Izmir is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and has a long and storied history. With its wealth of natural beauty and cultural attractions, it's no wonder why visitors flock to this charming coastal city. Whether you're looking for a romantic getaway or a family-friendly vacation, Izmir has something to offer for everyone. From its stunning beaches and majestic mountains to its bustling city streets and traditional markets, there's an endless array of things to do and see in Izmir. This comprehensive guide to exploring the charm of Izmir will help you plan the perfect itinerary, so you can make the most of your time in this captivating destination. From the iconic sights of the city center to the hidden gems of its rural villages, you’ll discover the best places to visit and the most exciting activities to explore. Get ready to get your feet wet, take some amazing selfies, and explore the unique charm of Izmir!
Popular Attractions in Izmir
Aphrodisias was once a prosperous Roman city, but the Aphrodisias of today is mostly ruins in a quiet green valley. Aphrodisias is one of the few archaeological sites that remain open year-round. Its ruins are impressive, and it's definitely one of the most popular attractions in Izmir. The site is massive, and you could spend an entire day exploring the ruins. If you're only in Izmir for a few days, definitely make time to visit Aphrodisias.
Often overlooked as a destination in its own right, Bergama is 6 kilometers away from Izmir’s city center. The old town is home to the Turkish Folk Art and Crafts Museum, the 10th-century Great Mosque, and the renowned Temple of Artemis.
Karsiyaka is an old seafaring town located on the northern shore of the Gulf of Izmir. It's easy to spend an entire day exploring its charming cobblestone streets, shopping in its colorful bazaars, and savoring some of the best seafood in Turkey. For panoramic sea views, visit Karsiyaka's 10th-century castle. Karsiyaka is one of Izmir's most popular destinations and is worth a visit during the day or evening.
Selcuk is a mere 20-minute bus ride from Izmir and is an obligatory stop for history buffs. The city is home to the Ephesus Archaeological Site, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Other notable sites in the area include the Temple of Artemis, the St. Nicholas Church, and the Great Basilica.
- Gonul Sari Bazaar
Gonul Sari Bazaar is arguably the best place to experience Izmir's vibrant street culture. Located near the city center, this vibrant market is full of noise, color, and a variety of delicious delicacies. You can even pick up some Turkish Delight while you're here.
Things to Do in the City Center
- Torunlar Bogazici
Torunlar Bogazici is a stunning boardwalk that wraps around Izmir's picturesque Gulf of Izmir. It's one of the city's most iconic places, and is a great place to walk, jog, or bike. The view of Tri-Creek from the boardwalk is also stunning and makes for a stunning Instagram post.
- The Gulpilil
The Gulpilil is Izmir's premier theatre, opera, and ballet venue. It's widely considered one of the best places in the city to catch a performance, and the building itself is an architectural masterpiece. Make sure you visit between October and May when the Gulpilil's theatre program is in full swing.
The Izmir Hippodrome, located in the city's charming Kadikoy neighborhood, is a historic horse racing track. It's also a stunning cultural landmark and is open to tourists. If you're lucky, you might even catch a live horse race while you're there.
Exploring the Rural Villages
- Yildiz Park
Yildiz Park is a sprawling park with a botanical garden, a historic archaeological site, a lush green landscape, and a man-made lake that is a perfect place to relax and unwind. The park is also home to Izmir's famous International Flower and Bird Festival, which takes place in June.
Kiran is a picturesque village in Izmir's rural outskirts that is famous for its carpets. Kiran's ornate and colorful carpets are world-renowned and are definitely worth a visit if you're a fan of traditional textiles. The village is a short drive from Izmir's city center and is open daily.
Gonuldag is a remote village in Izmir's lush green and mountainous outskirts. Its stunning landscape and natural beauty have made it a favorite among extreme sports enthusiasts, who visit Gonuldag to climb, hike, and paraglide.
Izmir's beaches are among the city's most well-known attractions, and while they are not the city's only beaches, they are the most popular. The beaches of Izmir are great places to enjoy the city's warm Mediterranean weather and get some sun. The city's most popular resorts are Kadirim, Gurpinar, and Gulpinar.
- Dolphin Watching
Izmir is one of the best places in the world to go dolphin-watching. Zonguldak's Gulf of Izmir is home to a rich population of dolphins, and many tour operators run daily excursions to see these playful creatures in their natural habitat.
- Ecological Parks
Izmir has a thriving green landscape, which is home to many ecological parks. These parks are great places to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some fresh air and tranquility. Some of the parks of Izmir include the Botanical Gardens and the Bird Paradise.
Konak is a historic neighborhood in Izmir's city center that has become one of the city's most fashionable shopping districts. It's home to many designer shops, upscale boutiques, and stylish cafes, and the architecture is truly captivating.
- Gonul Sari Bazaar
As the name suggests, this is one of Izmir's most vibrant shopping districts. It's home to a variety of small shops that sell handcrafted goods, such as textiles, wood carvings, pottery, ceramics, and copperware. It's also a great place to try some Turkish delights, such as Turkish coffee, tea, and sweetmeats.
Eating and Drinking in Izmir
Izmir is best known for its rich culinary culture, which is heavily influenced by Ottoman and Central Asian cuisine. Here are a few popular dishes you must try in Izmir.
Kolosal - Kolosal is a type of Turkish ice cream that comes in a variety of flavors, including strawberry and chocolate. It's a must-have snack during the city's hot summers and is a great place to try it is at Giritli Gulkus.
Turkish Coffee - Turkish Coffee is a popular national drink that originated in Izmir. It's a strong and richly flavored coffee that is served with a thick layer of cream. It's a great way to kickstart your day, and there are many cafes in Izmir where you can enjoy this drink.
There are many hotels and hostels in Izmir with great reviews and service. However, if you are looking for something a bit different and special, here are a few suggestions: Izmir Guesthouse - The Izmir Guesthouse is a charming boutique hotel that is located in the city center and is close to the city's best attractions. It has a great location, comfortable rooms, and a friendly staff, making it one of the best hotels in Izmir. Amasia Hotel - Amasia Hotel is a stunning boutique hotel that is located in the city center and is close to the city's best attractions. It has a great location, comfortable rooms, and a friendly staff, making it one of the best hotels in Izmir.