According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, in 2011 the city had a population of 1,073,794.
Antalya was the world's fourth most visited city by number of international arrivals in 2011, with 10.5 million annual visitors.
It is uncertain when the site of the current city was first inhabited. Attalos II, king of Pergamon, was believed to have founded the city around 150 BC, naming it Attalia and selecting it as a naval base for his powerful fleet. However, excavations in 2008 in the Doğu Garajı district have uncovered remains dating to the 3rd century BC, suggesting that the city was founded earlier than previously supposed. Antalya became part of the Roman Republic in 133 BC when King Attalos III of Pergamon willed his kingdom to Rome at his death. The city grew and prospered during the Ancient Roman period.
Christianity started to spread in the region after 2nd century. Antalya was visited by Paul of Tarsus, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles: "From Perga, Paul and Barnabas went down to Attalia and sailed from there to Antioch after preaching in Pisidia and Pamphylia" (Acts 14:25-26).
The city and the surrounding region were conquered by the Seljuk Turks in the early 13th century. Antalya was the capital of the Turkish beylik of Teke (1321–1423) until its conquest by the Ottomans. The Arabic traveler Ibn Battuta, who visited the city in 1335-1340, noted:
In the second half of the 17th century Evliya Çelebi wrote of a city of narrow streets containing 3,000 houses in 20 Turkish and four Greek neighborhoods. The town had grown beyond the city walls and the port was reported to hold up to 200 boats.
In the 20th century the population of Antalya increased as Turks from the Caucasus and the Balkans moved into Anatolia. By 1911 it was a city of about 25,000 people, including many Christians and Jews, still living in separate quarters around the walled mina or port. The economy was centered on its port that served the inland areas, particularly Konya. Antalya (then Adalia) was picturesque rather than modern. The chief attraction for visitors was the city wall, and outside a promenade, a portion of which survives. The government offices and the houses of the higher classes were outside the walls.
The city was occupied by the Italians from the end of the First World War until the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Large-scale development beginning in the 1970s transformed Antalya from a pastoral town into one of Turkey's largest metropolitan areas. Much of this has been due to tourism, which expanded in the 21st century.
According to tradition, in the 2nd century BC the Pergamon king Attalos II ordered his men to find "heaven on earth". After an extensive search, they discovered the region of Antalya. Attalos rebuilt the city, giving it the name "Attaleia" which later mutated in Turkish as Adalia and then Antalya. Attaleia was also the name of a festival at Delphi and Attalis (Greek: Ἀτταλίς) was the name of an ancient Greek tribe at Athens.