The legend goes that in the 2nd Century B.C., King Attalus II of Pergamon sent his men in search of 'heaven on earth'. They discovered the place where Antalya now lies, he founded the city, called it Attaleia and based his powerful fleet there. Although continually harassed by pirates, seeing different rulers come and go, the place invariably flourished through the ages, and bears the charm of many civilizational layers.

Sheltered by mountains on the north, with 300 sunny days a year, Antalya is a great beach destination. Thematic hotels are a local specialty: they imitate Topkapi Palace, Venice, Moscow cathedrals. These high-category hotels are centered in the Lara district which also has one of the longest sand beaches in Turkey and a beach park packed with cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs, sports facilities and an amusement park. Konyaalti is another popular beach area with good facilities, just west from the old city.

The historic old town (Kaleici) between the yacht harbour and the new quarter is full of nicely restored old houses, hotels and tourists shops. A gate dedicated to emperor Hadrian and a clock tower have been preserved from the Hellenistic era. Yivli Minaret is one of the city's architectural landmarks. The fluted structure was erected in 1230 to adorn a mosque built over an earlier Byzantine church. The original mosque was destroyed and a new six-domed one was built in its place. The building, beautifully decorated with dark blue and green tiles, is now home of the city's Ethnographic Museum. Antalya also has a remarkable archeological museum, one of the best in the world. Worthy examples of Islamic architecture are Iskele Mosque, Hidirlik Tower, Karatay Medresesi, Murat Pasa Mosque, Evdir Inn, etc.

The city's rich cultural calendar includes an international film festival (the Golden Orange) and an international music festival in September, a folk music and dance festival and an opera and ballet festival in August,  a piano festival, a painting festival and a rock music festival.

Antalya probably has the liveliest nightlife on the Turkish Riviera. Numerous clubs offer floor shows, most often featuring belly dancing, and the party extends into the small hours in famous discotheques such as Ally, Arma, Olympos, Aura, etc.

Within a short distance from Antalya are interesting historical and archeological sites that make excellent day tours: Side, Perga, Alanya. Aspendos was an important Pamphylian city, a port and a commercial center. It had the reputation of raising the best horses on earth. The remains of an odeon, a basilica and fountains can be seen. Perga spreads on two hills some 18 kilometres northwest of Antalya. According to the legend, it was founded by three heroes from Troy. Side was an ancient maritime city, dating back to the 7th Century B.C. Its ruins are well worth a visit: the amphitheatre, the Temple of Apollo, the aqueduct, the nymphaeum. Perga (Perge) was the capital of Pamphylia. The mathematician Apollonius lived and worked there in the 3rd Century B.C. The Apostle St Paul visited it twice to preach. Most of the surviving ruins date back to Roman times. Alanya is a charming resort with great beaches and rich architectural heritage.

Antalya's proximity to the mountain has a unique advantage: in the Saklikent winter resort skiing is possible from November to May, and may be followed by a quick dip in the Mediterranean which is warm enough for swimming even at that time of the year.