17 Top Things to Do in Ankara, Turkey (Approved by a Local!)

Hiya reader! I’ve prepared this blog post on the best things to do in Ankara to be your ultimate travel planning guide! I’ve stayed in this beautiful city for a week and was lucky to have locals walk me through its biggest sights and the best restaurants!

I’ve got you covered with the top attractions (approved by a local), best restaurants, history trivia, and some unique museums you can only find in Ankara!

To top this with more useful information, I also cherry-picked the best hotels and included tips on how to get around and where to get the best SIM card deal!

If you are in a hurry

Here are the main things to book in advance:

And here are the best hotels: JW Marriott (luxury), Grand Nora Hotel (mid-range), Tac Hotel (budget)

1. Visit Anıtkabir, Ataturk’s tomb complex

A wide view of Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Ankara, with a large Turkish flag hanging between two pillars and crowds of visitors on its expansive grounds

The visit to the tomb complex of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, is one of the most special memories I have of my stay in Ankara!

Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938) was the first president of the Republic of Turkey following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. He made Turkey a modern, secular state and is praised by millions of Turks even today.

There’s so much history in this place, from Ataturk’s personal belongings, his mindblowing library with books in various languages (he spoke 9), to long corridors with documents and displays explaining the formation of the modern Turkish state.

I visited with a local friend, and she said Turkish people visit Ankara from all across the country (and the world) just to pay their respects in Anıtkabir!

NOTE: Entrance is free, open 7 days a week

PRO TIP: Visit the nearby Museum of the War and Independence that served as the 1st Parliament building of the Republic of Turkey (entry is US$4) and the largest Ataturk monument in Ankara (map) to complete your modern Turkish history experience! The 2nd building of the Parliament, now a Museum of the Turkish Republic, is just next door, too.

2. See Ankara on a tour

Traditional Ottoman houses with red-tiled roofs in the old quarter of Ankara, with the modern cityscape and a Turkish flag in the distance

I had the privilege of having various locals take me and my husband around town. It made the experience so much more personal, especially for important attractions.

Although you can visit Ankara on your own, I highly recommend you hire a guide! Especially if you don’t know any locals. You can take a free walking tour (here’s the best one; it’s a full-day tour!) or hire a private guide like this one for $38 per person for a fully immersive experience!

Apart from the most important landmarks like Ataturk’s tomb complex or the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, you’ll also learn about the Roman Baths (map), walk around Ankara Castle, and get the best recommendations for lunch!

PRICE: From US$0 – US$50

3. Admire the panoramic views from Ankara Castle

Visitors walking through Ankara Castle's fortified gate, which features a clock tower, revealing the historical architecture of the city's bygone eras

Climbing to the top of Ankara Castle (map) is the best thing to do in Ankara for free! The Castle is nestled inside the Old Town, my favorite part of the city! Walking here reminded me of old Serbian villages and architecture also built in the Ottoman style.

As you ascend to the top of Ankara Castle, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city! The only other place where you can do this is the Atakule Tower, but that one costs money!

Getting to the top of the Castle can be pretty tough because of the steep terrain, especially if you’re visiting during the summer. So don’t be like me, who underestimated the heat – make sure you have a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water!

Apart from the steep terrain, the Old Town itself is easily accessible. It’s just next to must-see museums in the central Ulus district of Ankara. You can walk from one attraction to the other, which is exactly what we did!

4. Shop for souvenirs in the Old Quarter

A lively street in Ankara's Old Quarter, lined with shops selling antiques and Turkish crafts, and people walking along the cobblestone pavement

As you’re roaming the Old Town, use the opportunity to stock up on cute souvenirs like magnets, cezve (a coffeepot for making Turkish coffee), embroidery work, and whatnot.

The area around Kale Kapisi Sokak (map) is where you’ll find some of the most picturesque shops! There are also plenty of charming coffee places here to relax and people-watch, which I’m so grateful for as I was craving water and shade after visiting the Castle in the heat!

The rest of the Ulus district (where the Old Town is located) is also great for shopping! You’ll find plenty of markets like the Suluhan Bazaar (map) to nurture your shopping frenzy!

CULTURAL INSIGHT: As you browse for souvenirs in local shops, the store owner may offer you a (free) cup of tea. Drinking cay, or tea, in Turkey is an integral part of the culture, and you’ll see people sipping black tea everywhere and at all times! I like to use that opportunity to chat with the person and learn more about their life in the city, although they don’t always speak English.

5. Travel back in time in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

Visitors inside the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara viewing an extensive collection of ancient pottery and artifacts displayed in glass cases

The place where my jaw dropped a few times during our visit is the beautiful Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, the very first museum in Ankara, established in 1921!

Anatolia, also known as Asia Minor, is an ancient region that is now the Asian part of Turkey, and it includes Ankara. Since the beginning of our civilization, Anatolia has been a crossroads for people traveling between continents.

You can see many important artifacts here! My personal highlights include the collection of artifacts of Hittites (an ancient civilization that lived in Anatolia), 5000-year-old terracotta vases, and Assyrian, Greek, and Byzantine artwork!

There are over 200,000 pieces in the museum! We spent 3 hours here, and we definitely rushed through some parts. There was also the cutest souvenir shop at the exit, so I totally recommend you check it out for small souvenir replicas of the most important artifacts!

By the way, you can check my personal Ankara highlights in the Instagram post I made about it here! It’s in Serbian, but you can just enjoy the sights!

PRO TIP: If you’re visiting other cities in Turkey, Museum Card grants access to 300 museums nationwide! The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations and 3 more Ankara museums are included! However, don’t buy the card if you’re only staying in Ankara, as the price is $US126 for a 15-day pass, so it doesn’t pay off.

PRICE: 280 TL (US$9)

6. Learn new things in the Rahmi M. Koç Museum

Overhead view of the Rahmi M. Koç Museum in Ankara, showcasing a diverse collection of historical vehicles, engines, and industrial machinery in a multilevel brick structure.

This is one of those places where you can find something for everyone! Rahmi M. Koç Museum is located right across from the Citadel, and it’s dedicated to the history of transport, industry, and communication.

The museum branch in Ankara (there’s one in Istanbul, too) was opened in 2005 by Rahmi M. Koç, one of the wealthiest businessmen Turkey has ever had!

The highlights include the replica of Turkey’s first domestic car dating from 1961 (Devrim). Apart from unique automobiles, you can also explore vintage motorcycles, telegraphs, model ships, different navigation instruments, and so much more!

Based on the visitor reviews, a visit here is one of the best things to do in Ankara with kids!

PRICE: 200 TL (US$6.50)
NOTE: Closed on Mondays

7. Have Turkish breakfast on Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu Street

A tombstone and memorial decorated with Turkish flags, flowers, and an emblematic star and crescent in a serene, tree-lined graveyard.

I love Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu Street for many reasons. First, we were based just parallel to this street (a great area in West Ankara with plenty of shops, restaurants, and hotels). Second, it’s where we randomly went to have breakfast in one of the restaurants and ended up having the most generous meal of our lives! It was at Mehmed Bey (map).

And then, when our local friend wanted to take us for breakfast on another day, he promised an awesome place that the locals rave about. Turns out, it was also a restaurant on this street (OTTO, check the location here)! I now wholeheartedly recommend this place for Turkish breakfast!

The Turkish word for breakfast is “kahvalti,” meaning “what you eat before coffee.” The kahvalti is very generous, consisting of eggs, olives, cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, sausages, various spreads (jam, honey), and cay (Turkish tea).

8. Savor the best of Turkish cuisine at Aspava

A traditional Turkish meal spread out on a table, featuring grilled meat, rice, fresh salad, fries, yogurt sauce, and flatbread, indicative of Turkey's rich culinary heritage.
photo credit: @cengizyildirimaspava

In Ankara, the culinary scene is super local-oriented, and you don’t have to worry about tourist traps like in Istanbul. Plus, they have a fabulous local restaurant chain you can only find here, and it’s called Aspava.

Aspava is an acronym from the Turkish sentence “Allah Sağlık, Para, Afiyet Versin. Amin!” meaning “May Allah give health, wealth, and appetite. Amen!” Bonus points to this place for wittiness!

The meal starts with free mezze plates (bread, dips, and salads), and then you can order your dish of choice. They serve everything from kebabs, Turkish pide (pizza), and different comfort foods. And then they top that with free desserts and cay/coffee! Turkish hospitality at its best!

They have dozens of locations across town. I’ve been to multiple ones (like this one near Anitkabir), and they all work in the same fashion. Google the one near you (just type Aspava), but maybe avoid the ones with a rating lower than 4.0.

9. Marvel at the 15th-century Hacı Bayram Mosque

An aerial view of Hacı Bayram Mosque in Ankara, a historic place of worship with its distinctive minaret overlooking the cityscape, contrasting modern construction in the background

Hacı Bayram Mosque (map) is one of Ankara’s oldest mosques, dating back to 1427! It carries the name of a Turkish poet who was also a Sufi (a Muslim mystic whose teachings were dominant in the region).

The mosque offers beautiful views of the Citadel on one side and the city on the other, and it has an even more stunning interior.

This sacred place is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is open to visitors! Just make sure you’re dressed modestly.

FUN FACT: The mosque is located in the Hacı Bayram District, known as the Acropolis of Ankara. In the 8th century, the sacred places of Christians and Muslims were built next to each other here.

10. Get lost in Ankara’s urban City Center

A bustling city square in Ankara, with a statue of Atatürk on horseback at its center, surrounded by pedestrians, pigeons, and historic buildings with Turkish flags.

When you look in Google Maps, it’ll show you two yellow areas in central Ankara, which are the busiest ones in the city. The one to the North is where the museums and the Old Town are, and the one to the South is the modern, urban Ankara.

The area around Kizilay Square (map) is considered the City Center, and it’s THE place to be for your typical European city feel but with an Asian twist.

I spent most of my limited time in the City Center in a bookstore, and I don’t even regret it! My point is you’ll find awesome stores for any interest, unique coffee places, street food, parks, hotels, Turkish delights, and just about everything under the sun.

The best nightlife of Ankara is right here, with plenty of bars and late-night restaurants along Tunus and Bestekar streets. I remember we went bar hopping here, and I was in awe seeing how eclectic Ankara is at night!

PRO TIP: The City Center has excellent transportation links to all parts of the city, making it a great area to base yourself in during your stay.

11. Explore the Ulucanlar Prison Museum

Inside Ulucanlar Prison Museum in Ankara, visitors observe a stark prison cell depicting life behind bars, with mannequins dressed as inmates and guards, illustrating a piece of Turkish history.

One of Ankara’s most popular museums is also the first museum of its kind in Turkey! The Ulucanlar Prison Museum was a political prison from 1925 until the 2000s!

It was opened in 2011 and has been a super popular place for locals and foreigners ever since, probably because of how weird it is. You can see how the prisoners lived, where they slept, ate, and spent time outdoors; everything is super realistic. I wouldn’t recommend visiting if you are sensitive about the topic.

PRICE: 10 TL (US$0.3)

12. Stroll in the lush parks

Vibrant scene at Kuğulu Park in Ankara, where locals enjoy leisure time sitting on benches, walking, and socializing in a serene park setting with tall trees and colorful flowers.

Ankara sure is a nice place for strolling in the parks! It felt so good to relax in its green oasis in the middle of the city before returning to the streets during our visit.

The Kugulu Park (map) was my favorite to people-watch and relax after a long walk in the city. Here, you can see ducks and geese, have the kids play on the playgrounds, and take infinite pics of random kittens and puppies (yup, it happened to me!)

Seğmenler Park (map) is a recommendation from my dear local friend. She told me this is now a super popular place for the younger crowd, and I can see why. There’s tons of space for picnics with beautiful views, flowers, birds, and even a little stream for added charm.

13. Be inspired by the Cermodern art gallery

Visitors touring the Cermodern art gallery, attentively listening to a guide in a spacious hall adorned with a variety of framed artworks on the walls and display cases with documents
photo credit: @cermodern

Ankara’s most popular art gallery awaits with modern art, sculptures, exhibitions, a sweet souvenir shop, and an on-site café! Cermodern is the city’s cultural landmark and gives off the vibe of a European museum. It just looks so nice!

They have events all the time, from book readings, movies, workshops, and more. If you visit in the summer, you may even catch a film screening in the courtyard!

This is actually the best thing to do for art lovers in Ankara since you won’t find any other noteworthy museums or galleries dedicated to art apart from the Painting and Sculpture Museum!

PRICE: 40 TL (US$1.3)

14. Capture the beautiful Kocatepe Mosque

The grand Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara under a clear blue sky, showcasing its impressive architecture with four slender minarets and cascading domes, a landmark of religious and cultural significance.

Welcome to Ankara’s largest mosque! This white beauty is located in the City Center (map), and you can easily spot it from almost anywhere Downtown! It can fit 24,000 worshipers and is a beautiful sight day and night.

The construction of the Kocatepe Mosque took 20 years. It was finally finished in 1987. It’s 67 meters (219 feet) long, 64 meters (209 feet) wide, and its minaret is 88 meters (288 feet) high.

You can admire this mosque for free; just make sure you’re dressed modestly, and it’s not prayer time (no entry is allowed during prayer time for non-muslims).

15. Experience the rural life in Altınköy Museum

A picturesque view of Altınköy Open Air Museum in Ankara, with a historic windmill atop a lush green hill and a suspended bridge amidst the trees, under a blue sky with fluffy clouds.

The Altınköy open-air museum tells the story of ancient Anatolia. It’s built to resemble a typical Anatolian village with its watermills, typical homes, and popular industries at the time.

This ample outdoor area is one of the best things to do with kids in nature to avoid the city crowds! You can eat traditional gozleme (crispy stuffed flatbreads) as the farm animals pass you, visit a horse barn, or walk across a giant hanging bridge (awesome for adrenaline lovers, bad for those scared of heights!).

Entry to the museum, as well as parking, is free!

16. Take the kids to the Aqua Vega Aquarium

Visitors inside Aquavega Aquarium, enthralled by the underwater world as they walk through a clear tunnel surrounded by sharks and various marine life.
photo credit: @aquavega

Ankara’s Aqua Vega Aquarium is a nice spot to relax and have the little ones learn about sea animals. This tunnel aquarium is situated inside the Aqua Vega Mall (parking is easy), has more than 12,000 sea creatures, and is 98 meters (321 feet) long.

You can buy special food on-site for 100 TL ($US3) and have the little ones feed their sea friends! One of the best things to do in Ankara with kids!

PRICE: A family ticket (2 parents + 1 child) is 790 TL (US$25); for 2 parents + 2 kids, it’s 960 TL (US$30).

17. Go hiking in the METU Forest

A serene lakeside path in METU Forest, Ankara, where people stroll and ducks gather, set against the picturesque backdrop of a calm lake and forested hills.

Here’s a great thing to do in Ankara if you plan a longer stay. As part of the Middle Eastern Technical University, the METU Forest (map) is a beautiful spot for hiking, jogging, sights of the Eymir Lake, and, if you’re lucky, wildlife animal spotting!

Even though it’s part of a University, everyone can access the forest and lake area. Oh, and everyone raves about how scenic the lake views get from here, so if you go, tell me how it was!

Getting there: The METU Forest is some 25 km (15 miles) from Ankara’s City Center, and it’s best to get here by car (it’s a 45-minute drive vs. 2h 50min on public transport).

PARKING: At the northern end, at the Vineyard House (just next to the Forest).

Honorable mentions

A crowd of visitors queued outside the Kelime Museum in Ankara, with the building's vibrant red façade inviting curiosity about the cultural artifacts housed within.

Here, I listed a few more attractions that you may find interesting that didn’t make it to the main list:

  • The Gökyay Association Chess Museum – A museum dedicated to chess, where you can see the world’s largest collection of chess sets (723 of them)!
  • Kelime Müzesi (map) – Turkey’s first ever Word museum dedicated to the richness of the Turkish language.
  • Genclik Park (map) – This used to be Ankara’s most popular park, and it’s still a pretty nice park to visit near the museums
  • Hamamonu Restored Village (map) – A restored area with homes in the 1920s and 1930s style with shops, restaurants, and mosques.
  • Tarihi Şengül Hamamı (map) – A traditional public bath for a traditional Turkish relaxation experience
  • Mogan Lake (map) – Ideal day trip from Ankara, around a 30-minute ride, plenty of BBQ spots, walking paths, boating, and fishing opportunities.

Where to stay in Ankara

A bustling city intersection in Ankara during twilight, overlooking a lively crowd, city traffic, modern buildings, and the vivid colors of dusk setting in.

Check out the best hotels I sorted for you to make your trip planning a breeze!

Luxury (US110 and up)

  • JW Marriott – A 5-star hotel in the urban part of Ankara with plenty of restaurants around; featuring 2 pools, a gym, and a wellness center
  • Sheraton – This 5-star beauty has unique architecture and fabulous service and amenities; rooms are super classy, and the city views are to die for!

Mid-range (US$40 – US110)

  • Grand Nora Hotel – Excellent value for money in the City Center, suitable for couples and families
  • Mimi Hotel – A lovely hotel with a Turkish bath and an on-site restaurant where you can have all 3 daily meals

Budget (up to US$40)

  • Deeps Hostel – This clean and cozy hotel in the Center also has free parking and is one of the top-rated places for couples!
  • Tac Hotel – A simple and affordable hotel with big and clean rooms and an excellent location

NOTE: Booking.com, Expedia, and most other popular sites for booking accommodation don’t work inside Turkey. If you plan to stay at multiple places, I recommend you book all hotels before your arrival! Either that or use a VPN when in Turkey.

Practical Information

A captivating view over Ankara, Turkey, with the foreground showcasing a historic minaret and red-roofed buildings against a sweeping cityscape and hazy blue skies.

Here’s what you need to know about public transport and SIM cards in Ankara.

How to get around

Public Transport

Ankara has a wide network of public transportation systems, with the metro being the most popular option to get around, followed by buses and shared minibusses called dolmuş.

I wouldn’t recommend the minibusses unless you know exactly where you’re headed and when you need to take off. For buses and metro, use Google Maps to check routes.

You can get an Ankarakart to pay for public transport. We bought ours at a metro station, but you can also get yours at bus card vending machines or select kiosks. One ride with Ankarakart is 15 TY ($US0.50), while a single ticket is 17 TY, slightly more.

Taxis/Ride Sharing

A yellow taxi driving through the busy streets of Ankara with modern buildings and urban life in the background

Taxi is the most convenient and cheap way to get around, it even beats car rental. Just hail one on the street or call one using the yellow taxi boxes available on every corner!

The price is around 20 TL for 1 km, which translates to around US$0.60! This may sound cheap if you’re visiting from abroad, but the high inflation in Turkey makes everything more expensive for locals.

As we didn’t speak Turkish, we used to show the route with the destination to the taxi driver on the navigation app (Google Maps is fine), so this way, the driver knew where to take us, and we made sure he was taking the shortest route.

There’s also the BiTaksi app for ordering your ride, so you can use it if you plan on commuting by taxi often. We didn’t find this necessary as it was always easy to haul a taxi on the street on a few occasions that we needed it. Otherwise, we commuted via the metro most of the time.

Uber is also available in Ankara, and it costs around the same as a regular taxi, but I have the impression that it’s less popular than taxis.

I’d say only rent a car if you plan to move around a lot, like going on day trips or traveling across Turkey. Otherwise, traffic in Ankara gets too hectic, and you don’t need this kind of stress during your visit.

All about SIM cards

People sitting on benches in a park, some wearing masks, indicating a casual outdoor setting.

The leading network operators in Turkey include Turkcell, Vodafone, Telekom, and BIMcell.

You can get a SIM card upon arrival (at the airport or in stores in the city) for around US$30 for 20 GB of data and calls. However, I highly recommend you get a reputable (NOT just any!) eSIM to make your life easier.

For example, I remember getting a Wizzair eSIM card for Turkey and quickly regretting it. It was too expensive, and the internet didn’t even work when I needed it most.

Airalo is my honest recommendation for the best and easiest overall experience. They have generous plans for Turkey, from US$4.50 for 1 GB of data for 7 days to around US$26 for 20 GB of data for 30 days.

With Airalo, you get the same value for money as with local providers and more flexible plans, but you don’t have to visit any stores! You can set everything up from the comfort of your phone just before departure!

FAQs about things to do in Ankara

A quaint, leafy café street in Ankara, giving off a cozy and artistic vibe with Turkish cultural decorations.

✅ Is Ankara worth visiting?

Yes, if you want to know how the locals in Turkey live. Istanbul is the country’s tourist capital, and Ankara has a different vibe where you can see how a typical Turkish town lives. Ankara also has plenty of museums and historic points of interest.

???????? What’s Ankara famous for?

Ankara is famous for keeping the tomb of Kemal Ataturk, the father of the modern Turkish Republic. It’s the capital of Turkey and the 2nd biggest city after Istanbul.

???? Is it better to visit Istanbul or Ankara?

Istanbul for first-timers and Ankara for more local experience. While much of Istanbul is targeted at tourists, Ankara has no such tourist vibe and is perfect for exploring authentic Turkish culture.

???? What are the best things to do in Ankara with kids?

The best things to do in Ankara with kids include a visit to the Altınköy open-air museum, the Old Town, and the Aquarium.

???? What to do in Ankara in 1 day?

Some of the best things to do in Ankara in 1 day include visiting Ankara Castle, the City Center, an Aspava restaurant, and Anıtkabir, the large complex and museum where Kemal Ataturk is buried.

???? What are the best things to do in Ankara at night?

Bar hopping in the City Center (all night long) or climbing the Atakule Tower for a night city view (until 22:00) are the best things to do in Ankara at night!

☀️ When is the best time to visit Ankara?

The best time to visit Ankara is from June to August, although I would argue that this city has a pleasant climate and is also a good travel destination in the spring and fall.


A panoramic view of Ankara cityscape at dusk, featuring a clock tower illuminated in the foreground.

You’ve made it to the end of my ultimate guide on things to do in Ankara! Hopefully, it helped you visualize the city and plan which attractions to visit!

And if you want to book a tour or hotel in Ankara, I recommend you do this in advance to secure the best deals!

Drop me a comment below if you have any questions or need more help planning your stay in Ankara or Turkey! I’ve visited this beautiful country so many times it almost feels like home!

Have fun in Ankara,


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