This article has been previously published as a part of book Antalya, Side and Alanya: TAN Travel Guide by Izabela Miszczak
Until the 50s of the 20th century, the word Antalya was understood as only one part of today's city, that being its oldest district, known as Kaleiçi. Karol Lanckoroński, who visited Antalya in the late 19th century, described this area in the following words: "The city outlines a horseshoe shape around the angle of the bay and lies on the ground significantly higher up from the coast platform. Its part is closed tightly by the ramparts, with narrow streets and single districts divided by other walls. [...] The only thing that remained on its original place, as far as we know, are the city walls around the city, although often rebuilt and restored over the centuries". Next Lanckoroński presents a plan of Antalya, where two lines of city walls are visible: one in the form of a semicircle around the port, and the second, much larger, around whole Kaleiçi district.
Defensive walls of Antalya were built in the Hellenistic period, and the history of their renovation and expansion illustrates the history of the city itself, passing under the dominion of successive empires controlling Asia Minor. In Roman times the walls were first renovated and decorated with numerous towers and gates, of which the greatest was the Hadrian's Gate, well preserved to our times.
In the 8th and the 9th century Antalya became a battleground between Arab and Byzantine armies. Finally, the rulers of Constantinople won and quickly repaired and strengthened the city fortifications. Further renovation took place in the mid-12th century, after the Second Crusade, during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus.
In 1207 Antalya was taken over by the Seljuk Turks, who immediately began to strengthen the fortifications. In the 13th century four towers were built, three of them are partly preserved, and the fourth one was destroyed in the early 20th century. From this destroyed tower a huge inscription remained, now in the collections of the Archaeological Museum in Antalya.
When, in 1361, the king of Cyprus, Peter I, conquered Antalya after a quick attack from the sea, the walls were decorated by the carvings of coats of arms, similar to those found in the Castle of St. Peter in Bodrum. Currently, these decorations are also in the local museum.
Antalya finally came under Ottoman control in 1387, and the walls were rebuilt again and again at the behest of successive sultans, including - Mahmud II, in the early 19th century. Even 70 years ago almost all the walls were well preserved, despite the battles fought over the city, numerous insurgencies and earthquakes.
The most accurate description of the ramparts of Antalya was given by Karol Lanckoroński. He mentions 54 towers and perfectly preserved sections of the walls surrounding the old town. Unfortunately, his efforts directed toward the examination of the fortifications were severely hampered both by the dense architecture of the town, as well as the suspicion of the Turkish authorities, reluctant to give permission to foreigner attempting to measure the walls.
Since the late 19th century until the 80s of the 20th century the process of destruction of the walls continued. On the one no maintenance was carried out during this period, and on the other - long stretches of the walls that impeded the development of the city were intentionally demolished. A curious explanation given by the municipal government about the damage done to the ancient fortifications, stated that the people from Kaleiçi district needed more access to fresh air. In fact, the stones collected from the walls were used to build mansions outside the historic quarter and the fate of the walls was completely ignored. As a result only seven towers and several sections of the walls have been preserved to our times.
In order to see the preserved sections of Antalya city walls, visit Kaleiçi district. Near the beautifully restored Hadrian's Gate there is a long section of walls along Atatürk Boulevard. You can get there on foot, walking through Kaleiçi district, or by tram. Nostalji Tramvay line runs along this stretch of the walls, and the most convenient stop is called Hadrian.
Another well-preserved part of the ramparts is Hıdırlık Tower, standing at the seaside, at the point where the historic Kaleiçi district is adjacent to a large Karaalioğlu park. It is located at the end of Hesapçı Sokak street, which crosses the Kaleiçi district, and starts from the Hadrian's Gate. Hıdırlık Tower is 600 just meters away.