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. It is a rapidly growing city on the Central Aegean coast of Turkey.


Once the ancient city of Smyrna, İzmir 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 Izmir stretches back to around 3000 BC when the Trojans founded the city in Tepekule in the northern suburb of Bayrakli. This was the birthplace of Homer, who was thought to have lived here around the 8th century BC. The Aeolians, the first Greek settlers, were eventually taken over by their Greek rivals the Ionians. The Ionians were followed by the Lydians who destroyed the city around 600BC 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 Mount Pagos in 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 during the Byzantine Empire. 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 a cosmopolitan city , with a Greek Orthodox majority along with Armenians, Jews and Muslims. Numerous languages could be heard in the streets, spoken by locals and visiting traders.

Following World War I and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, and on the basis of the majority Greek population in the area, Greece was granted a mandate over Izmir from the Allies. Athens took control over the whole of the Aegean region.

Rising tensions led the outbreak of war as the Greeks purshed further into the heart of Anatolia in an attempt to unite the Greek communities of Asia Minor. Led by Kemal Ataturk the Turkish army launched a counter-attack and seized the city. Soon thereafter 70% of the city burned to the ground by the Turkish forces. The ‘Great Fire’ ended multinational authority of the city and the Greek and Armenian populations were expelled.

Ataturk formally took Izmir on 9 September 1922, which is celebrated as the day of the city’s liberation.


Dry and sunny summers in Izmir are so infernally hot and sticky that, unless there is an air-conditioning in your room, you will most likely have trouble falling asleep at least on your first night, no matter whether the windows are wide open or not. However, 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 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.

Get in

By train

Izmir has two railway stations: Basmane in the city center serves regional trains and the Metro, and Alsancak in the north serves intercity trains and the IZBAN.

The main intercity services include: Ankara (Mavi Tren is the fastest at 14 hours), Denizli (3 express trains daily, 5-6 hours) and Isparta (9 hours). Trains for Istanbul connect with a ferry at Bandirma.

Basmane station is linked by metro (which has a seperate station than the train one) to Konak in the west and to Bornova in the east.

By boat

The weekend ferry from Izmir to Istanbul has been suspended (2009), one or two weekly ferries between Izmir and Venice (67 hours). All ferries dock at the Alsancak Ferry Terminal, 2km north of the city center.

Cruise ships call on the port of Izmir all year round at Alsancak[1]. The center of town, Konak, is about 2 km south of Alsancak. When you exit the pier area, turn right at the waterfront and follow the Kordon to Konak, about a 25 minute stroll.

By plane

Adnan Menderes Airport (IATAADBICAOLTBJ), 16 km south of the city center, has several daily flights to IstanbulAnkara, and Antalya. There are also regular flights from many European cities.

Iz Air [2] is a local carrier operating out of Adnan Menderes and offers many domestic connections.

From the airport, you have three public transport options into the city:

  • Airport shuttles (HAVAŞ) meet incoming flights and go to and from the city center for 10 TL (be sure to get off the bus in the centre of town, as the bus continues north to Tersane).
  • Public buses run by ESHOT, transportation department of city council, are cheaper than Havaş, at 4 TL/passenger.
  • Re-opened in August 2010, renovated and upgraded suburban train line (İzban[3]) connects the airport with Alsancak Station in city centre, north of Konak Square with intervals of about 15 minutes between 6AM and 11:30PM. It’s possible to transfer to the metro in Halkapınar station (which is, indeed, the last station for some of the services) for trips further into the city centre, e.g. Konak Square.

Tickets can be bought at manned booths (“gise”). There is a local transport card for residents but you can also prefer “3-5 Bilet” [4] (3-5 Tickets) for short term stays. Price depends on how many trips you will make. It costs 6,5 TL and 15,2 TL for 2 and 5 trips respectively. (October 2013) Please note that you cannot buy one way 3-5 Bilet as the minimum fare covers two trips. You can buy a local transport card for 6 TL. When you load money to this card, you can use every buses, trains and ferries for 2 TL for 90 minutes. Like this; you can use train to got to Halkapınar (app. 30 minutes) and then you can use metro line for free to go to Konak (app. 15 minutes) an than you can use ferry for free to go to Karşıyaka (app. 20 minutes) and than you can use train again for free back to go to airport.

By bus

The bus station, or otogar, is 6km north east of town although there are plenty of dolmuş that make the journey there from the centre. The bus station is huge and has an internet cafe, plenty of facilities for food and drink and a large number of agencies selling tickets for coaches which, if departing imminently, they will be shouting out the destinations of. It also has pay toilets.

Buses to Istanbul take 9 hours (including a brief trip on a ferry) and travellers are provided with water, hot drinks, snacks and regular stops for toilets and food all for free on the better services for fares around 50TL per person one way.

Get around

  • Walking in Izmir – you can explore Izmir by inside city walking. Walking Routes [5] to center of city are very easy to walk and enjoyable.
  • Public ferries are easy, fast inside the coast and gives a nice shot of Izmir. Preferable to every other transportation in nice weather. Popular routes include; Konak-Karsiyaka, Alsancak-Karsiyaka, Konak-Bostanli and Karsiyaka-Goztepe.
  • There is a big public bus system covers all of the city.
  • Many taxis with reasonable price.
  • There is also a metro line connecting city centre/Konak Square with the northeastern suburb of Bornova.
  • Izban train line can also be used since it covers most part of the city center


Due to the Great Fire of 1920s, there is a relative lack of historical sights in Izmir, especially when considered how old the city really is (more than 5000 years old).

  • Konak Square — Main square of the city center, famous for the clock tower, one of the unique smybols of Izmir. The clock tower was built in 1901. There are also Konak Yali Mosque and Kemeraltı Bazaar located around the square.
  • Asansör (Elevator) — It 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 work by a water-driven mechanism. Later, it was restored by Izmir Municipality and now it works by electricity. There is a restaurant located on the top of the elevator with a bird-eye view of Izmir.
  • 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 FoçaDikili, Urla, Seferihisar, and Çeşme.
  • Alsancak — small streets with lots of bars in old Ottoman era houses, where you can have a Çay (Turkish tea) or a beer and try several waterpipe flavors.
  • Karsiyaka — literally means “opposite side”, Karsiyaka locates at the other part of Izmir Gulf, has some beautiful views of Konak and Alsancak. Karsiyaka also offers lively nightlife and one of the Izmir’s main pedestrian shopping streets. It can be reached by ferry (vapur) and Izban.
  • Kadifekale — old castle on the hill which it’s named after.
  • Some remains of the original Roman city of Smyrna can be seen at Agora.
  • Teleferik (cable car) — (This is closed at the moment and likely remain so for quite a long time) Having served since 1977, it carries people to 423 m. up above the sea level. There are restaurants, cafes and gift shops located on the top of the hill.(in construction)


  • 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 inbetween, 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 — 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.


You can go to Konak Pier, a small mall along the Kordon with a cinema and with local and other known brands. Another mall is called Forum, in Bornova. Forum is a very big mall with all brands and a supermarket in a Mediterreanean style one floored houses in open air. Kemeraltı (in the city center) offers great deal of souveniers in a nice traditional athmosphere.


  • Meşhur Tavacı Recep Usta, (also known as Tavacı), Atatürk Caddesi No:364 Kordon – Alsancak. [6] Best South East Turkish Cuisine available in town. After opened in an old Greek mansion with a huge garden at 2011, it became the most popular dining spot of Izmir in a really short time, thanks to epic roasted meats that served here for mid-range prices. “Kaburga Dolması” and “Tava” are the most special tastes of this restaurant which has seven other branches all around Turkey. Desserts (İrmik Helvasi and Baklava) are also remarkable. Breakfast is available.
  • Fish, grilled sea bass and mezes. Usually the fish is fresh and plenty in all seasons. Kordon Ümitköy Balıkçısı 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 1.25 TL is the standard price per each throughout the city.
  • Melons, because Izmir has a warm climate so melons are always local and fresh.
  • Tulum Peyniri, a kind of cheese specially made in Izmir region.
  • Copsis Kebab at Topcu in Cankaya
  • Belkahve: Izmir from the eye of Ataturk in 1922 [7]
  • Boyoz, another local pastry but much oilier than kumru, to eat with a boiled egg and a cup of tea in breakfast.
  • Gümüş Tabak, a cafe-restaurant in Kızlarağası HanıKemeraltı, 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.
  • KFCBurger King at the Konak Pier mall where you can eat these staples of American fast food by the seaside.


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.



Stay safe

Izmir is a relatively safe city for its size, however it does have its “shady” areas. The city center as well as populated suburbs are generally safe during the day. Use common sense if walking at night, avoid dark and narrow alleyways (found mainly in Alsancak and Konak). Avoid the streets around the main port as well as the streets around the railway junction (Hilal, Halkapinar). Also avoid booking hostels around Basmane, which is not safe even in the daylight. Kadifekale, which is one of the city’s main landmarks, is located in arguably the city’s most dangerous area. It is not advised to go there alone; if you go, travel by car. It is not advisable to travel on foot in the neighborhoods on the south side of the train tracks near the city center at night. Use common sense and you will be relatively safe. If you find yourself in any situation don’t be afraid to call the police (155). 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 will speak English, German, French, and Arabic.

Get out

  • Çeşme a small village for all summer activities, half an hour drive to Izmir to west.
  • Alacati formerly named Agrilia and inhabited by local Greeks until 1920s, Since 2000s, it is much trendier and has a wider visitor profile, which includes many windsurfers.
  • Selçuk, a few hours by bus or train to the south of the city, is a town with much historical sights, as well as serving as a hub to visit nearby Roman city of Ephesus and Virgin Mary’s House, where the Vatican declared an official Catholic pilgrimage site. It is also a few kilometers away fromKuşadası, and the pleasant inland village of Şirince, renowned for its wines.
  • Tire, takes only an hour to arrive from the city center, a typical Aegean town, you can visit Turkey’s biggest open town market on Tuesdays and have a good lunch in Kaplan with typical Aegean foods and famous meatballs of Tire.
  • 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.