Izmir, previously known as Smyrna, is one of Turkey’s best tourism destinations. It’s a coastal and third most populous city in Turkey with a vibrant history dating back to the Neolithic period. Izmir is the most European-oriented city in Turkey, with a fast-growing young population, due to its economic strength, developed technological infrastructure, and strategic location.

Izmir is the third biggest Turkish city, yet it is quite unknown. In this article we share our best travel tips about things to do in Izmir.

1. Izmir Agora

Any list of things to do in Izmir has to start at the ancient monument right in the city centre. Surrounded by hillside residential neighbourhoods, bustling market streets, and tall commercial buildings, Izmir Agora is just a part of the everyday landscape for most residents.

Inside the Agora grounds, the ruins of a Roman-Greek marketplace transport you back to the days when Izmir was an important stop on the Silk Road.

The archways on the lower floor of the 2,000-year-old marketplace are still intact and the same fresh water that supplied the ancient market still bubbles out of fountains and runs through a channel along the floor today. This place was built to last!

2. Visit The Kemeraltı Bazaar 

It’s supposedly possible to spend an entire day exploring this twisting, convoluted bazaar and still not see it all. The bazaar is home to cafes, shops selling almost anything you could possibly want or imagine, artisans workshops, mosques, tea gardens and synagogues.

3. Small Village of Şirince

A must place to visit when you are in Izmir. The narrow streets of Şirince hide secrets behind every curve and the crumbling old houses are an architecture-obsessed photographer’s dream.

In the old town center, friendly Turkish shopkeepers wave hi and proudly show off their artisanal products. Climbing up to the highest area of the village is like wandering back in time and history. Elderly men and women in traditional dress call to each other from open doorways, bread bakes in arcing stone ovens, and cats & dogs lounge on every available surface, soaking up the afternoon sun. Leave enough time to wander the streets of Şirince.

4. Konak Square and clock tower (Saat Kulesi)

The Konak Square and its picturesque clock tower (Saat Kulesi) serve as a gathering point and are great for a short visit before going deeper into the city’s streets and markets.

This square is full of pigeons and you can create some really cool photos. 

5. Alsancak Neighborhood 

Alsancak can be considered Izmir’s downtown and has something for everyone. Starting from the beginning of the port area, the neighbourhood has a variety of restaurants, bars, taverns and hotels. You can spend a whole day explaining this neighbourhood and you’ll still not be done! Small boutique shops, cool hangout places and some great bars will keep you busy. Spend an evening in La Puerta trying all the different drinks in their outdoor beer garden, or head to Alsancak Dostlar Fırını, a family-run bakery that serves the city’s famous pastry “boyoz” with boiled eggs with piping hot “çay” (tea). The shop has many varieties that you can enjoy for breakfast.

If shopping is your mantra, then head to Plevne Boulevard or Dr. Mustafa Enver Bey street, where, after a few hours of shopping in both local and international shops, you can opt for both people-watching and a quick pick-me-up dessert at Reyhan Patisserie.

Bonus: If you happen to be in Alsancak for a late brunch, then enjoy a full Turkish breakfast (“serpme kahvalti”) with unlimited piping hot çay at Tuzu Biberi, opposite the Alsancak ferry station. 

6. Pergamon Acropolis

High on a hilltop overlooking the modern town of Bergama sits the Pergamon Acropolis, an ancient Greek city that was a seat of power in the 2nd Century BC.

The site is best known as the location of the Pergamon Altar, a colossal construction with soaring pillars.

The highlight of Pergamon was the world’s steepest ancient theatre that hangs dizzyingly off the hillside overlooking the town of Bergama.

There are many things to see in Izmir but among many of Izmir attractions, this one’s unmissable.

7. Take a Day Trip to Ephesus

Most tourists visiting Izmir are passing through to see Ephesus, which is thought to be the best preserved ancient temple in the eastern Mediterranean. It contains the Temple of Artemis, considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

8. Enjoy a Turkish Feast

When you sit down to eat in Turkey, there’s no such thing as a quick bite. The dishes start small, with shared plates of olives and crusty pieces of bread to snack on. Don’t eat too much of this. At Turkish meals, there is plenty more to come! But that’s just the warm-up. Soon the table is filled with melt-in-your-mouth roasted eggplant, grilled whole fish, savory greens smothered in sour cream, potato and lamb stew, green salads with shredded cheese, fresh sweet peppers and radishes, smoked eggplant dip with creamy melted cheese… It’s an endless exotic parade. When you’re sure you can’t eat another bite, out comes another bottle of Raki, clear anise-based alcohol, served alongside an overabundance of tempting Turkish sweets. You’ll never leave a dinner table in Turkey feeling less than achingly full.