İzmir is the third largest city in Turkey with a population of around 3.7 million, the second biggest port after Istanbul, and a very good transport hub. Once the ancient city of Smyrna, it is now a modern, developed, and busy commercial center, set around a huge bay and surrounded by mountains. The broad boulevards, glass-fronted buildings and modern shopping centers are dotted with traditional red-tiled roofs, the 18th century market, and old mosques and churches, although the city has an atmosphere more of Mediterranean Europe than traditional Turkey.
The history of İzmir stretches back to around 3000 BC when the Trojans founded the city in Tepekule in the northern suburb of Bayrakli, where is now the "Eski Smyrna" museum. This was the Smyrna that is the supposed birthplace of Homer; a common and consistent tradition connects Homer with the valley of Smyrna and the banks of the river Meles. The Aeolians, the first Greek settlers, were eventually superseded by the (also Greek) Ionians, and then the Lydians destroyed the city around 600 BC before a brief recovery following Alexander the Great’s arrival in 334 BC.
After his death, Alexander’s generals followed his wishes and re-established Smyrna on the shadow of Mount Pagos (Kadifekale), and the city then prospered under the Romans. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 178 AD but later reconstructed and became a major commercial port. After the Byzantines, the city had a turbulent time under the Arabs, Seljuks, Crusaders and Mongols, until Mehmet I incorporated it into the Ottoman Empire in 1415. Under Suleyman the Magnificent, Smyrna became a thriving and sophisticated city and a huge trading center, despite its frequent earthquakes. It was cosmopolitan, with mainly Greek Orthodox and also Jews and Muslims, and many languages were spoken among locals and visiting traders.
Following World War I and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, on the basis of a major Greek-speaking population in the area, the Allies gave Greece a mandate over İzmir. Greece thereby took control of the Aegean area, and marched on Ankara. Led by Kemal Atatürk the Turkish army counter-attacked, in what became the War of Turkish Independence, and regained their territory, but a huge fire broke out which destroyed 70% of İzmir. Atatürk formally took İzmir on 9 September 1922 and this is celebrated as the date of the city's independence. As part of the peace deal, Greeks in İzmir were compulsorily re-settled in Greece, while Turks in Greece (especially around Thessaloniki, Atatürk's own birthplace) were compulsorily re-settled in Turkey. This ended the multicultural nature of the city.
Summers in İzmir are hot, dry and sunny, and so air-con is highly recommended even for sleeping at night. A mild breeze coming in ashore from the sea (locally called meltem) may refreshen the evenings, at least in locations close to the waterfront. Temperature can drop down to freezing point (0°C/32°F) in mostly cool, windy and rainy winters, however snowfall is some sort of curiousness in these latitudes, which happens once or at most twice a decade, if at all.
- 1 Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport (ADB IATA) (16 km south of city center), ☏ . This has frequent flights to Istanbul, Ankara, and Antalya, and daily to several other Turkish cities. There are also flights from Athens, Frankfurt and several other European cities. Operators include Turkish Airlines, Pegasus, Anadolujet, Onur and Sun Express (which has a hub here) so this competition keeps fares low.
To & from the airport:
- İzban suburban trains run every 10 mins to Alsancak Station north of city centre. Change at Hilal for the metro downtown - this station and its surroundings are messy and not easy to navigate.
- HAVAŞ shuttle buses run to city center for 14 TL, then continue north away out to Mavişehir.
- Town buses run by ESHOT (transport dept of city council), are cheaper than Havaş, at 5.20 TL/passenger if you have a İzmirimkart.
- Adnan Menderes Airport Car Hire Address : 1375 Sokak No : 6/e Alsancak Konak / İzmir Telephone : +90 232 313 01 13 Call Center 0850 380 01 80
İzmir is not on Turkey's high-speed YHT network, so trains are ponderous overnight affairs, when daytime buses cover the distance in half the time. The main services (all daily) are:
- İzmir Mavi ("Izmir Blue Train"), 14 hrs overnight from Ankara via Eskişehir (which has YHT trains, but not at night) and Kütahya, departing around 18:00.
- Konya Mavi ("Konya Blue Train"), 12 hrs overnight from Konya (which has YHT trains, and connections for Adana and Antalya), via Afyon and Manisa, departing around 19:30.
- Ege Ekspressi, 9½ hours daily from Kutahya via Tavsanli, Balikesir, Soma, Akhisar and Manisa, departing around 09:30 and returning north at 06:30.
- Göller Ekspresi ("Lakes Express"), 8 hrs overnight from Isparta via Denizli (for Pamukkale), Nazilli, Aydin and Selcuk (for Ephesus and Kuşadası), departing around 22:00.
- 6 Eylül Ekspresi ("6th of September Express"), 6½ hr daily from Bandirma (with ferries from Istanbul) via Balikesir and Soma, departing around 08:00.
3 Alsancak station is the terminus for the suburban IZBAN railway which runs to the airport and city centre, and connects with the metro.
From July 2019 a direct ferry sails between Çeşme near Izmir and Lavrion near Athens, operated by Aegean Seaways. This sails overnight M W F from Lavrion at 22:00 to reach Çeşme at 06:00, with the return sailing Tu Th Sa at 22:00. On Sunday the ferry sails from Lavrion at 11:00 to reach Çeşme at 19:00, then sails back near midnight to reach Lavrion at 08:00. It's intended to run this service year-round.
The bus station, or otogar (Turkish for bus garage), is 6 km north east of city centre, with frequent dolmuş running there. The bus station is huge and has an internet cafe, plenty of facilities for food and drink, and pay toilets. There are multiple bus operators and ticket offices; when a bus is about to depart, the agents will shout a last call for that destination.
There are free shuttle bus service that will bring passengers from the bus terminal to Basmane Square, the city center. To get to the free shuttle station, after getting off the bus, go to the leftmost side of the bus terminal building without entering it. There should be stairs going down and here you'll see all the bus companies' free shuttle buses, as well as the terminal service free shuttle. There also is a city bus route that goes to Konak through former Kemalpaşa road. Another option is to take a dolmus to Bornova metro (or Evka 3), and then continue by metro.
Buses to Istanbul run frequently and take 6½ hours, with regular rest stops. The fare of 70-90 TL will usually include water, hot drinks, and snacks. For example, Ulusoy bus from Istanbul will set you back around 85 TL (August 2016). Check http://www.otobusbileti.gen.tr/izmir-otobus-bileti for schedules and prices.
You can explore İzmir inner city by walking. Walking Routes of the city center are very easy to walk and enjoyable.
- a line connecting the city centre/Konak Square with the northeastern town of Bornova and western town of Balçova (for now, the line ends at Fahrettin Altay square, that is the boundary of Balçova)
- a line connecting Tepeköy (to the south) and Aliağa (to the north). It also provides connections to Foça and other places north of İzmir.
There is an extensive system of public buses covering the entire province.
- ESHOT (Elektrik Su Havagazı Otobüs Troleybüs), İnönü Mahallesi İsmail Sivri Bulvarı No:105 Buca (SHORT DESCRIPTION OF HOW TO GET TO LISTING), ☏ (PBX), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 8-17(weekdays) offices, 6-24 most buses, 24/24 some bus lines. ESHOT is one of two city bus operators in İzmir, other being İZULAŞ.
Public ferries are easy, fast and provide a nice view of İzmir. Preferable to every other form of transport in nice weather.
There are many taxis with reasonable prices and no night rate. Turkish taxis are not allowed to go outside province they are registered at. Meaning an İzmir-registered taxi (registration starting in 35) cannot go beyond İzmir provincial boundaries.
Due to the Great Fire of 1920s, there is a relative lack of historical sights in İzmir, especially when considering how old the city really is (more than 5000 years old).
- 1 Konak Square. Main square of the city center, famous for the clock tower, one of the unique symbols of İzmir. The clock tower was built in 1901. There are also Konak Yali Mosque and Kemeraltı Bazaar around the square.
- 2 Asansör (Elevator). This landmark was constructed by a Jewish businessman in 1907. The purpose was to help residents to go to their districts on the top of the hill. The elevator used to be powered by a water-driven mechanism. Later, it was restored by İzmir Municipality and now it uses electricity. There is a restaurant on the top of the elevator, with a bird-eye view of İzmir.
- 3 [dead link] İzmir Archaeological Museum, Halil Rifat Paşa Cad. No: 4 Bahribaba Parkı, ☏ . Hosts a large collection of finds from Smyrna and other Ionian cities, mostly from the Roman age. There's also a numismatic department with ancient coins and jewelry.
- 4 İzmir Agora Open Air Museum. Ruins of the Hellenistic and Roman Smyrna's marketplace.
- 5 Atatürk Monument, Cumhuriyet Meydanı (Republic Square). Equestrian statue of the Turkish leader, erected on 27 July 1932. Free.
- 6 Alsancak (Punta, Reşadiye). A neighbourhood of small streets with lots of bars in old Greek houses, where you can have tea or a beer and try several shisha flavors.
- 7 Kadifekale. An old castle named after the hill on which it stands. This castle resides in an undeveloped but friendly neighbourhood.
- Teleferik (cable car) — Since 1977, it has carried people to 423 m up above the sea level. There are restaurants, cafes and gift shops on the top of the hill.
- 8 Ancient Smyrna museum (Eski Smyrna - Hacı Mutzo Arkeolojik Alanı/Tepekule -Bayraklı Ören Yeri), 1912 Street Bayraklı (just behind central Bayraklı İstasyonu), ☏ . The ruins of the very first Smyrna.
- Walk along the Kordon, the waterfront promenade, now lined by rows of tall apartment buildings and palm trees on one side and the Aegean on the other, with a large patch of lawn and a cobbled street in between, where you can have a 19th-century fayton (horse-drawn carriages) ride.
- Kemeraltı — A must see. A big bazaar, where you can buy clothes, presents etc. There are also a lot of lounges where you can sit.
- Kızlarağası Hanı-House of Girls' Master— An old inn (kervansaray) in Kemeraltı where you can shop for carpets and jewelry.
- Blend in with locals and take the boat from Konak to Karşıyaka.
- See also the old fortress and the Agora. This site is usually quiet and you can roam about the ruins of the old Greek market.
- Beaches — Having a coastline on Aegean sea, İzmir owns lots of beaches which are not too far from the city center. There is public transportation available to most of them. The places include Foça, Dikili, Urla, Seferihisar, and Çeşme.
You can go to Konak Pier, a small mall along the Kordon with a cinema and with local and other known brands. Forum, in Bornova, is a very big mall with many brands and a supermarket in a Mediterranean style one floored houses in open air. Kemeraltı (in the city center) offers great deal of souvenirs in a nice traditional atmosphere.
- Melons, because İzmir has a warm climate so melons are always local and fresh.
- İzmir has a famous restaurant that serves the region's specialities, especially shish kebabs.
- Fish, grilled sea bass and mezes. Usually the fish is fresh and plenty in all seasons. Veli Usta offers great deal of fish in Alsancak.
- Kumru, a warm sandwich, made with a special bread with sesame seeds, Turkish sausage, grilled cheese and tomatoes, also a vegetarian version is available without the sausage and with the addition of green pepper. This is something not to be missed while in İzmir, because it's almost impossible to find it anywhere else in the country. It's sold at numerous stalls in the streets. Best to be eaten earlier in the day to have it warm as they find their way out of bakeries in the morning. Two of them is more than enough to appease you hunger and 2TL is the standard price per each throughout the city.
- Tulum Peyniri, a kind of cheese specially made in İzmir region.
- Copsis Kebab at Topcu in Cankaya
- Belkahve: İzmir from the eye of Atatürk in 1922 
- Boyoz, another local pastry but much oilier than kumru, to eat with a cup of tea for breakfast.
- Balcova Shopping Complex may be the most modern shopping and entertainment where in European Style. Besides, prices are reasonable.
- 1 Gümüş Tabak. A cafe-restaurant in Kızlarağası Hanı, Kemeraltı, which offers you the traditional Turkish delicacies, from Köfte to Kokoreç with very affordable prices. You should also try the traditional Turkish coffee that is prepared in a special way, boiled in the cup, fincan.
- Kıbrıs Şehitleri Caddesi Street in Alsancak, is a nice pedestrian street with a lot of cheap restaurant. For example, Tavuk Doner for 4 TL, Iskender Kebab for 15 TL.
Join the nightlife on Kıbrıs Şehitleri Caddesi in Alsancak, and go find the Gazi Kadinlar Street. Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are when the street is liveliest.
- All pubs and cafes in Kordon (Alsancak's waterfront) are attractive in nice weather.
- 1448 Sokak at Alsancak is full of bars and pubs from one end to another. They also have seats out on the sidewalk, and the uniform price for a bottle of beer (a pint/0.50 litre) is 6 TL all along the street.
In İzmir there are many hotels 5 minutes walk from the railway station to suit all tastes and wallets. Hilton is very close to city center in Alsancak, and Swissotel is also in Alsancak. Also there is Crowne Plaza, which is about 30 min from the center.
- Güzel İzmir Oteli, 9 Eylül Meydanı, 1368. Sokak No.8, Basmane, ☏ . Rooms with shower/toilet, satellite TV, air-con, wi-fi. €35 double room.
- Hotel Bodrum, 1362 Sokak No12 Cankaya (5 minutes walk from the railway station towards the sea front.). Rooms have wireless internet hot/cold shower, Turkish TV and air-con. 40 TL per night for single/double room including breakfast.
- [formerly dead link] Greece, Atatürk Caddesi 366/1A, Alsancak, ☏ , , , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. M-F 09:00-16:00, except official holidays.
İzmir Police Department has a "tourism police" section where travellers can report passport loss and theft or any other criminal activity, they may have become victims of. The staff is multilingual and will speak English, German, French, and Arabic.
- Tourism Police (Turizm Polisi), Turizm Şube Müdürlüğü, Tepecik, ☏ , fax: .
- Çeşme a small village for all summer activities, half an hour drive to the west of İzmir.
- Selçuk a few hours by bus or train to the south of the city, is a town with many historical sights, as well as serving as a hub to visit nearby Roman city of Ephesus and Virgin Mary’s House, which the Vatican declared an official Catholic pilgrimage site. It is also a few km away from Kuşadası and Şirince.
- Şirince a pleasant inland village, renowned for its wines.
- Tire takes only an hour to reach from the city center, a typical Aegean town where you can visit Turkey's biggest open town market on Tuesdays. You can also have a good lunch in Kaplan with typical Aegean foods and try the famous meatballs of Tire. Ödemiş is a traditional agricultural town also noted for its meatballs. Further east, Birgi is a medieval old town, one of the prettiest in the country.
- Manisa just to east over Sabuncubeli Pass, is hub for visiting nearby Sardes, the capital of ancient Lycians, and Mount Sipylus which offers beautiful forest scenery as well as sites with mythological references.
|Routes through Izmir|
|Çanakkale ← Bergama ←||N S||→ Selçuk → Denizli|