1. Visit Kordon and Konak Square
One of the top things to do in Izmir is visit Kordon and Konak Square. This is a great place to start exploring the city.
Kordon is Izmir’s famous waterfront promenade that runs along the Gulf of Izmir. It stretches for over 10km and offers beautiful views over the sea. Along the promenade you’ll find plenty of bars, cafes, restaurants, and hotels. It’s a lively area and popular place for locals and tourists to stroll in the evenings.
Konak Square is located at the southern end of Kordon in the heart of the city. This is Izmir’s main public square, dominated by the historic Clock Tower built in 1901. Surrounding the square are some of the city’s top hotels, cafes and shops.
The Clock Tower is one of Izmir’s most famous landmarks. This 25 meter tall clock tower was designed by Levantine French architect Raymond Charles Père in Ottoman and French styles. The Clock Tower gives great views over Konak Square and is illuminated at night.
Strolling along Kordon and exploring Konak Square is a great way to start your trip in Izmir. You can admire the sea views, people watch, and soak up the lively local atmosphere. It provides a good orientation to the city and some of its top sights.
2. Explore Kemeraltı Bazaar
Kemeraltı Bazaar is a historic market located in the center of Izmir. With over 5,000 shops and stalls spread across a labyrinth of streets, it’s one of the largest bazaars in Turkey.
The origins of Kemeraltı Bazaar date back over 350 years to the 17th century. After a great fire destroyed much of Izmir in 1676, the bazaar was rebuilt and has been in continuous operation since then. Traders sold spices, jewelry, fabrics and other goods brought from locations across the Middle East and Mediterranean.
Today, Kemeraltı remains a thriving bazaar full of sights, sounds and smells. Shoppers can find spices, souvenirs, foods, clothing, household items and more along its winding lanes.
Some of the top things to buy at the bazaar include:
– **Spices** – Shop for bags of vividly colored spices like sumac, saffron, curry powder and more. Vendors may let you sample smells.
– **Turkish souvenirs** – Look for souvenirs like nazar amulets, handmade copper items, ceramics and intricately woven carpets. Haggle for the best deals.
– **Local foods** – Sample and buy Turkish delights, nuts, figs, cheeses, olives and dried fruits from street vendors.
– **Clothing and fabrics** – Peruse stalls selling traditional Turkish clothing, scarves, bags, and colorful textiles.
– **Jewelry** – Browse for gold and silver jewelry pieces, some decorated with Turkey’s traditional evil eye symbol.
When exploring Kemeraltı Bazaar, be prepared that there are no maps and signage is limited. Don’t be afraid to get lost in the maze of alleyways and let serendipity guide you to shops and stalls. Keep an eye on your wallet and belongings in the crowds. Be ready to haggle – vendors expect it and you’ll get better prices. Visit shops off the main drags for better quality and prices. And take breaks to sip Turkish tea and people watch amid the chaotic, but fascinating bazaar atmosphere.
3. Relax at Izmir Wildlife Park
Sasalı Natural Park is a great place to spend a relaxing day with family or friends in Izmir. This wildlife park is home to over 80 animal species, including lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, monkeys, deer, and exotic birds.
Some highlights of the zoo include:
– The Tiger Valley, where you can see majestic Siberian tigers up close. This is one of the largest tiger exhibits in Turkey.
– The aviary, home to colorful parrots, peacocks, ostriches and other exotic birds. You can buy bird food and have the experience of feeding them by hand.
– The elephant and giraffe habitats offer fun interactions and photo opportunities. The elephants even perform shows at scheduled times.
– The petting zoo has domesticated animals like sheep, goats, bunnies and ponies that kids can safely interact with.
– There is a large aquarium with a tunnel walkthrough so you’re surrounded by fish and sea creatures.
With these varied exhibits and animal encounters, Sasalı Natural Park is a top attraction for families visiting Izmir. Kids will love seeing the animals up close.
The park is located in the Sasalı neighborhood, about 30 minutes from central Izmir. It’s recommended to visit on a weekday when it’s less crowded. Tickets cost around 20-25 TL for adults and 10-15 TL for kids under 12. You can purchase tickets at the entrance. The best times to visit are in the mornings before noon when the animals are most active.
Spending a day immersed in nature and wildlife is a fun way to take a break from the city sights in Izmir. Sasalı Natural Park offers a memorable zoo experience for visitors of all ages.
4. Take a Day Trip to Ephesus
One of the top attractions near Izmir is the ancient Roman ruins of Ephesus. Located about an hour outside of Izmir, Ephesus was once a major port city and hub of trade and commerce. Today the remarkably well-preserved ruins give you a glimpse into life during Roman times.
Some of the highlights of Ephesus include:
– The Library of Celsus – This two-story library was built in the 2nd century AD and had over 12,000 scrolls. The ornate facade has been intricately reconstructed.
– The Great Theater – Built in the 3rd century BC, this theater could hold over 25,000 spectators for dramatic performances and gladiator fights.
– The Terraced Houses – These lavish houses were built on three terraces and were likely owned by wealthy Ephesians. They feature intricate mosaics and frescoes.
– The Temple of Artemis – One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only a single column remains from this massive temple dedicated to Artemis.
Visiting Ephesus takes about 2-3 hours to explore the main sights. Many tourists visit on guided tours from Izmir, which take care of transport to and from the ruins. You can also take public minibuses, which are very affordable but involve less guided information.
Try to visit Ephesus in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the worst crowds and heat. Wear good walking shoes, bring water, and prepare to step back in time to ancient Roman era!
5. Visit the Izmir Archaeological Museum
The Izmir Archaeological Museum is one of the largest and most impressive museums in Turkey. Located in central Izmir, this museum houses an extensive collection of Roman, Greek, and Anatolian artifacts and art spanning over 5,000 years of history.
The museum is perhaps best known for its stunning marble statue of Poseidon and its vast collection of Roman-era sculptures, mosaics, and sarcophagi. Some of the highlights include the Sarcophagus of the Crying Women, depicting the 12 labors of Hercules, and the striking Statue of Zeus.
Beyond sculptures, the museum also contains one of the world’s finest collections of ancient medical tools and ceramics. The ceramics on display include painted Greek amphorae and unglazed terracotta figurines. Visitors can also view displays of ancient coins and jewelry excavated from sites around Izmir.
The Izmir Archaeological Museum is located in central Izmir near Konak Square. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, with tickets priced at 20 TL. Allow around 2 hours to enjoy the museum exhibits in depth.
With its first-rate collection of artifacts and art, the Izmir Archaeological Museum is an essential stop for visitors interested in Greek, Roman and Anatolian history and culture.
6. Ride the Izmir Cable Car
The Izmir Cable Car is a must-do activity when visiting the city. It provides stunning views as it carries passengers from the shoreline up to the hills overlooking the Gulf of Izmir.
The cable car has a length of over 4 km and takes around 15 minutes from start to finish. It begins in the Alsancak seaside neighborhood and ascends to the beginning of the Karşıyaka neighborhood. Along the way, you’ll get panoramic views over the city, the gulf, and the surrounding mountains.
The cable car has a midway stop at an entertainment area called Hillside Beach Club. Here you can get off and enjoy the beach, restaurants, and bars if you choose. Otherwise, stay on for the complete journey up to Karşıyaka.
When you reach the top, you’ll find yourself high over the Bosphorus strait with sweeping views. There’s an observation terrace where you can take photos. You can also browse the shops and cafes nearby before hopping back on the cable car.
Riding the Izmir cable car is a fun family-friendly activity. Kids will love the views and novelty of the experience. Be sure to hold onto little ones tightly though since the cars do sway!
Tickets can be purchased at the stations at either end. You can buy single ride tickets or discounted return tickets. Arrive early on weekends and holidays as lines can get long during peak times.
The cable car provides an effortless and scenic way to take in panoramic views over Izmir. It’s the perfect way to see the city from a new vantage point high above the hustle and bustle below. Don’t miss it on your trip to Izmir!
7. Explore Alsancak District
The Alsancak district is Izmir’s trendy upscale neighborhood with a youthful vibe. Many renovated Ottoman mansions line the pedestrian streets, now housing chic cafes, restaurants and shops.
The main drag is Kıbrıs Şehitleri Caddesi, with its historic 19th century buildings and palm tree-lined esplanade overlooking the Gulf of Izmir. Stop by one of the many sidewalk cafes to do some people watching. The most popular cafe is Kafka Kafé & Bistro, known for its breakfasts and coffees.
For shopping, head to the Kordonboyu area along the waterfront promenade. Boutiques sell Turkish textiles, jewelry, ceramics and more. The Pasaport neighborhood next to the ferry terminal also has a high concentration of shops and eateries.
At night, locals and visitors alike flock to Alsancak for its lively nightlife scene. The bars and clubs stay open late, with music and dancing. Some top picks are the Line Club for house and techno, All Shot Pub for live rock music or the old school Orient Bar for belly dancing shows.
Nearby is Kültürpark fairground, which hosts concerts and events. You’ll also find the Izmir State Opera and Ballet here, as well as amusement park rides and pedestrian zones to stroll around. Alsancak offers the best entertainment and nightlife you’ll find in Izmir.
8. Relax at Izmir Beaches
With its prime location along the Aegean Sea, Izmir has no shortage of beautiful beaches to relax on. Some of the top beaches near Izmir include:
Çeşme is one of the most popular beach destinations near Izmir, located about an hour’s drive west. The white sandy beaches and sparkling blue waters make it a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and beach activities. There are a variety of beach clubs along the coastline that offer umbrellas, lounge chairs, food service, and facilities like showers and changing rooms. Some of the best beaches in Çeşme include Ilıca Beach, Altınkum Beach, Pırlanta Beach, and Ayayorgi Bay.
10. Palmiye Beach
Palmiye Beach is located right in Izmir city center along the coastline. This long stretch of sandy beach has umbrellas and lounge chair rentals, food stands, and nice facilities. The shallow waters make it a good swimming spot. You can also enjoy beach activities like beach volleyball.
11. Pamucak Beach
Pamucak Beach is another popular beach located south of Izmir city center along the coast. The beach has soft white sand and calm waters perfect for swimming and sunbathing. There are beach clubs with amenities as well as areas for water sports like windsurfing.
The small coastal town of Foca has several nice beaches to choose from about an hour north of Izmir. Kozlu Ada Beach is famous for its soft sands and stunning views. You can also visit beaches like Kilimli Beach, Mersinlik Beach, and Değirmendere Beach in Foca.
With its scenic coastline and proximity to beach towns, Izmir offers the perfect spot to soak up the sun and enjoy fun beach activities during a visit. The wide variety of beaches means you’re sure to find the right spot to relax.
13. Try Local Izmir Cuisine
Izmir is known for its delicious local cuisine, featuring fresh seafood and regional specialties. Here are some top dishes and foods to sample when visiting:
– **Boyoz** – This puffy, round bread is unique to Izmir. Stop by a local bakery for fresh, hot boyoz to eat for breakfast or a snack. The best boyoz is light and airy on the inside with a slightly chewy texture.
– **Kumru** – This Izmir street food sandwich features a special round bread filled with sliced meat, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and melted cheese. Grab a kumru for a quick, hearty lunch.
– **Seafood** – Being a coastal city, Izmir excels at fresh seafood. Try the local catches like sea bass, bluefish, and calamari, often served grilled. Sardines are another Izmir specialty.
– **Menemen** – This Turkish-style omelette cooked with tomatoes, peppers, spices, and eggs makes a great breakfast.Pair it with olives, cheese, and bread.
– **İzmir köfte** – Spiced meatballs, often served with tomatoes and peppers. Look for this local version of the classic köfte.
– **Güveç** – This claypot dish features meat, vegetables, and herbs cooked slowly. It’s full of complex flavors.
Some top spots to sample authentic Izmir cuisine include:
– **Kemeraltı Bazaar** – This sprawling market is filled with food stalls and eateries.
– **Asansör Restaurant** – Historic restaurant with amazing views and local cuisine.
– **Deniz Restaurant** – Seafood restaurant situated right on the harbor.
– **Can Restaurant** – Local favorite serving kebabs, meze, and regional specialties.
Izmir has a notable coffee culture, with many cafes serving Türk kahvesi. This strong, black coffee is brewed in a small long-handled pot called a cezve and poured into tiny cups to sip. The coffee has a rich flavor and foam on top. Be sure to sample a cup of Türk kahvesi at a cafe while in Izmir.
14. Where to Stay in Izmir
Izmir offers a wide variety of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. Here are some recommendations on where to stay:
**Alsancak** – This centrally located neighborhood is one of the most popular areas to stay in Izmir. It has a lively atmosphere with many shops, restaurants and bars. The waterfront promenade is also located here. Good access to public transportation.
**Konak** – The central business district of Izmir has hotels catering to business travelers. Also close to major attractions like the clock tower. More affordable prices than Alsancak.
**Karşıyaka** – A pleasant residential area on the other side of the bay. Offers scenic views and a more relaxed vibe. The ferry makes it easy to get to central Izmir.
**Çeşme** – A beach town that’s about an hour’s drive from Izmir. Makes a good base if you want to spend time relaxing by the sea. Lots of beach hotels and resorts.
Izmir has accommodations ranging from luxury hotels to budget hostels. Options include:
– Hotels – Large chain hotels and independent boutique hotels, mainly located in Alsancak, Konak, and Karşıyaka.
– Apartments/Vacation Rentals – Great for longer stays and families. Look in residential neighborhoods like Karşıyaka.
– Hostels – For budget travelers and solo travelers. Most are located in Alsancak.
– Pansiyons – Small family-run guesthouses, usually with shared bathrooms. Offer a local and affordable stay.
– Resorts – Luxury resorts with pools and spas are located outside the city like in Çeşme.
– Book early during peak summer tourist season.
– Check hotels’ websites for special deals and packages.
– Use comparison sites to find the best room rates.
– Stay just outside the city center to save money on accommodations.
– Consider vacation rentals for long stays and group trips.
– Hostels are the most budget-friendly option for solo travelers. With its great value hotels, vacation rentals, and even camping options, Izmir has lodging to suit any budget and style of traveler.