Recognized as the capital since the Turkish revolution in 1923, Ankara is the governmental and administrative heart of Turkey and home to nearly 5 million people, a far cry from the tiny city in which Mustafa Kemal Atatürk first began gathering support for his country's independence. But such is progress; and although Ankara's modern pragmatism (universities, embassies, commercial skyscrapers) is not exactly a tourism selling point when competition like Istanbul's celebrated mosques stand proudly against the skyline and the Mediterranean Sea laps against the shores of the Turkish Riviera, it is still a city very much worth your well-earned time and money.
At first glance, Ankara's rapid expansion over the last 90 years has given the capital little more than a steel facelift, but a bit of background delivers a tale of two cities: the old city of Ulus and the modernized Yenişehir that has sprung up since Turkey became a country. The old city, which is located north of the contemporary city center, is home to two of the biggest attractions in Ankara, Ankara Castle and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. The former is a true living museum, as many of these occupied buildings have survived numerous civilizations, while the latter is one of Europe's premiere archaeological collections. Yenişehir is hardly historic (with less than a century under its belt), but it does provide a ton of great dining and nightlife in neighborhoods like Kavaklıdere and Kizılay and modern social centers like Kizılay Square that host international film and music festivals.
Then again, the single attraction that stands above the rest is Anitkabir. The resting place of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the mausoleum and grounds are a must-see when visiting Ankara. Of course, you can stop here and then leave the city for more adventurous implications. Whether rock climbing tickles your fancy or you envision yourself striding through a massive sea of salt, you'll find options worth exploring just a day trip away. Or you can support local efforts to keep Ankara green and visit well-maintained parks like Orman.
Despite being one of the driest regions of Turkey, Ankara is most definitely a place of adventure if you're willing to look. It's more readily a cultural destination, with a visible lineage as varied as the Hittites, the Romans, and the Ottomans. It is also a city that thrives on drinking and dining, with nearly five million citizens that enjoy a mixture of traditional nargile cafes and meyhanes mixed with a more Western style bar, club, and restaurant scene. The verdict? Ankara isn't just a capital city to just pass through on your way to bigger and better adventures. With the recent development of a high-speed train to Istanbul and restoration projects like those undertaken in areas like Hamamönü, this world travel destination is not one to be overlooked any longer.