At the foot of the long old town peninsular by the harbour is the 'God of light' Temple of Apollo, (legend says this was given to Cleopatra by Mark Anthony as a token of his love for her), whereas near to the old town entrance is a reasonably well-preserved Roman amphitheatre. Both the Temple and the amphitheatre still host colourful theatrical and music performances as part of the annual Side Music & Arts festival, which is held during the summer season. Many ruins such as the Agora, where the ancient assemblies were held and stalls selling wares took place amidst the colonnades, are thought to date back to the 7th Century BC and possibly beyond. The Roman baths currently in use as a museum, houses some of Turkey’s finest archaeological collections. Side’s archaeological importance also means that strict local planning regulations exist, helping the town to maintain much of its original charm and character.
There is a newly built £10m “wheelchair friendly” pedestrian promenade stretching from the west end of the old town westwards to Kumkoy and this wonderful asset has transformed the entire seafront area. Today, the appearance and ambience of this promenade area has similarities akin to Cannes in the South of France. The major seafront work that took place also meant that all illegally erected buildings totally disappeared, another great boost to the general appearance of this beautiful area. Virtually all of this major undertaking has been credited to Side’s Mayor, who is an extremely progressive official who gets things done. His record to date on ‘getting things done’ since being elected are phenomenal and he has many further plans!
A similar pedestrian promenade is to be constructed on the eastern side of the old town where little in the way of development currently exists. There are many luxury hotels located at the far end of the beach, in the Sorgun area and the intended new promenade will be constructed adjacent to an extensive stretch of sand dunes, which will eventually lead to the Sorgun hotel area.
The adjacent sand dunes currently hide many ruins, which may extend to more than 50% of those already uncovered. Major excavation work is about to commence later this year, when a team of 50+ archaeologists will arrive from countries all over the world, to participate in this exciting and important dig.
There is also a new visitor centre and museum planned for this area and as a result, vast improvements are to be undertaken to the nearby road infrastructure.
The Side Festival is a member of the European Festival Association (EFA). Each year an increasing number of Turkish & international visitors plan their holiday in Side according to the festival period.
Side International Culture & Arts festival is spread over 3 months from 24th July to 29th October.