Greetings from Bishkek! I’ve now been here for a week and a half, and I’m enjoying getting to explore this city and develop a new pattern of work and rest. I want to spend some time reflecting on my three weeks in Turkey’s capital, and share with you some recommendations of places to go, food to eat and specialty coffees to try. I’d been to Ankara twice before, so on this occasion I didn’t visit the Anit Kabir or Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, but both are worth visiting if it’s your first time in the city.
Most of my time during this visit was spent supporting the projects run by the charity I work for, or meeting up with friends who either live in the city or were visiting from America. My favourite place in the city by far, which I went to on a couple of occasions during this stay is Ankara Castle, an ancient fortification which has fantastic views of the city. You can climb all over the castle walls, though you might want to keep an eye out for the steep drops if you’re exploring with small, wandering children or have a crippling fear of heights! On the way up to the castle there are a number of souvenir shops with everything from statues of whirling dervishes to Turkish tea sets for you to purchase at reasonable prices, but you can also try your hand at bartering with the shop owners.
One of the new places I visited which I’d highly recommend is the State Art and Sculpture Museum, which is free and has a great variety of 20th century Turkish art. I didn’t know what to expect from my visit, perhaps older pieces as there is also a modern art gallery in Ankara, but I was impressed by what I found. The museum doesn’t get very crowded, and you probably only need an hour to go around it – I particularly enjoyed seeing paintings that depicted the comings and goings of life in both rural and urban Turkey. It is right next door to the Ethnography Museum, which I have yet to visit, but you could certainly combine both in an afternoon. Another cultural experience I’d recommend trying at least once is the hammam, which is a series of steam rooms followed by a massage. We went to the original hammam in the Hamamonou district of Ankara.
I went to a number of good restaurants during my time in Ankara, both for Turkish food and international cuisine. You can find a lot of good places for Turkish cuisine on Selanik Caddesi – I’d highly recommend trying iskender kebabs at Meşhur Aspava. If you’re looking for something cheap to have on the go, I’d suggest picking up a durum from Morgi Döner in Hamanonou.
We tried a few different international restaurants in Ankara – on one of my first nights in the city I was invited to Günaydin Steakhouse by my American friends – we shared a stunning tomahawk steak as a starter – it was the first time I’ve ever had steak done rare, and I loved it! For my main I had a very tasty burger; another place I’d recommend going for a burger is Big Bang Burger in Tunalı, where I was a big fan of the Smoke Bang. My final recommendation of food in Ankara is actually Uyghur food, specifically Urumçi, where I had a delicious noodle dish.
There are a number of specialty coffee shops in Ankara, particularly around Tunalı, which I’ll come to later on. I’d specifically like to highlight Mavi Kapı Kafe Hamamönü which uses Coffee Haus coffee. The place has a relaxed atmosphere, highly skilled baristas and often has delicious cakes. On Saturday evenings they have an English-speaking club which is a great way to get to know new people in the city.
In Tunalı, I tried both Crop Coffee and Koala Coffee, and had good experiences at both. Both serve Aeropress and V60 filters and have a variety of coffees including some from my favourite coffee growing regions, Central America and East Africa. However, on my last day in town, my friend and I found another coffee shop we became a big fan of called Kakule Kahve. It felt like a proper hipster, specialty coffee shop that you’d find in London; I had a tasty mocha and my friend had a really nice Chemex. It was also the only place in the city that I found original postcards, which was something that I had been on the lookout for in Ankara.
I’d suggest if you’re going as a tourist, to spend two to three days in Ankara, but there is also plenty of places to get to know should you choose to stay longer, or if you end up moving to the city.