The old town (Ulus) and the modern city (Yenisehir) are clearly differentiated. The old quarter consists of narrow winding streets and colourful shops selling fabrics, leather, carpets, copper items, jewellery, embroidery, spices, nuts and dried fruit, while the modern area centered around Kizilay contains government offices, foreign embassies, hotels, office buildings and shopping malls. Ankara has some beautifully preserved Greek, Roman and Byzantine monuments although not much has been preserved of the later architecture.

The region was first inhabited by the Bronze-age Hatti civilization; it was replaced by the Hittites in the second millennium B.C., Phrygians, Lydians and Persians. Alexander the Great defeated the Persians and stayed in the city for a while in 333 B.C. In 278 B.C. the Galatians made Akcyra their capital. In 189 B.C. it was conquered by the Roman Empire and became capital of the Galatia province. As Constantinople was made capital of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 4th Century, Ankara remained an important crossroads until the Seljuks conquered it in 1073. From 1365 the city came under Ottoman control. It rose to prominence after Turkey's defeat in World War I, as nationalist leader Kemal Ataturk established the headquarters of the resistance movement in Ankara. The War of Independence was won, Turkey was declared a republic and in 1923 Ankara replaced Istanbul as capital.

The citadel on the hilltop and the surrounding area are the oldest part of Ankara. It was first built by the Galatians and then extended by Romans, Byzantines and Seljuks. A number of old buildings have been nicely restored and turned into restaurants serving traditional Turkish cuisine. Outside the castle, the remains of a Roman amphitheatre have been partly excavated. The Temple of Augustus is an important archeological site as it contains the Monument Ancyranum, the achievements of Augustus inscribed in Latin and Greek on the temple walls. The 3rd-century Roman baths are also in the Ulus area. Only the basement and the first floor have been preserved, with the typical frigidarium, tepidarium and caldarium.

The city's best known attraction is the Ataturk Mausoleum (Antikabir). The complex reflects the traditions of Seljuk and Ottoman architecture and art. The Lions' Road, an alley lined by 24 lion statues, leads to the Ceremonial Ground, an area with an elaborate floor pattern. Ten towers symbolize the ideals of the Turkish nation. The Ataturk museum contains a wax statue of Turkey's most revered leader, writings, letters and photographs. The Mausoleum is surrounded by the Peace Park where many plants were sent from all over the world.

The Ethnography Museum is found in the Ulus district. It exhibits Seljuk and Ottoman artifacts and folk art. The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations impresses with its wealth of exhibits from all periods of the city's history, and a fine Lydian treasure. Nearby is the Koc industrial museum with a posh sweet shop in the courtyard.

The recently built Kocatepe Mosque is huge and impressive, with four slender minarets. Its prominent location makes it visible from anywhere in central Ankara. The older Haci Bayram Mosque in Ulus, next to the Temple of Augustus, is remarkable for having been restored by the famous architect Sinan  in the 16th Century.

Ankara has vast green areas, the largest of which is Genclik part (with a rowing pond). There is also a large botanical garden. Kugulu Park is widely known for its swans.

For a magnificent view of the city, you may treat yourself to a dinner in the revolving restaurant in Atakule Tower in Cankaya.