Top 9 Ancient Cities and Sites You Must Visit in Turkey

Turkey is a prosperous country in terms of ancient cities. In fact, it can be said that there is at least one ancient city or ruin in almost every city. Since the very beginning of civilization, various settlements have been built in the geography where Turkey is located. The abundance of ancient cities and sites in Turkey had led it to be named as an “open-air museum.”

Some of these have been unearthed today thanks to excavations, and they provide very important information about the past and the start of civilization. Today in this list, I will share the most important ancient cities and ruins in Turkey.

Göbeklitepe – Şanlıurfa

Göbeklitepe, known as the “cradle of civilization” and “zero points of human history,” is the oldest worship area globally. It is known that Göbeklitepe was built 9000 years earlier from the Egyptian pyramids and 6000 years earlier from Stonehenge. Given the findings, Göbeklitepe is one of the first “living spaces” of the world.

First founded by German archeologist and historian Klaud Scmidt in 1994, Göbeklitepe occupies an area with a diameter of 300 meters. Findings in the Göbeklitepe make it clear that it is from the transition era to Stone Era to settled life and the agriculture revolution.

Göbeklitepe – Şanlıurfa

The most interesting part about Göbeklitepe is that there is no clear information on why it was built. The dilemma itself is typically interpreted as Göbeklitepe being a worshipping area.

Today, thousands of people all around the world visit Göbeklitepe, the zero point of human history. Göbeklitepe was included in UNESCO World Heritage List in 2018.

Aphrodisias Ancient City – Aydın

Aphrodisias Ancient City belongs to the ancient Greek and Rome periods, and it was dedicated to the beautiful goddess Aphrodite. It is one of the most successfully preserved ancient cities, and it is considered one of the most important archeological sites of Turkey. In fact, Aphrodisias Ancient City has been a UNESCO World Heritage since 2017.

Aphrodisias Ancient City – Aydın

The history of Aphrodisias Ancient City goes back to B.C. 6th century. The ancient city is famous for its stadium, which happens to be the world’s best-preserved ancient stadium. Another famous part of Aphrodisias Ancient City is the temple made for the sake of Aphrodite.

Pergamon Ancient City – İzmir

Pergamon Ancient City, which is referred to as “The most famous and revered city of Asia Minor” by philosopher Plinius Secundus, takes place in İzmir. The city served as the capital of the Pergamon Kingdom for over a century.

During that time, Pergamon Ancient City was the region’s center in terms of culture, economics, and politics. Despite the inclined nature of the area, Pergamon Ancient City has surprisingly convenient city planning.

Pergamon Ancient City – İzmir

Throughout history, Pergamon Ancient City witnessed many invasions and battles. Some of the most important findings in the city include the theatre with a capacity of 10.000 people, Dionysus Temple, and gymnasium, which happens to be the biggest gymnasium in the Hellenistic world.

Aspendos Ancient City – Antalya

Aspendos Ancient City takes place in a village in Antalya, and its history goes back to the 10th century B.C. The city is known for printing the first coin to its name. Because the city was built on a trade way, it was carrying a great significance back then. Aspendos Ancient City consists of a stadium, theatre, agora, bath, and various shops.

One thing that discriminates Aspendos theatre from other ancient theatres is its acoustic properties. It is known that if someone were to throw a coin in the middle of the theatre, even the person sitting in the farthest point would be able to hear it.

Aspendos Ancient City – Antalya

Additionally, the architectural features of the aqueducts raise questions about how many technical processes were carried out at that time.

Moreover, this ancient theatre is still being actively used for various events, including but not limited to concerts and shows.

Laodikeia Ancient City – Denizli

Laodikeia Ancient City was found on the south side of the Lykos River, which contributed to its strategic value a lot back then. In the 1st century B.C, Laodikeia Ancient City was known as one of the most important cities of Anatolia.

Most of the essential findings in the ancient city are rooted in the 1st century B.C. The significance of the city was also recognized by the Roman Empire so that they made it the center for Conventus.

Laodikeia Ancient City – Denizli

With the help of the Laodikeia Ancient City population, the city has various monumental buildings, and some of them are survived in the city. The survival of the buildings in the city was possible thanks to the reconstructions after each earthquake. Given that the area is pretty prone to earthquakes, there had been quite a few reconstructions in the past.

Laodikeia Ancient City carries an excellent significance for Christianity, too, since it was the pilgrimage center starting from the 4th century A.D. Moreover, the city includes one of the seven churches mentioned in the Holy Bible, Laodikeia Church.

Some of the most famous artifacts in the city include the biggest stadium of Anatolia, two theatres, four-bath complexes, 5 Nymphaeums, parliament buildings, churches, and monumental streets. Four sides of the city are surrounded by cemeteries named necropolis.

Patara Ancient City – Antalya

Patara Ancient City, an ancient city so crucial that an entire year was devoted to it, takes place in Antalya. It is known to be one of the oldest ancient cities of Turkey. The city was one of the most important cities back then in the Lycia, and in the 2nd century B.C, it served as the capital city.

While it was under Roman Empire, the city was being used as a naval base. Simultaneously, the port of the city served as a warehouse for the wheat traveled all the way from Anatolia to Rome.

Patara Ancient City – Antalya

In the post-Rome period, the city became famous as being the Apollon prophecy center, and it became a unique place for all Christians. Additionally, Saint Nikolas, known as Santa Claus, was born in Patara, contributing to its value for Christianity.

It is possible to see examples of Hellenistic and Roman period architectural properties in Patara Ancient City. Lastly, the ancient city is famous for having the first surviving parliament building in the world.

Ephesus Ruins – İzmir

Ephesus Ruins, one of the seven wonders of the world, is a metropolis that is located in İzmir. The ancient city is known to be a “mega ancient city,” and the ruins have been standing still for thousands of years.

Ephesus Ruins carries a great historical significance due to the development symbols of various civilizations regarding architecture, religion, and urbanization. Moreover, Artemis Temple, which is among the seven wonders of the ancient world, takes place in Ephesus Ruins, too.

Ephesus Ruins – İzmir

Ephesus Ancient City has every detail to being considered a city in its era. Developed enough to be a city even today, it includes complicated streets, squares, shops, and bazaars. Beyond the urbanization, Ephesus Ancient City is known to be a trade center with a great political significance in the area.

Due to natural disasters, the city had to be evacuated at some point in history. After thousands of years, Ephesus Ancient City was found by accident during excavations. Ephesus Ancient City’s most important findings include Celcus Library, Hadrian Gate, and Hadrian Temple.

Hattusas Ancient City – Çorum

First found by Charles Texier in 1834, Hattusas Ancient City was the capital city of Hittites. In the year 1986, the ancient city was on the UNESCO World Heritage list. For several centuries, Hattusas preserved its significance for Anatolia.

In the cuneiform tablets, the city is referred to as a “city with thousand gods.” Today, Hattusas Ancient City includes monumental gates, Büyükkale Palace Complex, a big temple, and many more historically significant buildings.

Hierapolis Ancient City – Denizli (Pamukkale)

Hierapolis Ancient City was known as the city of “water and faith.” It was found by the Bergama King II. Eumenes in the 2nd century B.C. The legend says that the city got its name from the Bergama Kingdom’s founder Telephos’ wife, Hiera.

Because the area that Hierapolis Ancient City takes place is an earthquake area, the city had witnessed many earthquakes throughout history and had to be reconstructed several times.

Many of the buildings that survive today were built after the big earthquake in the year 60 B.C. After the last construction past-earthquake, the city lost its Hellenistic properties and got its final form with Roma architectural properties.

The city structure has a grid plan. The main street divides the city into two parts, and each side of this street is filled with public buildings, shops, workshops, and porches. The necropolis area of Hierapolis Ancient City is known to be the biggest necropolis of Anatolia.

Hierapolis Ancient City takes place right next to Pamukkale Travertines, offering its visitors a  historical view. Hierapolis Ancient City, with the travertines, was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list as both cultural and natural heritage. With the help of the travertines, Hierapolis Ancient City was considered a healing and faith center for many years.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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