Blessed with warm weather, sandy beaches, and a postcard-perfect mountain backdrop, Antalya is an ideal Mediterranean holiday destination. Add to that the warm hospitality and great food found in Turkey and it’s also a welcoming and delicious destination. With direct flights from most major hubs in Europe, a weekend or 3 days in Antalya is an easy escape or add-on to any European holiday. On my first international trip since the pandemic restrictions were lifted, I did just that.
Although I spent five days relaxing and exploring the surroundings, I think 3 days in Antalya is enough to get you an excellent overview of the history and culture of this unique Mediterranean city.
With that, here are my tips on how to spend 3 days in Antalya.Compare prices on flights to Antalya with Skyscanner
Overview and Orientation
Located on Turkey’s southern coast, Antalya is a short 1-hour and 25-minute flight from Istanbul. Train service will take you 14 hours, bus 12 hours and 45 minutes, and self-driving will take you just over 10 hours.
Antalya airport offers direct flights to many major hubs in Europe, all of which provide affordable year-round and seasonal fares on airlines such as Turkish, EasyJet, Pegusus, and Ryanair.
Here are a few popular routes along with flight time;
- London (Gatwick, Luton, Stansted) – 4h 35 min
- Amsterdam – 4h 25 min
- Munich – 3h 25 min
- Copenhagen – 3h 50 min
Antalya is divided into three main tourist areas, Kaleiçi (the historic old town), Konyaaltı Beach, and Lara Beach. If you are looking for more than a beach holiday, I suggest staying in Kaleiçi or just outside its city walls. This gives you the best of both worlds.
Day One – Explore Kaleiçi
Speaking of Kaleiçi, you can spend a full day exploring its many shops, restaurants, cafés, and museums. I suggest getting lost in its winding streets and taking in the views of the harbour from the many vantage points along the city walls.
Arguably the most visited (and photographed) spot in the old town is Hadrian’s Gate. Built in honour of Roman emperor Hardin, this triumphal arch dates back to 130 AD. Today it is the only remaining gate to Antalya’s old town and harbour.
You will find plenty of eateries concentrated around the gate and is a meeting point for tours.For a great overview of these Antalya ruins and more consider a walking tour of Kaleici!
Old City Marina
At the heart of Kaleiçi is the marina. To this day there is plenty of activity here. Watch boats hauling fish from the Mediterranean come and go or stroll along the breakwater for a photo op. There are several seafood restruaunts along the marina featuring catch-of-the-day dishes and Turkish cusine.
Originaly a Roman temple built in the sixth century AD, the Korkut Mosque took over in the 9th century during the Sultanate of Rum rule. This back-and-forth continued until the building was destroyed by fire in 1800. In 2021 it was restored to welcome worshipers once more.
Antalya’s Archaeological Museum
History fans will enjoy the Antalya Archaeological Museum which houses plenty of artefacts from Perge, Side, and Aspendos. I highly recommend visiting here before or after heading out of town to get a better appreciation of the history around the sites.
If you’re looking to get more background on the history of Kaleiçi, I suggest taking a walking tour with a guide. This is a great way to cover the old town while learning about the century’s worth of history along the way.
Outside the Walls
The area outside of the city walls is also worth exploring. There is plenty of activity in and around the Antalya Bazaar. It’s loaded with stalls selling everything from knockoff Nikes to Turkish rugs, spices, and sweets. I stocked up on Turkish delights on the first day and enjoyed each afternoon with tea at my hotel.
Hidirlik Tower and Karaalioglu Park
Since its construction in the second century CE, the Hidirlik Tower has been used as a lighthouse and for fortification purposes. Today it serves as a beacon overlooking the old town harbour. It’s also a great place to watch the sun go down.
Just south of Hidirlik Tower is the expansive Karaalioglu Park. There you will find plenty of great walking paths lined with flowers and statues. There’s also a small amusement park for those travelling with children.
Day Two – Ancient Ruins or Ancient Spa
I suggest spending your second day in Antalya exploring its nearby sites. Depending on what you’re into, you have options.
Antalya’s Ancient Ruins
With the Romans and Greeks ruling the region for centuries, there are several significant ruins to explore along the Turquoise Coast.
To be as efficient as possible, I suggest booking a day tour to cover the region. I can recommend this tour which gets you to Perge, Aspendos and Side all within a day. The tour costs ~$70 and include hotel pickup, guide, admission fees, and lunch.
Located 15 km (9.1 mi) east of Antalya, Perge was once the capital of the Roman province of Pamphylia Secunda. As such, the footprint of this site is massive, spanning several city blocks.
Any time I find myself roaming ancient ruins I am in a daze. My head has a hard time comprehending how anything this large and complex happens without modern technology. From the Roman baths to the column-lined road, this UNESCO world heritage site has surprises at every turn.
If Perge is head-scratching, Aspendos is mindblowing. This massive Roman theatre has been incredibly well preserved, so much so that modern concerts and shows are still performed here. What an experience that must be.
Visitors are free to roam the theater, climbing its stairs and taking a seat.
Pronounced “see-day,” Side translates to pomegranate in Greek. The tourist center is, oddly, built on top of the old city. There are glass windows allowing people to walk over and Pierre down on ancient artefacts and foundations of the old buildings. This all leads to the Mediterranean and the true highlight of Side, The Temple of Apollo.
Built around 150 A.D., this temple was dedicated to Apollo, the god of music, harmony, and light. Today, five columns have been restored, giving guests a glimpse of what this site once looked like. Again, head-scratching to say the least.
Ancient Spa – Pamukkale
If ancient ruins, aren’t your thing, a trip to Pamukkale might be for you.
This natural thermal hot spring has been treating visitors for centuries. Its unique white carbonate minerals formations and teal blue pools make for a beautiful soak unlike anywhere else.
Note: A day trip to Pamukkale will take you at least 10 hours so plan accordingly. I highly suggest taking a guided tour so that you don’t have to worry about driving to and from. This tour also includes a stop at the nearby ancient Greek city of Hierapolis which, along with Pamukkale, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Day Three – Beaches, Waterfalls, and Cable Cars.
On your last day in Antalya, I suggest relaxing and taking in some of the city’s beauty.
Quietly tucked behind the marina’s breakwater, this small beach is perfect for those looking to catch some sun close to the old town. For 20 Turkish Lira, guests can access the beach along with its amenities – sunbeds, umbrellas, and washroom facilities. Even more convenient is wait service for drinks and food from the neighbouring resturaunt.
Lara Beach streatches a full 15 km along the coast and is where you will find most of Antalya’s high-end hotels and resorts. That said, even if you aren’t staying at one of the properties you can access the 2 km stretch open to the public free of charge.
Lower Duden Falls
Once you’ve had enough sun I suggest hopping on a rental scooter and making your way to Duden Park. There you will find my favourite site in Antalya, Duden Falls flowing into the medeteranian.
Aside from admiring the falls, Duden park is a great place to have a picnic. Failing that, there are plenty of restraunts and cafes lining the boulevard leading to and away from the park.
For more on my time discovering Lower and Upper Duden Falls, check out my dedicated post on Antalya waterfalls.
Cable Car Ride
Located just 10-minutes away from the city center is the Tünektepe Teleferik cable car. The ride to the top provides unmatched views of Antalya and the Turkish coastline. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the top where you have access to a mountain top observatory and restaurant. There’s also a nature trail to stroll.
What to Eat and Drink in Antalya?
As mentioned in my other posts on Turkey, I love this country‘s cuisine. With its history of being at a crossroads between Europe and Asia, flavours from all over can be found in Turkish cuisine. Antalya is no different only with the added bonus of having access to fresh seafood.
Here are some local dishes to try;
- Gozleme – referred to as “Turkish Pancakes,” this savoury crepe-like snack is one of the most popular street eats in Antalya. Try it stuffed with cheese and spinach or keema (chopped meat).
- Borek – Another popular dish in Antalya is Borek, a thin and crispy dish pastry served with sweet or savoury fillings.
- Pide Salonu – Known as “Turkish Pizza,” Pide Salonu is flatbread topped with cheese and meat and then folded to give it a boat-like shape. You can find it on the cheap (~5 Lira) throughout the city.
- Fırın Sütlaç – this baked rice pudding custard may not be from Antalya but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it all over town. Get it with crushed nuts.
- Turkish Ice Cream – Select your flavour and then try to claim your order as playful servers play trickery with your cone. Made from fresh goat’s milk, the show is as good as the ice cream.
- Turkish Tea – my routine each day included stopping for tea at least twice in Kaleiçi. There are several terrace restaurants and cafes offering incredible views of the marina and town below.
- Fresh Pressed Juices – Turkey loves its freshly squeezed juices. Typically orange and pomegranate, you can find a wide selection of flavours. Check out the Cafebus in Kaleiçi park. It is a converted VW bus and is bright orange in colour so it’s hard to miss!
- Efes Pilsner – Turkey may not be known for beer however in a hot location like Antalya, a crisp pilsner is always appreciated.
Where to Stay in Antalya?
Now, typically in my three-day itineraries, I recommend places I have stayed at. With a poor experience at my Antalya accommodations on this trip, I can’t recommend where I stayed.
I can, however, recommend staying in the old town or just outside its walls. The following properties come highly recommended on TripAdvisor and Booking.com:
Budget Accommodations in Antalya
The Gizli Bahçe offers nofrills rooms in the heart of the old town. It’s garden makes it feel like a secluded paradise and the bar/restruant is a popular place with backpackers and travellers.
Mid-range Accommodations in Antalya
The Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Antalya is located just south of the old town making it a good option to stay close to the action. Seaside rooms offer incredible views and the outdoor pool overhangs a patio on sea with loungers. A great mix of resort and hotel amenities, all at a reasonable price.
High End Accommodations in Antalya
Those looking for a luxury retreat in Antalya have plenty of options. As mentioned, Lara Beach is lined with 5-star hotels, all with incredible Turkish hospitality. Check out the Porto Bello Hotel Resort & Spa if you want a full resort experience and are travelling with kids.
If you are looking for a great resort closer to the old town, check out the Rixos Downtown Antalya. This all-inclusive resort is a great mix of location and carefree travel.
Is 3 Days in Antalya Enough?
Although you can cover a lot of ground by spending three days in Antalya, I suggest spending 4 to 5. As you can see from this post, there is just so much to see and do in and around the Turquoise Coast.
That said, if you are looking for a short weekend break at the beach with options to explore ancient ruins, enjoy natural beauty, and eat great food, 3 days in Antalya is perfect.READ MORE: Exploring Antalya’s Ancient Ruins.