When you hear “Turkey”, Istanbul is probably the first city that pops into your mind. But hey, Turkey and its other 300,472 sq. miles (approximately, who’s counting?) would beg to differ. So, I’m here to tell you all about Turkey’s other city: Ankara, the second largest city in Turkey. It doesn’t have any of the ostentatious Ottoman palaces or colorful history as a main city along the Silk Road that Istanbul may boast, but that is exactly what makes it so great.

Ankara is a young, vibrant city that doesn’t need a rich history (like that “other city” as Istanbul will now be referred to as) to drag it down. Rather, the urban flair stems from its student elan and the fact that it’s the capital. As such, Ankara boasts a large population of university students and government workers, which means, goods and services run abound in Ankara that would be hard to find otherwise. A quick glance at Ankara doesn’t leave much to the imagination: a concrete jungle reminiscent of the usual big city. However, diving deeper, you and I will see the great amount Ankara has to offer as a travel destination, rather than a passing checkpoint to your actual destination.

Photo credit: Ömer Ünlü..

With many attractions warranting a visit from even the most traveled and worldly of people, Ankara provides an experience that will not be soon forgotten. Here’s a list of Anatolian sights:


Completed in 1953, a mausoleum/museum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. A popular destination for Tourists,and a landmark Turks show profound respect towards, Anitkabir becomes an area of celebration on national holidays, an especially fantastic experience if you find yourself there on those days: April 23 - National Sovereignty and Children's Day; May 19 - Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day, August 30 - Victory Day, October 29 - Republic Day.

Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

Selected as the European Museum of the Year in 2002, this museum is one of the best in Turkey. Often, a visit to Ankara is considered worthwhile just for this Museum.

Ankara Castle

Overlooks Ankara on a high hill just above Ulus, Ankara Castle is over 1000 years old. It has a rich history of being captured, recaptured and captured again by various groups in the early 1000s. After learning about its history, the view of Ankara cannot be understated. Be sure to bring a camera!

Tunali District

Great area for students looking for cafes, restaurants, bars and shopping. Best on a sunny day where you really get the feel of a district in Ankara.

Ankara Modern Arts Center

Students. Anything free is usually great for us. Opposite the American Embassy in Kavaklidere, this Center offers free exhibitions and performances.

Getting to Turkey, let alone living in Turkey, can eat away at your savings. Check out our list of possible financial aid options:


We journey on to the affordability. Ankara is generally considered average in terms of living. At least, I can proudly say that Ankara is cheaper to live in than that “other city”, so there’s one more reason to study in Ankara. For currency, Ankara is on the Turkish New Lira. There are plenty of ATMs sprinkled around Ankara, but make sure that the ATM is located outside a national bank so any problems can be resolved right away. There is generally no need to open a bank account there (unless, and as I’m sure you will, you fall in love with Ankara and you decide to live there for the rest of your life) as the small fees accrued from the ATMs will only be for the few months you’re there.

Culture Shock and Support

Living in Ankara can be a rewarding experience, but it is also a completely new one. Halfway across the world, Ankara can be quite daunting for a new traveler studying abroad from America. If you believe culture shock may be a problem, be sure to find a program that really caters to American students, so that you can be helped in English. However, remember that you have your fellow students! If you’re missing the long hours of studying and the obnoxiously loud people back in the US, well, then you’re weird. On a more serious note, talk to your fellow peers! If you’re experiencing some homesickness, there is every chance that they are as well. Don’t be embarrassed if you need to talk to someone about home, it is completely normal and who knows, you may become even closer friends!

Insider Tips

Now that we’re at the point where Ankara is most definitely on your travel itinerary, we can talk about the city’s transportation. Ankara is well connected by a good public transportation system. Private and public buses are all around the city, the underground subway ‘Metro’ runs throughout the inner city and the outer suburbs, and the taxis are cheap and always available throughout the city. I should mention, many of the public transportation maps are in Turkish, so be sure you either ask for a map in English from your program, or be knowledgeable enough in Turkish to ask for directions (some people may speak English).

A final tip for the duration of your studies in Ankara: the Atatürik Forest Farm and Zoo. It is an expansive recreational area that offers a zoo, farms, areas for picnicking, a brewery and great restaurants. The area offers miles of established paths for a pleasant day of walking and cycling. Home-brewed beer, traditional ice cream and Turkish food, and kebabs are all must-tries as well.

In Conclusion

Question: What more could you ask for in a city than Ankara? Answer: Very little! That's why there's never been a time to head down to your study abroad office to organize your semester in Turkey. We'll see you there!

Contributed by Albert Ji


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