Ankara vs. Istanbul

Choosing between Ankara and Istanbul can present quite a puzzle, can't it? On one hand, you have Ankara, the heart of Turkey's politics and a city with a character all its own. On the other, there's Istanbul, a vibrant metropolis straddling two continents, its skyline a mesmerizing mix of minarets and modern skyscrapers. If history fascinates you, then these two cities will undoubtedly make your heart race. But which one will ultimately captivate your traveler's spirit?
Ankara vs. Istanbul

Table of Contents

You might be drawn to Ankara, with its blend of ancient and modern worlds, or you might find Istanbul’s endless energy and cultural diversity irresistible. Either way, your adventure awaits! Ready to explore more and find out which city is the right choice for you? Let’s dive in!

History & Culture

Comparing Ankara and Istanbul in terms of history and culture is like contrasting the colors of the sky at dawn and dusk. Both are beautiful and distinct in their own way.

Ankara, the capital city of Turkey, is often overshadowed by its more famous sibling. Yet, Ankara’s rich history, which dates back to the Hittite era, and its role as the birthplace of the modern Turkish Republic, make it a fascinating city steeped in a blend of ancient and modern histories.

On the other hand, Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople and Byzantium, has been at the crossroads of numerous civilizations. The city has been the capital of three different empires – Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman, each leaving their mark on the city. Today, Istanbul’s culture is a mesmerizing tapestry woven with threads from its multifaceted past.

As you explore Ankara, you’ll find its history and culture reflected in its government buildings, museums, and in the ancient Roman Temple of Augustus. Similarly, Istanbul’s illustrious past is mirrored in its splendid palaces, ancient churches, and grand mosques, along with its bustling markets which offer a glimpse into the everyday life of its people.

In a nutshell, if you’re drawn to the appeal of a city with a more laid-back pace and rich in modern Turkish history, Ankara might captivate you. But if you’re attracted to a vibrant city echoing the whispers of ancient civilizations, then Istanbul’s enchanting blend of the East and West might be hard to resist.

Attractions & Activities

Now, let’s shift our focus from the historical and cultural tapestries of Ankara and Istanbul to the diverse attractions and activities these cities offer. Whether you’re a lover of art, an outdoor enthusiast, or a history buff, each city offers a unique tableau of experiences, waiting to be discovered.

In Ankara, you can begin your adventure at Anıtkabir, the monumental tomb of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. A visit to this site offers a glimpse into the life of the man who shaped modern Turkey.

For those seeking a more hands-on historical experience, Ankara’s Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is an unmissable treasure trove that houses a stunning collection of artifacts from the Paleolithic era to the present day. Additionally, hiking enthusiasts can enjoy a pleasant walk up to Ankara Castle, rewarding them with panoramic views of the city.

Meanwhile, Istanbul, the city of minarets, also boasts an array of attractions. The iconic Hagia Sophia, with its soaring dome and stunning mosaics, is a testament to the city’s diverse cultural heritage.

Just a stone’s throw away, the Blue Mosque beckons with its beautiful blue Iznik tiles. Beyond these historic landmarks, take a leisurely stroll around the quaint neighborhood of Galata, crowned by the imposing Galata Tower, which offers a breathtaking 360-degree view of the city.

Summing up, Ankara offers a delightful array of activities that shed light on Turkey’s modern history, while Istanbul mesmerizes with its unique blend of Eastern and Western influences, captured in its captivating attractions.

Eating, Drinking & Nightlife

Embarking on a culinary journey is an essential part of the travel experience, and it’s here that both Ankara and Istanbul truly shine. The gastronomy in these cities is as diverse as their cultural heritage, presenting you with an array of delights to savor.

In Ankara, don’t miss the chance to taste the local specialty, Ankara Tava, a delectable meat dish cooked with a variety of vegetables. The city’s Ulus district is known for its array of eateries serving traditional Turkish cuisine, ensuring that you’ll never be far from a tantalizing meal.

The drinking culture in Ankara is vibrant, with a variety of local wines to sample. The vineyards in and around Ankara are famed for producing Kalecik Karası, a red wine that has gained international recognition.

When it comes to nightlife, Ankara’s Kızılay district is the epicenter, teeming with pubs, bars, and clubs that offer a lively atmosphere well into the night.

In Istanbul, a food lover’s paradise, your palate will be treated to a broader spectrum of flavors. From the renowned Döner kebabs to the deliciously sweet Baklava, every dish tells a story. The eateries lining the Bosphorus present a remarkable dining experience, combining delectable food with stunning views.

Drinking in Istanbul can be quite an experience, especially with its signature spirit, Raki. Also, Turkish tea and coffee are integral to Istanbul’s social fabric and should not be missed.

Istanbul’s nightlife is globally famed, with districts like Beyoğlu and Kadıköy offering an array of bars, clubs, and live music venues that cater to all preferences.

All in all, Ankara offers a cozier and more traditional eating, drinking, and nightlife scene, while Istanbul presents a more cosmopolitan and dynamic experience.


If you’re a shopper at heart, both Ankara and Istanbul won’t disappoint. These cities offer a mix of traditional markets and modern shopping centers, each providing a unique shopping experience.

Ankara’s shopping scene is well-known for its traditional arts and crafts. A visit to the old quarter will reveal small artisan shops selling handmade carpets, copper work, and beautifully woven textiles. At the heart of the city, Kızılay is home to several modern shopping malls that cater to diverse shopping needs.

Contrastingly, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world, is a shopper’s dream. It’s a labyrinth of stalls selling everything from traditional Turkish ceramics and lanterns to finely woven carpets and gold jewelry. On the modern side, Istanbul’s Istiklal Street is a bustling avenue lined with international fashion brands and boutique stores.

In conclusion, whether you’re seeking traditional artifacts or modern fashion trends, both Ankara and Istanbul provide compelling shopping experiences. Ankara’s shopping scene presents a charming blend of tradition and modernity, while Istanbul’s vibrant and diverse marketplaces offer an immersive shopping journey.


Choosing the right place to rest your head at night can make a significant difference in your travel experience. Ankara and Istanbul offer a wide range of accommodations to suit every traveler’s taste and budget.

In Ankara, accommodations are generally more affordable. You’ll find a mix of budget-friendly guesthouses, mid-range hotels, and a few luxury options. Many of these establishments are located in the city center, providing easy access to major attractions and public transportation.

In Istanbul, the accommodation options are more diverse and numerous, reflecting the city’s status as a major global destination. From quaint boutique hotels nestled in the historic Sultanahmet district to luxurious five-star hotels along the Bosphorus with stunning views, Istanbul caters to all tastes and budgets.

In conclusion, both Ankara and Istanbul offer a wide range of accommodations that cater to different budgets and preferences. Ankara, with its more budget-friendly options, is ideal for those seeking affordability and proximity to city attractions.

On the other hand, Istanbul, with its diverse and plentiful choices, offers accommodations that range from boutique to luxurious, providing a richer array of experiences to travelers.

Family-Friendliness & Children’s Activities

Family vacations are about creating memorable experiences, and both Ankara and Istanbul are well-equipped to keep your little ones engaged and entertained.

Ankara offers several family-friendly attractions. The city’s notable science center, METU Science and Technology Museum, and the popular Atatürk Forest Farm and Zoo are ideal spots for a family outing. The parks in Ankara, like Gençlik Park and Seğmenler Park, offer plenty of room for kids to play and explore.

Istanbul, on the other hand, is packed with child-friendly activities and attractions. Miniaturk, a park featuring miniature replicas of Turkey’s famous landmarks, and Vialand, an extensive amusement park, are surefire hits with children. Istanbul also has numerous parks and green spaces, such as Emirgan Park, which is especially beautiful during the annual Tulip Festival.

In summary, both Ankara and Istanbul are family-friendly destinations with various attractions to engage and entertain children. Ankara offers several science-oriented attractions and expansive parks for outdoor activities, whereas Istanbul boasts an abundance of engaging attractions, including parks and entertainment venues like amusement parks, making it a lively destination for families.

Getting There & Getting Around

Whether you’re traveling from within Turkey or abroad, reaching either Ankara or Istanbul is relatively straightforward.

Ankara’s Esenboğa Airport, located 28 km (17 miles) from the city center, offers domestic and international flights. Istanbul, on the other hand, is served by two major airports, Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökçen Airport, providing connections to destinations worldwide.

Getting around Ankara is facilitated by an efficient public transport network, consisting of buses, minibuses, and a light metro system. Istanbul’s public transportation is even more extensive, with buses, trams, metro lines, ferries, and the iconic funiculars and trams in the historic districts.

To summarize, both Ankara and Istanbul are accessible cities with robust public transportation systems. Ankara’s airport and compact city center make it easy to reach and navigate, while Istanbul’s extensive public transportation system and two major airports accommodate a larger volume of visitors. Whether you choose Ankara for its simplicity and efficiency, or Istanbul for its more extensive network, you’ll find both cities conveniently navigable.


When planning a trip, the weather can have a significant influence on your itinerary.

Ankara, located in the central part of the country, experiences a relatively hot summer and cold winter. In the peak summer months, temperatures can reach up to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius), while in winter, temperatures can drop as low as 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius).

Istanbul, on the other hand, being situated in the northwest and surrounded by water, has a more moderate climate. Summer temperatures are milder, often peaking around 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius), and winters are less severe with temperatures hovering around 37 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius).

Rainfall is more common in Istanbul throughout the year, which may add a romantic ambiance to your trip but could also disrupt outdoor plans.

When it comes to choosing between Ankara and Istanbul, consider the time of year and your weather preference. Ankara’s weather might be more suitable for those who prefer a distinct change between seasons, while Istanbul is ideal for travelers who appreciate mild weather and don’t mind a bit of rainfall.


When planning a trip to a new city, safety is undeniably a paramount concern. So, let’s delve into the safety profiles of both Ankara and Istanbul. As a general rule, Turkey is considered a safe country for tourists, but like any urban environment, caution should always be taken.

Ankara, as the nation’s capital, is well-secured and well-policed. It’s a modern city with a lower rate of petty crimes compared to many other major cities globally. However, as in any other city, it’s always wise to maintain awareness of your belongings, especially in crowded places.

On the other hand, Istanbul, with its bustling streets and massive population, can present the usual challenges of a large metropolis. Petty theft, especially in tourist areas, might be a concern. However, a touch of vigilance can go a long way. It’s always prudent to keep an eye on your belongings and avoid isolated areas late at night.

Beyond crime-related topics, both cities have robust infrastructure and high-quality medical facilities, ensuring a safe and comfortable stay for tourists. Traffic can be hectic in both cities, so extra caution should be taken while crossing the roads. Also, emergency services in both cities are efficient and responsive, offering an added layer of safety for residents and visitors alike.

To sum up, both Ankara and Istanbul are reasonably safe cities to visit. Like in any major city, maintaining awareness and taking common-sense precautions will make your stay pleasant and secure.


Turkey, in general, offers great value for money to travelers, but there are some differences in the cost of living and traveling between Ankara and Istanbul. Let’s dive into an in-depth comparison.

Starting with accommodation, Ankara generally offers more affordable options, with a wide range of budget hotels and rentals available.

On the other hand, Istanbul, being a major tourist hub, tends to have higher-priced accommodations, especially in popular areas such as Sultanahmet and Beyoğlu. However, you can also find budget-friendly options if you’re willing to stay a bit further away from the city center.

When it comes to dining, both cities boast a vast selection of eateries offering delicious Turkish cuisine. While prices vary depending on the restaurant’s location and reputation, generally, eating out in Ankara is slightly cheaper than in Istanbul.

Street food, a significant part of Turkish culture, is affordable in both cities, and you’ll find a mouthwatering array of local treats to try.

Regarding transportation, public transport is highly efficient and affordable in both cities. However, bear in mind that Istanbul is a larger city with more extensive public transportation networks, so you might end up spending a bit more on transportation in Istanbul compared to Ankara.

In the context of attractions, most of Istanbul’s famous sites like the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace have an entrance fee, whereas in Ankara, many attractions such as parks and museums are either free or have a nominal entry charge.

In summary, while both cities offer good value for money, Ankara tends to be a bit more pocket-friendly. However, the slight increase in cost in Istanbul is balanced out by the diversity of experiences and sights it offers.

Which Is Better – Ankara or Istanbul?

As you come to the final stages of planning your journey, you might still be wondering, “Should I visit Ankara or Istanbul?” The answer isn’t a simple one, as it largely depends on your personal preferences and expectations from the trip.

Reflecting on the history and culture, Ankara, the capital of Turkey, offers an interesting blend of modernity and tradition, while Istanbul, the historical capital, provides an in-depth glimpse into the country’s rich past. For history buffs or culture enthusiasts, Istanbul, with its grand historical monuments and vibrant cultural scenes, may offer a more enchanting experience.

When considering attractions and activities, both cities offer a variety of exciting options. However, Istanbul’s unique blend of Eastern and Western influences, and its iconic landmarks, such as the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, give it a slight edge. But remember, if you’re after a quieter and less touristy experience, Ankara might be a better choice.

As for the beaches, Istanbul takes the lead with its beautiful coastline along the Bosphorus Strait and the Sea of Marmara, providing a refreshing escape during the summer months.

In terms of eating, drinking, and nightlife, both cities offer a rich culinary scene and vibrant nightlife. However, Istanbul’s larger size and cosmopolitan nature offer a wider variety of dining and entertainment options.

The cost of living and traveling can be a deciding factor for many. If you’re traveling on a budget, Ankara could be a more affordable option, with cheaper food, lodging, and overall living costs. Istanbul, on the other hand, might be a bit pricier but offers a more extensive range of attractions and experiences.

In terms of family-friendliness and children’s activities, both cities are accommodating, offering plenty of parks, museums, and attractions suitable for young ones. Safety-wise, both cities are relatively safe with the right precautions.

Weather-wise, it boils down to your preference for either a distinct change of seasons in Ankara or more moderate and constant weather in Istanbul.

In conclusion, your choice between Ankara and Istanbul will ultimately depend on what you value most in your travel experience. Whether it’s the bustling, cosmopolitan feel and rich history of Istanbul or the quieter, more affordable, and modern experience of Ankara, your trip is sure to be a memorable one.