Izmir Travel Guide: Things to Do, See and Eat traveling in Izmir, Turkey

Izmir Travel Guide

Izmir Travel Guide
Photo by haldunozturk on Pixabay // CC0


Despite being the third-largest city in Turkey, most travellers use Izmir as a travel hub. If you stick around, though, you’ll find this place is rather underrated. Despite losing most of its historic structures to fire and redevelopment, Izmir is a 5,000-year-old city.

From Greek/Roman ruins to an atmospheric 300-year-old marketplace, this city has plenty of spots waiting to be discovered.

Come check out our Izmir travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Izmir, Turkey.

Top Attractions

Izmir would be a better stop if the Great Fire hadn’t gutted the city in the 1920s. Nonetheless, this city does offer up several hidden gems. The Agora Open Air Museum is the first of these. This attraction features a collection of ruins dating back to Greek and Roman times.

As you walk through this monument to past millennia, you’ll pass broken pillars and pass under arches. At your feet, channels and pipes, which tapped an aquifer in the mountain above, still functions as intended. Work on excavating the entire site continues to this day. As we write this guide, local archaeologists are unearthing what used to be a Roman theatre.

According to historians, the Greeks built this Agora in the 4th century BC. It suffered extensive damage in 178 AD but was completely rebuilt on the order of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the centuries swallowed up this place until its re-discovery in modern times.

Entrance to this historic site costs about 14 Turkish Lira or only a few USD. As you walk around, respect the archaeologists by giving them room to work.

Do you love pretty pictures? Indulge in an amazing private collection by spending an hour or two at the Arkas Art Center. Lucien Arkas, a prominent local businessperson, opened the gallery in 2011 within a historic building downtown.

On its walls, you’ll find over 900 portraits from various periods in art history. It contains its share of paintings from the masters. In particular, you’ll find many works from post-impressionist artists. What it doesn’t have, it brings in for temporary exhibitions. For instance, from September 2019 to January 2020, it will host several works from Pablo Picasso.

Not well-versed in art history? Rent an audio guide at the front desk for 10 Turkish Lira. Rather than attempting to Google Translate Turkish captions, these recordings will fill the gaps in your understanding.

Izmir is a beautiful city on the Aegean coast of Turkey. However, its hilly nature has made accessibility a challenge throughout its history. In the early 20th century, a Jewish businessperson decided to fix this issue by building the Asansör.

Asansör is the Turkish word for elevator. At a time when this technology was in its infancy, Nesim Levi Bayraklıoğlu built a brick elevator. It made accessing the neighbourhood that sat atop a cliff possible for traders and citizens alike.

The elevator still works to this day, but in the present, it transports tourists rather than cargo. At the top, you’ll find a cafe that offers one of the best views in Izmir.

Have gearheads in your travelling party? Spend some time at Izmir’s KEY Museum. You’ll find models from every age here, from Model Ts to orange Lambos. Motorcycles are also on display here – from Vespas to Harley Davidsons, you’ll find it all. They even have a vintage Batmobile! If you love cars and need to fill in a bad weather day, include this on your itinerary.

Other Attractions

Need a souvenir for the family before heading back home? Stop by the Kemeralti Market during your visit to Izmir. Truth be told, it’s more than a place for trinkets – it’s a wonderful place to spend the day. Around since the 17th century, it was once used as a caravanserai by traders. Today, it plays host to coffee shops, tea gardens, and restaurants in addition to market stalls.

It’s a great place for people-watching as well. This market sells everyday goods, from leather goods to wedding dresses. After getting what you came for, just sit back and watch the world go by.

If you are travelling as a family, or just like animals, spend some time at Izmir Wildlife Park. Here, you’ll find everything from Asian elephants to lions, tigers, and bears. Rather than enclose them in pens, they are in open natural settings, which is far more humane.

Kick and relax by spending a night in the Izmir neighbourhood of Alsancak. Here, you’ll find this city’s greatest concentration of restaurants, bars, and discos. By day, shop at its exclusive boutiques, then enjoy a scenic walk along its waterfront.

Kordonboyu is another neighbourhood of interest to those visiting Izmir. Come evening, it is the spot to watch the sunset. Locals eat and drink as the sun sinks into the horizon – feel free to join them!

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