Also known as Old Antalya, the small historic section called Kaleiçi (KAH-leh-ee-chee) at the center of the sprawling modern city was the Roman town, then the Byzantine, then the Seljuk Turkish, and finally the Ottoman Turkish town.
The huge, modern city of Antalya didn’t really start to appear until after World War II. Until then, Kaleiçi was Antalya, with its massive stone walls, meandering streets, and picturesque old houses built so close they often overshadow the narrow lanes.
Antalya Old Town – or Kaleici – is the picturesque old quarter in the center of present day Antalya. With its narrow winding streets and historic wooden houses, bars, restaurants and Ottoman-style boutique hotels, it’s a lovely place to wander around or base yourself while visiting Antalya.
Kaleici can trace its orgins back to the Roman period, when it grew around the old harbor, protecting the harbor from the west and the passage of produce from the east. Originally surrounded by massive stone walls and several gates, Kaleici has only two walls and one gate remaining.
Kaleiçi is where tourists usually stay when they visit Antalya city center. Its many charming small boutique hotels, inns and budget pensions offer comfortable, even luxurious accommodations and fine dining in an old-time atmosphere. People much prefer them to the large beach hotels that populate Konyaaltı and Lara beaches.
Kaleiçi surrounded and protected the old Roman harbor, which was Antalya’s reason for being: even in Roman times, this was the outlet for the produce of the rich alluvial plain that stretches east from the city beneath the southern slopes of the Taurus Mountains.
Today Kaleiçi is a protected district, with preservation of historic buildings required, and strict regulations on any new building. You will see some fairly ugly modern buildings in Kaleiçi, but they are being eliminated as the possibilities arise.
There are several entrances to Kaleiçi, but the most convenient is Kalekapısı, and the most picturesque and historic is Hadrian’s Gate.
Imposing Hadrian’s Gate is a glorious example of Roman architecture and was constructed in 130 AD to commemorate Emperor Hadrian’s visit to Kaleici. It has a triple-arched portal and decorative marble columns and is supported by enormous, turreted stone towers (from a different era). Hadrian’s Gate remains the most impressive way to enter the Old Town.
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