Turkey’s Hatay, Antakya: One of the 52 Must-Go Places in 2020 According to the NY Times List

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No doubt, Turkey is the reflection of paradise on the earth. With its numerous natural and historical beauties, Turkey is a must-see country as the whole. In this sense, there are numerous city in Turkey as well as megacities such as Istanbul, Izmir, or Antalya. And so, Antakya undoubtedly is one of those cities.

Antakya is also famous as Antioch. On the other hand, its ancient name is Antioch-on-the-Orontes, which is a more specific name. Antakya is the capital of Hatay Province. And after almost two decades of French rule, Turkey included the city to its borders in 1939.

Antakya, Hatay is a southeastern city of Turkey.
Antakya, Hatay is a southeastern city of Turkey.

52 Places to Go in 2020 According to NY Times’ List of 2019

NY Times, the international prestigious newspaper, announced the list of 52 Places to Go in 2020, at the end of the last year. So, the list has a very wide range from Bolivia, Peru to Germany, Brazil or Malaysia. And Turkey’s Antakya city entered to the list from the 34th place. Therefore, we wanted to share our proud and happiness with you by introducing the city as best as we can.

A Brief Historical Information On Turkey’s Antakya

Before getting started to give some historical information, we would like to warn you that please do not confuse with Antalya. As one of the most famous cities in Turkey, Antalya is several hundred kilometres to the west.

Today Antakya is home to a mixture of faiths – Sunni, Alevi and Orthodox Christian –.
Today Antakya is home to a mixture of faiths – Sunni, Alevi and Orthodox Christian –.

Antakya was built on the site of ancient Antiocheia ad Orontem. Its official name is Hatay and it is a prosperous and modern city near the Syrian border. Besides, Antioch’s important Christian community developed out of the already large Jewish population. This could happen under the Romans. So, it was at one time led by St Paul. Today Antakya is home to a mixture of faiths – Sunni, Alevi and Orthodox Christian –. Furthermore, the city has a cosmopolitan and civilised air. Locals call their hometown as Barış Şehri (City of Peace), and that’s just what it is. In the ecumenical city of Antakya, you’ll find at least five different religions and sects. And a couple of blocks of one another represent these religions and sects.

1939 When Antakya Rejoined Turkish Republic

The city wasn’t taking place inside the border of the Republic of Turkey until 1939. Therefore, Arab influence permeates local life, food and language. As we told, the city only became part of Turkey in 1939. After centuries conjoined in some form or another to Syria. Most visitors come to Antakya for its archaeology museum or as pilgrims to the Church of St Peter. You should not miss spending time to stroll along the Orontes (Asi) River and through the bazaars and back lanes of a city. We rate as an underrated jewel of the Turkish Mediterranean.

Most visitors come to Antakya for its archaeology museum or as pilgrims to the Church of St Peter.
Most visitors come to Antakya for its archaeology museum or as pilgrims to the Church of St Peter.

Antakya city offers you a very rich culture with both its history, historical ruins and especially its amazing gastronomy. The city is also very famous for its traditional flavours as well as the historical side. So, short story long, the best phrase to define Antakya city would be that it is the meeting point of civilisations and religions.

The Best Things to Do and See in Antakya

Antakya has thousands of years of history. The city, as we remarked above, is a holy meeting point for religious people and it is a sacred city for many religions. Many sects of Christianity such as Greek Orthodoxy, Syriac Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism to name a few still live here. And sections of Islam such as Sunni and Alawi are the dominant religious groups. Judaism, on the other hand, is represented with their dedicated temples in Antakya.

So here are some of the most important places in Antakya to see;

  1. Hatay Archaeology Museum: 

    This incomparable museum contains one of the world’s finest collections of Roman and Byzantine mosaics. It covers a period from the 1st century AD to the 5th century.

Hatay Archaeology Museum
Hatay Archaeology Museum

Hours: 9m-6.30pm Apr-Oct, 8am-4.30pm Nov-Mar

Entry Fee: ₺20

Tel: 0326-225 1060

Location: Hatay Archaeology Musem

2. Titus & Vespasian Tunnel:

Amid the scant ruins of Seleuceia in Pieria at Çevlik, 5km northwest of Samandağ, is this astonishing feat of Roman engineering. About 100m from the tunnel is the curious Beşikli Mağarası (Cradle Cave) with almost 100 Roman rock tombs with scallop-shaped reliefs. Dolmuşes run between Antakya and Samandağ (₺10, 40 minutes, 28km), where you can change for another bound for Çevlik (₺3, 15 minutes).

Titus & Vespasian Tunnel
Titus & Vespasian Tunnel

Hours: 8 am-7 pm Apr-Oct, to 5 pm Nov-Mar
Entry Fee: ₺10, include Beşikli


3. Memorial Church of St. Peter:

This early Christian church cut into the slopes of Mt Haç (or Staurin, the `Mountain of the Cross’). It is thought to be the earliest place where the newly converted followers of Jesus Christ met and prayed secretly.

Memorial Church of St. Peter
Memorial Church of St. Peter

Tel: 0326-225 1568
Hours: 8.30 am-6.30 pm Apr-Oct, to 4.30 pm Nov-Mar
Entry Fee: ₺20

4. Old Town: 

The squiggle of lanes between Kurtuluş Caddesi and Hürriyet Caddesi is an atmospheric huddle of Antakya’s remaining old houses. It includes carved lintels, wooden overhangs and hidden courtyards within the compounds. Slightly north, around the 7th-century Habibi Neccar Camii, you’ll find more preserved examples of Antakya architecture. The priests at the Catholic church believe St Peter would have lived in this area when he first arrived in Antakya in AD 47 as it was then the Jewish neighbourhood.

The biggest Roman mosaic takes place in Turkey.
The biggest Roman mosaic takes place in Turkey.

5. Bazaar in Antakya:

A sprawling market fills the back streets north of Kemal Paşa Caddesi. The easier way to see it is to follow Uzunçarşı Caddesi (Long Market Street), the main shopping street, from the river.

Besides all, Antakya also has the biggest Roman mosaics.

What to Eat and Drink in Antakya, Hatay?

Antakya city is of one of the best kitchens in all around the world. The city offers traditional flavours both from Middle Eastern cuisine and the Turkish one. In addition to its gastronomy’s fame, Antaya kitchen is also quite popular in Turkey.

Antakya (Hatay) boasts a wealth of interesting local and regional dishes. Those are special mezevegetable dishes, grills, and desserts. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just propinquity to Syria that influences Hatay cuisine. Specially-prepared olives, liberal use of citrus fruits, and local herbs and spices make it distinctive.

Kunefe consists of wheat wrapped around fresh mild cheese, dipped in syrup, sprinkled with crushed walnuts and baked.
Kunefe consists of wheat wrapped around fresh mild cheese, dipped in syrup, sprinkled with crushed walnuts and baked.

Firik pilav is a special rice dish. Kaytaz böreği is small pizzas topped with meat. Turşu (pickled vegetables) are prominent on the table. The tandır, or underground sealed oven, is used as well. But the most famous Antakya treat is undoubtedly künefe, (sometimes called peynirli künefe). It consists of wheat wrapped around fresh mild cheese, dipped in syrup, sprinkled with crushed walnuts and baked.

As for beverage, you must definitely give a chance to Hatay’s local wines. What’s more, you may think to buy a couple of wines as a gift to your loved ones.

Related Article: Top 20: Most Popular Traditional Turkish Desserts

How to Go Antakya?

Using the Hatay Airport (HTY) (25 km north of the city centre) is the best way to go to Antakya.

The ‘Havas’ bus runs from the airport hourly to the city centre for 9 TL and takes around 20–30 minutes. If you need to get back to the airport, the Havas leaves from the front of the “Buyuk Antakya Hotel” (on the river, close to the Mosaic Museum). It is a huge resort-style hotel, you can’t miss it) every half-hour most days. However, you should check the Havas website for specific departure times. This is a lot cheaper than a taxi! You will have to flag the Havas bus down from the front of the hotel. Otherwise, due not too many people use this service, so make your presence known as it drives past.

Antakya has so many historical ruins and it is a meeting point for various cultures and religions.
Antakya has so many historical ruins and it is a meeting point for various cultures and religions.

You can also use dolmuş taxis in order to get to the city centre. Many dolmuş taxis wait just in front of the airport and as soon as any four customers are gathered, the taxi heads towards the city. The taxis charge approximately 10 TL per person. All in all, if you accept to share the taxi with other passengers, taking a cab is 20 TL. Havaş as the taxi drops you off in whichever part of the city you want to get out. However, Havaş only stops at specific points. On the other hand, the nearest international airport is located in Adana (ADA) and it is a couple of hundred kilometres to the north.

Where to Stay in Hatay, Antakya?

Antakya (Hatay) has a good selection of hotels in all price ranges, from full-service five-star luxury through atmospheric boutique hotels to small inexpensive places.

The Liwan Hotel

The nicest boutique hotel in Antakya, with comfortable accommodations, willing staff, and a good central location.

Çankaya Konakları Hotel

Centrally located on Kurtuluş Caddesi, the 36-room “Çankaya Mansions” offers comfort, charm and convenience.

Antakya (Hatay) has a good selection of hotels in all price ranges.
Antakya (Hatay) has a good selection of hotels in all price ranges.

Saadet Grand Hotel

The modern, 42-room Saadet Grand is on Harbiye Caddesi two km southwest of the city centre. It is comfortable and offers all services.

Dedeman Antakya

The hotel is a well-run 5-star property. It is situated in 3.3 km north of Cumhuriyet Meydani and the Archeology Museum with all services for surprisingly good prices. So, the hotel includes indoor/outdoor swimming pools, what’s more including a children’s pool! Furthermore, the hotel is of spa/wellness centre, sports and fitness centres, restaurant, bar and nightclub.

Antik Beyazit Hotel

So, another boutique hotel, with 27 guest rooms in a French colonial building. It is very close to the former French government headquarters. It is now the Turkish provincial government headquarters, the Hatay Valiliği.

Antakya, Hatay is a city of mosaics.
Antakya, Hatay is a city of mosaics.

Savon Hotel

It is a historic building around a courtyard very near the city centre. So, it is now a comfortable, professional 43-room hotel aimed particularly at business travellers.

Büyük Antakya Hotel

The hotel takes place over the river in the very heart of the city. It is only steps from Cumhuriyet Meydani (the main square) and the Archeology Museum. So, this 4-star, 72-room hotels is big, modern, convenient.

Antakya, Hatay is definitely a must-go place that you should consider your travel plans.
Antakya, Hatay is definitely a must-go place that you should consider your travel plans.

Small Local Hotels

Several small, local hotels offer suitable rooms at lower prices. You should have a look at the 27-room Divan Otel Antakya. Moreover, the modern, 27-room Antik Grand Hotel is also another good option.

Finally, Antakya is definitely a must-go place in Turkey. So, we advise you to think of Antakya when you are planning your trip route. Short in long story, the city will amaze you and meet your expectations exceedingly.

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