Official language: Turkish
Time zone: UTC +3
Currency: Turkish lira (TRY)
On 29 June, the Church celebrates the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. It is worth attending the solemn mass held every year in the Grotto of Saint Peter to feel the religious aura of the place.
Olive oil soap and silk are among the world-famous local products of Antakya. To buy any of them, go to the bazaar district (çarşı) near the Great Mosque (Ulu Camii).
The Archeology Museum is closed on Mondays and until midday on the first day of religious holidays. It welcomes visitors from 9 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. in the high season and from 8 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. off-season.
The city of Antakya – named “Hatay” by Turks – is pulsing with rather Arabic than Turkish atmosphere. At every turn, you can feel the influence of Middle Eastern culture, but also of Christianity, as Antakya used to be a significant religious center.
Located 22 kilometers away from the Mediterranean Sea, it can’t attract tourists with fine beaches but still has a lot to offer. Discover its major attractions…
In the Roman times, Antakya was the third largest city in the ancient world. Unfortunately, there's not much left from that period, because in the 6th century the city had been affected by the large earthquake. What you can see today is, e.g., one of the five formerly existing bridges on the Orontes River as well as absolutely beautiful mosaics dating back to between the 2nd and 4th centuries. They are exhibited in the Hatay Archeology Museum (Arkeoloji Müzesi) which is one of the city’s biggest attractions. Turkish museum houses the second richest collection of mosaics in the world (the first one is in Ravenna).
Your “must-see list” of Antakya should include The Cave Church of Saint Peter (Aziz Petros Kilisesi), situated just about 2.5 km from the city center. You can walk there or go by car or bus. According to tradition, St. Peter (and St. Paul after him) preached Christianity in this very place. Interestingly, the grotto – dating back to the Byzantine times – in the 11th century was rebuilt by Crusaders. They constructed a Gothic facade, so today, instead of just a cave, we can admire the church carved into the rock.
The region borders Syria, and it’s easy to notice that Arabic culture had a strong impact on architecture or cuisine of Antakya. To indulge in the local atmosphere, walk down the narrow streets with stalls and Arabic signboards and then head for the city’s major mosques – the Great Mosque (Ulu Camii) and Habib-i Neccar Camii which is the oldest Muslim temple in the region. If you like Middle-Eastern cuisine, you won’t be disappointed here – you can taste local dishes flavored with fresh mint or chickpea-based specialties (e.g., hummus) as well as traditional herbed cheese, yogurt-based soups, and kebabs. And if you are a dessert lover, you should definitely try kunefe – you won’t regret it!