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Street-food stalls and urban beaches vie for attention with Byzantine ruins and an outstanding amphitheatre in this fragrant Turkish city, finds Tristan Rutherford

Travel Time 4hrs 30min

Why go?

Antalya is Turkey’s answer to Brighton. This liberal, sun-splashed city is ringed by beach and fed by a thousand restaurants. Roman conquerors marvelled at a maritime location where octopus and bream could be paired with walnuts and melon, watered by the snow-capped mountains beyond. The Emperor Hadrian himself – who assumedly ate a sardine sandwich in the Kaleiçi old town area – left intact postcard-perfect ruins and city gates. October, with an average high of 26C, is the perfect time to visit, as blossoms pervade alfresco terraces and markets groan with seasonal produce from figs to pumpkins.

What to do

The historic Kaleiçi quarter is Antalya’s beating heart. Visitors can get lost amid a Byzantine maze of stone streets that shelter more teashops and hammam towel stores than Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Indeed, the pedestrianised zone is a microcosm of city life, with its own mosques, churches, museums and shisha cafés. From here, flower-laden parks and living-plant walls lead across a glass-bottomed walkway – buttock-clenchingly scary–to Mermerli Beach. It’s little more than a swooshing ribbon of sun loungers and sand but the beach’s location, snuggled under Kaleiçi’s slender minarets, is a portrait. Call over a beach boy for karidesli spaghetti (prawn pasta) and a glass of Tekirdag raki, an organic incarnation of the local firewater. Tuesday’s Liman Mahallesi Kapali covered market is an attraction in itself, featuring gözleme (pancake) flippers and ayran (salted yoghurt) purveyors. In short, expect a riotously colourful array of mountain chestnuts and fresh sardines, all turned gill-out to prove their freshness. The latter formed the base for garum, a Roman-era fish sauce that was probably stirred into lamb stew at Aspendos, the greatest local historic sight. One of antiquity’s best-preserved amphitheatres, it still hosts music and dance festivals for audiences 10,000 strong.

Where to stay

The Citrus Garden Hotel 00 90 242 248 3000, in Kaleiçi is exactly that: an atmospheric guesthouse where lemon trees shade a sun-kissed terrace. A belly-busting breakfast of organic eggs, forest mushrooms, homemade preserves and feta is served with lashings of Turkish tea. For a swimming pool that’s a shade more Riviera chic, stroll through the old town to the Delight Deluxe Boutique Hotel 00 90 533 046 0817, – an urban oasis where oleanders and ancient oak floors meet live musicians and a library of Turkish tomes. The daddy of designer cool is Hotel Su 00 90 242 249 0700, where a minimalist interior flows into brilliant white rooms, and the Kirmizi buffet restaurant boasts 200 bowls of local delicacies to tempt.

Where to eat and drink

The Kaleiçi old town is one big restaurant terrace. Ayar Meyhanesi 00 90 530 117 2927 combines the platters of starters of a lokanta (a traditional inn) with a seafood menu of fener (turbot) and çupra (bream), from around £8 per kilo. For tasty £2 small plates try Piyazci Ahmet 00 90 242 243 3447 outside the medieval quarter. The ezogelin (bulgur and red lentil soup) and kabak tatlisi (sugared pumpkin) are a must. Street eats can be found at nearby Çitir Balik, 79 Atatürk Caddesi. Choose seabass or squid to be freshly sautéed and popped into a bun, with salad on top, again, for £2 a pop. High-end restaurants abound along Konyaalti Beach. 7 Mehmet run by third-generation owner-chef Mehmet Akdag, upgrades traditional dishes like tripe soup, aubergine shakshuka (with poached eggs in a tomato sauce) and dill-laden okra into contemporary classics. Lazy buffet breakfasts are an Antalya institution. Nar Beach offers a 200-platter blowout featuring the likes of dolma (stuffed vine leaves) and kaymak (like clotted cream).

Time running out?

Scuttle down the endless steps into Kaleiçi’s ancient harbour, where a fleet of converted smacks sail visitors on photogenic two-hour coastal tours (from £4pp).


Travel Information

Travel Information

Currency is the Turkish lira (TRY). Antalya is 2 hours ahead of GMT. Flight time from London is around 4.5 hours. The cost to carbon offset is £7.28. For more details visit

Getting There

Pegasus Airlines has a regular direct service to Antalya Airport from London Stansted.

Turkish Airlines also offers direct flights from London Gatwick to Antalya Airport.


Turkey Tourism is the official tourist board and provides a great online guide to Antalya and its festivals.

Average daily temperatures and rainfall

Min Temp55710141821211813106
Max Temp141417212530333331262015

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