Izmir 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, churches and synagogues, although the city has an atmosphere more of Mediterranean Europe than traditional Turkey.
The history of Izmir stretches back to around 3000 BC when the Trojans founded the city in Tepekule in the northern suburb of Bayraklı, 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 The Aeolians, the first Greek settlers, were eventually superseded by the (also Greek) Ionians, and then the Lydians destroyed the city around 600 BC before a brief recovery following Alexander the Great’s arrival in 334 BC.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 Izmir. 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 Izmir. Atatürk formally took Izmir on 9 September 1922 and this is celebrated as the date of the city's independence. As part of the peace deal, Greeks in Izmir 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.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Izmir experiences a typical, subtropical Mediterranean climate, with hot, sunny summers and rainy winters, but being the northernmost major city in Turkey to do so, it does have some transitional qualities, such as the slightly cooler and cloudier winters.
Summers are hot and rainless, especially in July and August. Summer highs vary around 30-35°C, and with a moderate amount of humidity, perceived temperatures can easily reach 38°C or above most years.
Winters are generally mild to cool, with occasional heavy rains. Temperatures do see the freezing mark, however, this almost always happens on clear, windless nights when there's no chance of snowfall. As a consequence, Izmir averages only around one to three days of snowfall per year and virtually no days with snow cover. The rest of winter brings comfortable highs, usually around 14-18°C, although higher temperatures have been recorded.
Spring and fall are warm, usually pleasant and generally the best time to visit the city. If you're planning to go on a beach holiday, however, fall is generally a better option; the water is often warmer then, with water temperatures well above 20°C in both September and October.
- 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. You'll need an izmirimkart card for the train and subway.
- 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 an 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
Izmir 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.
Buy tickets at the station or on the TCDD website.
- 2 Basmane railway station (Basmane Garı), Anafartalar Cd. Terminus station for long-distance trains.
- 3 Alsancak railway station (Alsancak garı), Şehitler Cd. 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 [dead link]. 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 [dead link] for schedules and prices.
- 4 İzmir Coach Terminal (İzmir Otogarı).
You can explore Izmir's inner city by walking. Walking Routes of the city center are very easy to walk and enjoyable.
The IZBAN railway (shown in green) runs north-south:
- South Line runs from Tepeköy (for Torbali) in the south via the airport and Menderes town to Hilal (for Metro) and Alsancak (for trams, city ferries and the North Line).
- North Line runs from Alsancak to Turan, Mavişehir (for trams), Çiğli, Menemen and Aliağa (for connections to Foça and Bergama).
The Metro (shown in blue) runs east-west, from Bornova to the east via Halkapinar interchange (for trams and North Line), Hilal (for South Line), Basmane (for mainline trains) and Konak to Fahrettin Altay (for Göztepe and Balçova town).
The Tram (shown in red) has two separate loops:
- City centre and south shore: from Halkapinar interchange to Alsancak, Konak, Göztepe and Fahrettin Altay.
- North shore: from Alaybay to Bostanli, Atakent and Mavişehir.
All three systems have extensions under construction or in planning.
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, ☏ (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 Izmir, other being İZULAŞ.
Izdeniz Ferries criss-cross the city inlet, a cheap, fast and pleasant form of transport.
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 Izmir-registered taxi (registration starting in 35) cannot go beyond Izmir provincial boundaries.
Due to the Great Fire of 1920s, there is a relative lack of historical sights in Izmir, 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 Izmir. 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 Izmir Municipality and now it uses electricity. There is a restaurant on the top of the elevator, with a bird-eye view of Izmir.
- 3 [dead link] Izmir 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 Izmir 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, Izmir 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 Izmir has a warm climate so melons are always local and fresh.
- Izmir 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 Izmir, 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 the Izmir region.
- Copsis Kebab at Topcu in Cankaya
- Belkahve: Izmir 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 Izmir 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.
Izmir 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 you'll be able to converse with them in English, German, French, or Arabic.
- Tourism Police (Turizm Polisi), Turizm Şube Müdürlüğü, Tepecik, ☏ , fax: .
Izmir has a good 4G signal from all Turkish carriers. As of Dec 2020, 5G has not reached this area.
- Çeşme a small village for all summer activities, half an hour drive to the west of Izmir.
- 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|