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Ancient Ankara -- Angora -- Hittite Akuwash
The city of Ankara lies in the center of Anatolia on the eastern edge of the Anatolian Plateau at an altitude of 850 meters. It is the center of the province of the same name which is a predominantly fertile wheat steppeland with forested areas in its northeast region ...
The history of the region goes back to the third millennium of the Bronze Age -- the indigenous population were called the Hattians. Akuwash -- the Hittite name for the city -- was established circa 3000 years ago at the intersection of 2 trade routes ...
After the decline of the Hittite Empire in the second millennium BC the (1)Phrygians -- (2)Lydians -- (3)Persians -- (4)Alexander the Great (333 BC) -- (5)Galatians arrived in succession. The city subsequently fell to the Romans and Turks.


Ankara City Center, Turkey


Long ago, in the 3rd century BC, the Galatians were the first to make "Ancyra" of those times, their capital. Much later on, in 1923, M. Kemal Ataturk chose the same district to be the capital of newly founded Turkey, and "Ankara" thereafter remained the strategic heart of the country.

Today's modern city, situated at the core of Anatolia, hides an ancient site behind, dating back to prehistorical times. The remains from Urartian, Phrygian, and Hittite periods have beautified the area here, now fascinating the visitors by enlivening the respective periods.

For the ones who would like to go to the very beginning, the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which is the third most important archaeological museum after Paris-Louvre and London-British museums, is a perfect place to observe its wide collections of Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Hatti and Hittite works of art. The pieces exhibited here are unique in the world and it is exciting to see the lifestyle of the earliest humans with those beautiful objects.

Viewing the subsequent Phrygian period is possible by taking excursions to nearby locations, such as Gordion (Yassihoyuk), the capital of the kingdom, not far from Polatli. Excavations have brought to light the advanced artistic works of this civilization which dates back to the 10th century BC, and which had an important influence on artistic works of the successive ages.

Next came the Lydian invasion which was followed by the Persian settlement continuing until the death of Alexander the Great, who had stayed in Ankara after he gained the rule of Asia.

After Galatians, Romans and Byzantines conquered the land, they erected plenty of monuments some of which are still remaining. This includes the most prominent Roman ruins, the Temple of Augustus from the 2nd century AD, built in the Corinthian style and dedicated to the Emperor. It is a remarkable and important sight with the "Political Testament of Augustus" on its walls, inscribed in Greek and Latin. In the 5th century, this temple was converted into a church by the Byzantines. The original high walls are still standing.

The ruins of a Roman theater and the Roman baths of the 3rd century AD, are other interesting figures together with the Column of Julian, a memorial from the 4th century

Captured by the Arabs, Seljuks and Ottomans in succession, Ankara has many artistic examples of those periods inside its borders, such as the Alaeddin, Arslanhane, Kursunlu, Ahi Ervan and Haci Bayram mosques, built during the 12th and 15th centuries. Kocatepe Mosque is the most recently built mosque and has a capacity to hold 20,000 worshippers.

Almost all of the historical remains in the city are situated around the old citadel, "Hisar", where, according to legend an anchor was found while it was being constructed, from which the city took its name "Ancyra". Inside its walls it contains examples of old Turkish houses alongside the ancient ruins. There is also a covered bazaar, called "bedesten", close to the gate "Hisar Kapisi".

The principal monument and dominating sight in Ankara is Anitkabir, the Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. The building composed of limestone stands in majesty, with its beautiful architectural style and is reached by a ceremonial road adorned with fine statues and reliefs. Nearby is a museum, housing some of the personal belongings of Ataturk. Ataturk's house located at Cankaya, has been converted into a museum.

Ankara today is a center of history and culture. The Ethnographical Museum and the Sculpture and Painting Museum are noteworthy for their wide collections of artifacts from the area. The performances of the well-known philharmonic orchestra and frequent artistic events include ballet, theater, opera and folk-dancing. In addition are two yearly international festivals: "The Arts and Music Festival" and the "Children's Festival", both held every April. Also present around the city are some sites of natural importance, such as the lakes of Golbasi, Cubuk Dam, Kurtbogazi Dam, Karagol for resting, and Mount Elmadag for winter sports. In addition, Kizilcahamam is a thermal and hot springs center for places such as Ayas, Haymana and Beypazari. The city has good excursion opportunities to the historical and natural sites of Cappadocia, Gordion, Hattusas, and Alacahoyuk.

Atakule, and Karum Center are excellent shopping centers. This city of such diverse features also possesses a wide variety of specialties. Ankara is known for its wool, goat, cat, pear and honey, and the land itself is special and should not be missed.. i


Yassihoyuk (Gordion)


93 kms from Ankara on the Eskisehir road, is Gordion, the capital of the old Phrygian Kingdom. This ancient city took its name from King Gordios who was the founder of the state under the leadership of King Midas, the son of Gordios, and dominated central and southern Anatolia.

Through the excavations performed here, a high gateway and houses belonging to the royal family were found under the city mound. Also discovered were the tumuli, the most prominent one being the 53 meters high and 300 meters wide tumulus of King Midas of the Golden Touch. It is the second largest tomb of its type in the world.

Another special interest is the legend concerning the famous Gordion knot, the untying of which was prophesied to be possible only by the master of Asia. When Alexander the Great invaded the Anatolian peninsula, he cut this knot with his sword and gained the key to the continent.

The ruins are spread all over this ancient site, an area which is still being excavated for the interest of history-lovers. The local museum is a must-see where the archeological finds are on display, as well as at the Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara which houses many of the artifacts found in the region.  i


Ankara first achieved prominence as a crossroads. Akuwash, the Hittite name for the city, was established over 3000 years ago at the intersection of 2 trade routes. The Phrygians moved in after the decline of the Hittite empire and then Alexander the Great arrived. Subsequently occupied by the Seleucids and the Galatians Ancyra became part of the Roman Empire in 25 BC.

The Byzantines hung on to the city until 1071 AD when the Seljuk Turks rolled into town (renaming it Enguriye). The city's importance declined throughout the Ottoman period until Angora was just somewhere that goats were raised and everybody had nice jumpers.

The collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of the Turkish Republic shook things up a little. Ataturk founded his provisional government here in 1920 and the population has increased from 30,000 to it's current figure of 5 million or so.

Ankara was designed to be a modern capital city. The basic model was that of a spacious European city with parks and wide boulevards. Much of the original vision has subsequently been lost but there are still areas of the city where you'll forget that you're in Asia. The "melting pot of East and West" motif has been just about worn out but it applies here perhaps more than anywhere else in Turkey

In the following the interesting historical places are highlighted. An interest in Turkey's history will lead you to the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations and there are several other sites of interest. Check out the list below for some ideas. i


Ancient Ankara -- Angora -- Hittite Akuwash

Yassihoyuk (Gordion)


Archaeological Sites

Architectural Interest




Museum of Anatolian Civilisation


Bronze Age standardThere is a strong argument in favour of visiting this collection of exhibits before travelling anywhere else in Turkey. If you find yourself in Ankara and you're in any way interested in the history of Asia Minor you should make your way here. The museum is housed in a charming building, a restored covered market dating from the 15th Century and is easily accessible from the centre of town. On foot you should get yourself to Ulus Meydane, easily identifiable by the large Ataturk equestrian statue on the corner. Turning right onto Hisarparki Caddesi you'll see the citadel rising up ahead of you. Turn right again when you reach Ipek Sokak and as you approach you'll see the tour buses lined up outside the museum gates above you and to your left.

The collections place an unusual emphasis on the earlier of Anatolia's occupiers, starting with an interesting exhibit of finds from the Catalhoyuk site, often described as the earliest known human community in the world. Other highlights include a collection of tablets, the translations of which remind you how little some things in the world have changed over the millennia.

Open every day except Monday (8:45 - 5:15) i


Museum of Ethnography


Between Ulus Meydani and the Sihhiye bridge you'll find the Museum of Ethnography perched above the busy highway in an attractive. It is one of the better of such museums in Turkey and the collection's highlights include the circumcision room, some nice woodwork and fine calligraphy.

Open everyday except Monday (8:30 - 12:30, 1:30 - 5:30) i


Old Turkish House Museum


The Ankara citadel is a jumble of tiny streets and ramshackle houses and was the heart of many of Ankara's previous incarnations. One of these houses has been restored and opened as a museum and you'll find it just inside the Parmak Kapisi, the gate that you come to if you approach the citadel from Samanpazari. i


Railway Museum


Part of the main railway station, the Railway Museum (Demiryollari - Iron Roads) will be of interest to those of you who like trains. You'll probably have to rustle up somebody with a key but as long as your within the museums stated opening hours (9-12, 1-5) this shouldn't be a problem. i


Old Locomotive Museum


This one is a little more fun. It's basically a car park like area with scruffy looking trains scattered about, good for kids and anyone who likes old steam. Take a taxi to Achuk Hava Buharlu Lokomotif Muzesi from the Sihhiye bridge area. i


Republic Museum


Really only of interest to those studying the birth of the Turkish Republic, this building, close to Ulus Meydani, was once the headquarters of the National Assembly. The exhibits document the early history of the republic's parliament, if you don't read Turkish you'll be restricted to looking at the photographs and sampling the atmosphere of the place. i


War of Salvation Museum


This building was the first home of the National Assembly, before it's move to the now Republic Museum. The events and faces of the War of Independence are portrayed here, again, with captions only in Turkish. It's hard to avoid the feeling that something important happened here. i


Museum of Painting and Sculpture


A major collection of modern Turkish painting, which may or may not be to your taste. The museum features the work of Osman Handi, Hikmet Onat, Turgut Zaim and Bedri Rahmi Eyuboglu amongst others. Right next door to the Ethnography Museum. Similar opening hours and free admission. i


Presidential Mansion


Set within landscaped parkland, Ataturk's one time country retreat is now well within the bounds of the present day city. Not many visitors (or even residents) make it here but you might enjoy the 1930's flavour of the place. Located at the southern end of Ataturk Bulvari, you'll have to ask one of the guards for the Cankaya Koshku and swap your passport for an ID badge. Only open on Sunday afternoons (1:30 - 5:30) and holidays (12:30 - 5:30).i


Anit Kabir


Ataturk's Mausoleum Almost a decade in the building, Ataturk's Mausoleum really should be on the itinerary of any visitor to the country's capital. Visible from most highpoints within the city, the mausoleum grounds house a memorabilia museum and the sarcophagus of Ismet Inonu, a major figure in the Republic's history. The tomb itself is an impressive piece of work. Check it out yourself and don't forget to buy a certificate proving that you were there.
From Kizilay, head west along Gazi Mustafa Kemal Bulvari, then a left onto Maltepe Sokak. This will bring you to Genclik Caddesi where you should turn right. A left into Akdeniz Caddesi will bring you the rear entrance to the park. Head around to the front to get in with the minimum of hassle (although you'd probably take a taxi if you wanted to avoid hassle).

Open 9:00 - 12:30 and 1:30 to 5:00 or 4:00 (seasonal). Admission free. i


Archaeological Sites


Ankara's Hisar


It's very easy to spend a day wandering around Ulus, Samanpazari and, overlooking them both, the labyrinthine alleys of the city's hilltop citadel. On foot or by taxi it's not difficult to reach this area and you'll probably come for the Museum of Anatolian Civilisation anyway. Plan on wandering around for some time.
Once inside the citadel follow the road towards the centre until you pass through an archway, take a right to head up to the Eastern Tower where you'll get your first real impression of how large Ankara has become in the last 70 years. If you can be here for sunset, the call to prayer or preferably both it will make the experience that much more memorable. The area is just starting to realise it's potential as a tourist attraction and tidying up has begun. There's still an untouched feeling to the place that might not last much longer. i


Julian's Column


Behind the government buildings at the NE corner of Ulus square is a small park. In the park (Hukumet Meydani) is the Column of Julian. Erected in 362 to commemorate the visit of the then Emperor Julian. i


The Temple of Augustus


East of Julian's Column and next to Haci Bayram Mosque are the ruins of a temple standing on a site that has, in it's time, been dedicated to an impressive list of deities. Initially a temple to Cybele, an incarnation of the Mother Goddess associated with Anatolia and an awful lot of other stuff, and Men, a Phrygian god of potency (you get the picture?), it was later dedicated to Emperor Augustus, probably toning down the rites somewhat. Byzantium claimed it for the Eastern church until Muslims built a Mosque on the site, next to the tomb of Haci Bayram. Not the best Roman site but an interesting location. i


Roman Baths


The ground plan of the baths is clearly visible and if you know your terminology you'll be able to pick out the apoditerium, frigidarium, tepidarium and caldarium. If not you might not want to take the walk North from Haci Bayram and cross Cankiri Caddesi to find the fenced enclosure that has been erected to protect the site. i


Architectural Interest


Aslanhane Camii


A good example of an Ulu Camii or forest mosque, so called because of the carved wooden columns supporting the wooden roof. Connoisseurs of Selcuk carving will be impressed by walnut mimber of 1209. Ahi Serafattin, founder of the mosque, lies in a Selcuk tomb opposite the mosque itself. To get there, walk down from the Parmak Kapisi, the gate to the Hisar, until you reach Ulucanlar Caddesi (about 200 metres). Then take a left and walk until you reach Can Sokak (50 metres or so). You'll find the mosque on your right as you walk down the street.i


Haci Bayram Camii


Haci Bayram, to the North East of Ulus square, is Ankara's most revered mosque including the impressive but incongruously modern Kocatepe with it's basement supermarket and car park). Built in the early 15th Century by the founder of the Bayramiye order of dervishes it's worth a look if you're not going to catch any better examples anywhere else. i


Ankara Opera House


A confession is in order here. The opera house (situated between Ulus Meydani and Sihhiye, next to Genclik Park) is only included here because I'd like to know if anyone likes this pink concrete structure. If you're in town have a look and let us know. Ataturk was big opera fan and the building houses the Turkish National Opera and Ballet companies. If you fancy a cheap night out then check out one of the performances. i


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Last modified: 2023-10-28


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