village in Manavgat, Antalya, Turkey

Side (pronounced see-deh) is a resort town in Pamphylia on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, with a population of 11,000 in 2014. The town itself is compact, but in tourist literature "Side" includes a swathe of beach hotels stretching for 20 km on either side. Its big attraction is the Roman city of Side, sandwiched between the harbour and the modern residential districts.

Understand

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No, nobody else understands it either. The ancient language of Side was used from the 5th century BC; it had 25 characters, was written right to left, and presumably resembled other Luwi proto-Anatolian languages. The sound of some 16 of those characters is now known, but the only word deciphered (apart from a couple of Greek loan-words) means "cicada", without which no East Med afternoon is complete.

The town became Hellenistic after it fell to Alexander the Great in 333 BC. Its crag dividing a long exposed beach was not particularly defensible but did offer a harbour. From 67 BC the Romans took over and built up the city that is now Side's chief attraction, with a magnificent amphitheatre. Its ships put the local pirates to flight, the better themselves to practice piracy and trade in slaves. The place fell victim to raids and declined from the 4th century AD. It was abandoned in the 10th century (apart from a brief revival in the 12th), with the populace moving to Attalia, the present-day Antalya.

Not much happened for the next thousand years, as the Seljuks then the Ottomans came to rule. This meant that the tiny settlement never spread far inland from the harbour, so the ruins of the Roman city were not built over or stripped of their stone. Turkish Cypriots relocating here renamed the town Selimiye, but it reverted to Side once tourism developed from the 1950s.

Get in

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For long-distance travel see Manavgat, which is on the coast highway D400.

1 Manavgat Otogar is just off D400 west of that city, so it's a short ride by bus, dolmuş or taxi to Side. Buses to Istanbul, Izmir, Konya or Denizli do start here.

2 Manavgat Dolmus Otogar is east of Manavgat town centre. Buses to Antalya do start here.

3 Side Otogarı is the resort bus station, at the edge of the archaeological zone. Smart idea to build it outside the narrow city gate, and tour buses and private cars also park in the vicinity rather than thread the old town alleys.

Get around

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Walk: from the bus station to the main antiquities and old town is only 2 km. With your own vehicle, park near the station and don't get tangled in the alleys.

Dolmuşes connect the two beach strips to town centre. Squeeze in tight, as the name means.

Taxis are best booked through your accommodation.

  • The Roman aqueduct is visible 50 m south of the bus station. It was built circa 150-200 AD and is 30 km long, with many bridges and tunnels as the altitude fall from the source is only a metre per km, and it needed to take the shortest course possible to maintain the flow to the city.
  • 1 Nymphaeum is an elaborate fountain 100 m southwest of the bus station, fed like everything else by the aqueduct. This is the start of Liman Cd, the main street into town. Just north is a Necropolis, and just south is the scrappy remains of the city gate set within the ancient walls. It was here, not at the better known "monumental gate", that you entered the city.
  • A colonnaded street leads south from the city gate to disappear into a jumble of overgrown ruins. The most prominent structure is a Byzantine 6th century block, thought to be a hospital. Bishop's Palace 200 m southeast of it is a larger complex but buried deeper in the undergrowth. Liman Cd continues at an angle to overlie another ancient street lined with pillars.
  • The Roman monumental gate is still in use by vehicles, a bottleneck on Liman Cd. There was probably originally a "quadriga" on top, a four-horse chariot like that on Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Vespasian Fountain is an ornate niche south flank of the gate, and the museum is north flank.
 
Temple of Apollo
  • Side Museum, Liman Cd (by Gate), +90 242 753 1006. Daily 08:30-19:30. This exhibits artifacts found on the site and is built within a 5th century bathhouse.
  • 2 Amphitheatre, Liman Cd 2, +90 242 753 1542. Daily 08:00-20:00. This huge arena, with 15,000 seats, is still used for events. A temple to Dionysius is on its north flank. Adult 300 TL.
  • Agora the market square is just east of the amphitheatre - you may find it fenced off. Amongst other commodities, slaves were sold here. In the northwest corner is a 24-seater public latrine.
  • 3 State Agora (in Turkish Devlet Agorası) is so-called because it was a public space but not a market. The remains here are scanty, the most substantial is the Library just east.
  • Harbour Baths from 2nd century AD are a ruin on Sambak Sk, with an Ottoman hamam alongside.
  • Selimiye Mosque is a small brightly-decorated mosque next to Harbour Baths.
  • 4 Temple of Apollo, built in 150 AD, is iconic of Side. Several columns were re-erected in the 1980s and it's an attractive place to stroll early evening. Adjacent are the ruined Temple of Athena and a Byzantine basilica.
  • 5 Fatih Mosque is on Cemal Gürsel Blv, corner of 1007th Sk. It's in traditional style with a pillared interior reminiscent of Cordoba.
  • Scuba diving centres are Scuba Side, Side Diving Center[dead link], Side Azura and Deniz Feneri[dead link]. It's a good area for beginners and novices, but the Med has limited marine life.
  • Aquajoy is a pirate-themed water-park to the east near Otium Eco Club. Many families enjoy it but you have to hold your nose, and even the pirates wouldn't use these toilets.
  • Football: Sidespor have tumbled down the rankings and now play soccer in the amateur leagues. They play at Atatürk Stadium (capacity 1000) 500 m east of the bus station.
 
The Monumental Gate has been used for millennia
  • Dağ Süpermarket northwest of the bus station is a notorious tourist trap.
  • Erdem another 200 m west at Sarmaşık Sk 24 is much better for selection and price. It's open 07:00-03:30. Other stores are mostly out in the residential districts inland.
  • Street stalls are more tourist traps, prices are silly even if you haggle them down.
  • Saturday market is held 09:00-12:00 opposite Fatih Mosque. It's overpriced tat.
  • Harbour and old town area have over a dozen. Elia has the best views.

Drink

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  • Old town has Cafe Easy Rider, Sapphire, Royal Castle[dead link], Karma and Azumare.
  • Beach strip cafes mostly serve alcohol.

Sleep

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The amphitheatre seats over 15,000

Central

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West

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East

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Camel Coach is now owned by Flixbus

Connect

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Side, Manavgat and the coastal strip have 4G from all Turkish carriers. As of July 2023, 5G has not rolled out in Turkey.

Go next

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  • Manavgat a few km inland is modern, but the waterfalls are worth a visit.
  • Alanya is a big resort east, with a citadel and castle perched on a crag.
  • Antalya is modern but has museums and antiquities.



This city travel guide to Side is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.