10 Cool Things to Do in Ankara in Winter

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Turkey is one of our favorite countries in the world. We’ve visited over a dozen times and spent months traveling around the country. We’ve been in all seasons and always had a blast. However, Ankara, like Istanbul and Cappadocia, is a great place to visit in winter.

The capital of Turkey is one of the oldest cities in the world. Its history goes back millennia. You have tones of ancient sites to discover! At the same time, Ankara is the symbol of modern Turkey. Today, skyscrapers, fabulous shopping malls, and chic hotels dot the city. Ankara has it all!

Like in the rest of the country, temperatures can be too much during the summer. Expect maximum temperatures of 100 F (40 C) from June to September. The daily mean temperature in winter hovers around 40 F (5 C). All you need is a thick coat and proper shoes to enjoy this world-class city.

Ankara in Winter

Why Visit Ankara in Winter

No Crowds

In 2019, 45 million people visited Turkey. The country is one of the most visited in the world, and for good reason. We all know what happened next, so let’s not even talk about it. The number of tourists is rising back again so expect big crowds very soon. Especially during the summer.

Some 6 million people call Ankara home. However, approximately 10 million people visit the city each year. From June to September, the streets are packed with tourists from all over the world. The vast majority spend a couple of days in Ankara and head to Istanbul or the coast.

Winter in Ankara

Lower Prices

As any seasoned traveler knows, fewer tourists mean lower prices. That’s why the city offers unbelievable deals all through the winter. Ankara has a lot of hotels to absorb the number of tourists it receives in summer. To fill up, these have to lower their prices in winter.

Besides, the best hotels in Ankara can charge whatever they want in summer. Lucky for you, expect to pay up to 50% less for fantastic hotels in winter. Shops follow the same trend. You can get unbelievable deals in the authentic bazaars and fancy shops that dot the city.

Restaurants don’t vary their prices much. You will pay more or less the same in winter than in summer. However, there is no need to queue and wait for hours. Ankara has some of the best restaurants in Turkey. Take a leisurely stroll around the city, pick your favorite restaurant, go in, and enjoy!

Downtown Ankara

Things to Do in Ankara in Winter

Get Lost in the Old Town

Of all the things to do in Ankara in winter, a visit to the Old Town is mandatory. We are talking about the area north of Gevher Nesibe road and south of the Castle. Begin your walk in the cluster of ancient mosques and mansions known locally as Hamamonu.

Shops, restaurants, and coffee shops line the narrow street of this ancient neighborhood. Stop by the Mehmet Akif Ersoy Home Museum. The composer of the Turkish National Anthem lived in this traditional Ottoman mansion. The Tacettin Sultan Mosque from 1421 is in front. Walk around the park and visit the Haji Musa Mosque from 1421.

From there, all you have to do is get lost in the neighborhood’s atmospheric streets. Spend some time in Hamamonu plaza. The iconic Hamamonu Clock Tower is here. The oldest hammam in the city is here too. You can enjoy an authentic Turkish bath with all the perks in the Tarihi Karacabey Hamam from the 1440s.

Ankara Old Town

Visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations will leave you speechless. It’s to the east of the castle, next to one of the nicest parks in the city. Before you enter the museum, walk around Hisar Park. Since the park is on the slope of the castle, it offers breathtaking views of the city.

The museum compound is as impressive as the collection inside. Mahmud Pasha built the 10-dome covered bazaar in the 1440s. The other building used to be the inn, where travelers would rest. Be sure to check the ancient statues that decorate the museum’s entrance. We loved the monumental replica of the Fasillar monument.

Go inside and prepare to be dazzled. The collection includes artifacts as old as the Paleolithic Age! We were fascinated by the Hittite exhibit. This Anatolian civilization was as rich and wise as ancient Greece. Look out for the Bronze table from 1235 BC. Some of the other masterpieces are the Mother Goddess clay statue and the bronze figurines.

Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

Enjoy the View from Ankara Castle

Locals flock to Ankara Castle to socialize and enjoy the views over the city. You will see couples, friends, and family walking about the massive structure perched on a hill overlooking the city. The first fortress on the site was built in the 8th Century BC. The one we can see today is from 7th Century.

Every empire that conquered the area rebuilt and modified the castle. We mean the Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, and Ottomans. With an area of 17 square miles (43 km2), it is one of the largest in the country. Don’t forget to check out the old mansions that line the outer walls of the castle.

The best way to reach it is by walking. It is not that hard. However, if you are tired, a taxi can take you to the door. Don’t worry if you get hungry or thirsty. There are a couple of good restaurants and coffee houses within the castle. Go in the afternoon to enjoy a killer sunset.

Ankara Castle

Go Ice Skating in a Beautiful Park

Not many tourists visit Gençlik Park, and that’s exactly why we like it. The biggest park in Ankara is a local favorite. Everyone in the city visits to socialize, exercise, have a bite, and shop. Friends and families flock winter to skate in its big ice ring.

You will have a blast even if you don’t ice skate. The park has an area of 68 acres (27 hectares) and offers just about everything. You can even go to the theatre! The Ankara Opera and Ballet and the Capital Theatre are in the park. Ask around, and people will direct you to the rink.

The centerpiece of the park is a massive pool with several fountains. Migrating birds stop by the pool to chill in winter. If you have kids, they will love the small amusement park. You can eat at any of the restaurants that populate the park. Look out for brides and grooms taking pictures at the park.

Gençlik Park

Admire Ankara’s Monumental Downtown

Turkey moved its capital from Istanbul to Ankara in 1923. Soon enough, the government began building monumental ministries, museums, and offices in the center. The government hired the best architects in the country for its grand project. In fact, Ataturk himself was involved in the design of some of the most impressive buildings.

Begin your walk at the State Art and Sculpture Museum on Talatpasa Boluevard. The building from 1930 exhibits the largest collection of art in the country. The Ethnographic Museum is in front. It’s a great place to learn about Turkey’s history. Our favorite building in the area is the Isbank Museum next door.

Don’t miss the Museum of the War of Independence. It was the first parliament in the country. Continue along Cumhuriyet Street, and you will reach the Ministry of Tourism. The Republic Museum next door was the second parliament. Cross the street and check the Ankara Palas. The Ataturk Memorial from 1927 is on the corner.

Ankara Palas

Explore Roman Ruins

As mentioned, Ankara has always been important. The first Roman Emperor, Augustus, made it the capital of the Province of Galatia in the year 25 BC. Due to its strategic location, the city grew and became one of the most important in the east. That’s why Ankara’s archaeological remains are so beautiful.

Most of the ruins are on top of a hill just north of the center. The Roman Baths is an open air museum packed with sculptures. Walk 10 minutes east and you will reach the Temple of Augusts. Though only the sides of the monumental walls remain, it’s truly impressive.

One of the city’s most important mosques is next to the temple. The Haci Bayram Mosque from 1428 looks stunning next to the temple. The entire area was revamped a couple of years ago and now features parks, restaurants, and a viewing platform with epic views. From there, walk east to see the ancient Roman Theater.

Haci Bayram Mosque and Temple of Augustus

Visit the City’s Biggest Mosque

Due to its massive size, you can see Kocatepe Mosque from anywhere in the city. The temple is so big, that it took 20 years to complete. Back in the 1960s, traditional Muslims questioned its design. Today, it is considered a masterpiece of contemporary Islamic architecture. The four minaret temple is a sight to behold!

Kocatepe is some 1.8 miles (3 km) south of the center. You can take the metro there or an inexpensive taxi. To our surprise, not many foreign tourists visit. However, people from all over the country flock to the mosque when visiting the capital. Hence, spending some time there is a pretty authentic experience.

The area is safe and very traditional. You can visit at all times. You won’t believe how beautiful it looks at night. Remember that it is a place of worship. From the mosque, you can walk 20 minutes east to the Turkish Grand National Assembly. The original project from 1938 was completed in 1961.

Kocatepe Mosque

Mingle with Locals in Kizilay

To people watch, shop, and have fun, you have to visit Kizilay. Everyone in Ankara seems to love the neighborhood. Kizilai begins at the crossroads of Ziya Gokalp Street and Ataturk Boulevard. The Kizilay Metro station is there. The area is a shopper’s paradise. You have three huge malls to discover!

Hip coffee houses, bars, restaurants, and all types of eateries populate the area. We loved walking along pedestrian Yuksel and Karanfil streets. One of the oldest and best bookstores in the city is here, Dost Bookstore. For traditional Turkish coffee and mezze, head to Kahve Gelenegi, a classic since 1949.

The best place to have a bite and people-watch is FLZ Café, next to the crossroad. For local live music head to Nil Rock Bar. The best bands in the city play here. However, if you like blues and jazz, go to The Muddy Waters. To have cocktails with views go to the terrace of Alti Ustu.

Pedestrian street in Kizilay

Watch a Classical Concert in a Contemporary Palace

If you are into architecture and music, you have to go to the CSO Ada Ankara Hall. We loved it! The building is instantly recognizable from the huge triangular prism that towers above an egg-shaped dome. Didn’t we tell you that Ankara has the best contemporary architecture in Turkey?

Local architects Semra and Ozcan Uygur designed the building in 1992. However, the hall was completed in 2015. They created an astonishing air-form membrane for perfect isolation and acoustics. The inside of the hall is as grand as the exterior. It houses three indoor concert halls, a huge open-air one, and a museum.

The best local and international artists play at the concert hall. It is also the home of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra. Check their website or ask at your hotel what’s showing at the CSO. Be sure to stop by the hall’s eye-catching coffee shop.

CSO Ada Ankara Hall

Visit the Imposing Atatürk Mausoleum

For history buffs, Ataturk needs no introduction. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was the first president of Turkey and is considered the father of the republic. People in the country loved him, and for a good reason. Thanks to him, the country was not divided and conquered by the allies after World War I.

He is buried in a mausoleum on a hill overlooking the city. The entire complex took 9 years to complete. The walls are made of marble and gold mosaics cover the ceiling. The 188 ft (57 m) long, 136 ft (42 m) wide, and 89 ft (27 m) tall stone structure presides over Peace Park.

Twenty-five countries donated the 50000 trees and plants that populate the park. Take your time and enjoy the smell of fresh pine and fragrant flowers. Walk along the Road of Lions to the Ceremonial Plaza. Don’t forget to check out the museum, towers, and statues that dot the park. Go at noon to see the change of guards.

Atatürk Mausoleum

Where to Stay in Ankara

We love historic hotels. That’s why we strongly recommend the Divan Cukurhan. The best hotel in Ankara is a carefully restored 16th-Century caravanserai next to the citadel. The exquisitely decorated rooms have premium beds and big bathrooms. Even if you don’t stay here, stop for a cocktail and enjoy epic views of the city.

The Sheraton is one of the best places to stay in Ankara. The iconic tower can be seen from everywhere. It has a big indoor pool, a full-size gym, and squash and tennis courts. The recently renovated rooms are big and have fantastic views. The gardens around the hotel are splendid, and the mall next door is the best in the city.

Considering its class and location, The Wings Hotel Ankara is great value for money. The hotel is in the center. Thus, you can walk to Kizilay or take the metro that connects you to the entire city. You won’t get better suites than here. The rooftop restaurant offers fantastic views.

Hotel in Ankara

Moving Around Ankara

The best way of moving around Ankara is walking. Though the city is big, most of its main attractions are in the center. You can walk to the citadel, downtown, and Kizilay in no time. If you get tired, hop on an inexpensive taxi. Taxis are safe and use a taximeter. However, traffic can sometimes be hell.

Consequently, we advise you to take the metro. The city has 3 metro lines with some 54 stations. The green line loops around the Mausoleum and crosses the city from east to west. The red one is from north to south. They cross at Kizilay station. The blue one goes also from east to west and takes you to the main train station.

Though we love biking, we don’t recommend biking in winter in Ankara. In all honesty, we don’t recommend biking in any season! There are too many cars and people so you won’t enjoy the ride. In addition, you can’t bike in the historic center.

Haci Bayram Mosque at night

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