Authored by Beyza Uysan
Antalya is a sea-side heaven located on the coast of Mediterrenean Sea in southern Turkey. It is the country’s second biggest tourist draw after Istanbul, and welcomes millions of visitors each year, known as the gateway to the Turkish Riviera.
When it comes to the Mediterranean, Antalya’s Turquoise Coast offers one of the most sensational coastlines in the region, but beyond its beaches and jade water is a classically beautiful city, rich with history (think ancient Roman ruins), bustling with markets, and rich in traditional Turkish food.
Many visit Antalya and set up at their sea-side resort, though for those wanting to balance out their time at the beach, the following are great things to do.
Things to Do in Antalya (Activity Guide)
Antalya’s Heavenly Corners
Getting to Antalya is easy via International Antalya Airport, and after arriving it’s possible to either rent a car or use the shuttle buses available to the city center.
Renting a vehicle is our personal choice, as in addition to the city itself Antalya is well positioned around many vacation towns throughout the Turkish Riviera. Otherwise, public transport consists of buses, dolmuses (shared minibuses), and the tramway.
Here are some of the places to visit in and around Antalya – we call them the city / province’s heavenly corners (you’ll quickly see why from the photos)!
Also known as the Antalya Archeological Museum, this is an excellent attraction if you’re interested in diving into the archeological history of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.
Through 13 exhibition halls and an open air gallery you’ll find well-preserved Roman statues and sculptures as well as the jawbone which belonged to Santa Claus who was born around Antalya!
Antalya is surrounded by dozens of important ancient cities and towns, and there have been incredible archeological sites and finds from within the province, most of which have been placed in the museum.
The collection ranges from Paleolithic Age to Ottoman times, and you’ll find that Turkish history is fascinating here, even if you’re not a “museum type”.
Belek is a town about 40 minutes from Antalya, famous for its many golf courses and luxury resorts. This is where your rental car would come in handy, though buses leave from Antalya every 2 hours for the 40 minute journey (tickets cost around 13 ₺ – 20 ₺).
While golf is the main draw here (in 2012 the town hosted the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final, and it’s also the home of the Antalya Open), there’s also some fantastic nature.
You can stop at Kurşunlu Waterfall while you’re here, which falls from 18 m and forms a small pool where fresh water tortoises, crabs and fish live, and explore the surrounding pine forest with over 100 bird species, and hidden caves.
Near Belek you can also take in the ancient Hellenistic city of Perge, which was an ancient Greek city (today an archeological site and ruins), with an acropolis that dates back to the Bronze Age (and is rated up there with the more famous Ephesus)
Side (pronounced SEE-deh) is another resort town accessible by bus from Antalya (50 minutes). An ancient port city, this is for history lovers as you can find ancient Greco-Roman ruins anywhere you go!
It’s believed that Cleopatra and Markus Antonius had a meeting in Side, and Alexander the Great also has history here (he occupied Side without a struggle in 333 BC). So the history is quite intensely packed throughout the streets.
Within the city there are the remains of a second century theater which has a seat capacity of approximately 25,000 people, and a harbor-side Hellenistic white marble columns and a view of the sea.
Roman and Hellenistic ruins are scattered throughout the streets, inbetween the shops, so we recommend just taking a walk to discover the history, though you can also stop in at the Side Museum, a restored Roman bath complex.
It’s impossible to be not impressed by these beautiful structures. Though of course you can also take a swim on the beautiful beaches (it gets crowded on weekends as locals from Ankara flood in).
An hour from Antalya (but well worth the trip), Manavgat is a town on the Mediterranean coast, famous for its stunning waterfalls, ruins (of course), and beaches (obviously!).
It’s most famous though for the Manavgat River Waterfalls, where you can take boat tours which start from the center, visit the waterfall, and then head out to the straight (it’s a 3 hour boat tour).
You can swim in the river (though not beneath the falls, or from the boats), though beware that the water is quite icy! It’s also a beautiful place for a picnic, and there are many restaurants and food stands selling seafood. This is not a grand falls by any means, but a beautiful serene place with a lot of natural beauty.
Other things you can do in Manavgat include shopping at the Grand Bazaar, or visiting Köprülü Canyon National Park for adventure (white water rafting, hiking, ziplining).
This is one of the most famous beaches of Antalya (located in the city center), and you should plan for at least one full day of sunbathing and swimming here (after-all, do as the locals do right?!).
Here you’ll find Antalya Beach Park with its restaurants, cafes and bars. The park offers visitors showers and rental opportunities for beach chairs and umbrellas (which are dirt cheap).
It’s a pebble beach, so you probably will want to go in for a beach chair or sunbed (and take beach shoes), but it’s one of the cleanest beaches, and has a killer view – the backdrop of the Taurus mountains and the cliffs on either end are breathtaking.
The other main beach in Antalya is Lara Beach, which starts up just past the Lower Düden Waterfalls. Although it may be a bit further out of town and not as attractive as Konyaalti Beach, it offers much softer sand and many similar services.
Alanya (formerly known as Alaiye) is one of the main towns of Antalya Province, approximately 140 kilometers away from Antalya’s city center (little less than an hour and a half drive).
This is a town defined by its nature, backed by the Taurus Mountains, though one of the most interesting things to do is to visit the 13th century Alanya Castle; still very well preserved today.
The castle has 6.5 km of fortified walls, and is an archaeological site with hundreds of towers to explore, along with a citadel, church, even a military garrison within a fortress.
While Alanya also offers Kleopatra Beach where you can enjoy the sun, the castle is massive and you’ll probably want all day to explore. You can also visit The Red Tower which is a Medieval octagon shaped defensive tower sitting right on the water.
From Konyaalti neighborhood, there is a cable car available to get up to the Tunektepe which is 618 meters above the sea level. This is a hill in the west side of the city of Antalya, offering amazing views.
Once at the top you’ll take in a mixture of the mountains and the beautiful Mediterranean Sea going out towards the horizon. There is also a restaurant available on the hill where you can enjoy the panoramic view while lunching.
Shopping in Antalya
There are plenty of shopping malls throughout Antalya, though also many traditional local markets for a true Turkish shopping experience.
Dogu Garaji Market is our favorite; an authentic market in Antalya where you’ll find special spices, fresh fruit and vegetables (pick up great vegetarian food including Rokka, Helva Ali, Al fakheer Tukish Delight), and many souvenirs.
Souvenirs wise you’ll find hand-made ceramics and crafts form all over Turkey, and compared with other bazaars, this one is actually well laid out, meaning it’s easy to wander and browse.
Even if you’re not buying, walk through the bazaar just for the smell, and to soak up Turkish shopping culture.
If you’re more interested in shopping malls, Migros Mall is one of the biggest in Antalya. It has over 128 stores ranging from jewellery, clothing and books. You can also catch a movie and eat at the food court with a range of different local choices.
Ozdilek Park is then a 4-floored shopping mall where you can find anything that you could possible desire. You’ll also find an entertainment center which includes bowling, cinema, and so on (catching a film could be a great way to practice your Turkish!)
The Best Antalya Tastes (Food)
Antalya has a really well rounded food scene, from sophisticated cafes to street food which offers everything from fresh figs, to charcoal grills (street food wise, make sure you pick up the doner, which is a kebab packed with lamb on a spit).
As far as fine dining goes, Seraser Fine Dining is a restaurant within a 300 year old mansion, and it’s impossible not to be dazzled by this spectacular restaurant in Old town Kaleici.
It offers international cuisine with Ottoman touches and has a magical atmosphere perfect for a romantic evening. We recommend their Roasted Mediterranean grouper with squid ink; baby Mediterranean herbs and seasonal vegetables’ creams.
Nar Beach Bistro is a beautiful seaside restaurant located in Konyaalti. They serve both local and international cuising (Italian, Mexican, Turkish, Bar, Mediterranean), and being right on the water, watching the sunset from the restaurant while eating your dinner will be the highlight of your vacation.
Pacaci Semsi is a local soup house, and a great choice if you’re interested in trying local soups. They do serve your typical recipes, but don’t be afraid to get a little crazy and try some unique flavors! For the more adventurous you’ll also find lamb heads, tongue, checks and brains on the menu too.
A big thanks to Beyza Uysan from https://otelleri.net/antalya-gezi-rehberi – Turkish Traveller Guides for submitting this article.