|You Are Here : Home / Information / Highlights / Aegean Region / Izmir|
3th biggest city, Ephesus, Zeybek
Known in Turkish as "Beautiful Izmir" the city lies at the head of a long and narrow gulf furrowed by ships and yachts. The climate is mild and in the summer the constant and refreshing sea breezes temper the sun's heat. Behind the palm-lined promenades and avenues which follow the shoreline, the city, in horizontal terraces, gently ascends the slopes of the surrounding mountains. Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey and its port is second only to Istanbul. A cosmopolitan and lively city all year round, Izmir bursts with an added vibrancy during the international Arts Festival (June/July) and the International Fair (August/September).
The original city was established in the third millennium B.C. (at present day Bayrakli), at which time it shared with Troy the most advanced culture in Western Anatolia. By 1500 B.C. it had fallen under the influence of the Central Anatolian Hittite Empire. In the first millenium B.C. Izmir, then known as Smyrna, ranked as one of the most important cities of the Ionian Federation. During this period, one of the city's most brilliant, it is believed that Homer resided here. Lydian conquest of the city, around 600 B.C., brought this period to an end. Izmir remained little more than a village throughout the Lydian and subsequent sixth-century B.C. Persian rule. In the fourth century B.C. a new city was built on the slopes of Mt. Pagos (Kadifekale) during the reign of Alexander the Great. Izmir's Roman period, beginning in the first century B.C., was its second great era. Byzantine rule followed in the fourth century and lasted until the Seljuk conquest in the 11th century. In 1415, under Sultan Mehmet Celebi, Izmir became part of the Ottoman Empire.
Next to the Archaeology Museum, the Ethnography Museum contains folkloric artifacts, which include a fine collection of Bergama and Gordes carpets, traditional costumes and camel bridles. (Closed on Mondays).
The Ataturk Museum is situated on Ataturk Caddesi in an old Izmir house used by the founder of the Turkish Republic. It exhibits photographs of the leader as well as some of his personal effects. (Closed on Mondays)
Seljuk Yasar Art Museum is a private museum on Cumhuriyet
Bulvari with a collection of 20th-century Turkish art. (Closed on
HISTORICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS
The excavations at Bayrakli have unearthed a temple dedicated to Athena and the wall of the Ionian city which flourished there between the seventh and fifth centuries B.C. Pottery dating back to the third millennium B.C. has also been uncovered.
On Kadifekale (Mt. Pagos) stands the impressive ruins of a castle and its walls which were built by Lysimachus in the reign of Alexander the Great, and which still dominate Izmir today. The castle offers an excellent vantage point to enjoy a magnificent view of the Gulf of Izmir.
The Agora, or marketplace, in the Namazgah Quarter was originally constructed during the rule of Alexander the Great. What remains today, however, dates from the rebuilding under Marcus Aurelius after a devastating earthquake in 178 A.D.
The Sirinyer and Yesildere Aqueducts, two examples of Roman engineering spanning the Meles River, supplied Izmir's water throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman eras.
The Saint Polycarp Church is the oldest church in Izmir and symbolizes the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse. Saint Polycarp was martyred at age 86 in A.D. 155 at Kadifkale by the Romans. According to tradition, when they tried to burn him at the stake the flames wouldn't touch him so they finally stabbed him to death. The church was reconstructed in 1620.
The Kizlaragasi Han (inn), a fine example of 18th-century Ottoman architecture of the period, is being restored to its former glory.
The symbol of Izmir, the Saat Kulesi, or Clock Tower, stands in the heart of the city at Konak Square. It was a gift from Sultan Abdulhamid, and was built in 1901 in an elaborately decorated late Ottoman style.
Hisar Mosque is the largest and oldest in Izmir. Built in the 16th century, and restored in the 19th century, it has a delightful interior with an interesting mimber (pulpit) and mihrab (niche showing the direction to Mecca).
Other mosques in Izmir are Salepcioglu (20th-century), Sadirvan (17th-century with 19th-century restorations) and Kemeralti (17th-century).
All these are situated close to the Kemeralti Quarter.
Kulturpark, the main park of the city, offers a variety of activities. It is the site for the International Izmir Fair and contains an amusement park, zoo, restaurant and quiet gardens.
Olof Palme Park, situated in Karsiyaka, is a relaxing place to stop. It also has sports facilities. Karsiyaka is ancient Cordelia.
Next door, the Adnan Saygun Park, a center for artistic activities, contains an amphitheatre for concerts and theatrical productions, as well as the Open-Air Museum Park, which has statues scattered throughout the grounds,
Insan Haklari (Human Rights) Park has lovely modern statues, including the huge Flying Dolphins Monument.
Muammer Aksoy Park is a lovely seaside park with a nice view of Izmir Bay. Turgut Ozal Recreation Park, located in Bayrakli, offers a number of recreational and sports activities
For many years Izmir has enjoyed a reputation as a cosmopolitan city of culture. The Izmir Cultural Center hosts opera and ballet performances as well as musical concerts. The city is home to the Aegean Philharmonic Orchestra and boasts a thriving theatrical community. During the annual Izmir International Festival, international and local artists perform at various venues in the city and surrounding area, including the theatre at Ephesus. Take a horse- drawn carriage along the promenade during the day and afterwards spend the evening in the lively atmosphere of the bars and cafes around Kordonboyu, Passport Pier and Karsiyaka.
In the streets of the Kemeralti Market area, it is possible to find fascinating antiques, both fine and fun jewelry, a great variety of clothing, and the dried figs and raisins for which Izmir is famous. The fish restaurants in this colorful area serve up the local specialities of tranca and cipura, two types of sea bream. The best modern and most elegant shops are on the Kordon Promenades in Alsancak and Karsiyaka and on Cumhuriyet Avenue and in Passport.
Balcova, on the road to Cesme, is one of Turkey's largest thermal spas, with excellent facilities for guests.
Camalti, 15 km west of Karsiyaka, is an area of coastal marshes and salt fields that is preserved as an important bird sanctuary the - Izmir Bird Paradise. Enthusiasts can spot many species, including flamingoes and pelicans.
The Yamanlar Camligi, a pine forest near the lovely Lake Karagol 40 km northeast of Karsiyaka, is a popular picnic spot that also has restaurants and a swimming pool.
A Hittite bas-relief is carved into the rock at Kemalpasa (20 km from Izmir) in the Karabel Pass.
point above Izmir, overlooks the Gulf of Izmir and is a relaxing spot to
enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee. Formerly a favorite haunt of Ataturk's,
it is now the site of the largest statue in his honor. In the village of
Birgi is the Cakir Aga Mansion, a fine example of traditional
The cities of the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse, mentioned by St. John in the Book of Revelation, are all found in Turkey: Efes (Ephesus), Izmir (Smyrna), Bergama (Pergamum), Akhisar (Thyatira), Sart (Sardis), Alasehir (Philadelphia), and Eskihisar (Laodicea). Tours of one to four days can be arranged to see several or all of the churches.
The Cesme Peninsula, lapped by the waters of the Aegean Sea, lies west of Izmir. The name "Cesme" meaning fountain, refers to the many springs found in the area during the 18th and 19th centuries. It is one of Turkey's most beautiful coastal stretches surrounded by clear blue sea, with a landscape of aniseed, sesame and artichoke fields dotted with fig and gum trees. In the unspoiled bays you can swim in absolute peace. Visitors will find excellent holiday accommodation, restaurants, and sports and entertainment facilities. A 14th-century Genoese fortress, restored and enlarged by the Ottomans in the 16th century, dominates the small port of Cesme 80 km from Izmir. Today the town is a popular holiday resort with excellent accommodation and restaurants. The 16th-century caravanserai near the fortress, built by Suleyman the Magnificent, has been converted into a hotel, while the 19th-century Church of Hagios Haralambos has been restored as the Emir Caka Art Gallery. Thermal baths offer a health-oriented escape from modern life. Excellent shopping for the finest quality carpets, leather goods, as well as souvenir items is also possible. At night, a lively, fun atmosphere pervades the town, especially in the restaurants, cafes, bars and discos along the promenade. Cesme hosts an annual International Song Contest in the summer. Yachts can be hired to explore the peninsula's splendid coastline. Also, ferries make the run from "Cesme" to Venice on a weekly basis.
The very popular holiday center of Ilica boasts an excellent white sandy beach and the outstanding facilities of the Altin Yunus Marina and Holiday Complex. The bay here is ideal for water sports, especially windsurfing and sailing. The thermal baths around Ilica are very popular, the best being located on Sifne Bay. Pasa Limani (Pasha Harbor) also has a campsite which offers comfortable facilities. In Ilica Bay, the colorful International Cakabey Optimist Yacht Race is held every year in July.
Ildiri, a quiet seaside village 20 km northeast of "Cesme" was ancient Erythrai. Those who climb up to the Acropolis at dusk are rewarded with a beautiful sunset over the bay and islands. Nearby Gerence Gulf is a pristine inlet northeast of the Cesme Peninsula which can be reached by yacht or car. The natural surroundings are relaxing while the bay is ideal for water sports. In Dalyan, a fishing village built on a sheltered deep water inlet just north of "Cesme" some of the region's best fish restaurants border the quay of the lively marina.
Tourists are attracted by the variety of accommodations at Ciftlik and by a long, sandy beach (Pirlanta Plaj), just outside the town to the southwest. Tursite camping facilities are available to the south, and nearby is one of the area's best beaches, the Altinkum Plaj (Golden Sand Beach).
Windmills, some of which have been converted into attractive restaurants, dot the hill above Alacati, a delightful and typical Aegean town. Alacati lies to the south inland from Ilica and the coast. A couple kilometers to the south is a good beach. Many lovely bays along the coast southeast of the town are accessible only by yacht, ensuring peaceful and relaxing anchorage in this popular sailing region.
Known in ancient times as Clazomenae, Urla Iskelesi offers a marina as well as plentiful accommodation in all price ranges. Restaurants on the top of Guvendik hill afford a marvelous view of the bay and its islands.
The prosperous little fishing village of Cesmealti is notable for its simple yet excellent fish restaurants.
Gumuldur has excellent tourist facilities beautiful beaches, restaurants and hotels. Near Ahmetbeyli (Claros) to the east, stands the Apollo Temple and the remains of the colossal statue of Apollo. Here you can also enjoy a good fish dinner or a swim at the town's wide beach. A winding panoramic coastal road leads from Ahmetbeyli south to Pamucak beach.
The ancient Phocaea, Foca, once formed part of the Ionian Federation. Today it is a modem lively holiday town on two deep bays. The pleasant accommodations, clean beaches and inviting restaurants make it an attractive holiday spot. Those seeking the perfect tan can find it on the natural rock terraces of the Siren Islands.
Dikili, frequented by cruise liners bringing visitors to Pergamon, is Bergama's harbor town set in a relaxing atmosphere with many pleasant restaurants lining the Kordon Promenade. Stop at the little port of Candarli, the ancient Pitane, to see the Genoese fortress there, one of the best preserved in Turkey.
Ayvalik is a charming port, situated amid beautiful pine woods. Nearby, the Seytan Sofrasi (Devil's Table) offers a splendid panorama of the archipelago along the Gulf of Ayvalik and the little island of Alibey (Cunda), where there are pleasant seafood restaurants. Sarimsakli Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the area.
The Gulf of Edremit, also known as the Olive Riveria, has a number of charming seaside resorts: Kucukkuyu, Altinoluk, Akcay (a thermal center with numerous springs), Edremit, and Oren. All have beautiful beaches, together ringing the Gulf of Edremit and offering visitors a wide choice of hotels and guest houses with views of the sea. Here also is situated the beautiful Kaz Dagi National Park, with magnificent landscapes, restful green areas and several hot springs. According to mythology it was in this area that the world's first beauty contest was held. Under the shadow of Kaz Dagi (Mt. Ida, 1774 meters) in Pinarbasi, west of Akcay, Paris gave the golden apple to Aphrodite in the famous "Judgement of Paris."
the Pearl of the Aegean
The first settlement center of Izmir was at Bayrakli in 3000 B.C. and Izmir came under the influence of the Hittite State after 1500 B.C. In the fourth century B.C., Alexander the Great had the citadel constructed, which can be seen at Kadifekale today, and rebuilt the city at the foot of Kadifekale. The city gained importance during the Roman Period and after the Byzantine Period Ottoman sovereignty started. Izmir, which was saved from enemy occupation on 9 September 1922 in the War of Independence, became Turkey's third largest city in a short period of time.
Archaeological excavations still continue in the old town of Izmir at Bayrakli, where Homer lived. The Bayrakli findings are exhibited at Izmir Archaeological Museum. The ruins of the agora and aqueducts at Kizilcullu are works remaining from the Roman Period in the city. The clock tower at Konak Square, which is the center of the city, is the symbol of the city. The tower was built in 1901 by order of Sultan Abdulhamid, for his 25th anniversary of ascending the throne. The clock of the tower was a gift from the German Emperor, Wilhelm II. The tower is 25 meters high, over a base with three marble steps. The largest Ataturk statue in Turkey is at Belkahve, where Ataturk entered Izmir. The old Izmir houses that were restored in a section of the Alsancak District, called Punta, take one into the past of the city. The Kizlaragasi Hani, the most beautiful restored inn in the city, was constructed in the eighteenth century. The monumental portal of the inn, which has more than one thousand rooms on four sides, is on the western facade. The Kemeralti and Kestanepazari Mosques, constructed in the seventeenth century, and the Basbudak, Corakkapi, Hatuniye and Konak Mosques built in the eighteenth century are small and charming mosques located near Kemeralti. The Kemeralti Bazaar is the most interesting and active market place worth seeing in Izmir. Almost everything is sold at this bazaar which is spread over a large area. There are old syna- gogues at Havra Street of the bazaar.
The Kulturpark, at the center of the city, is the place where the annual International Izmir Fair is held and attracts great interest. The city is also known for the "International Izmir Festival" which is among the most influential festivals in Turkey. The activities during the festival, in which famous artists participate, are followed with interest.
The Cesme Peninsula, located to the west of Izmir, is a large peninsula. There are mountains, forests, numerous beaches, settlement centers, holiday towns and ancient cities in the environs. Urla Wharf and Cesmealti are famous for their beautiful beaches and islands. Balikliova attracts visitors with its fresh fish, and Mordogan and Karaburun with their virgin, untouched shores and nature, where narcissus and hyacinth are grown in the mountains in the wintertime.
Cesme, connected to Izmir by a highway, is among the most developed holiday towns in Turkey. There is a large harbor for ferry boats at Cesme, which adopted this name because of the large number of fountains built there during the Ottoman Period. Ferry boat trips are organized from this harbor to Greece and Italy. The splendid Cesme Citadel was constructed by the Ottomans in the sixteenth century. The restored citadel is visited as a museum today. The Kanuni Sultan Suleyman Caravanserai, which was also restored and transformed into a hotel, dates back to the sixteenth century. There are ideal racing courses and coves for yachts to overnight in Cesme, where yachting is also rather developed, with the Altin Yunus (Golden Dolphin) Marina in the lead. An International Song Contest is organized every year at Cesme, famous as the town of festivals and night life.
Ilica is a developed thermal spring center close to Cesme. By the long, sandy beaches extending at Ilica, the hot mineral water sources are under the sea, which is not seen anywhere else in the world. There are more than 250 thermal water sources found in Ilica Cove alone.
There are beautiful coves around Sigacik, an important yachting center to the south of the Cesme Peninsula. In the neighborhood of Sigacik there is the ancient city of Teos which was the religious belief center of Dionysus, the god of wine. Southeast of Sigacik, Gumuldur, which is known for its beaches and ancient city of Claros with its Temple of Apollo, are points of interest for the tourists.
Foca (Phocaea), the holiday town to the north of Izmir, was an important trade center of the ancient world. The Phocaeans, who were also sailors, established trade colonies in various parts of the Mediterrane- an. As a matter of fact, famous cities on the French Riviera such as Marseilles, Nice, and Cannes were founded by the Phocaeans. The song "Marseille" was an old Phocaean folk song taken to France by the Phocaeans, which later became the national anthem of the French (La Marseillaise). There are beautiful coves and islands in the vicinity of Foca. The Siren rocks at the entrance to the Foca harbor are ideal places for sunbathing and diving. Candarli and Dikili are located to the north of Foca. Candarli is worth seeing with its beaches, citadel and ancient city of Pitane. Dikili is an important harbor in the northern Aegean and is known for its beaches.