When people say Antalya, they think of long beaches, blue sea and of course the sun. But equally worthy is the historical and cultural heritage of Antalya, most of which is concentrated in Kaleici, the old part of Antalya.
Kaleiçi district will fascinate you from the very first moment with its historical houses and narrow streets. It’s name roughly means “within the fortress”, referring to the walls that surround it in a horseshoe shape.
The wall towers, which are located every 50 meters on the outer walls, were established by the Romans and developed by the Seljuks. Every ruling society such as Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman has had a hand in the development of Antalya and Kaleiçi.
You can easily reach it thanks to its proximity from the city center.
Just a few decades ago, the Kaleici region did not arouse any interest among travelers. But after the authorities of Antalya carried out restoration work, the Old City gained a new life.
Historical Perspective to Kaleici
More than two millennia ago, the ruler of Pergamon, Attalus II Philadelphus, set out to build a city in the most beautiful place on earth. He instructed his subjects to find a paradise that could envy all the kings of the world. Wandering for several months in search of a paradise on earth, the riders discovered a place of incredible beauty, spread out at the foot of the Taurus Mountains and washed by the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It was here that King Attalus ordered to build a city, which he named Attalia in his honor.
After its heyday, the city became a tidbit for many peoples. The Romans, Arabs, and even sea pirates encroached it. As a result, in 133 BC Antalya was in the hands of the Roman Empire. It was with the advent of the Romans that the Kaleici region appeared here.
Surrounded by ramparts, the quarter grew near the port and gained strategic importance. After the Ottoman forces conquered the area in the 15th century, Antalya turned into a regular provincial city, and in the Kaleici region, traditional Islamic buildings appeared next to Roman and Byzantine structures.
Today, Kaleichi in Turkey covers an area of more than 35 hectares and includes 4 districts. Now it is called the Old Town of Antalya, and that is not surprising because most of the old buildings have been preserved here almost in their original form. It has become a popular tourist center, where you can not only touch the history of different civilizations, but also have a good time in a local café, admiring the Mediterranean landscapes.
Places To Visit In Antalya Kaleici
Once in the Kaleici, you will immediately realize how much the area contrasts with the rest of Antalya. This is a unique place where different eras and civilizations intertwine before your eyes. Ancient Roman buildings, mosques and towers allow you to trace the history of Kaleici from its very beginnings to the present day.
If you are someone who likes to wander around the historical walls, Kaleiçi is just for you. You can examine the traces of the Ottoman, Byzantine and Seljuk on your walks, or step into small cafes and cozy restaurants sprinkled on its narrow streets.
There are a lot of ancient sights in the Old Town. Below are some places worth seeing in Kaleici.
1. Hadrian’s Gate
Often in the photo of the Kaleici Old Town in Antalya you can see a triple arch from ancient times. This is the famous gate erected in 130 AD in honor of the ancient Roman emperor Hadrian, when he decided to visit the area. This arched gateway was the entrance to the Kaleici district.
Initially, the structure had two tiers and, according to some researchers, was decorated with sculptures of the emperor and members of his family. Today we can see only the first tier, decorated with marble columns with carved friezes.
To one side of the gate is the Julia Sancta Tower. This tower has managed to survive since the time it was built. The other tower is from the an older period, but the upper part was built during the reign of Alaaddin Keykubat I. Apart from the towers, there are also four marble columns. We can easily see the traces of Roman carvings on these structures.
Interestingly, centuries-old traces from carts and even horse hooves are still visible on the pavement at the gate. To avoid being trampled on, the Turkish authorities installed a small metal bridge under the central arch. You can visit the attraction at any time for free.
Read more: Duden waterfalls in Antalya
2. Yivli Minaret
Having passed through the gates of Hadrian and once inside the Old Town, you will immediately notice the high minaret located in the very center of the district. It was erected in Turkey in the 13th century as a symbol of the victories of the Seljuk conquerors in the Mediterranean.
Yivli is built in the style of early Islamic architecture, and the construction of the minaret is quite unusual. It seems to be cut by eight semi-cylindrical lines, which gives the structure grace and lightness. The building has brick mosaic on the outside. Upstairs there is a balcony, from where the muezzin once called upon believers to prayers.
The height of the building is 38 meters, due to which it can be seen from many points in Antalya.
There are 90 steps leading to the top of the tower. The initial number of steps was 99, which is exactly the count of names God has in the Islam.
Today, a small museum operates inside Yivli, where old manuscripts, various robes and jewelry, as well as household items of Islamic monks are exhibited. You can visit the minaret in between prayers for free.
From the Yivli Minaret one can descend to the marina via the stone stairs called forty stairs, which is one of the important routes between the marina and Kaleiçi.
3. Suna – Inan Kirac Kaleici Museum
This is an ethnography museum in Kaleici. Inside there are two buildings that are registered as cultural assets to be preserved – a traditional Turkish house and an Orthodox church. Before the couple Suna and İnan Kıraç bought these buildings, they were both in a dilapidated state. After necessary renovations were made between 1993 and 1995, it was opened as a museum in 1995. It is a private museum and its entrance is paid.
While presenting sections from Antalya’s own culture, the museum, where traditional ceremonies and customs are explained, reflects the meticulousness of the Koç Group. The Orthodox church here is known as the “Aya Yorgi Church” and occasionally artistic activities are held in the area within this church.
4. Antalya Ethnography Museum
The Ethnography Museum is free to enter. Even if you spare half an hour for this museum while wandering the streets of Kaleici, you will find a lot about Antalya’s culture and life.
The museum consists of 2 separate mansions. The mansion in the lower part is indicated by number 1, and the remaining mansion in the upper part is indicated by number 2.
Turkish-Islamic Artifacts are located in the mansion number 1 which is the lower mansion. In this section, different tile works from the Seljuk period to the Ottoman period are exhibited. Artifacts unearthed from Kaleiçi excavations are also in this section. On the second floor of this lower mansion number 1, there are various exhibits of weapons , pistols , seals , pocket watches and more. Each one is unique and beautiful.
In the mansion number 2, the upper mansion, there are items unique to the Antalya region. There are doorknobs, window wings, doors, keys and local weavings from the Ottoman period. The musical instruments in the windows provide information about the folk instruments of the Antalya region. The local clothes, bride-groom clothes, local jewelry and jewelry in the displays tells about Antalya’s recent past. Coffee, which has a special place in Turkish culture, has not been forgotten either.
In the garden part of the museum , various cannons, cannonballs, tombstones, inscriptions from the Anatolian Seljuk period, and various tombstones are exhibited.
5. Antalya Toy Museum
About 3000 toys are exhibited in this museum. You can see the toys of Antalya and different countries of the world in the museum, where many examples from ancient toys to today’s toys are exhibited.
Many precious antique toys from the 1860s to the 1980s can be seen here.
6. Kaleici Panoramic Elevator and Observation deck
If you’ve come to the Toy Museum, how about taking the elevator right next to it?
In 2014, a very convenient structure appeared in Antalya – a panoramic elevator that lowers people from Cumhuriyet Square directly to the beach. Near the lift, there is a panoramic platform with spectacular views of the harbor, the Kaleici region and the old Mermerli beach.
The elevator descends by 30 m. The cabin is quite roomy and up to 15 people can easily enter inside. In addition, the elevator has glass walls, so get wonderful views of Kaleichi from it.
In the summer season, a lot of tourists gather here, so sometimes you have to wait a few minutes to get down. But the elevator can be used completely free of charge.
7. Kaleici Marina
When you reach the seaside in Kaleiçi, you actually reach the most historical points of this city built on the cliffs. There was a pirate port called Korykos here in ancient times. In 2000s, it was made into a delightful yacht marina.
The marina is great for a nice Mediterranean dinner under the watch of the historical walls.
Another activity you can do at the marina is to take boat tours. You have the chance to watch Antalya and the cliffs from the sea with daily boat tours. You can get information directly from the boats in the port.
8. Iskele Mosque
The cutest structure in the Marina is the Iskele Mosque.
Compared to other mosques in Turkey, Iskele is a relatively young mosque. After all, it is only a little more than a hundred years old. According to history, architects had been looking for a place for the construction of a mosque for a long time, and having discovered a spring near the harbor in the Old Town, they considered the source a good sign and built a shrine here.
The structure is built entirely of stone with four columns supporting it. At its center there is a fountain of water from the aforementioned spring.
Iskele has a rather modest size and is considered one of the smallest mosques in Turkey. Around it, under the lush foliage of trees, there are several shops where you can hide from the scorching sun and enjoy views of the beautiful sea.
9. Keçili Park and Mermerli Beach
Mermerli Beach is the only beach in Kaleici. Although this small beach is quite busy and congested during the summers, it offers a beautiful view to photography enthusiasts in spring.
Keçili Park which is located above the beach is a beautiful park that takes its name from the two goat statues in it. If you have time, be sure to stop by to enjoy the views from here.
Read more: Konyaalti Beach, the most popular in Antalya
10. Hidirlik Tower
Another symbol of the Kaleici Old Town in Turkey is rightly considered the Hıdırılık Tower. The building appeared in the 2nd century during the Roman Empire, but its real purpose is still a mystery. Some researchers are sure that for many centuries the tower served as a beacon for ships. Others suggest that the structure was built for additional defense of the fortress walls surrounding Kaleici. And some scholars even believe that Hıdırlık was the tomb of one of the Roman high-ranking officials.
The Hıdırılık Tower in Turkey is a stone building about 14 m high, consisting of a square base and a cylinder mounted on it. The building was once covered by a conical dome, which was destroyed in the Byzantine era. If you go around the building, you will find yourself in its backyard, where an old cannon still stands.
Located on the sea side of Karaalioğlu Park, the tower is beautiful in the daytime, and it seems to take on a completely different shape at night when it is illuminated.
11. Karaalioglu Park
Karaalioğlu Park, which also includes the Hıdırlık Tower, is the most beautiful parks of Antalya. This is especially true in the evenings with the view at sunset. If you have the opportunity, we recommend watching the sunset here by the sea.
12. Antalya Clock Tower (Saat Kulesa)
Compared to other attractions of the Old Town, the Clock Tower is a fairly young historical monument. The main decoration of the building was the façade clock, donated to Sultan Abdul-Hamid II by the last German Emperor Wilhelm II.
Historians agree that it was this gift that served as the occasion for the construction of the tower. It is noteworthy that after the appearance of Saat Kulesa in Antalya, similar buildings began to arise throughout Turkey.
The design of the Clock Tower includes two tiers. The first floor is a pentagonal structure 8 m high, made of rough masonry. The second tier is occupied by a rectangular tower 6 m high, built of smooth stone, on which the presented watches is mounted.
A metal spire is still installed on its northern side, where previously the bodies of executed criminals were hung out for all to see.
While there was an analog clock system in the clock section of the clock tower, it was replaced with electronic clocks in the 1970s.