Izmir is a metropolitan city and the third most populated city in Turkey – after Istanbul & Ankara. I landed in Izmir as a passage to my now favorite place in Turkey, Alacati– and was surprised by the abundance of attractions in this port city. Here’s a rough guide to spending a day in the city of Izmir. And if you’re touring Turkey, read up on some hidden gems in Cappadocia, Istanbul, and Pammukale here.
One of Turkey’s greatest travel features is the robust train and metro systems. In Izmir, the main stations that I found to be central to most landmarks are Konak Square and Cankaya. Almost everything is walking distance from these two, almost. So what is there to do in Izmir?
1/ Agora Park/Open Air Museum
Agora, is an ancient Greek word meaning “gathering place,” and the ancient Agora of Smyrna in Izmir is just that. Today, the Izmir Agora Open Air Museum showcases the preserved remnants of the ancient quarters of Smyrna. For a mere 12 TL, you can enter the park and walk freely through the remains.
2/ Kemeralti Shopping Bazaar & Kemeralti Mosque
After finishing a quaint morning in Agora park, take a stroll through a bustling bazar in city center. Kemeralti is a beautiful market for both locals and visitors, lined with tens of shops, restaurants and colorful buildings. Stop at Somunarasi for a Turkish burger, sit on the rooftop terrace and peak the Kermeralti Mosque which dates back to the mid 17th century.
3/ Konak Square
Head to Konak Square where you’ll be welcome by the beautiful (& quite small) Yali Konak Mosque.
4/ Clock Tower
One of Izmir’s main attractions is the clock tower right in Konak Square on the coast of Gulf of Izmir. The clock tower is a hit with pigeons – you’ll see them roaming around, get a chance to feed them and take some beautiful photos of the sea in the background. This is also a perfect location to hop on the train from the Konak station and head in either direction on the coast of Izmir.
5/ Konak Pier & Old Customs Building
A little further down the promenade, is the newly renovated Konak Pier, which used to be the Old Customs Building. The structure is now a trendy strip of waterside restaurants, popular shopping stores and cafes.
6/ Asansör (a literal elevator)
A favorite landmark in Izmir, the Asansör or “elevator” was acutally built as work of public service in 1907. As you walk down Asansör Street, you’ll notice the STEEP hill that divides the Karataş quarters with the upper hillside. Take the elevator up for the best views of the coastline and enjoy a café on the rooftop terrace. On the way out, stop at Frida Café for a funky vibe, quick bite or drink and mingle with travelers and locals.
7/ Teleferik / Balçova Cable Cars
Nerves aside, the most adventurous part of any trip to Izmir is the cable ride! Much like a ski lift, but a lot higher… Located right across form the Izmir Economy University, you’ll find a beautiful garden and the entrance for the teleferik. The views only get better from here. The ride is only about 10 minutes up!
8/ The Kordon & Marina
The Kordon is a 5 km promenade along the coastline, starting at the Konak Pier and ending at the Alsancak train station. You cannot even count the number of restaurants along way, but be prepared for some wind! We stopped at BigChefs since it was one of the busier restaurants and it did not disappoint! A little more on the American side in terms of cuisine but it had a lovely outdoor terrace right on the water.
9/ Nightlife strip
This isn’t in official attraction, but make sure to walk down Kıbrıs Şehitleri Cd. It’s a lot like the famous Istiklal Street in Istanbul. A strip of bars and street side restaurants that open all night long! If you walk through in the morning, stop at Hermit Café.
10/ Contemporary Art Museum
Again, I was only in Izmir as a transit to my next destination but I heard so much about the contemporary art museum that I’m going to suggest it as a stop to consider! I never made it out there, but will surely stop by on my next visit.
11/ Take a ride out
Izmir is a gigantic province and you can easily take day trips out of the city center. Just to name a few, here are some destinations that are only an hour away: the ancient city of Ephesus, the coastal town of Alacati, and the other ancient town of Selçuk.