For many years, we’ve been almost annual visitors to Antalya old town, Kaleiçi.
We’re suckers for an old town, especially when they’re a seemingly never ending maze of narrow streets in which to lose yourself.
And the old town in Antalya, one of the most beautiful along the Turkish Riviera, certainly doesn’t disappoint in that department!
The Old Town Of Antalya – Walk With Us Around Kaleiçi
Perched above steep, sheer cliff faces that plunge into the Mediterranean Sea below, Antalya old town is shielded by the city walls.
Fortifications which have been strengthened and rebuilt numerous times through history.
From ancient times during the Hellenistic period when they were first built, right up to the 20th century with the restoration of Hadrian’s Gate in 1959.
Today, in the 21st century, the old town of Antalya is slowly being restored. And the whole Kaleiçi area is a real city centre treat for visitors.
The more we visit, the more we love our time there. And we still get lost – every single time.
But there’s no rush when you’re just there to explore and see what’s new since your last visit.
Kaleiçi is one of our favourite places. And, as far as we’re concerned, one of the best places to stay in Antalya, too.
You get a good dose of vibrant city life, old town charm, layers of history. And it’s a great place from which to explore the surrounding area, too.
For us, this is the heart of Antalya.
The Statue Of King Attalos II
But first of all, let’s begin our little wander just outside the walls of Antalya old town.
Because, just across the road from the famous Antalya clock tower stands the statue of King Attalos II of Pergamon.
Forgive us for skipping the clock tower for now.
At the moment, in 2022, it is wrapped in a huge Antalyaspor (the local football team) covering whilst undergoing restoration.
We’ll hopefully be able to update this post in 2023, complete with newly restored tower!
King Attalos II gets special mention because it is he who has given present day Antalya its name.
Not that you’d know from the size and positioning of his statue.
He looks rather grand in this photo. But in real life, he gets a little lost; camouflaged against the surrounding shops and ice cream umbrellas.
We don’t mind admitting we’ve walked past him numerous times over the years and barely given him a second glance; his significance completely escaping us.
But he was the founder of this ancient town area. Founding a city with a port and having it named after him; Attaleia. That then became Antalya.
According to the information at the foot of the statue, he lived a long life. Passing away at the age of 82 in 138 BC.
Of Course, Hadrian’s Gate
Hadrian’s Gate is perhaps the most famous entrance to and exit from Kaleiçi. And, of course, a famous landmark in its own right.
The three arches mean its known as Üç Kapılar (Three Gates) in Turkish. And it’s sometimes written like that on the brown sign posts. So just be aware of that name if you’re looking for it!
Hadrian’s Gate is arguably Kaleiçi’s main attraction for history buffs and fans of old town Antalya.
Getting up close and personal with the arches reveals lots of intricate carvings.
The triumphal arch was built in the Roman period in 130 AD to commemorate the visit to the city by Emperor Hadrian. It’s thought there were statues that stood atop the gate.
Naturally, Hadrian’s Gate is a magnet for photographers. As well as those posing for photographs between the ancient arches.
If you’re wanting that people-free photograph of this famous landmark in Antalya’s old town, it’s just a case of seizing the moment whenever you see the opportunity!
And once you’ve got those photos, it becomes your thoroughfare. But wow, what a thoroughfare it is!
Now, let’s head through those arches into that crazy maze of narrow lanes and cobblestone streets…
Exploring Kaleiçi, Antalya
These are the narrow cobbled streets where you wander, think you’ve been heading straight on. Then you suddenly realise you’ve come full circle.
Alleyways that you recognise from your wanderings the day before – but you don’t remember where they led.
Since the early 2000s, Antalya’s old town has been undergoing a gradual restoration process. And the results are fabulous.
From ancient sites to the restoration of dwellings from the Ottoman period; it’s a real gathering place.
And the belediye have seen fit to add street names and numbers at junctions. Tourist map stands indicate ‘You Are Here.’
But, as we said above, we still get lost!
Ancient & Modern
As with any old town, Kaleiçi has various layers of history on full display as you wander the streets.
Amongst the Ottoman konaks, we’re also transported back to the ancient history of Antalya old town.
The Kesik Minare (Broken Minaret) was a famous Kaleiçi landmark that we often used as a meeting place. It had its own brown signs so it was easy to find!
A distinctive half minaret with extensive (but out of bounds) ruins behind it.
But all this restoration we speak of and the Broken Minaret is no longer broken. And the extensive ruins are no longer ruins.
They’re restored and are now a functioning mosque.
In 2022, the mosque isn’t yet fully open to the public as restorations continue.
But the site of the Korkut Mosque has hosted a Roman temple in the 2nd Century AD before a Byzantine church was built.
A bit of toing-and-froing between being a place of worship as a mosque and church, it was a mosque for 400 years before being destroyed by fire in 1846.
The 2020s saw it being brough back to life. We’ve seen photos of the inside and we can’t wait to see it in person!
As you head downhill in Kaleiçi, one of the streets will bring you to Keçili Park.
Keçi means ‘goat’ in Turkish. And this little park area is named after the two wooden sculptures of goats that are in the park.
Sadly, the sculptures and this once beautiful garden are not in the best condition at the moment – they could do with a bit of a spruce up.
But don’t let this put you off a little jaunt into the park.
This is the park where you need to consult your wits. Because at the far end of the walkway is a sheer drop down the cliff face into the clear turquoise waters of the Mediterranean!
Don’t worry, though; there’s a barrier there…and a glass viewing floor.
We’ve got a photo of us stood there with friends, one of whom was far from happy about being there. It shows in the photo!
Do get your camera out, here. Keçili Park is a perfect place for capturing some classic Antalya views.
Look straight down below you to the sunbathers and swimmers on the Blue Flag Mermerli Beach.
In winter, you’ll see a pristine stretch of sand, glistening shallow waters and the odd swimmer.
In summer, the view of sand is replaced by that of umbrellas. Lots of them. The view is still stunning, however.
Allow your eye to drift beyond the lighthouse of the old harbour and along the coast line of the modern city, past Atatürk Park and towards Konyaaltı Beach.
And, on a clear day, you will of course also get the views of the spectacular mountain range.
Again, it’s all change for Hıdırlık Tower in the 2020s. Not restoration but discovery.
Once green lawns and pruned bushes that framed the view are now a developing archaeological dig.
It’s thought Hıdırlık Tower was built around the 2nd Century AD but its purpose is a bit of a mystery.
Common belief is that it was the tomb of an important person. Others say – because of it’s position overlooking the yacht harbour – that it acted as lighthouse or lookout.
Today, in the 21st Century it links the edge of Kaleiçi to Karaalioğlu Park and offers sweeping views across the sea and the mountains beyond.
And, for now at least, you also get the added bonus of watching progress of the ongoing archaeological dig.
Antalya Old Town – Homes, Shops, Hotels, Bars & Restaurants
These beautifully restored buildings from Ottoman times are now private dwellings. And – a bonus for us visitors to Antalya old town – bars, restaurants, takeaways, souvenir shops and places to stay.
Staying In Kaleiçi
Over the years, being in the city for the annual Runtalya event, we’ve stayed in different places around Kaleiçi.
There’s somewhere to suit all budgets. Luxury boutique hotels – some with outdoor swimming pool – to cheaper small hotels and cosy pensions for the budget traveller.
Many still have their enclosed courtyard areas that were so common in the Ottoman time.
If you read this blog often, you’ll know we’re budget travellers and the cheaper pensions in Antalya don’t disappoint.
They’re well established, offering comfortable en suite rooms with air conditioning, hair dryer and, often, a substantial breakfast.
Dantel Pension and Sibel Pension have been two favourites.
Hotel Twenty, although not a historic building, is also a great budget hotel with fabulous views over the tiled rooftops of Kaleiçi and the magnificent Beydağları mountain range.
And, the great thing with Antalya is, if you’re there out of season, you can often land a good deal.
So, we’ve also been able to stay at smart boutique hotels like 1207 Boutique Hotel for a really reasonable price.
Antalya Old Town Bars & Restaurants
Ahh, this area is our happy place when it comes to feeding and watering ourselves. There’s no sleepy period here in the low season.
Kaleiçi is a great place for soaking up the student vibe. And the old city is very much alive and kicking whatever time of year it is.
There are oodles of live music venues with local bands playing covers of classic tracks. There are also quieter bars serving food where you can sit and chat – and people watch.
Lots of those people will have confused looks, too, as they try to negotiate the maze of Antalya old town.
We love to while away some time at bars like Dubh Linn and Varuna Gezgin.
Dubh Linn has outdoor seating along a main thoroughfare where there are lots of other bars so there’s always a nice buzz to the area.
There are coffee bars, burger bars, seafood restaurants, pizzerias (Il Vicino is a great pizza and pasta restaurant), snack bars where you can get Turkish favourites like kokoreç and midye dolma.
And, if you want to soak up a bit of the history of Antalya old town and enjoy some harbour views whilst indulging in a meal, The Kolykos Restaurant is a must. A unique place.
Here, you can take a walk through tunnels along the city walls of Kaleiçi with peephole views of the historic harbour and wander along the rooftops.
All that, as well as a decent meal besides.
And Down To The Harbour
If you are aimlessly wandering around Antalya old town without any real care about where you’re going and what time you get there, the only real cert is that, if you are on a continuous downhill stretch, you’re likely heading to the harbour.
In years gone by, this used to fill us with a hint of dread.
After all, what goes down, must also go back up.
Did we really want to trudge back up countless steps or steep climbs just to visit the harbour?
All that has changed now, however, with the introduction of a lift (elevator). More of that in a moment…
First of all, though, a little wander around the harbour that is framed by the ancient walls of the old town; its Ottoman buildings peering out at the top.
The harbour is where locals come to walk out along the promontory to the lighthouse to fish. Or to watch the sunset.
Fishermen moor their boats here, too.
And, if you’re fancying a day trip on the water, this is where you’ll come to book your boat trip.
If you don’t want to be out all day, there’s a 2-hour boat trip that takes you along the coast to the magnificent lower Düden Waterfall where you can witness – and get close to – the water plunging into the sea.
Weather permitting, this boat tour can also be done out of season.
As you might expect, there’s a smattering of restaurants along the harbour where you can get a drink and a bite to eat.
Back To The Top
Of course, if you’re feeling sprightly, you can walk back up to the old town. But if walking isn’t an option for you, you can again consult your wits and use the lift.
We say this because because it is a glass lift (elevator)!
If you’re scared of heights, close your eyes.
If not, you’ll love the sight of the harbour getting smaller and smaller below you. And the views of Kaleiçi stretching out to the left.
Once you get out of the lift, this is also a viewing terrace.
We love this angle of the rooftops of Kaleiçi with the famous fluted Yivli Minaret rising tall amongst them.
Antalya Old Town FAQs
So much to keep you occupied in Kaleiçi.
Sometimes, we’ve spent a long weekend there without leaving the boundaries of the city walls.
Let’s take a look at some other useful bits of information…
We hope our article above has convinced you that you absolutely must visit Kaleiçi if you’re in the area. This historic old town is the centre of Antalya.
If you are arriving by plane, the nearest airport is Antalya Airport. From here, you can take the tram directly to İsmetpasha tram stop. Kaleiçi is a 10 minute walk from the stop.
If you are arriving at the otogar (bus station), again, you can take the tram. You have a choice:
Either take the new line and get off at the Antalya Museum. From here, you can cross the road to the historic tram and get off at the entrance to Kaleiçi.
Or you can take the tram to İsmetpashsa and walk from there – around 10 minutes.
There are regular buses heading to Lara Beach from the bus stops just outside Kaleiçi. The journey takes around 35 minutes.
If you want a closer beach, you can go to Mermerli Beach at the foot of the city walls.
Or you can head up to the wide sweep of Konyaaltı Beach. This is a really pleasant walk from the clock tower. Or you can take the historic tram.
Antalya is a large city and the old town makes for a good base because of its transport links right outside the city walls.
Antalya is the administrative centre and biggest city in the whole Antalya Province and there’s much to explore. Within the city boundaries, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied.
If you don’t drive and you don’t want to negotiate public transport, you can book a driver for a private tour of the places you want to see.
It’s easy to get around, however, and we like to use public transport where possible.
As well as beaches and the Archaeological Museum, we’ve used public transport to take day trips from Antalya old town to the ancient ruins of Perge. Make sure you indulge in the famous köfte and piyaz of this area, too.
We’ve also visited both Upper Düden Waterfalls and Lower Düden Waterfalls.
Regular buses go to the big shopping centres, too, if that’s your thing.
For us, Antalya’s old town is the best place to stay in Antalya.
If you’re looking for huge all-inclusive hotels and ‘foam party’ nightlife, then it’s probably not the place for you.
If small boutique hotels and pensions at an affordable price are your thing – along with old city charm, oodles of eateries, and pubs and live music venues – you’re going to love Kaleiçi!