Take a break from a poolside siesta to stroll crumbling ancient ruins, sail to golden beaches, or enjoy a Mediterranean sunset overlooking a charming old town. Here are the best things to do in Antalya.
Located on an idyllic stretch of coastline on the Turkish Riviera, Antalya has been enticing visitors since the Pergamon kings bequeathed their empire to the Romans.
Blessed with a well-preserved old town, evocative ancient ruins in dramatic landscapes, golden beaches, and 300 days of sun a year, Antalya is fast becoming a sought-after holiday destination.
With luxurious resorts, some of the region’s best golf courses, family-friendly attractions, an excellent food scene, and welcoming Turkish hospitality, Antalya is a year-round travel hot spot.
We visited Antalya courtesy of Jet2holidays – who have a whole range of holidays to Turkey – and discovered a Mediterranean escape with an ancient twist
After several glorious days exploring this enticing location on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast, we’ve compiled all our favourite things to do in Antalya along with travel tips to help you get the most out of your visit.
Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.
IN THIS GUIDE
GUIDE TO VISITING ANTALYA, TURKEY
This guide includes all the best things to do in Antalya as well as suggested day trips, tips for visiting and tours to take from the sun-drenched capital of the Turquoise Coast.
THINGS TO DO IN ANTALYA
1 – KALEIÇI OLD TOWN
In the 2nd Century BCE, the Pergamon kings started building a new city on the site of the Old Town of Antalya. In 133 BCE it fell under the Roman Empire where its strategic location on the Mediterranean saw it grow into a humming and vibrant port.
Today the oldest remains in the old town of Antalya date back to Roman rule, but the Muslim Turks and Ottomans that followed have given it a blend of architectural styles.
With no permanent residents, the old town of Antalya is dedicated to impressing tourists. Wandering through tight laneways, eating in converted mansions and shopping at local craft stalls are all wonderful things to do in Antalya.
2 – HADRIAN’S GATE
The name for the old town of Antalya is Kaleici which means “inside walls” and the most remarkable part of the wall is the grand entrance of Hadrian’s Gate. Built during the 2nd Century CE, the gate was an ostentatious display to honour the Roman Emperor Hadrian who travelled to Antalya twice during his reign.
Although there have been additions to the original construction, such as the towers which were added during the 13th century, the gate remains remarkably intact.
Comprising of two colonaded facades stretching over 3 arches it is considered one of the most beautiful from the Roman Empire. Don’t miss the heavily eroded wagon tracks in the stone path which started taking shape almost 2,000 years ago.
3 – KESIK MINARE (BROKEN MINARET MOSQUE)
Kesik Minare Cami is another defining feature of the old town of Antalya. It was originally built as a Roman temple in the 2nd Century CE and was converted to a church by the Byzantines in the 7th century.
The Ottomans then changed it to a mosque and added a minaret in the early 13th century. The main building was damaged in a fire in 1800 and the surviving minaret gave the mosque its popular nickname “broken minaret mosque.”
Restoration work began in 2018 and was completed in 2021. The mosque is no longer ‘broken’ but the nickname lives on.
Nearby, the Clock Tower is currently undergoing restoration and is closed to the public.
4 – YIVLI MINARE MOSQUE
The main mosque you see towering over Antalya is Yivli Minare Mosque which means “fluted Minaret Mosque.” The original mosque was built in 1230 CE using the walls of a ruined church which stood on the same site.
The prayer hall has six domes supported by 12 columns, but the unique design of the fluted minaret, visible across the city, is a not to be missed attraction in Antalya.
Yivli Minare Mosque is on the badge of the local football team and is a defining symbol of Antalya. The unique design and its cultural importance have placed the mosque on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
DETAILS | YIVLI MINARE MOSQUE
Museum hours – 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (Sunday & Monday) | cost – free | mosque – it’s free to visit the mosque any time except during prayer time.
5 – ATATURK STATUE & REPUBLIC SQUARE
In Republic Square, just outside the gates of the Kaleici old town, stands the Statue of Ataturk.
The father of modern Turkey, Ataturk was an Ottoman Soldier who fought against the Europeans who were occupying areas of the country given to them by the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. His victory secured the modern secular Republic of Turkey, which marks its 100-year anniversary in 2023.
Set high above the sea with grand views over the coastline and down to the harbour, Republic Square is a great place to visit in Antalya.
6 – OLD HARBOUR
Once a grand Roman harbour, ferrying supplies back and forth across the Mediterranean, today, the small harbour is a quiet yet beautiful place. Surrounded by the old city walls, the towering cliffs, and boats bobbing on the turquoise waters it is a lovely spot to sit and relax.
Several restaurants are set up to enjoy a sunset over the sea and there are regular craft merchants selling their wares.
The harbour also contains the smallest mosque in Antalya, Iskele Mosque, but one of the main reasons to visit is to take a boat tour.
7 – TAKE A STUNNING BOAT TRIP
Occupying a stunning position on the Mediterranean, one of the top things to do in Antalya is to take a boat trip from the harbour.
The pirate theme most of the boats are adopting with gusto has no bearing on Antalya’s history, nonetheless, it’s a captivating way to entice tourists onto their vessels.
You can book a tour from the guides located on the harbour. Alternatively, this Antalya Tour includes a tour of the city, a visit to Duden Waterfalls then a 1-hour boat trip past Karpuzkaldiran Waterfall – the stunning cascade which drops over the cliffs into the sea.
8 – LUNCH AT ARMA RESTAURANT
Perched on the cliffs above the Mediterranean, Arma Restaurant has a large outdoor terrace with spectacular views over the Old Town and the Harbour.
You’d be forgiven for coming here just for the location, but the menu of international Turkish dishes is a great way to absorb the Antalyan culture.
We suggest starting with a selection of mezze to get a feel for what the kitchen can do. If you can’t decide the waiter will happily put something together for you. To follow, they have a wide selection of seafood in a variety of tasty presentations.
9 – ENJOY ANTALYA’S ROOF BARS
With the residential buildings of the old town relatively new, forward-thinking architects thought to preserve roof space for Antalya’s thriving bar scene.
Set above the harbour with excellent Mediterranean views, a sundowner on a roof bar in Antalya is a wonderful way to round out the day.
Asmani Bar & Terrace // Asmani is an elegant bar on the 10th floor on the Akra Hotel. Enjoy a blend of Turkish and international cuisine in a smart setting surrounded by incredible views.
Tipsy // Tipsy is a relaxed bar in a superb position overlooking the Hidirlik Tower. Drinks are good value, and the pub-inspired menu is ideal for unwinding as the sun goes down.
10 – HIDIRLIK TOWER
It’s believed the Hidirlik Tower was originally built as a defensive base to protect the important Antalya trading harbour. Its strategic position on the cliff edge gave soldiers a wide view of potential threats.
However recent archaeological evidence suggests the 14-metre-high circular tower could have been built as a tomb for an important leader.
There is excavation work underway so it’s currently not open to the public, but the views over the Taurus mountains from the promenade that surround it are lovely.
11 – ANTALYA ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
The Archaeological Museum is one of the most important in Turkey and an unmissable thing to do in Antalya.
Spread across 14 indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces, the museum is a centuries-long catalogue of the unique historical richness of the Antalya area. Some of the relics on display include prehistoric artefacts from early human history; statues of Greed gods and goddesses from the ancient cities surrounding Antalya; and the Mosaic of the Philosophers which is inscribed with the names of antiquity’s big thinkers.
The highlight is the Roman imperial statues and sculptures from the Ancient Theatre of Perge. Around 90% of the works found at the theatre are displayed in the museum.
DETAILS | ANTALYA ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
hours – 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (daily) | cost – 200TL
12 – KONYAALTI BEACH (+ OTHERS)
Directly opposite the Archaeological Museum, Konyaalti Beach is one of the best ways to unwind in Antalya after educating yourself from the museum’s immense collection.
The beach stretches for 13 kilometres from the walls of the old town towards the high Taurus Mountains.
Umbrellas and sun lounges can be hired to use on the beach which is a mix of fine pebbles and sand. There is a good selection of amenities at Beach Park including free toilets, showers and changing rooms.
While Konyaalti is the closest beach to Antalya, there are a few more great beaches a little further afield.
Lara Beach // Lara Beach is located 10 miles east of Antalya and contains the region’s high-end resorts and restaurants. The golden stretch of beach is blessed with powdery sand and the highest quality water rating in Europe. It is the perfect destination for package holidays in Antalya.
Patara Beach // In contrast to Lara Beach, Patara Beach is a 12-mile-long National Park, close to several important ancient ruins. The lack of development means there are fewer facilities and fewer crowds.
13 – ANTALYA AQUARIUM
As one of the largest aquarium complexes in the world, the Antalya Aquarium is an unmissable attraction and the perfect thing to do if you encounter a rare rainy day on your Turkish holiday.
With 40 spaces each covering different aquatic themes, you’ll find a huge array of interesting creatures from the deep. It also boasts the world’s largest tunnel aquarium with a length of 130 metres and Wild Park, a tropic display featuring snakes, bugs and reptiles.
There’s a host of entertainment for the family including Snow World and daily shark feeding.
After visiting the aquarium, head across the road to 7Mehmet Restaurant for traditional Turkish food with a modern twist.
DETAILS | ANTALYA AQUARIUM
hours – 10 am to 8 pm (daily) | cost – multiple different passes starting from $35US | tickets – book online
THINGS TO DO AROUND ANTALYA + DAY TRIPS
14 – ASPENDOS
Aspendos is an ancient Greco-Roman city located just 20 minutes out of Antalya. Containing one of the best-preserved ancient theatres in the world it’s an unmissable place to visit on your Turkey Riviera holiday
Construction commenced in the 6th Century BC under the Persian Empire and Alexander the Great took control for a time. But during the Roman times it led the world trade in salt, oil and wool, bringing great power and wealth to the city.
Dominating the sight is the best-preserved theatre in antiquity. Partially built into the hill, the stage was built by the Romans in 155 CE and is a whopping 96 metres long. It is estimated that the theatre seated 15,000 – 20,000 people. The columns that supported the stage are still in place with only the wooden ceiling now missing.
The Seljuk’s continued to use the theatre up to the 13th century which is why it remains one of the best-preserved ancient theatres in the world today.
How to get to Aspendos — Aspendos is 50 kilometres from Antalya, and takes around 35-40 minutes to drive.
Opera Festival — In June and July, the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival takes place in the theatre – the only time of the year it is now in use for performances.
DETAILS | ASPENDOS
hours – 8 am to 7 pm (April to October); 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (October to April) | cost – 50 TL | audioguide – there are few signs at Aspendos so the audioguide is a good idea.
15 – TERMESSOS
Set 1150 metres high in the Güllük Mountains, Termessos is one of the most fascinating ancient ruins in Turkey. Famously known as the city that could not be conquered by Alexander the Great, it is a wonderful mix of crumbling ruins in a dramatic and remote setting.
The site includes a gymnasium where boys were trained to attend the Olympic Games, and the Paleastra, a sports centre for everyone else. The main attraction, however, is the incredible theatre built into the side of a mountain. It had a capacity for 4,500 people and today it’s well-preserved but just crumbling enough to be thoroughly atmospheric.
Archaeological works have never taken place on the site, so Termessos remains completely untouched. There are a few discernible walking paths, but you are free to roam as you please.
Tip for visiting Termessons — Given the untouched nature of the site and lack of information, it’s useful to hire a guide to help bring it to life. Your accommodation will be able to source a guide for you.
DETAILS | TERMESSOS
hours – 10 am to 4 pm (Summer); 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (Winter) | cost – 5 TL
16 – SIDE
Side is one of the most visited ancient cities in Turkey. Jutting out into the Mediterranean, just 1 hour’s drive from Antalya, the city dates back to the 7th century BCE.
However, the most impressive ruins are the well-preserved city walls and main gate built by the Greeks around the 2nd century BCE, and the collonaded street, theatre and Temple of Apollo built during the Golden Era of Roman construction in the 2nd century CE.
The theatre had a capacity of 9,000 people, and outside a massive marketplace (now mostly ruined) was used to buy and sell slaves. The temple, a little away from the main sight, has 5 remarkable columns still standing and loads of other fragments lying on the ground ready to be reconstructed.
Today the ancient city and new town exist side by side and almost on top of each other. Tourist restaurants and souvenir shops sit over an extensive set of glass walkways which display the ancient ruins hidden below.
Visiting Side — It’s free to stroll around most of Side except for the museum and the theatre for which you need to purchase a ticket.
Lunch // After strolling around the ruins, head to nearby Alma Restaurant for a modern take on Turkish classic cuisine in a contemporary trendy space.
DETAILS | SIDE
museum hours – 8:30 am to 6:45 pm (summer); 10 am to 4 pm (winter) | cost – 100 TL
17 – LAND OF LEGENDS
Antalya is a popular destination for shopping with massive malls containing a broad spectrum of retail brands from designer to every day.
One of the best is Land of Legends, an ostentatious shopping mall and theme park complete with Disneyland-inspired turrets, a Viennese canal, several of the area’s top restaurants and plenty of shopping to keep you busy.
The shopping avenue includes everything from Adidas to Zeki Triko and there are regular shows and events and the fairy-tale-inspired Kingdom Hotel.
Our restaurant pick — After giving the credit card a bashing, head to Nemo Restaurant & Lounge for dinner. The huge fish tank makes it feel like you’re eating in an aquarium. With a resident DJ, the seafood-inspired eatery feels more nightclub than restaurant.
DETAILS | LAND OF LEGENDS
shopping hours – 10 am to 10 pm (daily) | theme park hours – 10 am to 5 pm | rides – book online in advance
GUIDE | VISITING ANTALYA
HOW TO GET THERE?
Antalya is located on the Mediterranean coast of southwestern Turkey. It is the fifth-largest city in Turkey and a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches, historical sites, and vibrant nightlife.
Jet2.com has cheap flights to Antalya from several UK cities including Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and London Stansted.
WHERE TO STAY?
The Antalya region curves around the southern Turkish coast from the city of Antalya to Belek, 40 kilometres to the east, providing several different options based on the type of stay you are looking for.
Kaleici, the Old Town of Antalya is the perfect place to stay if you are looking to immerse yourself in the unique history and culture of the city. The charming streets packed with outdoor dining and a lively hubbub make the perfect city-based break.
Lara Beach is your go-to destination for luxurious beach resorts in Antalya. With a great selection of properties along the sandy beach, it’s the perfect place for an indulgent all-inclusive holiday via Jet2holidays.
Located around 40 kilometres from Antalya, Belek is the perfect base to combine nightlife with beautiful beaches. It has several of Antalya’s exciting shopping malls and the region’s golf courses.
We stayed at Voyage Belek Golf & Spa via Jet2holidays which is a stylish all-inclusive resort with incredible facilities including 5 restaurants, a massive pool area, beachfront access and top-notch service.
TOURS AROUND ANTALYA
Antalya is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the ancient ruins, lush beaches and glorious waterfalls on the Anatolian coast. Once you’ve had your fill of sipping cocktails on a sun-drenched beach, here are some day tours to consider.
City Tour // See the highlights of Antalya, then venture out to Durden Waterfalls on a scenic boat tour.
Apollo, Side + Aspendos // Explore 3 ancient Roman ruins with a guide before visiting the beautiful Kursunlu Waterfalls Natural Park.
Pamukkale // Take a full-day excursion to the incredible Pamukkale terraces including the Hierapolis ancient settlement.
OTHER HOLIDAYS IN TURKEY
Let Jet2holidays put your dream getaway together with their selection of holiday resorts across several great areas in Turkey including, Bodrum, Dalaman, and of course, Antalya.
Search for holidays to Turkey on Jet2holidays.
This guide was produced in partnership with Jet2.com.
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