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Exploring Kaleiçi & Antalya Old Town Area

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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 throughout 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.

Colourful backstreets of Kaleiçi Old Town, Antalya.
We always stay in the old town of Antalya

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 – students at the huge Antalya University descend on this area – 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.

Statue of King Attalos II at the head of a shopping street.
The statue of King Attalos II overlooks historic Antalya

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’d 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. He passed away at the age of 82 in 138 BC.

When we first visited Antalya in the early 2000s, I remember looking up at the clock tower and having that immediate knowing-feeling – this was not how this clock tower looked originally.

And it really wasn’t a fitting focal point for the historic centre of the city.

No doubt everyone else felt the same. Then the early 2020s saw the tower screened off (in an Antalyaspor – local football team – flag at one point) whilst restoration took place.

Antalya Clock Tower with people walking around in the foreground.
The final unveiling happened in 2024

On our March 2024 visit, we finally got to see the restored Antalya clock tower in its full glory. And it’s a great job!

As with many of Kaleiçi’s and the old town area’s historical buildings, the clock tower’s past is layered.

The pentagonal base, dating from the 2nd Century (Byzantine period) was part of the Kale Kapısı (the fortress gate that was the main entrance to Kaleiçi).

The rest of the clock tower has a square plan and its restoration was not without intrigue.

Now, the Antalya clock tower has had its dome replaced and an elegant Ottoman clock face installed.

A stone clock tower with Ottoman clock faces.
The dome and Ottoman clock faces are much more fitting

If you knew the tower before, you would probably agree with us that the previous clock faces looked like they’d been taken from someone’s kitchen wall.

And this was part of the intrigue.

The original clock and its mechanism were gifted by German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm.

They had become ‘lost’ (some reports say ‘stolen’) and the basic plastic clock faces put in their place.

And there they remained until the early 2020s – topped with new, unmatching stone turrets.

It all looked a bit like children’s building blocks.

Now, very happily, the historical places around Kaleiçi and surrounding area can also count Antalya clock tower as a proud member of their clan.

After 90 years, it has its dome, clock faces of the era and its original bell.

We were very lucky to be hovering around the clock tower just as the final coverings were being removed.

One of the guys working on the project came over to us to point out the clock faces and the dome…and also told us they’d found tunnels under the tower that could link to Yivli Minare (the fluted minaret) and the historic 17th Century mosque opposite the tower.

As with much of this country, the great undiscovered ancient past lies underground, waiting to reveal its secrets…

Of Course, Hadrian’s Gate

The three stone arches of Hadrian's Gate (Üç Kapı).
Hadrian’s Gate is one of the historic entrances to Kaleiçi, Antalya

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, too, if you’re looking for it!

Hadrian’s Gate is part of the city’s walls and 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, thinking 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.

Colourful houses and shops on the streets of Kaleiçi, Antalya.
Familiar Kaleiçi streets – but where are we?

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 (local council) 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.

Kesik Minaret

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 means the Broken Minaret is no longer broken.

And the extensive ruins are no longer ruins.

Tourists walk past Kesik Minare, Antalya Old Town.
The minaret formerly known as ‘kesik’

They’re restored and are now a functioning mosque.

The restored mosque is open to the public at certain times. Check locally when you’re there.

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 brought back to life. We’ve seen photos of the inside and we can’t wait to see it in person!

Keçili Park

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!

Raised views over Mermerli Beach and Antalya Harbour.
Mermerli Beach and the harbour from Keçili Park

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 coastline of the modern city, past Atatürk Park and towards the sweepingly-long pebble beach, Konyaaltı Beach.

And, on a clear day, you will of course also get the views of the spectacular mountain range.

Hıdırlık Tower

Again, it’s all change for Hıdırlık Tower in the 2020s.

Not restoration but discovery.

Hıdırlık Tower, Antalya Old Town. Archaeological work is being carried out in the foreground.
The archaeological dig will be visible through a glass floor

Once green lawns and pruned bushes that framed the view are now a developing archaeological dig and viewing area.

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 dramatic sweeping views across the sea and the mountains beyond.

And, for 2024, you also get the added bonus of watching progress of the ongoing development of the archaeological viewing area.

The site is being covered with a glass terrace so that visitors can walk over the site and view the findings up close…and take in those sea views from a lower vantage point.

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.

Sibel Pension has been one of our 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 and White Garden 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, even 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.

Morning at Dubh Linn Irish Pub, Kaleiçi. The cobbled street is almost deserted at this early hour.
Dubh Linn is a good people watching area

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, check out the the restaurants along the city walls.

City walls of Antalya Old Town with sea in the foreground and mountains in the background.
Explore the city walls from one of the restaurants

One restaurant allows you to 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.

Small fishing boats in the old harbour, Antalya.
Stroll around the harbour at the foot of Kaleiçi

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.

A lighthouse at the end of a rocky promontory with a cloudy sky and calm sea in the background.
The lighthouse area is a popular seating and fishing zone

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 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.

Antalya rooftop views under a clear blue sky.
Look out over the rooftops and the fluted Yivli Minaret

Once you get out of the lift, there 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…

Is Antalya old town worth visiting?

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.

How do you get to Antalya old town?

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 5 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 take the historic tram along the coastline and get off at the entrance to Kaleiçi.

Or you can take a single tram to İsmetpaşa and walk from there – around 5 to 10 minutes.

How far is Lara Beach from Antalya old town?

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 along Konyaaltı Caddesi. Or you can take the historic tram.

Does Kaleiçi Antalya make a good base?

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!

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Betty Flanagan

Monday 6th of March 2023

Thanks very much for reviewing Kaleici, Antalya. My sister & I went there last July. We stayed in Puding Bay Marina Hotel & it was fabulous. Just above Mermeli beach. All staff were so kind, they couldn't do enough for you. Like yourselves, we got lost everyday! We bought the Antalyacart I think it was called & used for the trams when we went out from Hadrian's gate. My only complaint was that we went in July in 41 degrees heat at times! Everything that you show here we also seen & yes, ate & drank in Dubh linn & Edinburgh restaurants & people watched. We also went on the tram to have some air conditioning some days & would get off randomly & eat in little cafes. I loved that it was near enough Antalya airport also as have done the Bodrum to Marmaris trip! In saying that I don't mind the Izmir to Kusadsi journey but have made friends & they arrange transport for me so always by car rather than coach. Thanks again, love reading your posts.

Turkey's For Life

Saturday 11th of March 2023

Hi Betty, glad you enjoyed Kaeliçi as much as we do when we go. We love to get lost around there - although Barry has pretty much got his bearings these days. :) The tram system is great for getting around isn't it. Happy travels. :)

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