Once the land where apostles (Saint Paul) and mythical, philanthropic children's heroes (Saint Nick sans reindeer and sleigh) roamed, Antalya is very much a city surrounded by antiquity. Visitors to the region will revel in the sheer number of ancient ruins, daydreaming about the days when these temples, amphitheaters, and marketplaces thrived with life. Which is much better than dwelling on the fact that there are literally dozens of cities along this hundred or so miles of Mediterranean coast that have fallen not only into ruin, but into near extinction. Still, you better believe in the appeal of abandoned cities like Perge, Termessos, Selge, Simena, Side, and Phaselis. Combine these incredible remnants of Lycian, Hittite, Greek, and Hellenistic history with the year-round warmth of a typical beach destination and you've got the big reason that folks fly into Antalya.
There is definitely a sense of adventure to many of these crumbling mausoleums and stony monuments. Destinations like Perge are right around the corner from the whitewater rafting and hiking of Koprulu Canyon, and even getting to Termessos is totally worth ascending a mountain to sit in its spacious amphitheater. But its not the only culture to be found in Antalya, despite the fact that much of what keeps the region afloat nowadays is its reliance on tourism. Despite their appeal, backpacker hostels and wi-fi cafes aren't exactly indicators of local culture. Luckily, the old town of (Kaleici) is a wonderful collection of winding, pedestrian passages, Islamic minarets, Roman gates, and a quaint marina from which to look out on the sea. Most other "must-see" elements of Antalya are beach based, although walking among the sand sculptures during summer on Lara Beach provides quite an intriguing bit of modern artistry, while classic institutions like the Antalya Archaeological Museum give the kind of insight that wandering through overgrown ruins won't give to the region. Otherwise, browse local wares at the daily market along Kazım Özalp Caddesi in Kalekapısı or the inexpensive student-frequented establishments of the Dogu Garaji neighborhood.
Although Antalya has catered to a demographic that is the very opposite the Embark traveler since resorts began cropping up in the 70's, it's got a heaping dose of "ancient" that can't be denied. Combine these with the intriguing old town, a few local adventures, and a forgivable amount of time bumming it on the Mediterranean and you've got the recipe for quite a well-spent trip in the "Turkish Riviera."