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Kaleiçi old quarter has a Roman era harbour

Gateway to Turkey’s Turquoise Coast, Antalya has become a destination in its own right thanks to its charming old quarter and kid-friendly appeal. Visitors are guaranteed to fall for its cultural centre, wedged between perfect strips of sand and overlooking Mediterranean waters that live up to their colourful name. Here are the best of the city's museums, sights and other attractions.

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Sharks float overhead at Antalya Aquarium

Antalya Aquarium 

Kids in tow? No problem – when you need a respite from the sun, this sprawling aquarium complex has shark feeding sessions, a natural snow museum, a high-tech oceanic cinema and a tropical reptile house. It’s the world’s largest tunnel aquarium, meaning that you’ll get up close to the marine life on all sides as you walk besides gliding stingrays, Nemos, lionfish and more. You’ll find it at Konyaaltı Beach – look for ticket deals online. 

Read more about the amazing Antalya Aquarium (sponsored). 

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Kaleiçi is Antalya's ancient waterside core

Old city marina 

Crowded with bobbing sailboat masts and traditional Ottoman houses, Antalya’s old working harbour is as pretty as a picture. It’s existed since Roman times but was restored in the 1980s. Above the boats looms the hulking fortified walls of Kaleiçi, Antalya’s old quarter – a highlight of the area, with cobbled laneways worth an afternoon’s exploration. 

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The archaeological ruins of Perge

Perge

Ready for a history lesson? You’ve come to the right place, because Antalya is crammed with ancient glories. Perge is one of the Pamphylian cities, believed to have been built in the 12th to 13th centuries BC. During its illustrious life, it was ruled by Persia, then surrendered to Alexander the Great in 334 BC. After the Ancient Greeks, the city thrived as a Roman settlement in the 2nd to 3rd centuries AD. The ancient ruins include a theatre, stadium, remnants of the city walls, a basilica and baths.  

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The hilltop ruins of Termessos

Termessos 

The ruins of Termessos are one of Turkey’s best-preserved archaeological sites, thanks to its hillside position where it remained protected by pine forests for thousands of years. At 1050 metres above sea level, it well deserves the nickname that locals have given it – ‘the Eagle’s Nest’. Like Perge, it’s thought to have been founded by an ancient Pamphylian tribe. Ruins aside, its precipitous location makes it a wonderful spot to explore. 

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Sandland's sculptures stand all year

Sandland 

Taking sandcastle building to a whole new level, the seriously talented sculptors of Sandland can create just about anything with just sand and water. Once a year, they descend from all over the world to spend three weeks toiling away on 10,000 tonnes of river sand over an area of 10,000 sq m. Sphinxes, temples, animals – you name it, you can find it here at this bonkers open-air gallery on the Lara coast. It’s the only sand sculpture museum in the world that’s open year-round. 

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The Roman tower in Karaalioglu Park 

Karaalioglu Park 

Just outside the old quarter of Kaleiçi, lovely Karaalioglu Park has a swell coastal spot and views over to Kaleiçi’s ancient harbour. Broad palm-lined promenades drink in sea views and there’s even a 2nd- century Roman tower gazing out over the Mediterranean. On weekends, the park is thronged with strolling locals and buskers catching sea breezes. 

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The minaret of Yivli Mosque dates to the 13th century

Yivli Mosque

Often described as the symbol of Antalya, Yivli’s striking fluted minaret rises like a beacon above Kaleiçi. It was erected for Seljuk Sultan Aladdin Keykubad I in the early 13th century and the mosque it’s attached to is still in use today. Within this Unesco-listed complex there’s also two 500-year-old tombs and a little-known Sufi museum inside what was once a monastery for whirling dervishes.

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