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Is Ankara really the Capital of Turkey? 13 Things you need to know

Capitals are political, economic, cultural, administrative, military centers of the countries. The capital of a country is also the life centers, or in other words, they are countries’ brains, where decisions are made and evaluated.

The capital city of Turkey may be confused due to Istanbul’s cultural and economic weight in Turkey. For this reason, many of my friends asked me which city is the capital of Turkey.

The official capital city of Turkey is Ankara. The Turkish parliament and the center of the Turkish government are located in Ankara. Yet, in real life, Istanbul is the economic and cultural center of Turkey. In this regard, Ankara resembles Washington DC, and New York resembles Istanbul.

Ankara is the center of the legislative, executive, and judicial system of Turkey. All top governmental institutions like the Supreme Court, General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, Presidency of Turkey, Turkish Parliament are located in Ankara.

While Ankara is a thriving administrative and political center, on other hand, Istanbul accounts for nearly 40% of the Turkish economy. For this reason, Istanbul is the most influential city in Turkey regarding economics and culture.

In this post, As a Turkish local, I will try to answer some of your questions about the Turkish capital, Ankara.

When did Ankara become the capital of Turkey?

Since 13 October 1923, Ankara has been the official capital of the Republic of Turkey and the center of the Turkish Government. Since then, the capital city of Turkey remains unchanged. 

İsmet İnönü, (who will become the second president of Turkey) submitted a one article law to the Presidency of the Turkish Grand National Assembly. stating, “The capital of the State of Turkey is Ankara.”

The law was accepted on October 13, 1923, and Ankara became the capital of Turkey.

Ankara becoming the capital of Turkey

Let me tell you a little backstory about how Ankara became the capital of Turkey before I tell you why Istanbul was not chosen as the capital again.

On 27 December 1919, with the arrival of elected representatives of Turkish resistance, Ankara became the headquarters of the Turkish Independence Movement.

On April 23, 1920, the Turkish Grand National Assembly opened in Ankara, and Turkey was declared to be ruled as a Republic.

 At that time, Ankara was a small city in the middle of Turkey. The beginnings of the Turkish Republic took place in this small city, and Ankara grew with the Turkish Republic.

During the War of Independence (1919-1923), all government operations were controlled from Ankara, and Ankara became the de facto capital.

At the end of the war, Allied Powers withdrew from Istanbul. With the liberation of Istanbul from the occupation, discussions began on where the capital of the Turkish Republic would be.

Some people wanted Istanbul to be the capital, and others requested Ankara to be the center of the new Turkish Government.

“If there was a capital of the world, it would be Istanbul,”

Napoleon Bonaparte

Why is Istanbul not the capital of the Turkish Republic?

Istanbul has many advantages like geopolitical location, being a city with tradition, having access to sea and trade routes, and has been the traditional center of administration for centuries. Yet Istanbul was not chosen as the capital of Turkey.

Istanbul is not the capital of the Turkish Republic because Istanbul had two disadvantages. 

The first reason was, Istanbul reminded people of the old ways and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

Istanbul symbolized lost hope and sad times, whereas Ankara was the symbol of hope and new beginnings.

Ankara was the birthplace of the Turkish Republic, and it was growing steadily as the Turkish Republic. Ankara was the light of modernization, democracy, and new ways.

Secondly, Istanbul was not defensible as it used to be in Medieval times. Ankara, located in the center of Turkey, was easier to defend against external threats.

Why was Ankara chosen as the capital of the Turkey Republic?

During the Turkish War of Independence, Ankara was the facto center of government. At that time, Ankara was chosen mostly based on geographical reasons because Ankara was in the center of Turkey. Also, Ankara had similar distances to Turkish south, north, east, and west boundaries.

After the Treaty of Lausanne was signed and the war ended. There were discussions about where the Turkish capital should be. More precisely, some people wanted Istanbul to be the capital again.

Yet, Ankara continued to be the capital of Turkey.

Ankara was chosen as the capital of Turkey for logical and symbolic reasons.

Reasons why Ankara became the new Turkish Capital

  1. Ankara’s military and political position in the middle of Turkey,
  2. Easy transportation and communication with all parts of the country,
  3. The Turkish Grand National Assembly was located in Ankara, and it was already the administrative center.
  4. Istanbul was a symbol of the failed Ottoman Empire, and Ankara symbolized democracy and modernization.

What are the old Capital Cities of Turkey before Ankara?

Before 1923, the last capital of the Ottoman Empire was Istanbul. Istanbul was the capital of the Ottoman Empire from 1453 to 1922.

Here is a list of Turkish Capital Cities During the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic

  • Sogut between 1299–1331
  • İznik (aka Nicaea) between 1331–1335
  • Bursa between 1335–1363
  • Edirne (aka Adrianople) between 1363–1453
  • Istanbul between 1453 to 1923
  • Ankara 1923 to present

Ankara Cats and Ankara’s Symbols

The Ankara cat is the symbol of the city of Ankara.

The laughing Ankara cat logo is used in most international events. The most significant feature of Ankara cats is their eyes.

Ankara cats have two different eye colors.

The rabbit, goat, horse, and cat bearing the name of Ankara are also other symbols of Ankara.

Hittite Monument in Ankara Source Wikipedia

History of Ankara 

Ankara has a history of 5000 years in human history. Many prominent civilizations were nourished despite Ankara’s arid climate.

Major countries that controlled Ankara were the Hittite Empire, Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Macedonians, Galatians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, Ottoman Empire, and finally, the Republic of Turkey.

The Hittite Empire was one of the earliest and biggest civilizations that were born in Ankara. Hittite Empire’s capital, Hattusa, is located on the outskirts of Ankara.

Hittite civilization was a mighty civilization comparable to the Egyptian civilization.  Hititie’s prosperity was based on their income from trade routes and metal sources. They clashed many times with Egyptian Pharaohs, forcing them to sign the Treaty of Kadesh.

The Treaty of Kadesh, signed in 1258 BC, was the first known international treaty in the history of humanity.

You can visit to see many relics of Hittites and other civilizations in The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.

Demographics and Economy in Ankara

Ankara has a population of 5.66 million, making it the second-most populous city in Turkey. 

Ankara also has the third-largest land area of Turkey among Turkish cities. Ankara’s land area size is similar to the country of Luxemburg.

Ankara also has the second-largest economy in Turkey, with a gross domestic product (annual GDP) of 97 billion dollars.

Ankara’s economy is mainly dependent on the salaries of government workers and its service sector.

Ankara is not a very developed province in terms of industry, and Ankara has a rate much higher than Turkey’s average usable agricultural area (60%).

Three-quarters of Ankara’s population works in the service sector.

Ankara Climate

Ankara has a continental climate with cool summers and cold winters.

Ankara, located in the Central Anatolian region of Turkey and has a continental climate, has many thermal resources. 

Most of the provincial lands outside the cities consist of plateaus covered with grain fields. 

The natural beauties in various parts of the province have been protected and used for recreational and entertainment purposes. 

Politics and Mayor of Ankara

Until 2017, the mayor of Ankara was Melih Gokcek, a member of the AKP political party. Upon Melih Gökçek’s resignation in 2017, Mustafa Tuna became the new mayor of Ankara in 2017.

In the 2019 major elections, the opposition party CHP candidate Mansur Yavaş won the polls.

Mansur Yavas is now the Mayor of Ankara Metropolitan Municipality.

In addition to the Presidential Palace, the government, and the parliament buildings, all political parties’ headquarters are located in Ankara. In other words, the center of Turkish politics is in Ankara.

One thing to know when coming to Ankara

If you want to visit Ankara, it is possible to fly to Ankara from abroad. The airport is located outside of the city. 

Transportation to the city from the airport is possible by bus or taxi. From the airport to the heart of Ankara, the transportation will take about an hour.

4 Places you definitely need to visit in Ankara

Mausoleum of Ataturk, can be very crowded in national holidays.


If you can only visit one place in Ankara, you should definitely visit Anıtkabir.

Anıtkabit is the mausoleum of the Great Leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Founder of the Republic of Turkey.

You may not see any other world leader loved so much like Ataturk. The most important part is that citizens from all walks of life should still visit this place with their free will.

Ceremony Square and the Hall of Honor is where Atatürk’s tomb is located, but Anıtkabir is full of things to see. 

You should witness the parade of Turkish Soldiers marching in the Road of the Lions.

There are also audio guides (available in multiple languages from the visitor center), which can help you discover this place by yourself.

Another place that you can miss easily is Peace Park, where you can see the Turkish flag grown entirely of flowers.

The Atakule tower has a height of 125 meters.


This is the most romantic place in Ankara. In my youth, I visited Atakule many times, and I loved the location for its aura. 

The revolving restaurant platform on its top provides an excellent view of Ankara and a perfect dating venue.

Atakule, a reinforced concrete structure, has a height of 125 meters.

Atakule was inaugurated on 13 October 1989, on the 66th anniversary of Ankara’s becoming the capital. There is a shopping center located under Atakule. The shopping center has the historical value of being Ankara’s first and Turkey’s second shopping center.

Genclik Park (Youth Park)

Genclik Park, Turkey’s first urban park, is located in the heart of the city. Youth Park is located in the middle of Ulus and Sıhhiye, one of the central locations of Ankara. Since the park is located in the center of Ankara, you can easily go anywhere and see this perfect park. 

Genclik Park is one of the biggest city parks in Turkey and has a separate amusement park within its boundaries.

You can take a walk in the fresh air and enjoy its green areas and pond.

Beypazari is a unique place with its historical buildings. Source: Wikipedia

Historical Beypazari Bazaar 

Located in the Kurtuluş District of Beypazarı, the Historical Beypazarı Bazaar is situated on Milli Egemenlik Street.

The bazaar embraces a history of 6 centuries and provides an excellent place to witness Turkish culture and history. There are many local artisan stores in the bazaar.

You can find many handcrafted copper and tin items as well as other metalworks like filigree, farrier.

Beypazarı Bazaar was recently restored and provides a friendly atmosphere to tourists. It is easy to spend a day and get lost while wandering between the many streets of this Bazaar.

The most famous streets of Beypazari (Bazaar) are Demirciler (Smiths), Dikiciler (Tailors), Kuyumcular (Jewelers), Hanlar (Inns) streets.

Historical Silversmiths’ Bazaar

This is another bazaar to check while you are in Beypazarı. Because of this bazaar, filigree and silver embroidery have become one of the special symbols of Beypazarı.

In this area, many artisan stores are selling quite beautiful jewelry made with unique traditional techniques.

Additionally, Bazaar provides an excellent place to explore Turkish culture while looking at many types of jewelry.