol Caddesi by locals. This is a maze of tiny shops where you’ll find spices, apple tea, Turkish delight and various other edible souvenirs, as well as shops selling jewelry, ‘genuine fake’ brands and the shoes and other leather goods for which Turkey is now famous.
6. Restaurant: Antalya’s cuisine is a blend of Arabic and Mediterranean influences and one of the best places to sample it is Yemenli Restaurant. Tucked away in the old town, it offers dishes such as tahinli piyaz, a dried-bean salad seasoned with crushed sesame seeds, or kulakli soup, made with chickpeas and diced meat. Live music and an open-air terrace add to the charm. Unlike some traditional restaurants, it serves alcohol. www.yemenlicafe.com
7. Bar: With an outstanding view of the marina and the Mediterranean from the city wall, Kale Bar is a popular Kaleici evening hangout, serving cocktails to match the view. Attached to the Tutav Turk Evi Hotel, its dance floor keeps going until 2am, spinning a mix of international tunes for a party-loving crowd. Bistro-style food is as pricey as the drinks and the overall package is cool sophistication, so dress accordingly.
8. View: Kaleici, the old center of Antalya, has preserved its red-tiled houses and cobbled streets around the old Roman port. With boutique hotels and restaurants, it’s the tourist heart of the city but somehow remains authentic. Sights include the original Roman clock tower and the 13th Century Yivli Mosque with its fluted minaret, now home to the Antalya Ethnographic Museum.
PUBLISHED IN THE WINTER 2012/2013 ISSUE OF ASTAnetwork