Though sometimes referred to as Turkey’s “second” city, the capital Ankara has plenty of charm and sites that make it anything but second rate.
The name Ankara originates from the Celtic word Ancyra which means anchor—perhaps a strange name for a land-locked city. But, according to myth, King Midas—whose touch turned everything into gold—is buried in the ancient site of Godrion, part of suburban Ankara. With provenance like this, it should be no surprise that there is evidence of human settlement at or near Ankara since at least the Stone Age.
Ankara officially became the capital of Turkey in October of 1923 when the title was taken from Istanbul following the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Because Ankara is home to the Grand National Assembly—Turkey’s parliament—the government sector is the main employer. Industrial production is also a large economic driver on account of Ankara’s central location and easy access to transportation infrastructure.
One of the city’s most popular exports and symbols are Angora rabbits, Angora cats and Angora goats in particular, which are the source of mohair. Ankara and the surrounding region is also renowned for producing Muscat grapes for wine.
Originally designed to accommodate around 500,000 citizens, Ankara grew quickly and somewhat haphazardly and is now home to around 4.5 million people.
From a tourism perspective, Ankara isn’t as outwardly appealing as other destinations like Istanbul or Cappadocia, but that’s not to say there isn’t lots to see—you just might have to look a little deeper.
Architecturally, the city reflects its varied history with Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman era buildings standing brick to brick with more modern structures. The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations and the Amt Kabir—a tribute to Atatürk, modern Turkey’s founder—are both highly renowned sites located in Ankara. There are also numerous other galleries, smaller museums, and historic ruins to see.
But Ankara’s real significance is not in its past, but rather in what it means for the future. Ankara holds a great deal of significance for secular Turks—it’s the place where a new era for Turkish citizens started after the Turkish War of Independence and is a symbol for independence, development, and progressive values.