Welcome to Ankara
East and west fuse together perfectly in Turkey's capital city
of Ankara, where shades of the mystical east and ancient
civilisations lie partially hidden among 20th-century office
buildings, shopping malls and government offices. The city is
imbued with the spirit of modernity and youth, this being a student
town filled with language schools, universities, colleges and
military bases. It also has a vast ex-pat community (most of it
diplomatic), which adds to the cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Situated on a rocky hill in the dry, barren region of Anatolia,
this humming city can trace its history back to the bronze age, and
has been a part of historic events through several great
civilisations, including the Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Greek,
Romans, Galatians and Ottomans. Alexander the Great was one of the
conquerors who stayed in the city for a while, and today's tourists
are spoilt for choice when it comes to unearthing the city's
With a population of well over four million, Ankara is a
deserving capital city, aptly named as the 'anchor' of Turkey,
perhaps not always sought after by tourists but certainly
entertaining hordes of business travellers and those seriously
intrigued with ancient history.
The old heart of the city (Ulus) is centred on an ancient
citadel on a hilltop, where many historic buildings have been
restored, many having been turned into restaurants serving
traditional Turkish cuisine. In this area there are several Roman
archaeological sites, and narrow alleys shelter shops selling
eastern delights like leather, carpets, copper, spices and
jewellery. From the heart outwards, the city spreads across various
hills in modern splendour, carefully planned by the city fathers
after Turkey's independence fighter, Ataturk, set up provisional
government in what was just a small dusty town back in 1920, after
the first World War. Ataturk brought in European urban planners to
create his proclaimed capital, and he lies here today in his lofty
mausoleum, the Anitkabir, in a green 'peace' park, amid the wide
boulevards he created.
Apart from archaeological sites, the most interesting things to
see in Ankara are the many museums, and the beautiful parks, like
Kugulu Park, renowned for its graceful swans, and the Genclik Park
with its rowing pond and botanical garden.
Information & Facts
Summers are warm and dry and the winters are cold and snowy. The
rainy season is spring, especially May.
Ankara has a cheap and quick underground Metro, with two lines.
One runs from Batikent in the north of the city to the central
Kizilay area, and the second connects the Intercity Bus Station in
the west through Kizilay to Dikimevi. Electronic tickets (sold in
batches of five) can be bought at stations and used on the blue and
red municipal buses as well. The Metro operates from 6am to
midnight. Private buses are green or blue and passengers pay in
cash when boarding. The favoured form of transport for visitors is
the Dolmus minibus taxi system; taxis can be flagged in the street.
Fares depend on the distance covered. There are also regular
metered taxis available.
Turkish is the official language, but English is widely
understood in the main tourist areas.
The official currency is the New Turkish Lira (TRY), which was
introduced on 1 January 2005, whereby six zeros were dropped from
the TL and the sub-unit New Kurush was created. Currency can be
exchanged at banks, exchange booths, post offices, airports and
ferry ports; banks have the worst rates and highest commissions,
but will exchange lesser known foreign currencies. Banks open
mainly Monday to Friday, but some are open daily in tourist areas.
ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas, but
Turkish ATM keypads usually do not have letters of the alphabet on
their keys. Most bank branches have ATMs which accept Cirrus and
Plus. Major credit cards are widely accepted; the most popular are
Visa or MasterCard, but American Express is accepted in many of the
more expensive places. Travellers cheques can be exchanged at some
banks and currency exchange offices, but are not as welcome as cash
or credit cards. US dollars or Euros are preferred. Some pensions
and hotels in the most popular destinations accept US dollars as