Things to do in Ankara in Winter: Turkey’s Frosty Capital!

If you are looking for things to do in Ankara in winter, you’ve come to the right place!

The capital of Turkey has plenty of indoor attractions, museums, famous Turkish hammams, and even a ski centre.

The city is well-tailored for the winter months. It’s not really a summer destination as there are not many outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, or camping to do anyway!

Instead, Ankara excels at museums and cultural activities – perfect for the winter season! 

Plus, everything in Turkey becomes cheaper during winter. And Ankara’s no exception.

Here is the full travel guide to Ankara in winter – read on to find out the best winter attractions in the capital of Turkey.

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What’s Ankara like in winter?

If you are planning to visit Ankara during the winter season, the first thing you need to put in your bag is plenty of warm clothes!

Winters in Ankara are usually cold, snowy and partly cloudy.

January is the coldest month of the year – in the depths of winter, daytime temperatures in Ankara can range from -5°C (23°F) to 5°C (41°F).

While the highest daily average temperature is around 5°C (41°F), the lowest daily average temperature is around -3°C (26°F).

The highest average temperature rarely falls below 26°F or exceeds 58°F.

In the meantime, the lowest average temperature rarely falls below -13°C (9°F) or exceeds 4°C (40°F).

However, heavy snow is rare in the city itself – this is usually found in the snowy mountains around the capital. 

Things to do in Ankara in winter

The Institut Français de Turquie’s Christmas Market

If you are visiting Ankara in December, you should head to the Institut Français de Turquie’s Christmas Market.

You can buy souvenirs offered for sale at this Christmas market and enjoy delicious food and mulled wine.

If you have kids, they’ll love attending the book fair, Christmas fairy tale hour, children’s choir, and movie screenings.

Ataturk Mausoleum

Anitkabir is the first place that most Turks associate with their capital.

Ataturk Mausoleum (Anıtkabir in Turkish) is a museum where the tomb of the founder of modern Turkey and one of the most iconic leaders in the world, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, his personal belongings, and what he did to find modern Turkey are exhibited.

Ataturk’s Mausoleum (Antkabir) has epic architecture and as for its historical and spiritual value.

It is located in the centre of the city in Tandogan, in the Cankaya district.

Ankara Castle

Ankara is the second biggest city in Turkey after Istanbul.

Its history goes back over 5000 years. That’s why it is possible to find a variety of historical buildings wherever you look in Ankara.

Ankara Castle is one of the best examples.

The castle was built in or after the 7th century by the Galatians.

It is also surrounded by buildings with Ottoman architecture, which adds another layer!

The castle also offers one of the best views of the city. You can sit in the cafe and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Ankara by visiting the historical buildings and Ankara Castle’s surroundings.

Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

One of the many indoor activities you can do in Ankara is visiting The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.

The museum consists of the old Ottoman Mahmut Paşa bazaar storage building and the Kurşunlu Han.

In other words, not only are the exhibits in the museum of historical value but, the museum itself is too!

It’s possible to see several exhibits on Anatolian archaeology in this museum, including the Palaeolithic era, Neolithic era, Early Bronze, Byzantine, Seljuq and Ottoman periods.

Walk around Ankara’s old town

If you want to feel the mystical Ottoman era and the early years of the Republic of Turkey, you need to visit Hamamönü, Ankara’s old town.

The historical buildings in Hamamönü generally date from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. This area contains many mansions, houses, mosques, monuments, and museums within its borders.

There are also lots of lovely restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy a cup of chai – perfect for warming up on a cold afternoon!

Atakule

Built in 1989, Atakule is another destination you should visit in Ankara.

Atakule hosts many attractions, including Ankara’s oldest and Turkey’s second oldest shopping mall.

There are two 125-metre-long elevators which go all the way to the top of Atakule, where you can enjoy a spectacular view of Ankara.

Here, there is a restaurant that can rotate 360 degrees every hour at the top of Atakule.

In addition, the multi-purpose cocktail hall, exhibition hall, cafeteria bar, viewing area and open terraces are among the areas of the tower.

It is possible to see the 125-meter-high tower from almost anywhere in the city.

Haci Bayram Mosque

Haci Bayram Mosque is one of the oldest and best-known mosques in Turkey’s capital city, Ankara.

Built in the Ottoman Empire period, the 15th-century mosque got its name from the Turkish Sufi and poet Haci Bayram-i Veli.

The mosque reflects the motifs of Ottoman and even Seljuk architecture. In 2016, Haci Bayram Mosque was added to the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkey. 

It’s not quite as impressive as the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, but it’s still well worth visiting when you’re in the capital! 

While you are visiting Haci Bayram Mosque, don’t forget to also see the Temple of Augustus near the mosque.

Since the mosque and the temple are side by side, it’s possible to visit both historical buildings on the same day.

Visit a hammam

Turkish baths are legendary, and what better way to warm up in winter than soak in a spa?

While you are in Hamamönü, you can visit Karacabey Bath, a popular Turkish bathhouse in the capital.

There are also many modern alternatives to Karacabey Bath in other districts of Ankara.

While you can find some historical hammams like Karacabey, you can also find modern hammams in Ankara.

You might also find a Turkish bath in your hotel. I recommend staying at Divan Ankara for a great spa experience in your hotel!

Aqua Vega Aquarium

One of the best indoor activities that you can do in Ankara is visit the Aqua Vega Aquarium.

Located on the second floor of Nata Vega Outlet (a shopping mall) the aquarium hosts over 12,000 sea creatures.

You can also go shopping in Nata Vega Outlet afterwards!

Elmadag Ski Centre

Contrary to popular belief, Turkey is a popular snow sports destination, and you can easily enjoy the ski season during your Ankara winter trip. 

Ankara’s Elmadag Ski Centre, which is about 20 km from the city centre, is an ideal spot for tourists who want to enjoy winter sports and take in the fresh mountain air in Ankara.

The slope of Elmadag Ski Centre isn’t too high.

For this reason, it’s great for those who are new to skiing.

However, you can still take in the mountain landscape and breathe in fresh air on this day trip from the capital!

The length of the main runway in Elmadag Ski Centre is 400 meters, and the width is 500 meters.

It is possible to find two chair lifts with a length of 300 and 650 meters in the facility.

Snowboarding is also possible in Elmadag Ski Centre, as there is a section of uncleared snow.

Where to eat in Ankara

Although Ankara doesn’t have quite the same food scene as Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city, there are still plenty of great places to dine here.

One of my favourites is vegankara. This all-vegan restaurant offers delicious wraps and other meals, and it’s open throughout the year.

Another popular places is Triyle Restaurant, which is famous for seafood.

There are also lots of great street food options and plenty of places to grab a falafel and Turkish chai.

How to get to Ankara

Like many cities in Turkey, the best way to get to Ankara is by flight.

Although Ankara is the second biggest city in Turkey, there aren’t many direct international flights to the city. So, depending on where you come from, you might need to fly to Istanbul first.

After you land in Istanbul, you can enjoy your time in this gorgeous city or transfer to Ankara by domestic flight.

Alternatively, you can also reach Ankara by high-speed rail or coach service.

The high-speed rail is 561 km (349 mi) long and takes 4 hours and 15 minutes.

You can get on the train at Kadikoy, Istanbul, and disembark at the Sihhiye district of Ankara.

Besides the Istanbul-Ankara HSR, you can also reach the city by using two more high-speed lines, which are the Ankara-Konya HSR and the Ankara-Sivas HSR.

There’s also the Eastern Express Train, which connects to Kars in East Turkey, and is one of the best ways to take in a magical Turkish winter landscape. 

Eastern Express Ankara/Kars Turkey

Coach service is another way to reach Ankara from other cities in Turkey; it’s a central city in the country and is connected to most destinations. 

There are buses to Ankara from nearly every city in Turkey. The journey takes almost 7 hours from Istanbul and 8 hours from Izmir and Antalya.

How to get around Ankara

Ankara Esenboga Airport is located 30 minutes from the city. The best way to get to the city centre is by bus – the BelkoAir.

Ankara is a large city, so you might use the public transport system while you’re here.

There are two metro lines and a commuter rail in the city, which makes transportation easier.

Parts of Ankara are also very walkable!

Where to stay in Ankara in winter

Divan Ankara is a lovely luxurious hotel with contemporary rooms with comfy mattresses and fresh bedlinen, a luxe swimming pool and spa facilities. You can check prices and book here.

Nira Boutique Hotel is a charming and affordable hotel in the heart of Ankara. Reviewers love the space, how clean it is an how friendly the owners are! Check it out here.

Hotel Best is another great value place to stay (and the rate even includes a free breakfast!). It has cozy rooms with traditional bathrooms and is in a great city centre location. Click here to see it.

What is Christmas in Ankara like?

Although the majority of Turkey’s citizens are Muslims, they still celebrate Christmas like other countries, but with small differences.

The best cities to celebrate Christmas in Turkey are Istanbul, Antalya, Izmir, and Ankara.

In Ankara, you can attend parties, particularly in Tunali Hilmi Street, buy gifts from a variety of shopping malls, eat dinner with your friends at the beautiful restaurants of Ankara, spend time at Noel Market or visit churches like St. Paul’s Church and the Church of St. Teresa.

Where to visit in Turkey in winter

If you’re looking for more places to visit in Turkey in winter, you can visit the following from Ankara: 

  • Cappadocia: Famous for its hot air balloon rides, Cappadocia is a snowy winter wonderland from November to February. 
  • Antalya: For a more mild winter, visit the ancient city of Antalya
  • Istanbul: Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul is ideal for beautiful architecture and interesting museums. 
  • Izmir: There’s plenty to see in Izmir in winter, and the temperatures are milder too!

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