Old and new on the Turkish Riviera
- Recommended for:
- Beach, Mid-range
Rich in history and archaeological sites, Antalya, on the coast of Turkey, is also a paradise for late-night party people
With the price of the pound against the Euro so weak, my number one priority when choosing my summer holidays was to avoid the expensive Euro. I also didn’t want a long haul flight. So where to go? Turkey!
The Turkish Riviera has many attractions but none more beautiful than the resort of Antalya – Turkey’s fastest growing city. Sandwiched graciously between the Mediterranean Sea and the dramatic Taurus Mountain range, Antalya has the lot - exceptionally clean beaches with crystal clear waters, wonderful restaurants and a nightlife that rivals anywhere I’ve been (especially if you’re into your house music!) The year-round high temperatures and modern international airport situated only 15km from the beach make it the perfect destination choice. BA flies from Gatwick to Antalya from around £225 per person; a taxi from the airport to the city costs around £8.
What I loved about Antalya is the fantastic mix of old and new - the old town, Kaleici, which means ‘inside the castle,’ is peaceful and romantic, protected from the bustle of the city by an ancient perimeter wall. Kaleici’s maze-like narrow streets boast some of the most beautifully preserved Ottoman architecture in Europe. These timber-framed chalet-style buildings are now mostly bars and eateries with pretty gardens filled with colorful hibiscus and orange trees - the perfect setting for cracking open a cold Efes beer (c£1.50) and watching the sun set behind Mount Olympos and the picturesque port below.
On the other side of town is clubbers’ paradise Konyaalti Beach. This pebbly stretch of beach to the west of the city has found itself the epicentre of Antalya’s nightlife. Much of Antalya’s appeal lies in its rich history, natural beauties and archeological sites but the 2002 opening of Beach Park revitalized the city’s party scene and gave holiday makers a new incentive to visit.
Places to Stay
Hillside Su* *Hotel on Konyaalti Beach is an ultra-modern minimalist hotel in a superb setting on the western end of Beach Park. It’s a bold exercise in interior design, with all-white décor and huge mirrored disco balls dominating the atrium. The outdoor areas are trendy and serene; there’s an Olympic-length pool surrounded by teak wood decking, scattered with cushions and huge comfy mattresses for sunbathing. Rooms from c £185 per night.
For something more traditional and quiet, the Alp Pasa* *Boutique Hotel is an old Ottoman House converted into a first-class boutique hotel right in the heart of the Old Town. The rooms (c£80) are comfortable and elegantly decorated in an old Turkish style. It has a small, secluded pool area where food is also served in the evenings.
Things to do
Boats moored at the port in Kaleiçi offer a variety of half- and full-day local tours. Some group excursions take 8 hours and offer evening entertainment in the shape of moonlit buffets and belly dancing (c£35-45.) I chose to take the short two-hour trip to the pretty Düden waterfalls (c£7.) Two hours was just enough for me and I strongly recommend you avoid excursions in the middle of the day, when temperatures can soar up to 100 degrees. If you want to make a day of it, private boat hire is available - check out hidden beaches and even have a barbecue lunch, but prepare to pay around £175.
The Archeological Museum sounds boring but isn’t – it’s actually rather interesting! It has 14 exhibition halls and an open-air gallery featuring tons of ancient artifacts, including statues, paintings and mosaics from the Bronze Age to the 19th century. Check out the bones of St Nicholas of Myra, a Byzantine bishop who some claim to be the original Santa Claus! (Tues– Sun 8.30am–5.30pm; c£6)
For all-out-fun go to Aqualand water park situated at the Beach Park – you’ve seen it all before but hey… it’s still fun! (Free entry when staying at the Hillside Su or c£9 otherwise.)
Antalya has some great restaurants - you’ll find the best of the bunch in Kaleiçi. If you’re feeling flush and want to eat delicious food in a romantic outside setting, you shouldn’t miss Club Arma. Built into a cliff face overlooking the sea and the harbour, this swanky restaurant has the best location in town. I ate octopus carpaccio starter and a lobster main, and drowned it all in a delicious white wine. A meal for two will set you back about £70, which for what you get is a bargain. After dinner is served, Arma turns into an open-air dance club with music till 4am. This is where the Turkish A-list hangs out!
For good Turkish meze for under £10, try Restaurant Hasanaga near the historic Hadrian's Gate. The house Specialty - osmanli tabagi, a tender meat in a thick sauce served in a bubbling stoneware pot – is out of this world (£4.50.)
Antalya’s nightlife revolves around Beach Park. Early evening drinks at Hillside Su’s Beach Bar are akin to Ibiza’s famous Café del Mar – sit back on a comfy white sofa, sip a cocktail (£5 during 5-7 happy hour) and just watch the beautiful people. Beach Park really kicks off around 10pm, when clubs fight for decibels as the finest DJs from Istanbul spin the best in New York house and live Turkish bands perform in the local bars. The intoxicating mix can send your head spinning; luckily nearly all the bars and clubs are open air, with plenty of little corners to chill. Club GoGo on beach 9 is good, as is Club Sky Bar. For some traditional live music, belly dancing and a shish pipe try Geby bar.