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The Historic Town of Kaleici

Kaleici, Antalya, also referred to as “Old Town Antalya”, is the historical city center. Kaleici offers a majestic array of things to do along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. When envisioning the Mediterranean Coastline, most people picture turquoise water, sandy beaches, and cabanas but Kaleici has so much more to offer travelers. Located in the heart of Antalya, Kaleici is an excellent tourist destination any time of the year with plenty of museums and a robust social scene/nightlife.

Kaleici is one of the most quaint and desirable historical towns in Turkey.

When visiting a historical city with colorful buildings and cobblestone streets one might ask themselves how exciting it must be to live in such a place. My husband and I did just that and found a villa to rent in Kaleici. While living here, we discovered why so many tourists visit this area of Antalya. Built like a fort, Kaleici was once surrounded by tall, thick stone walls. The city and port quickly rose as one of the most desired ports in the entire Anatolia region and was the subject of many battles as various rulers fought for control of Kaleici.

The Turkish government has since been busy working to restore and preserve Kaleici to keep its vibrant history alive. Kaleici’s historical organization has transformed this once-bustling city center into a beautiful and unique place to visit. All around Kaleici you will find decades of history from Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman eras.

Kaleici is one of the most popular centers in all of Antalya. Lined with unique, colorful villas all transformed into outdoor dining restaurants, souvenir shops, boutique hotels, clubs, and bars make Kaleici a great tourist destination. The local municipality, “Belediye”, does an excellent job keeping the narrow streets and pathways clean and beautified with potted plants and flowery hanging baskets. You may find a bench arched with jasmine, giving you the most amazing fragrance and a great place to snap a photo!

Explore 21 interesting things to see and do in Kaleici:

(Click on the hyperlinks to discover the location on the map)

Clock Tower – The Clock Tower of Antalya was built in 1901, by Grand Vizier Sait Pasha during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II. The clock dial can be seen from all four sides of the 14-meter-high clocktower. The bell perched atop is the oldest piece of the clocktower.

The Mosque of Tekeli Mehmet Pasha – Built by Grand Vizier Founder Murat Pasha in 1570, the mosque is shaded from the sun with a high dome on a ten-sided pulley. Currently, this mosque is under renovation and may not be open for viewing.

Yivli Minaret (Grooved Minaret) – This Seljuk Minaret is the symbol of the city of Antalya. Located in the heart of the city, this 40-meter (131 ft.) high symbol was restored in 1955. The restoration team kept many of the historical characteristics of the minaret, the most recognizable one being the blue tile decorations. A 13th century mosque once lay at the foot of minaret but only ruins remain.

Yivliminare MosqueCommonly referred to as Aladdin Mosque, it’s part of a group of structures called The Kulliyet (The Dervish lodge, Seljuk Giyaseddin Keyhusrev Medrese and the vaults of Zincirkiran and Nigar Hatun are also part of the Kulliyet). It’s most well-known for the Yivli Minare (fluted minaret), which stands 40-meters high and is decorated using dark blue colored porcelain tiles. This mosque once operated as a church but was converted in 1230 by Seljuk sultan.

Mevlevihane Museum – The Mevlevihane structure is located near the clock tower. It’s believed that the structure was built in the 15th century as a private bathhouse for one of the members of the Ottoman dervish dancers. Many interesting artifacts can be seen inside the museum. Visiting Hours: Sunday & Monday from 8:30-17:30.

Kaleici Elevator – Kaleici is a settlement that starts from a cliff and descends to the sea. A lift was installed to make the beach and marina more accessible for tourists. At sea level you can visit a few souvenir shops or enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants overlooking the marina.

Antalya Ethnography Museum – This museum, composed of two separate mansions built upon one of the many slopes found in Kaleici, dates back to the 19th century. In the first mansion, you’ll find Turkish-Islamic works, Seljuk ceramic tiles, tiles from Aspendos Theater, and artifacts unearthed in Kaleici. Ottoman weapons and calligraphy can be found decorating the walls and floor. The second Mansion depicts what Ottoman life was like in Antalya. Wooden ceilings, doors, window sashes, door knockers along with weaving examples of rugs. Make sure to visit the garden to see the 13th century Seljuk Horoscope Inscriptions.

Kaleici Marina

Kaleici Marina – Hop on a boat tour from Kaleici marina. Depending on what you are looking for you can take one of the hourly tours or rent a private boat for the day. Some of the most reasonable boat tours depart at 10:00 and go to places like Konyaaltı Beach, Falezler, and Caltiacak. The tours include a few stops to allow for swimming opportunities, too! Tours typically end around 16:00. 

The marina played a significant role during the Byzantine period as one of the most popular port cities of the Mediterranean. Today, the marina has been modernized but is still recognized as one of the most historical places in Antalya.

Iskele Mosque – This four-pillar open-walled mosque was constructed in the 19th century near the Kirk Merdiven and marina.

Holly Stone Performance Hall – An event center where many musical events occur. Check the calendar and come back in the evening for a fun night in Old Town Kaleici.

Kırk Merdiven (Forty Steps) – Built in the 15th century when trade between Egypt and Antalya was at its peak, the forty-four steps provided access from the marina into Kaleici. Located in the center of the marina, the steps extend along the northern city wall which was built by the Venetians when they settled here. Stories about these stairs at the Antalya Museum.

Antalya Marine Biology Museum Located on the harbor, the Marine Biology Museum contains over 500 different sea creatures. The creation of the museum was inspired by a doctoral thesis by Elif Ozgur Ozbek. On display includes various fish, sponges, corals, shrimps, crustaceans, octopus, squid and jugs, starfish, and sea urchins. The museum is closed on Mondays. It can be visited Tuesday-Sunday between 09:30 and 18:30.

Mermerli Beach – Located behind a cliff next to the marina is a sandy outcropping. This area became Mermerli Beach when an observation deck was installed on the hill. This beach is popular with travelers staying at the hotels in Kaleici so it’s advised to grab a sunbed and arrive early to get an ideal spot.

Kecili Park – Visit the observation balcony made of glass for a wonderful view of the marina. Next to the observation terrace is Kecili Park, where you’ll find wooden goat statues and a beautiful landscape. Near the park are cafes where you can enjoy a beverage of your choice.

Antalya Toy Museum – If you enjoy antique children’s toys this is a fun place to visit. Cartoon characters like Ash Cat, Mickey Mouse, and Papa Smurf and over three thousand more can be viewed throughout the museum.

Karatay Madrasa – Also known as Karadayı Mosque, Karatay Madrasa was built by Celaleddin Karatay in 1250. Here you can admire the beautiful architecture of the iwan and the ornate motifs embroidered in niches along the walls.

Suna-İnan Kıraç Kaleici Museum – Located in one of Kaleici’ s traditional homes from the 9th century, it also is the Aya Yorgi (Agios Georgios) Church. On the house side of the museum, you’ll be able to view Antalya’s traditional architecture along with mannequins depicting life in Antalya before becoming a major port city. The other half of the  museum is the Aya Yorgi Church that dates back to 1863. Visiting Hours: Daily 09:00-16:00. Closed on Wednesdays.

Hadrian Castle Gate – Hadrian Gate is one of the best-preserved structures in Antalya. The gate was built in 130 AD in the name of Roman emperor Hadrianus. You’ll definitely have to pass under this elegant, ancient structure with two columns on each side of it. The set of marble columns creating the archway gate were both built in different centuries.

Karaalioglu Park – Click here to read about all the many interesting things to see about Karaalioglu Park. Start at the Hidirlik Tower and walk end-to-end if you get the chance.

Hidrlik Tower

Hıdırlık Tower – Located in the southwest corner of Kaleiçi. The tower dates back to the 17th century and first served as a watchtower. It was later converted to a lighthouse. It’s located along the edge of  Karaalioğlu Park, which covers 140,000 square meters. Nearby are ice cream stands, cafés, and restaurants to enjoy while viewing the mountains and coastline.

Ataturk House and Museum – This museum commemorates the visit of the first president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, durign the 1930’s. Although the current building is just a replica of the house where Atatürk stayed, the exhibits inside demonstrate the vision he had for the country and his love and devotion towards the people of Antalya. Apr. – Oct. Visiting Hours: Daily 09:00-19:30. Closed on Monday. Nov. – Mar. Visiting Hours: Daily 08:30-17:30. Closed on Monday. Free Admission.

Step Back in Time in Kaleici

As you wander about in Old Town, Kaleici, remember that you are stepping back in time. Try to envision the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottoman people, and the leader of the Republic of Turkey who once roamed the cobblestone streets. Admire the colorful villas and unique boutique hostels. Take time to pick up a few souvenirs (like handcrafted Turkish goods),  enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants, or return in the evening to enjoy live music at one of the many pubs and bars. 

I hope you enjoy your travels to Turkey! You can follow me at Traveling Lens Photography on social media to read about my worldly travel as well as my experience of living as an ex-pat in the very beautiful region of Turkey…. Antalya!

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