There is no doubt that Turkey (now officially known as Türkiye) is one of the best places to visit if you're a history buff. You can visit endless historical places in Turkey, from getting mesmerized by the ancient architecture as far as the Bronze Age in Cappadocia to the ancient Greek city like Ephesus or the past glory of the Ottoman Empire in Edirne. And for exactly the same reason, the capital city of Turkey, Ankara, is often overlooked compared to other destinations in the country.
If I gotta be honest, that was also one of the reasons why it took so long for me to finally visit Ankara. In fact, I don't think I'd even include Ankara in my itinerary if it wasn't because of my appointment with the Embassy of Estonia to pick up the digital kit for my e-residency. And for that, I decided to stay in Ankara for 3 days.
Now that I've been to Ankara, I have to say that it's also a great place to visit if you love history. The only difference is that Ankara seems to be a great location if you want to dig for more information about modern Turkey. In this post, I'm going to share some must-visit places to visit in Ankara if you want to explore more knowledge about the country's history in the capital city.
So, what are the must-visit historical places to visit in Ankara? Is Ankara worth visiting? Let's find out!
How To Visit Ankara
As a capital city, it's easy to go to Ankara from other places in Turkey. The city itself is located in the central part of the country, as it's fairly easy to find public transportation to Ankara.
If you want to travel on a budget, the inter-city bus in Turkey offers top-notch service at a relatively low price for your trip. Traveling by train in Turkey is also a great idea if you prefer a journey with great scenery. If you travel from the eastern part of Turkey, or if you're planning a journey to the center of Turkey from their neighboring country like Georgia, don't miss the opportunity to get on Dogu Express (Ankara Kars train), which typically gains its popularity during winter holidays.
However, if you have limited time to explore Turkey but want to stop by Ankara as a part of your journey, you can also easily find a cheap flight to Ankara Esenboga Airport (ESB). If you fly within Turkey, aside from the national carrier Turkish Airlines, you can also opt for budget airlines in Turkey like Pegasus or Anadolujet.
Where To Go in Ankara for History Enthusiasts
Unlike other historical sites in Turkey that usually offer more ancient historical landmarks, most museums and sites in Ankara are more related to the present-day Republic of Turkey. I think traveling to Ankara will be worth it for those keen on modern Turkish history.
Since I don't think I'm connected with it on a personal level, I suppose Ankara is the kind of place that I find enough to visit once. However, there are some historical places I'd recommend visiting if you managed to go to Ankara. Here we go!
The Necessary Turkiye Itinerary
Pay as you like, and immerse yourself in a week-long journey through Istanbul's vibrant bazaars, Cappadocia's surreal landscapes, and hidden gems only locals know. This digital guide is your passport to convenience, featuring a detailed travel guide, culinary delights, and necessary spots to visit in Turkiye!
The most prominent monument in modern Turkish history, Anitkabir is the resting place of Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, the founding father and the first president of the Republic of Turkey.
If you've ever been to Turkey, it's almost hard to ignore the idea of how much Turkish people love and respect Attaturk as the founding father. That alone is a good enough reason to visit Anitkabir when you're in Ankara.
Known as the Attaturk Mausoleum complex, there is no entrance fee to visit Anitkabir, as you can expect many locals to come by to pay their respect to the former president. Just make sure to come before 5 PM to guarantee your entrance before they close the visitor hours.
Although it's become the final resting place for the former president, the construction of the complex only began 6 years after Attaturk passed away in 1938. Earlier that year, he got ill on his trip to Yalova before his death on 10 November 1938. 15 years later, on 10 November 1953, his remains were transferred to a sarcophagus and placed at Anitkabir.
Outside Attaturk Mausoleum, you can also find the resting place of Ismet Inonu, the second president of Turkey after Attaturk.
Now, I literally have zero ideas about Turkish politics, but it makes me wonder why they don't make the whole complex the final resting of all Turkish presidents. I checked Wikipedia to see the list of Turkish presidents to find out, but I didn't get a clear answer, so if you know the answer, feel free to drop me a comment in this post!
However, I have a hypothesis about this, although I'm not sure if it's correct. Based on Wikipedia, both Attaturk and Ismet Inonu came from the Republican People's Party, while after Ismet Bey, the rest of the Turkish presidents were either independent or came from other parties. I start wondering if the mausoleum complex is only dedicated to presidents from the same party, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong! 🙂
2. The War of the Independence Museum (Kurtuluş Savaşı Müzesi)
The War of the Independence Museum was the first site that I visited in Ankara as it's located in Ulus, not too far from Cihan Palas Yeni Hotel, where I stayed for 3 days in Ankara. The entrance ticket cost me 20 TL (around $1 USD), and the ticketing staff told me that it was valid for two museums: The War of the Independence Museum and the Turkish Republic Museum.
I'm not sure if 20 TL is the price for regular tourists though, since when I approached the ticketing staff, she only asked if I spoke Turkish, and I said yes. The next thing I knew, she told me to pay 20 TL for the ticket. There's a chance I got some beginner's luck, like when I went to Cele Kula in Nis, Serbia.
But to be fair, I think it made sense that she asked if I spoke Turkish because the War of the Independence Museum has all the information written in Turkish.
I have to say unless you're really interested in Turkish history or you understand a bit of Turkish, you may want to visit some other more popular places or museums in Ankara.
The War of the Independence Museum was also the first Turkish Grand National Assembly building. You can see where the assembly was held, and in the main assembly chamber, there's also Attaturk's statue displayed to simulate the historical event when the Turkish founding father started transitioning into the republic.
Don't get me wrong, I'm interested in anything historical but with almost next to zero knowledge about modern Turkish history, I literally only wandered around the museum building without really understanding what was going on in each chamber or what's the significant event that took place in the building. It didn't really help that my Turkish skill is limited to understanding the whole context of the museum.
If you insist on stopping by the War of the Independence Museum in Ankara with limited knowledge of Turkish, my advice is to either hire a tour guide who can give you a legitimate insight into the prominence of the building and the events that took place there or at least get connected with a Turkish friend that could give you some brief information about the significance of the whole assembly.
For me, I literally could only put two and two together based on what I saw there. Apart from the photograph, I could get some context from the national flag to the national anthem.
3. Turkish Republic Museum (Cumhuriyet Müzesi)
The Turkish Republic Museum building was the venue where the 2nd Turkish Grand National Assembly. It maintained its function until 1960, and right now, you can visit the Turkish Republic Museum to find out more about the early Turkish Parliament and some memento from some former Turkish presidents.
Since I had already bought the ticket at the War of the Independence Museum the day before, I could still use my ticket to the Turkish Republic Museum the next day. Just make sure you still have the ticket stub with you to guarantee entrance!
Unlike the War of the Independence Museum, the Turkish Republic Museum provides information in English. On the first floor, you can see the exhibition of personal mementos of the three first president of Turkey: Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, Ismet Inonu, and Celal Bayar.
Lucky for me, I visited the Turkish Republic Museum first before I went to Anitkabir, so I recognized the name from what I saw at the museum. As a foreigner, if it wasn't for that, I would've had to google who Ismet Inonu was when I saw the other sarcophagus at the mausoleum. But my prior visit to the Turkish Republic Museum kinda gave me a face to the name when I saw it.
On the second floor, you can see some chambers of parliament as well as some pictures of parliament members. Again, this is something that I can't really connect deeply since I'm not really familiar with the Turkish parliament, but I guess some of the chambers there are quite worth visiting.
Compared to the War of the Independence Museum, I find the Turkish Republic Museum worth visiting since it gave me more insights as they provide English information. Other than that, it's also a bit bigger, so they have more exhibitions at the museum.
4. Museum of Anatolian Civilizations & Ankara Castle (Ankara Kalesi)
Hands down the best museum in Ankara, the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is definitely a must-visit spot if you travel to the capital city of Turkey. Situated not too far from Ankara Castle (Ankara Kalesi), both places are two of the most prominent spots in Ankara indeed!
Anyway, because of the snowstorm, I had to trust my gut about whether it would be safe for me to go to the castle since I had to climb so many stairs and the snow was still thick when I went there. In the end, I decided to skip Ankara Castle because it was so quiet, and the stairs looked dangerous with the snow and everything! 🙁
The entrance ticket is slightly more expensive than the previous museum, as I paid 50 TL (around $2.7 USD) for the entry. It is the home for so many exhibitions from different periods of time, from the Paleolithic era and Neolithic to the most recent ones like Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is quite massive, as the building was split into several sections based on the different periods starting from the Paleolithic era near the entrance. Apart from the exhibitions on the ground floor, you can also visit the basement, where most of the Hellenistic, Greek, and Roman artifacts were exhibited at this museum.
The best way to understand one culture is to get to know where they came from, and I have to say that the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations provides exactly that to understand Turkish culture in general.
For instance, I remember when I first came to Turkey, I met a girl named Ebru who was so proud that she studied pottery and ceramics at her university at the time. I didn't really understand the significance of ceramics for Turkish culture until I got to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations and ceramics were everywhere, even in the early period of their civilizations.
The more I know, the more I understand that pottery and ceramics seem like a great deal in Turkish culture in general. I noticed it more when I went to Cappadocia, as it serves the Central Anatolian culture, where ceramics seem to be one of their signature souvenirs.
One of their signature dishes in Cappadocia, Çömlek kebabı, which literally means beef stew served on a ceramic bowl, is also a must try if you get a chance to stop by the region!
5. İşbank Museum
İşbank Museum may be overlooked compared to some other museums in Turkey, but I can promise you that the museum is worth visiting. I came to the museum just 30 minutes before their closing time on my last day in Ankara and I only had 30 minutes to wander around, and I wish I could have more time to explore!
Officially, the museum is called the Economic Independence Museum (İktisadi Bağımsızlık Müzesi). And I didn't notice there's also another İşbank Museum in Istanbul until I got to write this article in particular!
The good news is that there's no ticket fee for entrance to İşbank Museum, just make sure to come to the museum in the afternoon so you have some time to spare and explore the exhibitions at the building that used to be the first headquarter of Türkiye İş Bankası. The latter is the largest private bank in the country, which I could connect personally since I used to be their customer as I received my monthly stipend through my bank account there.
Initially, I thought that İşbank Museum was more like the Turkish version of the Museum of Bank Indonesia in Jakarta, and I think it was true at some point; although given the idea I only spent around 30 minutes at the museum, I didn't get to see all the exhibitions there.
Since I had limited time to get around and see the museum, the staff suggested me to go directly to the fourth floor, where we could see the Turkish War of Independence exhibition for 15 minutes, and maybe make my way to get to see the other floor for a bit before making a stop to see the ground floor before finishing.
There are five floors in total at the İşbank Museum, and the museum focuses more on the Turkish economy since the war of their independence and transition to become a republic.
Since I only managed to visit the fourth floor and stopped by a bit on the third and second floor, I have to say I was more impressed with what I saw on the ground floor as we could see the old deposit boxes and bank tellers' offices from when the building first operated as the headquarter in 1924.
6. PTT Stamp Museum (PTT Pul Müzesi)
It's not exactly a popular museum to visit in Ankara, but it's free to visit and it can be worth visiting, especially if you love correspondence or snail mailing. PTT Stamp Museum in Ankara is located in the building that used to be the headquarter of Emlak ve Eytam Bank before it was eventually handed over to Turkish PTT, the Turkish post office.
There are five floors in the building, and you can see the exhibitions related to the post service in the country throughout the periods of time.
While the second to the fifth floor is full of Turkish stamp collections from time to time, I found the exhibition on the ground floor quite fascinating as they showcase everything from the postman uniform from time to time, from the Ottoman period to the modern postman these days. They also exhibit the delivery method from carriage to bikes nowadays.
For the stamp sections, they are split into several sections based on the stamp themes, including the stamps of the Ottoman Empire, the Anatolian government, Republic of Turkey, and the thematic stamps, including specific celebrations like the jubilee of their Independence Day or the special occasions like when Turkey became the host of FIBA World Championship in 2010. I noticed the latter as I was in Turkey during that time!
While I personally think that this stamp museum is probably the least interesting museum I've visited in Ankara, I think it's worth visiting, especially if you happen to have some time to spare to explore the capital city or if you stay around the old town in Ulus since the area has a lot of museums that are worth visiting, although it may not be as popular for international tourists.
The only downside is that all information is written in Turkish, but other than that… Especially if you're into philately, this stamp museum is not to miss, as you can see some limited stamp editions from all over the country!
FAQ About Traveling to Ankara
Compared to other cities in Turkey, like Istanbul or Izmir, I understand why Ankara is often overlooked by travelers coming to the country. It offers the hustle and bustle of the big city, the typical vibes you get when you visit the capital city.
The first thing I noticed when I came to Ankara was how I got so confused about how public transportation worked there, which never happened to me in other cities in Turkey. For instance, there is a zillion number of buses in Ankara, and don't be surprised if you have several bus stops exactly at the right spot, so you need to go through which bus number would stop there to make sure that you'll wait at the right stop for the bus.
Traveling to Ankara is not for the faint of heart, but it could help to know what to expect when you go to the capital city of Turkey. In this section, I've listed some frequently asked questions about Ankara. Here we go!
Is Ankara good for tourists?
I personally don't find why it's worth putting Ankara on the priority list when you travel to Turkey. However, if you're a seasoned traveler who's been to the country several times and you've been to some of the must-visit places in Turkey, it's worth adding Ankara to your itinerary if you have some time to spare and see a new place in Turkey!
Wherever you travel in Turkey, chances are you can find easy access to travel to Ankara by public transportation. Pretty much like any other cities in Turkey, public transportation in Ankara is also well-connected with the metro, public bus, and dolmuş (the minivan) combined.
The advantage of using public transportation in Ankara is that apart from the city card Ankara Kart, you can also use the contactless MasterCard for payment, like public transportation in Barcelona.
What is the best time to visit Ankara?
Ankara is a landlocked city in Turkey, so you can expect a hot, dry summer in Ankara, which may not be the most convenient time to travel to the capital city during this period. I may be biased, but I think the best time to visit Turkey in general is during Fall, around September to November.
I can only imagine it's the same with Ankara, especially since the weather is nicer during the Fall with no possibility of dealing with the snow, especially if you want to visit Ankara castle while in the capital city.
As I traveled to Ankara during winter, everything was nice except that I didn't get too far to the castle as it was full of staircases and my shoes got slippery that I didn't think it was safe to get there alone when I couldn't find anyone else when I was there!
How many days are enough to visit Ankara?
Unless you travel to Ankara for bureaucratic purposes, two days should be enough for you to immerse the experience of exploring the capital city of Turkey. Ankara has a lot of museums you can go to, and some of the historical places to visit in Ankara are also free entrance!
Apart from the museums, you can also experience urban life in the capital city by visiting Kizilay area and maybe stopping by a coffee shop there or even checking out the shopping center.
Is Ankara or Istanbul better?
If it's your first time traveling to Turkey, Istanbul is definitely a better option to visit than Ankara!
To give you some context, Ankara is the capital city where pretty much everything related to the government is centered here. Meanwhile, Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, and it's also the center of the country's economy.
For international tourists, Istanbul offers more things to explore than Ankara since even some historical places to visit in Ankara seem more relatable to local Turkish people.
Ankara may not be international tourists' favorite destination in Turkey, but it still has a lot to offer in terms of learning more about the country.
Whether you want to wander around the Old Quarter and check out the Ottoman-style houses and even stop by the local craft shops to get some souvenirs to get back home or just get some new insights about the country's politics, Ankara is a great place to visit for it!
Have you been to Ankara? Do you have any favorite spots in the capital city of Turkey, historical or not? Share in the comment below, and cheerio! 🙂
Marya The BeauTraveler
I am the founder and main editor at The BeauTraveler. I spent 4 years working in the aviation industry but ironically got to travel more right after quitting the industry in 2015. Born and raised in Indonesia, I started working remotely in 2017, and while I stay at home most of the time, I also regularly spend 2-3 months living a semi-digital nomad life elsewhere every year.