Visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
This museum is reason enough to include Ankara on your Turkey itinerary. It's the only place in the country where you can grasp the full scope of Anatolia's pre-Classical-era human history.
The most important finds from the Neolithic village site of Çatalhöyük, near Konya, including the wall painting thought by some archaeologists to be the world's first town map and the famed fertility goddess statue, are displayed here in the first hall.
Farther on, halls are devoted to the Hittite Empire of the Bronze Age that had their capital at Hattuşa (192 kilometers to the east) and the Phrygian and Urartian Empires, which thrived on the Anatolian steppe during the Iron Age.
The central Stone Hall exhibits the most important stone reliefs and statuary from across the eras.
Here, you'll find numerous finely detailed orthostat reliefs from the Hittite site of Carchemish (70 kilometers southwest of Gaziantep), renowned, long before its actual discovery, as the site of the Battle of Carchemish between Egypt and Babylonia relayed in the Old Testament.
Pay Your Respects at the Anitkabir (Atatürk Mausoleum)
Ankara's most visited attraction is also Turkey's most important modern pilgrimage site. Sitting on a hilltop, just to the west of the city center, is the mausoleum of Atatürk (Mustafa Kemal), the founder of the state of Turkey.
As well as the actual mausoleum, with its lavish use of marble, the site, centered round a vast plaza, contains a large museum complex.
It contains both exhibits on the War of Independence, led by Atatürk, which resulted in the birth of Turkey as a modern nation, and displays focused on Atatürk's life.
Outside, there are excellent views across Ankara from the arcade that edges the plaza. The mausoleum itself is decorated with gilded inscriptions of Atatürk's speeches.
Inside, a cenotaph stands above the placement of Atatürk's tomb. Visitors entering the mausoleum should respect the atmosphere of somber reverence inside as Turks pay their respect to the founder and first president of their modern nation.
Visit the Haci Bayram i-Veli Cami
Built in honor of the Muslim holy man and Bayramiye dervish founder, Haci Bayram Veli, this 15th-century mosque is a major pilgrimage center. For non-pilgrim visitors, a stop here is more interesting for the surrounding area than for the mosque's interior.
The area around the mosque, with its gardens and restored Ottoman-era mansions, has been prettily landscaped and is a popular spot for local families in the early evening.
It includes a plaza with a pond, fountains, and shops selling religious paraphernalia for pilgrims, as well as the remaining walls of the Temple of Augustus and Rome, which rub up against the mosque (and were once used to house the mosque's madrassa).
There are also brilliant views up to the citadel neighborhood from here.
Explore Ankara's Art Galleries
Ankara may not have the modern art scene of Istanbul, but there are two galleries, both in the central city, that are well worth a visit.
The most important is the Ankara Painting & Sculpture Museum (Türkocagi Sokak, Hacettepe), which has a large permanent collection of Turkish art from the 19th and 20th centuries. All the major names of the Turkish art scene have works on display here.
For completely contemporary art, the Cer Modern (3 Altinsoy Caddesi, Sihhiye) is Ankara's best site. This gallery, based in a disused train depot building, near Ankara's train station, hosts a regular program of temporary exhibitions focused on both local and international artists.