Old mosques and churches, the 18th-century market, combine with broad boulevards, modern buildings, and shopping centers dotted with traditional red-tiled roofs. Izmir is a metropolitan city with a Mediterranean atmosphere. You can reach Izmir by any type of transportation from buses, trains, boats, and airplanes. It is also a base hub for holiday cruises in the Aegean Sea. The Aegean sea at its front and mountains on its back, these are 10 best things to do on your journey to the Aegean heart that is Izmir.
1. Learn how to wind surf at Alacati
Famous for its stone masonry houses, lavender smelling streets, and gummy cookies, Alacati is a county nearby Izmir that is also famous as one of surfing paradises throughout Turkey. With six months of the year constantly receiving wind, it’s a perfect windsurfing spot for windsurfers of all levels from beginners to experts. Sign yourself up on one of the many windsurfing schools in Alaçatı and learn to conquer the sea.
Alacati windsurfing lesson
Website: Alacati Windsurf Lesson
Visiting the ruin of Ephesus means visiting the heart of the Aegean. This ancient Roman city was once a popular stop on the Silk Road, where people from all over the world sailed to the port and traded exotic spices and fruits and visited the talented Turkish cloth-makers. Ephesus is the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean and only an estimated 15 to 20 percent has been unearthed and still being excavated.
The famous Celsius Library is one of the complete buildings restored in the ruin area, a great reminder for people to always value knowledge and learning. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Izmir with almost 2 million visitors per year. Try to visit Ephesus as early as you can because the heat will burn you out during the day. Bring lots of water to avoid dehydration.
Ephesus Sightseeing Tour
Duration: 8 hours
An ancient ruin in the middle of a bustling metropolis city, Agora Open Air Museum is a part of the everyday landscape for most residents of Izmir. Agora, a central public space in the ancient Greek period, was a place of gathering or assembly. It was built by Alexander the Great and finished by the Roman Empire. It’s a marketplace, once an important stop on the Silk Road, and also a place for a serious political discussion.
Small-Group Half Day Sightseeing Tour from Izmir
Duration: 3 hours
Take a visit to the upper city, Pergamon Acropolis, that sits on a hilltop overlooking the modern town of Bergama in Izmir. Pergamon Acropolis was an ancient Greek city that was a seat of power in the 2nd century B.C. It is the location of the Pergamon Altar, a colossal construction with soaring pillars. The highlight of Pergamon Acropolis was the world’s steepest ancient theater that hangs off the hillside overlooking the town of Bergama.
Small-Group Full Day Pergamum and Asklepion Tour from Izmir
Duration: 8 hours
Pamukkale–Hierapolis is at the top of many traveler’s bucket lists. It’s the natural Greek–Roman spa made by white travertine terraces that were created by the natural hot springs that flow down the hillside. Explore the ancient temples of Hierapolis and hike along through Pamukkale. End your tour with bathing in the hot mineral pools just as the Romans once did.
Pamukkale and Hierapolis
Duration: 9 hours
Take a few days to visit Sirince Village, the village of the olive groves and vineyards. With its narrow streets, you will find friendly shopkeepers, 19th-century houses that have become boutique hotels, and local people make wines and olive oil. This is a village where you wander back in time with the great smell of traditional bread bake and tasty peaches. Sirince Village is an authentic traditional Turkey village. Don’t forget to shop their artisanal olive products and delicious wine.
Private culinary and wine experience in Sirince Village
7. The hustle and bustle of the Kemeralti Market
Famous as one of the most important stops in Silk Road, Kemeralti Market shows Turkish merchant talent starting from the moment you enter the central bazaar in Izmir. Merchants smile and shout, inviting visitors and locals alike to inspect their wares. Turkish merchants are happy to chat, even if it’s obvious you won’t be buying a pound of sardines or a traditional Turkish tea.
It’s unlike any local market around the world! Taste some local foods sold in this market and pay a few lira to buy and watch the happy candy vendor show his expertise on twirling his vats of liquid sugar onto a stick for you. From the sweet, sticky Turkish delight in the rainbow color to the salty sour olives ranging from deep black-purple to bright green, a visit to Kemeralti Market will satisfy your soul.
Address: Konak Mahallesi, Anafartalar Cd., 35250 Konak/İzmir, Turkey
Website: Kemeraltı Market
8. Enjoy a Turkish feast
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
The best way to experience the local life is through its local food and a Turkish feast dinner will not let you down. The dishes start small with shared plates of olives and crusty bread to snack on. And soon you will be served with roasted eggplant, deliciously fresh grilled whole fish, potato and lamb stew, and green salad with shredded cheese. Make sure to taste raki, a clear anise-based alcohol to end your dinner. And close it with Turkish delights and a Turkish coffee.
Address: Kültür Mahallesi, No:/B, Atatürk Cd. No:188, 35220, Turkey
Website: Deniz Restaurant
9. Meet the fishermen at Foca
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Foca is the nearest fishing town from Izmir that will give you another view of the heart of the Aegean. They are sailing experts and sail over the Aegean and Mediterranean to catch fresh fish every day. Order the cipura fish, the typical Aegean and Mediterranean fish, for lunch by the sea.
Fokai Balik Restaurant
Address: Ataturk Mah. 121. Sok. No:8 | Foca Merkez, Foca, Turkey
Website: Fokai Balik Restaurant
Start your journey to Kadifekale castle, the castle built for the ancient Greek city of Smyrna. You can access the castle ruin freely; there is a ruin of a 14th-century mosque and part of a Byzantine cistern. Continue your journey to explore Asansör, a historical building in İzmir’s Karataş quarter, within the boundaries of the metropolitan district of Konak. It was built in 1907 in order to ease passage from the narrow coastline of Karataş to the steep hillside.
Bring yourself back to the heart of modern Izmir, Konak Square with its 1901 iconic clock tower. The fight for independence began here. And from the square, have a short walk to the Kordon, the cafe-lined seaside promenade, and the customs house on Konak Pier built by Gustave Eiffel, which now has become a chic shopping center. Take a short ferry trip across the bay from Pasaport for good views back over Izmir and some fresh sea air.
Private Izmir City Sightseeing Tour
Duration: 3 hours
And the journey continues
Everything in Izmir shows you how Turkey has been transforming from its ancient period to its modern one. They still maintain their traditional way of life with their bread making, coffee, and the friendly merchant way of life.
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