Column: Antalya: World-class resort city

Yacht Harbor in Antalya, Turkey (Photo by Don Knebel)

Commentary by Don Knebel

When Americans think of cities in Turkey, most probably don’t picture a cosmopolitan seaside resort featuring a harbor once used by the Romans. But Antalya, the fastest growing city in Turkey with a population of more than 1 million, meets that description.

Antalya was founded on the Mediterranean coast of what is now Turkey in about 150 B.C. by King Attalos II of Pergamon. Attalos based his powerful navy in Antalya’s natural harbor. When Antalya came under control of the Roman Empire in 133 B.C., Roman fleets continued to use the harbor. By the first century, Antalya was a thriving port city, attracting people from around the Mediterranean. In about 45 A.D., the Apostle Paul and his companion Barnabas visited Antalya during their first missionary journey. A visit to Antalya by Roman Emperor Hadrian in 130 A.D. was commemorated by a three-opening ceremonial gate that still leads to the ancient walled city center adjoining the harbor. For much of its history, Antalya was not closely connected with the surrounding areas and developed as a unique multicultural city, attracting Jews, Christians and Muslims alike to its beautiful beaches and flourishing commercial district.

Since the 1970s, the Turkish government has developed Antalya into a world-class resort city, with luxurious hotels available at remarkably low rates stretching along its long beach front. Although the government has closed Antalya’s hotel casinos, alcohol is still available to foreign visitors, more than 12 million of whom come each year to what has become known as the Turkish Riviera. Visitors wanting more than sun and sand crowd the shops in Kaleiçi, the historic city center near what is now Antalya’s yacht harbor. So prevalent (some would use other words) are Russian tourists in Antalya that some hotels proudly advertise that they are not popular with the Russians.