If artisan trinkets and exotic wares make your heart sing, then you may find your wallet opening countless times on a stroll through Kemeralti Market. Said to date back to the 17th Century, this Izmir attraction can double as a history lesson. The area is also home to tea-gardens, mosques, synagogues and numerous coffee houses, you could easily waste a whole day roaming these crowded streets and exploring the many walkways off the bazaar’s main strip of Anafartalar Caddesi.
Relax on Long Beach
Sun-loungers under thatched umbrellas and teal waters lapping on white sand; it’s not the picture of a quintessential Turkey holiday experience, but that doesn’t mean it should be missed off your Izmir travel itinerary. The city’s stretch of Long Beach is a jewel of the region for both locals and travellers, and a great way to recoup between days exploring other attractions on foot. Even winter visitors may want to make a trip on the chance of catching the sand capped with snow.
Explore ancient Ephesus
Turkey’s answer to Petra is the ancient city of Ephesus, built in the 10th Century BC by the ever-capable Greek. The most remarkable remains still found here is that of the Library of Celsus, a two storey masterpiece that was partially re-erected by archaeologists to show its beautiful 8 pillar facade. Ephesus is also famed for its close proximity to the site of the Temple of Artemis, named one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. No trip to Izmir Turkey would be complete without a visit to both of these landmarks, both of which hold immeasurable historical significance.
Explore Konak Square
The lively hub of the city of Izmir is Konak Square, a pedestrian place centred around a historic Clock Tower. A short stroll from the market bazaar of Kemeralti as well as the museum of modern art and opera house located within Ege University, it is a location that is likely to feature frequently on any trip to Izmir. Walk the edges of the square stopping to admire the Yalı Mosque and City Square, before finding a place to people watch over Turkish tea and a few too many Turkish delights.
Enjoy Şifne mud baths and hot springs
If driving some 200-kilometres to Turkey’s travertine terraces of Pamukkale doesn’t fit on your Izmir agenda, a closer indulgent, mineral-rich water experience can be found in Sifen, found in the seaside town of Cesme. Simmering at a very balmy 55 degrees celsius, these mud baths and hot springs offer travellers the chance to soak in thermal pools that are said to heal the body, and have been dubbed the ‘fountain of the Aegean.’
Visit Kadifekale Castle
Translating literally to ‘the velvet castle,’ the term Kadifekale is the name of a hill in Izmir topped by a commanding castle. An impressive brick structure that offers the best views of the city, you need not visit Kadifekale simply to take in what is now somewhat ruins of an ancient building. Though the walk here from the city is arduous it is worthwhile if you wish to understand all sides of the city, with various communities dotting the route to the hill.
Things to do in Izmir
European Jazz Festival
Though Izmir technically falls on the continent of Asia, it is home to the European Jazz Festival. Taking hold of the city since 1994, this annual event showcases extraordinary talents in the Ahmed Adnan Saygun Art Center.
Izmir International Festival
Running for over 3 decades, the Izmir International Festival is one of the most important and beloved events held in the city of Izmir. Drawing in talented artists from across the country and world in the disciplines of music, ballet, theatre and opera, it is worth timing your trip to Izmir with this festival.
National Sovereignty and Children's Day
Turkey erupts into a joyful display of youth and colour once a year in honour of ‘the adults of tomorrow’. In Izmir you can expect parades, performances, sports games and plenty of tomfoolery - on National Sovereignty and Children's Day the child in everyone can let loose.
Vegans and vegetarians, this is your time to stay inside! Kurban Bayrami refers to a holy Islamic day in which an animal is sacrificed and divided into 3 parts to remember the sacrifice Ibrahim made of his son. Often referred to as Eid al-Adha, in Izmir you can expect to see many family gatherings and people dressing their best.
Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day
An annual holiday for the entire country of Turkey, the Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day is held each year on May 19 to honour events regarded as the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence. Folk dances, parades, and poetry readings by children are just some of the festivities of this holiday in Izmir.
Top 5 festivals in Izmir
With over 4-million people calling the city of Izmir home, an energetic festival calendar has evolved to ensure they are thoroughly entertained. Watch world-class ballerinas point their toes and dance to numerous lively jazz music shows, attending a few religious cultural events in between to mix things up.
İzmir Archaeological Museum
Boasting numerous significant pieces from the Aegean Region, the İzmir Archaeological Museum was first established in 1924, and has grown to be one of the most popular attractions in the city. From ceramics to stone works, to precious ancient pieces, it is worth visiting when in the vicinity of Konak Square.
From model cars to motorcycles, car mascots to motor parts, the Key Museum is a paradise for those with an affection for all things engine. Even showing original gas station pieces as well as the old automobiles of the late 1800’s, this Izmir museum is as much a lesson in history as it is the car industry.
İzmir Art and Sculpture Museum
With over 400 pieces ranging from sculptures to ceramics, prints to paintings, the İzmir Art and Sculpture Museum is an essential visit when in this part of Turkey. Taking visitors through various eras of the city, the 3 buildings that make up this museum can easily fill an afternoon.
İzmir Atatürk Museum
Standing in honour of the first President of Turkey, the İzmir Atatürk Museum is located in the abandoned home of a carpet merchant, a short stroll from Gundogdu Square. Spending days as a hotel and army headquarters before transforming to its current museum status, the walls of this building hold numerous stories.
Agora Open Air Museum
With the word agora translating literally to ‘market place,’ some may arrive at this site disappointed at the lack of market goods for sale. But at the Agora Open Air Museum in Izmir’s old area of Namazgah, an even more exciting market exists - the ruins of one enjoyed many decades ago, with limitless archeological significance.
Top 5 museums and galleries in Izmir
You’ll never be left wondering what to do in Izmir for long - this city has a special collection of museums to visit. From vintage cars to archaeological wonders, and the İzmir Art and Sculpture Museum to Atatürk honouring the country’s first president, each is worth dedicating your time to.
A hearty savoury meal popular across the Indian subcontinent, Middle East and Eastern Europe, pilaf is a crowd-pleasing rice based dish with numerous variations. The rice is often sauteed in oil then combined with spices, vegetables and meats, and can be tried at Cumba when in Turkey.
Best eaten at Cumba, Erzene Mahallesi, İstanbul Cad. No:54
A dumpling dish popular through most regions of Turkey, manti are usually boiled or steamed, and stuffed with beef or lamb mince. When visiting Izmir they can be sampled at Cafe la Cigale, a popular local haunt found on Alsancak Cumhuriyet.
Best eaten at Cafe la Cigale, Alsancak Cumhuriyet Bulv. Fransız Kültür Merkezi No:152
A tangy Mediterranean snack enjoyed across various regions of Turkey, the acquired taste of the dolma is one worth working for. Most commonly a preparation of rice and vegetables wrapped tightly in vine leaves and served with lemon, they are a known delicacy of Bogazici Restaurant in Izmir.
Best eaten at Bogazici Restaurant, Bahçelerarası Mahallesi, Üçkuyular Vapur İskelesi Üstü
A popular dish in Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey, the stuffed eggplant dish of karnıyarık is one to savour many times when visiting Izmir. Often filled with beaten meat, onion, herbs and spices, it’s worth the 20 minute drive out of the city to try it served traditionally at Dönerci Vedat Usta.
Best eaten at Dönerci Vedat Usta, Koşukavak Mahallesi, Abdi İpekçi Cd. No:17
Food in Izmir
From the tangy vine leaf snack of dolma to the traditional sharing plates of meze, the food in Izmir will leave you wish you had Turkish blood. Unique, exotic, and bursting with bold flavours, this city is a culinary adventure that begins at the maze of the bazaar.