6 Best Things To Do In Izmir, Turkey
Updated: Oct 20, 2022
Izmir is located in western Turkey along the Aegean Sea. With over 3 million inhabitants, it’s the third-largest city in Turkey after Istanbul and Ankara. It’s actually a popular university town, so much of the population is made up of young students, giving the city a youthful and vibrant feel. But besides that, Izmir offers a mix of cultural, historical, and archeological sites. Thus, it’s a great place to visit if you want to immerse yourself in Turkish culture and enjoy the unique history.
Check out our video on Izmir to get a sense of what it's like there!
Best things to do in Izmir
Izmir is often seen as a calmer alternative to Istanbul. Its promenade is lined with palm trees and the streets are small and cozy. In addition, it's a great hub to explore other places from. Here are 6 things you can't miss in Izmir.
6. Explore Konak Square
At number 6 we have the neighborhood of Konak. Konak is Izmir’s core historic area, located next to the water. It’s known for its busy square full of pigeons. But you can also find Izmir’s iconic landmark here, the Clock Tower. This was erected in 1901 and is now the most photographed monument in Izmir. It was built to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the enthronement of Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II. Coincidentally, or not, the tower is 25 meters high. Besides the Clock Tower, it’s also a great area to walk around, dine or shop at the Konak Pier, or enjoy the fresh air of the sea along the water.
5. Discover Smyrna
Just like so many other cities in Turkey, modern-day Izmir has an ancient past. Known as Smyrna in the past, Izmir was founded by the Greeks, taken over by the Romans, and rebuilt by Alexander the Great before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. Today, there are only a few ancient ruins left, such as the Roman Agora and the Kadifekale Castle that sits on top of the hill overlooking Izmir. You can also visit the archeological museum of Izmir, which has a large display of artifacts from the Greek and Roman periods.
4. Shop & Eat in Alsancak
The bustling neighborhood of Alsancak is located in the heart of the city. It’s the center of culture and entertainment, thus the ideal place to indulge yourself in the local Turkish culture. There are many amazing restaurants, bars, shops, hotels, and nightclubs at your fingertips. For that reason, it’s also the best and safest area to stay in. We really encourage you to try the different local foods here! Learn more about Alsancak in our Izmir video.
3. Day or Multi-Day Trip to Pamukkale
The third best thing to do in and around Izmir is to go on a one-day or multi-day trip to Pamukkale. This magical destination is located about 230 kilometers or 143 miles from Izmir. It can easily be reached within a day or two by bus, tour bus, train, or rental car. Pamukkale is known for its one-of-a-kind thermal pools nestled within thick layers of white limestone. The limestone pools are of course a unique and beautiful sight for pictures, but there’s so much more than that at Pamukkale. There’s an entire ancient city behind the Thermal Pools of Pamukkale. This city is called Hierapolis and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Watch our video or read our blog all about Pamukkale.
2. Visit the Kemeraltı Bazaar
The second best thing to do in Izmir is to visit the local Kemeraltı Bazaar. This is one of the liveliest and oldest parts of the city and lies right beside Konak Square. Hence, it can easily be combined with a visit to Konak Square and even the Roman Agora or other ancient sites of the Izmir. The bazaar was our favorite activity in the city because of the smells, flavours, coziness, and local atmosphere. It’s a historic market that was built in the 17th century with many traditional shops and cafés, but also historic buildings such as the Hisar Mosque which dates back to the 16th Century.
1. Day Trip to Ephesus
The best thing to do in Izmir is to go on a day trip to Ephesus. Ephesus is our favorite ancient ruin in all of Turkey. The ruins are located about 80 kilometers or 50 miles from Izmir, near the city of Selçuk. You can easily get there by train, bus, or car and combine it with a visit to the House of Virgin Mary, a sacred place.
Ephesus was an ancient port city and was once considered the most important Greek city and the most important trading center in the Mediterranean region. Throughout history, Ephesus survived multiple attacks and changed hands many times between conquerors. But what’s truly special about this site is how well the ruins are preserved. You can find ancient toilets, a library, two theaters, and much more. We especially loved the Terrace Houses with beautiful frescoes and mosaics, which can be visited for an extra fee. Get a guide at the entrance and learn all about the history!
You can book your own day tour to Ephesus here.
Other things to do near Izmir
You can also combine your visit to Izmir with nearby beautiful beach destinations and historical sites. Other things to do near Izmir (that we didn't mention) include:
Visit the Roman ruins of the Pergamon Akropal, which are located around a 2-hour drive north of the city
Relax on the nearby beaches of Çeşme or Kuşadasi
Explore the lesser-known ruins of Magnesia ad Maeandrum
Use These Websites To Save Money On Your Izmir Trip
Booking.com for places to stay
Skyscanner for cheap flights
GetYourGuide for local tours
Rentalcars.com for affordable car rentals
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More Helpful Info About Izmir
If you still need more information about things to do when visiting Izmir, make sure to check out these other great articles below:
The 11 Best Things To Do In Izmir, Turkey (2022 Edition) by Nomadasaurus
Things to do in Izmir, Turkey by Novo-monde
21 Best Things to Do in Izmir, Turkey’s Third Largest City by Dominican Abroad
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