Antakya (Hatay) is situated in the south eastern province of Anatolia, Turkey. Although situated near the Syrian border, this is known as the ‘city of peace’ and is a multicultural and multi-faith community. There is also quite a cosmopolitan feel here, yet authenticity can certainly be found, particularly in the old town. So far this is one of our favourite places we’ve visited in Turkey and below are some suggestions of places to stay, eat and visit if you find yourself in this beautiful historic city.
How to get to Antakya centre by bus
When arriving at the otogar in Antakya, knowing how to get to the centre can be difficult. Most coach services provide a free shuttle bus from Hatay otogar to Hatay centre which can be found opposite the coach drop off section. Look out for the mini buses. For example, we travelled with HAS turizm who provide a shuttle service, as do SAS.
If your coach company does not provide a free shuttle bus, you can catch the bus services 5, 9, 16 and 17 for 1.50TL from outside the Otogar.
Where to stay in Antakya
Antakya Catholic Church Guesthouse – The Anadolu Katolik Kilisesi can be found in the north part of the old town and is without doubt the best located, peaceful and good quality place to stay whilst also being one of the cheapest in central Hatay. No need to be religious to stay here, just ring the bell upon arrival. This authentic guesthouse provides a leafy courtyard to relax in, a kitchen with facilities including a washing machine and free WiFi. The rooms are a decent size and clean, with ensuites and air-conditioning. Rooms cost 35TL per person, per night.
Although there are other hotels and guesthouses in Hatay, you will struggle to find better for the price, particularly in this area.
Where to eat and drink in Antakya
Sade Kahve – Our favorite cafe was a hidden gem found in old town called Sade Kahve. Look out for the little hanging wooden sign in one of the alleyways in the east side of old town. This place does good music and a variety of drinks and snacks including smoothies and American style waffles! This cafe is perfect for young university folk; many come for the coffee and WiFi.
Sultan Sofrasi – This resturant is slightly on the pricey side but it makes up for it in the outstanding service. There is no English menu which can make choosing difficult but the staff are willing to help. Make sure to ask for the specialities and try the local spicy Kebap, Tepsi Kebabi.
Çağlayan – Conveniently placed on the Hürriyet Caddesi along with many other kebap shops, this particular kebap shop provided us with the best tasting kebap yet. They first spread the spicy sauce (a must have) over a heated pita before sprinkling on delicious herbs and onion. Amazing, suculant quality meat and very tasty. Be sure to not miss out before you leave.
Other local specialities not to miss
Künefe – You cannot come to Hatay and leave before trying a künefe, a sweet dessert of kadayif pastry and sweet cheese covered in hot syrup. Many künefe shops can be found in the Ulus Alani area. One notable place which you will see is the Hatay Künefe and its busy for a reason. Go try, and be sure to order it with a dollop of icecream on top!
The ‘Atom’ milkshake – The Nargiz Vitamin bar is famous with the locals and particularly so due to the ‘Atom’ milkshake. Packed with bannana, honey, pistachio and apricot, you’ll be addicted and will want more, which is fine as varieties of the Atom can be found accross this eastern region, particularly in Gazientep and Urfa.
Oruk – A dumpling type croquette with minced meat inside. It tastes much better than it sounds or looks.
Places to visit
Old town – Get lost in this magical maze of authentic old architecture where life is still buzzing. We spend hours here in awe. It really is the true soul of Hatay. At times you can still find even Jewish remains.
Bazaar – Hatay has a vibrant and large bazzar that spiders out north of the Kemal Paşa Caddesi. Find spices, clothes, Kadayif pastry and the usual mixed hardware.
Hatay Archaeology Museum – This world famous museum now has a new location outside of town by St. Peters church on the Antakya Reyanli Yolu road. You can get the 15 bus to the Iskur stop for 1.75 TL. However the old museum in the centre on Gündüz Caddesi is still open but with limited display. Admission is 8TL.
Have you been to Antakya too? Is there anywhere you recommend or have we got any information wrong? Please comment and share your thoughts below.