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Ankara History

Phrygian mythmakers will have you believe that gold-loving King Midas founded Ancyra (now Ankara). In reality, its history stretches back the Bronze Age, with early settlements providing a foundation for what would become the capital of modern day Turkey.

Alexander the Great conquered the city in 333BC but following his death a decade later, the city was bequeathed to Antigonid dynasty, led by Antigonus the One-Eyed.

That triggered a period in which Ankara was transferred from hand to hand, with Galatians, Romans, Byzantines and Seljuks all adding to its development. Nevertheless, with the seat of power firmly entrenched in Istanbul, Ankara never really grew beyond being a rather insignificant provincial city.

It found a place in the history books in 1402 when Timur, another Turkic ruler, defeated the Ottomans at the Battle of Ankara. But by the following year, the city had been recaptured by the Sultans, and it lapsed back into relative obscurity.

Things changed after WWI, when the defeat of the Ottoman Army in 1919 led to the Allied Forces taking control of Istanbul. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first President of Turkey, chose Ankara as command centre of the nationalist resistance.

Four years later, the Turkish Grand National Assembly voted to move the capital to Ankara indefinitely. Soon the city started to grow and in 1929 the Turkish Government ran a competition for an international architect to develop their capital.

It was won by German, Hermann Jansen, whose plans only made provisions for the middle- and upper-classes. The poor went on to build gecekondular (shanty houses) around the city edges.

Jansen’s plans, though, were never fully completed and he asked for his name to be removed from the project in 1938.

The city then grew organically, with new districts such as Yenişehir and Kızılay built atop Jansen’s streets in the place of the Ottoman-era buildings that once dominated.

Today, modern Ankara is a beguiling blend of contemporary and ancient and, although not quite as big as Istanbul, is the second most populous city in Turkey.

Did you know?
• Joe Strummer, lead singer of the Clash, was born in Ankara.
• The Roman Baths of Ankara were still in use up until the 8th century when they were largely destroyed by a fire.
• Kocatepe Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world. It can hold up to 24,000 people.

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Featured Hotels


Sheraton Ankara Towers

This prominent landmark hotel soars high above the central city and offers unrivalled views of Ankara's bustling Kavaklıdere district. Rooms are classically styled in earthy tones and come with full modern amenities, while the hotel has bars and restaurants, a pool and fitness centre.

Otel Mithat

Neat and tidy (though small) rooms, friendly staff who speak some English and a central location are the major bonuses at this downtown Ulus hotel, just off the main road. The included breakfast is very good and unlike a lot of hotels in the Ulus district, rooms aren't too noisy.

Murat Bey Konağı

Nestled amongst the alleyways of the citadel district, this charming small hotel delivers oodles of cosy appeal, wrapped up in a restored, wooden Ottoman mansion. The outdoor courtyard is a tranquil escape from the city, while the smallish rooms have original Ottoman features but are decorated in a modern style.

Grand Sera Hotel

This is a solid budget choice in downtown Ulus which punches above its weight, offering decent-sized rooms freshly decorated in light colours, comfortable beds and modern amenities. Staff don't speak much English but are very friendly and helpful.

Hotel Abro

For a mid-range, comfortable option, this place takes some beating. Highly popular with both business and leisure travellers, Abro's minimalist-style, spacious rooms are fitted out with modern amenities and are in a prime Kızılay location, close to Ankara's vibrant cafe and restaurant scene.

Divan Çukurhan

One of Ankara's most atmospheric hotels, this luxury property is set inside the restored Çukurhan caravanserai building which dates back to the 16th century. Rooms boldly fuse Turkish and Asian decoration with contemporary, colourful design, while the central courtyard holds onto its historic features but has a glass roof.