What is the Capital of Turkey?

Ankara is the capital of Turkey. Ankara is a hub for education and home to several universities, including the Middle East Technical University and Ankara University.

A map featuring Turkey highlighted in yellow with surrounding countries and bodies of water labeled, and the capital Ankara marked with a black dot.
Ankara, the capital city of Turkey.

Ankara is known for its vibrant arts scene, with several theatres and a prestigious ballet. The city’s architecture is a mix of modern and historical buildings. It provides a unique blend of contemporary living and rich cultural heritage, making it an intriguing destination.

Where is Ankara?

Pinned location of Ankara, the capital of Turkey
Pinned location of Ankara, the capital of Turkey.

Ankara is located in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey, nearly equidistant from the country’s northern, southern, eastern, and western borders. Specifically, it lies in the northwestern part of the region.

The city lies between 39 and 40 degrees north latitude and 32 and 33 degrees east longitude. The city is at an elevation of approximately 938 meters (or about 3,077 feet), giving it a high-altitude steppe climate.

Ankara is roughly 450 kilometers (280 miles) southeast of Istanbul and about 350 kilometers (220 miles) south of the Black Sea coast. It’s also approximately 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of the Mediterranean Sea. Being in the country’s center, it has good transport links to other parts of Turkey.

History of Ankara

Ankara’s history can be divided into distinct cultural, political, and architectural periods.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the Ankara area was inhabited as far back as the Bronze Age, and the city itself originated in the Hittite era around 2000 BC; after the fall of the Hittite Empire, the Phrygians, and Lydians controlled the city before falling to the Persian Achaemenid Empire.

The Column of Julianus, Ankara
The Column of Julianus, Ankara

After Alexander the Great’s conquest of the region in 333 BC, Ankara and its surrounding region came under Macedonian rule, and the city, then known as Ancyra, became significantly Hellenized.

In 25 BC, Ancyra was incorporated into the Roman Empire as part of the province of Galatia. During the Roman era, it grew considerably in importance due to its location at the intersection of important trade routes. The Temple of Augustus was constructed during this period, and its inscribed walls provided vital historical information about the Roman Empire.

Ahi Elvan Mosque in Ankara, dating back to the Seljuk period
Ahi Elvan Mosque in Ankara, dating back to the Seljuk period, built by the Seljuk ruler, Mesud I, in the 12th century,

After the Western Roman Empire fell, Ancyra remained part of the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire. However, the city was frequently attacked by invading forces, such as the Sassanids, Arabs, and Seljuk Turks.

In the 11th century, the Seljuk Sultan Alparslan defeated the Byzantine forces, and Ancyra became part of the Seljuk State. It was renamed Ankara and went through a significant period of Turkification.

The Kocatepe Mosque, featuring a blend of traditional Ottoman and Seljuk architectural elements
The Kocatepe Mosque, featuring a blend of traditional Ottoman and Seljuk architectural elements.

In the 14th century, Ankara was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. Despite a brief interlude when Timur captured it in 1402, Ankara remained under Ottoman control for centuries. However, it was a relatively insignificant city during this period.

Republican Period

This era began in 1923 when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded the Republic of Turkey. The decision to make Ankara the new capital was strategic; the location was more central and less exposed to foreign attack than Istanbul. This choice also symbolized the new secular republic’s break from the Ottoman past.

The Presidential Complex, located in the Beştepe neighborhood of Ankara, situated on a hill overlooking the city
The Presidential Complex, located in the Beştepe neighborhood of Ankara, situated on a hill overlooking the city.

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, Ankara has experienced rapid growth and modernization, becoming Turkey’s political and administrative center. It’s now home to many foreign embassies, educational institutions, and businesses, shaping the city’s international identity.

This history is a testament to the city’s resilience and adaptability, and the traces of each historical period can be seen in its architecture, culture, and urban landscape.

Features of Ankara

Ankara stands out for its unique blend of ancient history and modern development, resulting in a rich and diverse cityscape. The city is marked by its historical monuments that narrate stories from different epochs.

Ankara is also home to some magnificent examples of Ottoman architecture, dating back to the early 15th century and offering insight into the city’s Byzantine and Ottoman past.

The city’s modern persona is reflected in its bustling business districts, lined with skyscrapers, shopping malls, and sophisticated restaurants. Ankara is a city where the past and present coexist harmoniously, each enriching the other, resulting in a captivating blend of cultures, architecture, and experiences.

Geography and Climate

Landscape of Ankara
Landscape of Ankara

Ankara is surrounded by a series of high plains, which give the city a slightly elevated and hilly appearance. It’s situated on the edge of the Anatolian Plateau, characterized by fertile soil. Ankara’s topography mainly consists of high plateaus and a significant hill where the ancient Hisar (castle) is located.

The city experiences a continental climate with four distinct seasons. The summers in Ankara are hot and dry, with temperatures often reaching above 30 °Celsius (86 °F). On the other hand, winters are cold and snowy, with temperatures usually falling below freezing. The city receives most of its annual precipitation during the spring and fall, which are mild and often quite pleasant.


Pedestrians stroll through the downtown area of Ankara
Pedestrians stroll through the downtown area of Ankara.

Ankara has a population of over 5.5 million, making it the second most populous city in Turkey after Istanbul. Ankara is a young city demographically, with a significant number of students due to the presence of several universities.

The city is multicultural, with people from different ethnic backgrounds, including Turks, Kurds, and other minority groups. Due to Ankara’s status as the capital and its educational institutions, there is also a sizeable international community, including diplomats, business people, and students.

The official language is Turkish, and while English is commonly taught in schools and is understood in many places, Turkish is the language you’ll hear most often.


Söğütözü district in Ankara, an are with vibrant business and commercial activities
Söğütözü district in Ankara, an are with vibrant business and commercial activities.

Ankara is an administrative and political center and employs many people in public administration and government. It’s also a central national hub for the defense and aerospace industry, housing several large factories and research centers.

Education is another key sector, with many universities and research institutions. These institutions contribute to the city’s economy and status as a center for innovation and knowledge.

Ankara is also known for its wine and beer production and its unique types of honey and pears. The city hosts significant agricultural activity in its surrounding areas, including livestock farming and crop cultivation.

Additionally, the service sector, including retail, finance, and real estate, plays a critical role in Ankara’s economy. With numerous shopping centers, markets, and commercial districts, commerce is a significant source of employment and revenue in the city.

Things to Do and Places to See in Ankara

Ankara offers an expansive array of activities and sights for visitors to enjoy. Let’s explore some of the city’s most frequented destinations and attractions.

1. Visit the Anıtkabir

Anıtkabir, a mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey
Anıtkabir, a mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey.

The Anıtkabir is a national monument that holds immense symbolic significance for the Turkish people and is a significant draw for tourists. Within the complex, you’ll find a museum dedicated to Atatürk and the Turkish War of Independence, featuring a comprehensive collection of Atatürk’s personal items, clothing, vehicles, and documents and photographs from the late Ottoman and early Republican periods.

Completed in 1953, Anıtkabir is situated atop a hill in the city center, offering panoramic views of Ankara. The architectural style is a unique blend of different epochs and cultures, combining elements of traditional Turkish architecture with Art Deco and modernist styles. The mausoleum is made from travertine and marble, creating an imposing and stately presence.

2. Explore the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, considered one of the most significant museums in Turkey and is renowned worldwide.

The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations offers an extensive display of artifacts and relics representing the vast tapestry of civilizations gracing Anatolia. The museum exhibits are arranged chronologically, starting from the oldest artifacts to the most recent ones, allowing visitors to walk through time and explore the evolving story of human civilization in Anatolia.

Housed in a restored 15th-century market complex, the museum provides an impressive exhibit backdrop. The collection spans from the Paleolithic to the Classical period, with remarkable Neolithic and Bronze Age displays.

3. Take a Stroll in Gençlik Park

Gençlik Park, opened in 1943, is one of the first large public parks in the Ankara
Gençlik Park, opened in 1943, is one of the first large public parks in the Ankara.

Gençlik Park, translated as Youth Park, is one of Ankara’s most beloved recreational areas. The park is a testament to Turkey’s modernization efforts under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Gençlik Park covers a vast area in the Ulus district of Ankara and is a vibrant hub of outdoor activity and relaxation. At the park’s center is a large artificial lake with fountains that offer a delightful evening light and water show.

The park also houses an amusement park, offering fun rides and attractions catering to children and adults, making it a popular destination for families. Lush, beautifully maintained gardens provide a serene environment for strolls, picnics, or simply relaxing amid nature.

4. Visit the Hacı Bayram Mosque

Haci Hayarm Mosque, originally built in the early 15th century
Haci Hayarm Mosque, originally built in the early 15th century, the mosque is named after Hacı Bayram-ı Veli.

The Hacı Bayram Mosque is one of Ankara’s most significant and oldest Islamic sites. It’s located in the Ulus quarter of the city, near the Temple of Augustus, creating an interesting juxtaposition of religious histories. The mosque underwent significant restoration in the 17th and 18th centuries, adding to its architectural grandeur.

The exterior of the Hacı Bayram Mosque is simple and elegant, featuring a large central dome supported by half-domes and a single minaret. The interior, however, is highly decorative, showcasing stunning Ottoman-era design. Elaborate calligraphy, intricate tile work, and ornate wooden details adorn the walls and ceiling, creating a serene and beautiful place of worship.

5. Tour the Ankara Castle

Ankara Castle, also known as Ankara Kalesi, is a historic fortification located in the heart of Ankara
Ankara Castle, also known as Ankara Kalesi, is a historic fortification located in the heart of Ankara.

The Ankara Castle’s strategic position atop a hill offers magnificent views over the city and has made it a central defense point throughout history. The exact origin of Ankara Castle is somewhat unclear, but it’s believed to date back to the Galatians and Romans, with later additions and renovations by the Byzantines and Seljuks. The castle is a splendid representation of these layers of history.

The castle’s walls stretch over 20 towers, creating an imposing structure that dominates Ankara’s skyline. Visitors can appreciate the centuries-old stonework and impressive architectural design by walking along these ancient fortifications. The inner castle, or the Citadel, is the oldest part, featuring a maze-like network of narrow streets lined with old houses, shops, and restaurants.

6. Visit the Temple of Augustus

The Temple of Augustus, built in the 2nd century BC
The Temple of Augustus, built in the 2nd century BC and was later dedicated to the Roman Emperor Augustus.

The Temple of Augustus, also known as the Monumentum Ancyranum, is a historic site in the Ulus district of Ankara, near the Hacı Bayram Mosque. This juxtaposition of a Roman temple and a mosque makes the site a unique symbol of Turkey’s layered religious history.

What makes this temple especially significant is that it houses the most intact version of the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, an autobiographical account of Augustus’s achievements, inscribed in Latin on the inner walls of the pronaos (the portico before the cella, or inner shrine). The inscriptions have offered scholars valuable insights into the life and reign of Augustus and the political landscape of the Roman Empire.

7. Ulucanlar Prison Museum

The Ulucanlar Prison Museum, built in 1925, shortly after the establishment of the Turkish Republic.
The Ulucanlar Prison Museum, built in 1925, shortly after the establishment of the Turkish Republic.

The Ulucanlar Prison Museum in Ankara is a significant and poignant historical site that allows visitors to glimpse into a somber period of Turkish history. Once a functioning state prison, Ulucanlar was notorious for the harsh conditions endured by its inmates and was the location of many executions, including those of several notable Turkish intellectuals and political figures.

Today, the museum preserves and displays various aspects of prison life, including cells, solitary confinement areas, the infirmary, and the execution room. There are exhibits of the personal belongings of the inmates, official documents, photographs, and artworks made by prisoners. Some of the cells are staged to recreate the living conditions of the prisoners, offering a sobering representation of their daily life.

8. Walk around Kızılay Square

Kızılay Square, named after the Kızılay Derneği
Kızılay Square, named after the Kızılay Derneği (Turkish Red Crescent), whose headquarters used to be located here

Over time, Kızılay Square has evolved into one of the city’s leading commercial and transportation hubs, filled with a dynamic mix of shopping centers, offices, restaurants, and cultural venues.

A vital feature of the square is the monument to the Independence War, a striking statue dedicated to the victory of the Turkish people in the War of Independence. It symbolizes the determination and resilience of the Turkish nation and is a beloved landmark of the city.

Kızılay Square is also notable for its vibrant street life. Whether it’s day or night, the area is buzzing with activity. Sidewalk cafes offer a great spot for people-watching, while the nearby pedestrian streets and shopping centers, like the Kızılay AVM, are perfect for a shopping spree.

9. Visit the Ethnography Museum of Ankara

The Ethnography Museum of Ankara
The Ethnography Museum of Ankara, a prominent cultural institution dedicated to the exploration of Turkish culture and history.

The Ethnography Museum of Ankara is an architectural gem, designed by architect Arif Hikmet Koyunoğlu and completed in 1927. The building is a beautiful example of the Neoclassical style, with a grand entrance and a dome covering the main exhibition hall.

The museum’s collections span various topics, from traditional crafts, folk art, and costumes to religious artifacts and items related to Ottoman and Republican periods. Highlights include a stunning collection of Turkish carpets and kilims, beautifully illuminated Quran manuscripts, and an array of Ottoman-era weaponry.

10. See a Performance at the State Opera and Ballet

The Ankara State Opera and Ballet, founded in 1948, making it the oldest of its kind in Turkey.
The Ankara State Opera and Ballet, founded in 1948, making it the oldest of its kind in Turkey.

The State Opera and Ballet in Ankara is a cornerstone of Turkey’s performing arts scene and a cultural beacon in the heart of Ankara. It is housed in the Ankara Opera House, also known as the Atatürk Cultural Center, an architectural landmark.

The opera house hosts various performances throughout the year, including opera, ballet, and symphony concerts. From classic European operas and ballets to works by Turkish composers and choreographers, the institution plays a vital role in fostering appreciation for the arts and promoting cultural exchange.

11. Rahmi M. Koc Museum Ankara

The Rahmi M. Koc Museum, offering a wide array of exhibits spanning from the beginning of the industrial age to the present
The Rahmi M. Koc Museum, offering a wide array of exhibits spanning from the beginning of the industrial age to the present.

The Rahmi M. Koc Museum in Ankara is a fascinating destination that caters to history buffs, technology enthusiasts, and curious explorers alike. It’s part of the Koc Family’s series of museums, dedicated to the history of transport, industry, and communications.

Located in Ankara’s historic Çengelhan district, the museum is housed in a restored caravanserai – an inn with a central courtyard traditionally used by travelers in the Ottoman Empire. This 16th-century building provides a striking backdrop to the museum’s extensive collection.

12. Visit the CerModern

The CerModern Museum in Ankara
The CerModern Museum in Ankara

CerModern is Ankara’s premier center for modern and contemporary arts. Opened in 2010, the museum is located in the Sıhhiye neighborhood and is housed in a former railway repair workshop. The buildings, which date back to the early 20th century, have been repurposed and transformed into a sprawling, light-filled space dedicated to the arts.

The primary mission of CerModern is to promote and foster an understanding and appreciation of modern and contemporary art in Turkey and to create a platform for Turkish and international artists. To this end, the museum hosts various temporary exhibitions featuring works by established and emerging artists.

13. Altınköy Açık Hava Müzesi

The Altınköy Open Air Museu
The Altınköy Open Air Museum, designed as a traditional Anatolian village, replicating the rural lifestyle of the early 20th century.

Altınköy Açık Hava Müzesi, or Altınköy Open Air Museum, is a delightful destination in Ankara that offers visitors a unique journey into the rural life of Turkey’s past. Situated about 20 kilometers from the city center, the museum stretches approximately 50 hectares, making it a spacious and pleasant retreat from the urban hustle.

It features a variety of authentic, fully furnished buildings, including a village house, a barn, a windmill, a bakery, a blacksmith’s shop, a vineyard house, and a schoolhouse, among others. Walking through these structures gives visitors a glimpse into the day-to-day life in an Anatolian village, complete with its crafts, cuisine, and agriculture.

14. Take a Trip to Lake Eymir

Lake Eymir, a delightful gem tucked away in the outskirts of Ankara
Lake Eymir, a delightful gem tucked away in the outskirts of Ankara.

Lake Eymir provides a refreshing respite from bustling city life. This charming lake, located about 20 kilometers south of the city center, is a favorite destination for locals and visitors looking for relaxation, outdoor activities, or a leisurely picnic by the water.

The lake is surrounded by lush greenery, rolling hills, and beautiful woodland, creating a peaceful and serene atmosphere. The lake’s water is clear and calm, reflecting the beauty of the natural surroundings. The area is a haven for wildlife, and visitors can often spot various bird species, rabbits, and even deer.

15. Explore the Roman Bath

Ruins of Roman Bath in Ankara
Ruins of Roman Bath in Ankara, dating back to the 3rd century AD, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Caracalla.

The Roman Baths in Ankara is an intriguing historical site that transports visitors to the Roman era. This open-air archaeological park near the Ulus district in the city center offers a glimpse into the ancient bathing culture that played a significant role in Roman social and civic life.

The bath complex was a social interaction, hygiene, and relaxation center. It was designed with the typical structure of Roman baths, including a frigidarium (cold room), a tepidarium (warm room), and a caldarium (hot room).

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to visit Ankara?

The best time to visit Ankara is spring (April to June) or autumn (September to November). The weather is mild during these months, making it ideal for sightseeing and outdoor activities.

Is it safe to visit Ankara?

Yes, Ankara is generally safe for tourists. Like in any major city, however, it’s important to take standard safety precautions, such as keeping an eye on personal belongings and avoiding less crowded areas late at night.

What is traditional food and cuisine like in Ankara?

Ankara’s cuisine is typically Turkish, featuring a wide variety of dishes. You’ll find an emphasis on meats, fresh vegetables, grains, and dairy products. There are also unique local specialties, such as Ankara Tava and Ankara Döneri.

What’s a must-try dish/food in Ankara?

Ankara Döneri is a must-try dish. It’s a version of the well-known Turkish döner kebab but prepared with local spices and techniques. Also, try Ankara honey, famous throughout Turkey for its unique flavor.

What souvenirs can I bring home from Ankara?

Traditional Turkish items make great souvenirs—textiles, ceramics, spices, Turkish tea or coffee, local honey, or jewelry. The old Weavers’ Road (Çıkrıkçılar Yokuşu) is a great place to find these.

How can I get around in Ankara?

Ankara has a comprehensive public transportation system, including buses, minibusses, and a subway system. Taxis are readily available and relatively affordable. For more freedom and flexibility, consider renting a car.

Is it expensive to visit Ankara?

Ankara is generally more affordable than other European capitals. Costs can vary depending on your travel style and preferences. Eating local food, using public transportation, and staying in budget accommodations can make your trip economical.

Which currencies are accepted in Ankara?

The official currency is the Turkish Lira (TRY). Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, and shops.

Is it worth living in Ankara?

Ankara has a high quality of life, with good healthcare, education, and transport systems. It’s a blend of modern city life and rich historical heritage. As the capital city, it offers diverse job opportunities. However, suitability can depend on personal preferences and lifestyle.

Is it safe to drink tap water in Ankara?

While tap water in Ankara is chlorinated and safe to drink, locals and tourists often prefer bottled water due to taste and quality preferences.

Which cultural customs should I be aware of when visiting Ankara?

Turkish people are generally quite formal in social interactions, and respect for elders is essential. It’s common to greet with a handshake. Dress modestly, particularly when visiting mosques or religious sites.

Final Thoughts

Ankara, provides an enriching experience for every traveler. Its intriguing cultural heritage, diverse culinary delights, and warm hospitality make it an inviting destination. While it’s known for its governmental and educational importance, Ankara also holds a treasure trove of stories and experiences that wait to be explored.

Whether it’s the breathtaking Anıtkabir, the charming parks, or the bustling markets, Ankara promises a memorable encounter with the soul of Turkey. As the saying goes, Ankara is “the heart of Turkey,” not only geographically but also in its essence.

Image Sources and Copyright Information
  • image-970: © Mappr
  • Map with Pin on Ankara, Turkey: © evan_huang/Shutterstock
  • Sunset at Julian Column in Ankara: © Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock
  • Illuminated Mosque at Twilight: © aydinsertbas/Shutterstock
  • Kocatepe Mosque under Blue Sky: © Club4traveler/Shutterstock
  • Ankara Presidential Palace Facade: © Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock
  • Colorful View of Ankara Cityscape with Minaret: © Bilal Kocabas/Shutterstock
  • Downtown Street Scene with Pedestrians and Shops: © JackKPhoto/Shutterstock
  • Modern Cityscape with Skyscrapers and Green Park: © Bilal Kocabas/Shutterstock
  • Evening View of Anıtkabir Mausoleum with Visitors: © Ancapital/Shutterstock
  • Museum Entrance with Stone Facade and Domes: © AlexelA/Shutterstock
  • Park with Bridge and Roses in Foreground: © Birol Dincer/Shutterstock
  • Illuminated Mosque at Twilight: © Orhan Cam/Shutterstock
  • Ankara Castle Overlooking the City: © muratart/Shutterstock
  • Snow-Covered Ancient Temple Ruins under Blue Sky: © Nejdet Duzen/Shutterstock
  • Interior View of Ulucanlar Prison Museum Dormitory with Bunk Beds: © Abdullah Durman/Shutterstock
  • Statue and Monument at Kızılay Square: © Orhan Cam/Shutterstock
  • Equestrian Statue in Front of the Ethnography Museum of Ankara: © Gulsahinko/Shutterstock
  • Exterior View of Ankara Opera House: © Achim Wagner/Shutterstock
  • Interior View of Rahmi M. Koç Museum Displaying Vintage Vehicles and Machinery: © EvrenKalinbacak/Shutterstock
  • Exterior View of CerModern Art Center in Ankara: © Uskarp/Shutterstock
  • Windmill at Altinkoy Open Air Museum with Cityscape: © Diyana Georgieva/Shutterstock
  • Wooden Pier on Serene Lake with Reflective Water and Blossoming Trees: © muratart/Shutterstock
  • Roman Bath Ruins in Ankara: © Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock