Kaleiçi is not so much a place to visit as it is a place to experience. Even after dozens of trips into Kaleiçi, it still continues to amaze and reveal new mysteries. “Kaleiçi” literally means “in the fortress,” which is fitting because it’s surrounded by defensive walls that were built during the Hellenistic period. Inside the walls is the Old City of Antalya (in fact until the 1950s, that’s all there was of Antalya!). It’s filled with endless cobblestone streets, numerous ancient buildings and structures, old wooden and stone Ottoman houses, countless shops offering everything from genuine Turkish rugs to art made by the shop owner to kitsch souvenirs, restaurants galore, and a yacht harbor built by the Romans that the Apostle Paul sailed out of. Kaleiçi boasts numerous boutique hotels, many of which are converted Ottoman mansions, and cheaper pansions (which offer plenty of charm themselves) so that you can soak up as much of this magical place possible during your stay in Antalya. Kaleiçi is located in the very middle of the city, so it’s a perfect place to stay if you’re interested in exploring the whole city.
While you could spend weeks in Kaleiçi and still find new things to enjoy, we’ve compiled a must see list for Kaleiçi. Even if you don’t see any of these, the best part of Kaleiçi is the charm of just walking around and enjoying the beauty of it all. Click here for a link of a walking tour of Kaleiçi we’ve created for your use in Google Maps. (Note: when you’re leaving the marina, actually head towards the bottom of Kırk Merdiven. They’re a part of the walking tour, and you can take the stairs up, which Google Maps doesn’t recognize.)
Hadrian’s Gate (Üç Kapılar, or Three Gates, in Turkish, so named because of the three arches) is without a doubt the most beautiful and striking of Antalya’s monuments. It was built in 130 A.D. to commemorate the Emperor Hadrian’s visit to the city. The roof of the gate is decorated with fruits and flowers that grow in the region. The gate was almost entirely covered by earth until the 1950s, something that helped keep it in such a well preserved state. The towers on each side of the gate are quite distinct from each other, having been built about a millennium apart. The Southern tower (on the left when looking on from outside Kaleiçi) was built during the Roman era and is known as the tower of Julia Sancta. The Northern tower (on the right) was built (or, rather, rebuilt) in the 1200s by the Seljuks.
One of the most recognizable landmarks in all of Antalya, the clock tower was built in the late 1800s.
The Yivliminare (Fluted Minaret) is an iconic symbol of Antalya and is featured on most touristic materials and the city’s professional soccer team’s logo. It was built in 1230 by the Seljuk Sultan Alaaddin Keykubad I. Its unique fluted design, which includes hundreds of small blue tiles that can only be seen from up close, sets it apart. The inside of the mosque, which is topped by a tiled dome roof, is quite beautiful and can be entered by visitors (women must cover their head). The mosque is the oldest durable example of a multi-domed mosque in Turkey. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tentative List.
Built in 1250 by the Grand Vizier of the Seljuk Empire, Karatay Madrasah (school or college, often connected to a mosque for theological education, as is the case here) is a great look into life during the Seljuk Empire.
Old City Marina
The Old City Marina was built by the Romans and made Antalya an important port city for centuries. At the end of his first missionary journey, Paul passed through ancient Antalya and sailed out of this harbor to Antioch and reported to the Church all that had happened on his journey. Today the marina is surrounded by restaurants and shops and is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon soaking in the sun. There are daily boat tours from the harbor year round.
Kırk Merdiven (Forty Stairs)
The Kırk Merdiven were built by the Venetians (who occupied the city) in the 1400s to provide an easier way to ascend out of the harbor. There’s much debate as to how many stairs there actually are – we count a different number every time! Count with your group and see how many stairs everyone counts!
Yet another monument inextricably linked with Antalya. The tower itself is impressive, but its popularity is also tied to the incredible views the area around the tower has. The lower square shaped base of the tower was built in the late 1st Century, likely as a part of the city’s fortifications. The upper circular portion was added in the early 2nd Century. The purpose of the structure is a bit of a mystery, but it has been hypothesized that it was used as lighthouse, a tomb, or even a church.
Food and Drink Recommendations
There’s more restaurants, cafes, and bars than you could ever manage to visit in and around Kaleiçi, so here’s a list of our favorites. For more information, see our Turkish Food page, our World Cuisine page, and our Desserts/Sweets page.
Turkish food: Topcu Kebap, Parlak Restaurant, Mermerli, Rokka Döner
World cuisine: Rokka, Pizza Argentina, Il Vicino Pizzeria, Seraser Fine Dining Restaurant, Vanilla, Pio Gastro Bar and Bistro, Royal Haveli Indian and Pakistani Restaurant
Desserts/Sweets: Justacandy Sweet Factory, Bella Gelateria