Because of its natural strategic position on a small peninsula into the Mediterranean Sea below the Taurus Mountains, Alanya has been a local stronghold for many Mediterranean-based empires, including the Ptolemaic, Seleucid, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires. Alanya's greatest political importance came in the Middle Ages, with the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm under the rule of Alaeddin Kayqubad I, from whom the city derives its name. His building campaign resulted in many of the city's landmarks, such as the Kızıl Kule, Tersane, and Alanya Castle.
The Mediterranean climate, natural attractions, and historic heritage make Alanya a popular destination for tourism, and responsible for nine percent of Turkey's tourism sector and thirty percent of foreign purchases of real estate in Turkey. Tourism has risen since 1958 to become the dominant industry in the city, resulting in a corresponding increase in city population. Warm-weather sporting events and cultural festivals take place annually in Alanya. In 2014 Mayor Adem Murat Yücel, of the Nationalist Movement Party unseated Hasan Sipahioğlu, of the Justice and Development Party, who had previously led the city since 1999.
From only 87,080 in 1985, the district has surged to hold a population of 384,949 in 2007. This population surge is largely credited to immigration to the city as a result or byproduct of the increased prominence of the real estate sector and the growth of the housing market bubble. The city itself has a population of 134,396, of which 9,789 are European expatriates, about half of them from Germany and Denmark. 17,850 total foreigners own property in Alanya. The European expatriate population tends to be over fifty years old. During the summer the population increases due to large numbers of tourists, about 1.1 million each year pass through the city. Both Turks and Europeans, these vacationers provide income for much of the population.
The city is home to many migrants from the Southeastern Anatolia Region and the Black Sea region. In the first decade of the 21st century, the town has seen a surge in illegal foreign immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia, both to stay and to attempt to enter European Union countries. As of 2006, 1,217 migrants claim residence in Alanya while working abroad. Yörük nomads also live in the Taurus Mountains north of the city on a seasonal basis. Additionally, there is a small African community descendant from imported Ottoman slaves.
The city is nearly 99% Muslim, and although many ancient churches can be found in the district, there are no weekly Christian services. In 2006, a German language Protestant church with seasonal service opened with much fanfare, after receiving permission to do so in 2003, a sign of the growing European population in the city. In 2015, the town began renovations of the Greek Orthodox Agios Georgios Church in the village of Hacı Mehmetli, and the church has been used for a monthly Russian Orthodox service. Alanya also provides the Atatürk Cultural Center to Christian groups on a regular basis for larger religious ceremonies.
The city has 95% literacy, with public and private schools, and a roughly 1:24 student-teacher ratio. Rural villages are, however, disadvantaged by the limited number of secondary schools outside the city center. Alantur Primary School, which opened in 1987, was built and is maintained under the Turkish "Build Your Own School" initiative, supported by the foundation of Ayhan Şahenk, the founder of Doğuş Holding.
In 2005, Akdeniz University of Antalya launched the Alanya Faculty of Business, as a satellite campus that focuses on the tourism industry. The school hosts an International Tourism Conference annually in coordination with Buckinghamshire New University. The city also has plans to open a private university in 2012. Georgetown University operates an annual study abroad program for American students known as the McGhee Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, named for the United States Ambassador to Turkey from 1952–53 George C. McGhee, and based in his villa. Başkent University Medical and Research Center of Alanya, a teaching hospital run by Başkent University in Ankara is one of nineteen hospitals in Alanya. Other major hospitals include the 300-bed Alanya State Hospital and the 90-bed Private Hayat Hospital.
Alanya's culture is a subculture of the larger Culture of Turkey. The city's seaside position is central to many annual festivals. These include the Tourism and Arts Festival, which marks the opening of the tourism season from at the end of May or beginning of June. At the opposite end of the season, the Alanya International Culture and Art Festival is held in the last week of May, and is a notable Turkish festival. Other regular festivals include the Alanya Jazz Days, which has been held since 2002 in September or October at the Kızıl Kule, which is otherwise home to the municipal ethnographic museum. The Jazz Festival hosts Turkish and international jazz musicians in a series of five free concerts.
The Alanya Chamber Orchestra, formed of members of the Antalya State Opera and Ballet, gave its inaugural performance on December 7, 2007. The International Alanya Stone Sculpture Symposium, begun is 2004, is held over the month of November. The Alanya Documentary Festival was launched in 2001 by the Alanya Cinémathèque Society and the Association of Documentary Filmmakers in Turkey. Onat Kutlar, Turkish poet and writer, and founder of the Istanbul International Film Festival was born in Alanya, as was actress Sema Önür.
Atatürk's visit to Alanya is also celebrated on its anniversary each February 18, centered on Atatürk's House and Museum. The Alanya Museum is home to archaeology found in and around the city, including a large bronze Hercules statue, ceramics, and Roman limestone ossuaries, as well as historic copies of the Qur'an. European residents of Alanya also often celebrate their national holidays, such as Norwegian Constitution Day, and the city set up a Christmas market in December 2010. Iranians also celebrate the Persian New Year, Nevruz, in Alanya.
Alanya was set up as a municipality in 1872, electing its first mayor in 1901. Today, Alanya is governed by a mayor and a municipality council made up of thirty-seven members. Eighteen councilors are from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party, seven are from the center-left Republican People's Party, and twelve are of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which is currently in power in the national government. Mayor Adem Murat Yücel of the Nationalist Movement Party was elected in 2014 by unseating the incumbent Hasan Sipahioğlu, who had previously been mayor since 1999. Elections are held every five years, with the next to be held in March 2019. Alanya also has a deputy mayor, who often represents the city at its sporting events, and together the mayor and his team represent Alanya in the provincial assembly in Antalya.
Alanya District is divided up into 17 municipalities, including the city center, and 92 villages. Alanya is greatly influenced by the provincial government in Antalya, and the national government in Ankara, which appoints a governor for the district, currently Dr. Hulusi Doğan. Although Alanya has been part of Antalya Province since the Ottoman Empire, many local politicians have advocated a separate Alanya Province, a position supported by associations of foreign residents.
Nationally, in the 2007 election, the province voted with the Justice and Development Party, who were followed closely by the Republican People's Party and the True Path Party. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, of the Justice and Development Party, is the only native Alanyalilar Member of Parliament representing Antalya Province in the Grand National Assembly, where he chairs the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population. Çavuşoğlu is the current Turkish Foreign Minister and also served as the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The tourist industry in Alanya is worth just under 1.1 billion euros per year, and is therefore the principal industry. The area is further known for its many fruit farms, particularly lemons and oranges, and large harvests of tomatoes, bananas and cucumbers. About 80,000 tonnes of citrus fruits were produced in 2006 across 16,840 hectares (41,600 acres). The greengage plum and the avocado are increasingly popular early season fruits where citrus fruits are becoming unprofitable.
Despite the seaside location, few residents make their living on the sea, and fishing is not a major industry. In the early 1970s, when fish stocks ran low, a system of rotating access was developed to preserve this sector. This innovative system was part of Elinor Ostrom's research on economic governance which led to her 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics. In 2007, locals protested the establishment of some larger chain supermarkets and clothing stores, which have opened branches in Alanya.
Beginning in 2003, with the provisional elimination of restrictions on land purchases by non-nationals, the housing industry in the city has become highly profitable with many new private homes and condominiums being built for European and Asian part-time residents. Sixty-nine percent of homes purchased by foreign nationals in the Antalya Province and 29.9% in all of Turkey are in Alanya. Buyers are primarily individuals, rather than investors. This housing boom put pressure on the city's many gecekondu houses and establishments as property values rise and property sales to locals fall. A height restriction in the city limits most buildings to 21 feet (6.5 m). This keeps high rise hotels to the east and west of the city, preserving the central skyline at the expense of greater tourist potential. The fringes of the city however have seen uncontrolled expansion.
Since the first modern motel was built in 1958, considered the first year of the tourist industry in Alanya, hotels have raced to accommodate the influx of tourists, and the city as of 2007 claims 157,000 hotel beds. Damlataş Cave, which originally sparked the arrival of outsiders because of the cave's microclimate, with an average temperature of 72 °F (22 °C) and 95% humidity, is accessible on the west side of the peninsula with trails from Damlataş Beach. Many tourists, especially Scandinavians, Germans, Russians, and Dutch, regularly vacation in Alanya during the warmer months. They are drawn to the area because of property prices, warm weather, sandy beaches, access to Antalya's historic sites, and fine cuisine.
Other outdoor tourist activities include wind surfing, parasailing, and banana boating. Attractions include Europe's largest waterpark, Sealanya, and Turkey's largest go-kart track. Hunting season also attracts some tourist for wild goat, pig and partridge hunting in area nature reserves.
For various reasons, tourist seasons after 2005 have been disappointing for Alanya's tourism industry. Among the reasons blamed were increased PKK violence, the H5N1 bird flu found in Van, and the Mohammad cartoon controversy. Alanya officials have responded with a variety of publicity initiatives, including baking the world's longest cake on April 26, 2006, a Guinness World Record. The economy has also suffered due to investment in more than 20,000 surplus properties. Israeli tourists, commonly arriving via cruise ship, have also declined sharply by about 85% from 2009 to 2011 due in part to strained relations between Turkey and Israel.
Alanya has 10 local daily newspapers. One of these is Yeni Alanya, which includes the news and lifestyles magazine Orange and is available in English, German and Turkish. Two native German language newspapers are published in Alanya, the Aktuelle Türkei Rundschau and Alanya Bote for the community of German speaking residents and visitors. A monthly magazine Hello Alanya published in Alanya for foreigners, appearing in English and Dutch. The free regional newspaper, Riviera News, is printed in English and is widely available in Alanya.
Five radio stations broadcast from the city. Alanya FM Radyo broadcasts on 106.0 FM and is partnered with Radio Flash, on 94.0 FM, both broadcasting popular music. Other stations include Alanya RadyoTime on 92.3 FM, which broadcasts a variety of Turkish music, news, and talk programming. Two television stations are local to Alanya, Kanal Alanya, and Alanya Televizyonu, abbreviated ATV, which is partnered with Alanya RadyoTime.
The D 400 Highway, the Alanya–Mersin Route, connects Alanya from the east and west, encircling it, and linking through the city center via Atatürk Bulvarı. The D695, the Ankara–Akşehir Route, runs north–south and reaches the sea 41 kilometres (25 mi) west of the city near Side, connecting with the D400. Antalya Airport is 121 kilometres (75 mi) away and connects internationally. The new Antalya Gazipaşa Airport, first begun in 1992, is only 14.5 kilometres (9.0 mi) from the city, and was expected to have its first regular domestic flights on May 22, 2010, although international flights were not expected before the start of the 2011 tourist season. No train routes go to Alanya or Antalya Province, and there are no train stations in the district.
There are bus and dolmuş systems out of Alanya's two bus depots, but buses are usually limited to the major roads, and inside the city transportation is by car, taxi, or foot, as many roads in the old town are closed to vehicle traffic. The harbor includes cruise ship piers, and also seasonal ferries and hydrofoils depart for Kyrenia in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Cruise ships docking at Alanya have increased 50% in 2013, with 53 estimated to have brought 56,000 passengers the end of the year. Further west of the city is the Alanya Marina, which started services in 2008 while still under construction, completing its expansion in 2010. The 85-km (33-sq-mi) marina allowed Alanya to participate in the 2008 Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally. The city is also investing in a community bicycle program with 150 bicycles and twenty terminals.
Alanya is home to a woman's basketball team, Alanya Belediye, which started in the first division but was relegated after the 2002 season. The city hosts a Süper Lig soccer team, Alanyaspor. The club was founded in 1948, and play home games at Milli Egemenlik Stadium. It played in the Second League between 1988-1997 and 2014-2016. The club finally promoted to top level in 2015-16 season. In 2007, the city began constructing a new soccer facility with the intention of hosting winter competitions between major teams. The public Alanya Municipality Sports Facility is located adjacent to Milli Egemenlik Stadium, which is one of thirteen facilities.
Alanya's waterfront location makes it suitable for certain events, and is perhaps most famous for its annual triathlon, part of the International Triathlon Union series, which has been held every October since 1990. Marathon swimming competitions have also been connected to the triathlon since 1992. Building on the triathlon's success, Alanya hosted a modern pentathlon in 2009. Alanya is also the regular host of The Turkish Open, part of the Nestea European Beach Volleyball championship tour, which takes place in May. In 2007, the Turkish Volleyball Federation persuaded the European Volleyball Confederation to build a beach volleyball training facility in Alanya, and make it the exclusive "center of beach volleyball in Europe".
The city is also a frequent host to national events, such as the annual beach handball tournament. Alanya is the traditional finish site of the seven-day Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey, though organizers reversed the route in 2012, and started the event in Alanya instead. Other cycling events include the Alanya International Mountain Bike Race. Additionally, the European Cycling Union had its 2010 European road cycling championship and 2010 ordinary congress meeting in Alanya.