Side, Turkey: modern tourist resort meets antiquity at the Mediterranean

Are you looking for a bit of everything in a holiday resort? Do you like a splash of culture, a bit of old-town charm, and stylish wining and dining options for those romantic seaside dinners? If that sounds like your happy place, check out Side, Turkey! In this tourist resort, you’ll be walking around an ancient site entangled in the old-town, dotted with inviting restaurants and cafes surrounded by ruins and enjoying sea views. Side is unique in this way that you can go shopping while simultaneously culture hopping between its over 2.000-years-old ruins.

Boats Awaiting Tourists

Boats Awaiting Tourists

 

The story behind Side, Turkey

It was almost inevitable that Side would thrive as one of the most important cities of Pamphylia. The harbor city dates back as far as the Bronze Age when locals spoke Sidetan; a language developed from Luwian, the language spoken by the population of southwest Anatolia during the Bronze Age. The Side Museum exhibits some inscriptions dating back to that time. Side means pomegranate in Luwian, and we can well imagine that the plains that are now home to many all-inclusive resorts were pomegranate fields back in the days. Side was consecutively ruled by Persians in 540 B.C., Alexander the Great, Macedonians, Ptolemaians and Seleucids before entering into Roman rule in 67 B.C. During this period, the city bloomed, and it became the regions’ capital and a Roman Navy base. The town continued its expansion during the Early Byzantine period, with decline settling in from the 7th century A.D. onwards during the Arab raids and abandonment in the 13th century after the takeover by the Seljuks. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that people started settling in Side again and it slowly grew to become the tourist resort it is today.

Monumental Gate And Vespasian Monument

Monumental Gate And Vespasian Monument

 

Side today: a perfect blend of experiences

Nowadays, Side is a popular tourist destination, and it is easy to see why. The resort combines a balanced cocktail of things to see and do, with state-of-the-art facilities for the more discerning tourists. Within the old city walls, you’ll find some well-preserved ruins from the cities’ heydays, but also some cute Greek-style houses with their unique charm, as well as plenty of shopping opportunities and entertainment options. In short, Side allows you to have a taste of everything without ever having to leave town.

The Iconic Temple Of Apollo

The Iconic Temple Of Apollo

 

The ancient site in Side, Turkey

Most of the ruins at the ancient site in Side are accessible free of charge, except for the Theatre, where you’ll need to pay a small entrance fee. The most prominent constructions are the Nymphaeum, the State Agora, the Commercial Agora, the Theatre, Roman Baths, a Basilica, and the Apollo Temple. If you’re into a tour of the ruins, your perfect itinerary would be to start at the Nymphaeum and the Great Gate.

The Nymphaeum

The Nymphaeum

The Nymphaeum Is Now Part Of Today's Street Life

The Nymphaeum Is Now Part Of Today’s Street Life

 

Then follow the colonnaded street towards the Basilica and the State Agora located near the dunes.

The State Agora At Sunset

The State Agora At Sunset

Inside The State Agora In Side

Inside The State Agora In Side

 

From there, take the seaside route towards the Apollo Temple. This will also bring you past the Roman Baths and another Basilica.

Temple Of Apollo With Roman Baths In The Background

Temple Of Apollo With Roman Baths In The Background

When The Sun Sets And The Moon Rises At The Apollo Temple In Side

When The Sun Sets And The Moon Rises At The Apollo Temple In Side

 

From the Apollo Temple, choose one of the beautiful old-town streets to take you back to the Theatre and the Vespasian Monument. Do not skip the Side Museum opposite the Theatre!

The Commercial Agora With The Theatre Behind It

The Commercial Agora With The Theatre Behind It

Monumental Gate And Vespasian Monument Seen From The Cisterns

Monumental Gate And Vespasian Monument Seen From The Cisterns

 

The Side Museum

While you need to pay a small entrance fee to visit this place, our advice is not to skip it. If you’re on a budget and you need to make choices, then admire the theatre from the outside and spend your money on a museum visit instead. The museum is located next to the old cisterns, in a restored Roman Baths complex. The exhibit consists of some extraordinary Roman statues, small artifacts, and sarcophagi and olive presses. It is a beautiful place to visit, skipped by many.

The Roman Baths At The Side Museum

The Roman Baths At The Side Museum

Roman Baths Building Inside The Side Museum

Roman Baths Building Inside The Side Museum

 

Side old town, catering for the modern day tourist

The sea is omnipresent in Side’s old town. This is a maze of narrow streets with lots of restored Greek houses, now converted into shops and bars and restaurants. European tourists don’t have to worry about converting currencies, as all prices are in Euro. Compared to many other resorts in Turkey, the tourist season in Side was already in full swing mid-April. The atmosphere is lively and laid-back at the same time. If you like walking, as we do, make sure to have a stroll along the promenade next to the old city walls. After the Apollo Temple, this is the second best option for those gorgeous sunset pictures!

Seaside Terrace In Side

Seaside Terrace In Side

Souvenir Hunting At The Seaside

Souvenir Hunting At The Seaside

 

Things you need to know before visiting Side, Antalya

Side, a small former fishing village, is ideally located, about 75km east of Antalya. Old fortification walls and sandy beaches surround the small cape on each side. The beach to the west of Side is a chain of holiday resorts and all-inclusive hotels with everything that comes with it. It stands in massive contrast with the relatively untouched eastern beach, backed by the dunes that house part of the archaeological site. It is the kind of place that effortlessly combines antiquity, a typical old-town, and stylish wining and dining. In various parts of the town, you’ll see a glass floor showing the antique remains below it.

The heart of the city is inaccessible by car, but there is ample parking space provided. Side has become extremely popular and gets very crowded over summer. So, if you have the opportunity to visit during April, May or in October, you’ll find it in its most pleasant form; with everything open, without being overrun by tourists. Side, Turkey, is easy to reach by car, but also by public transport. You’ll find all public transport options to Side here.

Atatürk Is Guarding The Harbor

Atatürk Is Guarding The Harbor

Map Of Side On One Of The Old Town Walls

Map Of Side On One Of The Old Town Walls

 

If you are in the area, consider visiting the ancient city of Perge too. It is a fascinating site with many colonnaded streets. The Aspendos Theatre is also within reach, and another impressive structure to visit. For those into beautiful old-towns, Kaleiçi in Antalya is a must!

Textbook Sunset In Side

Textbook Sunset In Side

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