The third largest city of Turkey, Izmir, historically known as Smyrna, is located on the shores of the Aegean Sea and on the west of the Anatolian Peninsula. Being home to many civilizations throughout history thus being known for its rich and diverse culture, the city is one of the most livable cities in the Turkey offering its residents high quality of life and contributing significantly to the country’s employment and industrial production.
The history of Izmir dates back to circa 3000 BC. The city which existed even before the Hittites was ruled by Ionians, Persians, Romans, and the Ottomans. During the first millennium BC Izmir, back then known as Smyrna, ranked as one of the most prominent cities of the Ionian Federation. Homer, the Greek poet and the presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey is believed to have lived here during this period. After the city was seized by the Lydians around 600BC, it ceased to exist as a city for about 300 years until it was rebuilt by Alexander the Great at a new site on and around Mount Pagos (Kadifekale). Byzantine rule followed in the fourth century and lasted until the Seljuk conquest in the 11th century. In 1415, under the rule of Sultan Mehmet Çelebi, Izmir became part of the Ottoman Empire.
With its modern and historic mosques, churches and synagogues, Izmir is an important place for all monotheistic religions and the city is visited by tourists from all three major religions. Izmir International Fair, the first and most comprehensive commercial fair of Turkey organized every year, brings together a variety of business sectors while at the same time boosting the revenues of fair and congress tourism in the country. Having the 3rd largest cruise port also makes Izmir one of the most outward oriented cities in Turkey. The modern city, with its mild Mediterranean climate, breath-taking nature, rich and fascinating heritage, exquisite and delicious cuisine and vibrant night life warmly welcomes guests from all around the world, all year round.
On arrival in İzmir there are many must-see sights such as the Church of St Polycarp, one of the seven churches mentioned in Bible. The Archaeological Museum, near Konak Square, houses a superb collection of antiquities including the statues of Poseidon and Demeter which in ancient times stood in the Agora. Next to the Archaeological Museum is the Ethnography Museum which displays a fine collection of Bergama and Gördes carpets, traditional costumes and camel bridles. On Kadifekale (Mt Pagos) stands the impressive ruins of a castle and its walls which were built by Lysimachus under the reign of Alexander the Great. The castle offers an excellent vantage point from where to enjoy a magnificent view of the Gulf of İzmir. The Agora, or marketplace, in the Namazgah quarter was 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 AD. Built in the 16th century, and restored in the 19th, Hisar Mosque is the largest and oldest mosque in İzmir. In the village of Birgi, the Çakır Ağa Mansion is a fine example of traditional Turkish architecture.
The city of İzmir is composed of several metropolitan districts namely Balçova, Bayraklı, Bornova, Buca, Çiğli, Gaziemir, Güzelbahçe, Karabağlar, Karşıyaka, Konak, and Narlıdere.
Explore the coastal towns of Izmir
Çeşme, with its beaches, clean sea, gentle breeze, and historical and natural beauties is one of the first places that come to mind when it comes to summer vacation. With its crystal-clear sea, golden sand beaches, bays, healing thermal springs, amazing underwater wealth, a variety of sports activities, and famous night life, Çeşme is the pride of Izmir in tourism. Ranking 14th among the top 52 places to visit in the world according to the New York Times, and just 95 km from the city center, Çeşme is the most popular province of not only İzmir, but also the Aegean region. The city is alive during the day as well as during the night offering visitors a vibrant and colorful life.
Alaçatı, a town on the Western coast of Turkey is known for its stone houses adorned with bougainvillea, vineyards, windmills and narrow but always-breezy streets. The most famous beaches in Çeşme to enjoy the sea are Şifne, Küçük Liman, Pırlanta, Paşa Limanı, Ilıca Beach, Çiftlik, Altınkum, Çatal Azmak, Sakızlı Bay, Tekke Beach, and Aya Yorgi.
Alaçatı, Ilıca, and Pırlanta are known as the most popular windsurfing hotspots of Çeşme. You can also heal your body in the thermal springs in Çeşme and its surrounding regions. Alaçatı Herb Festival, which is an extremely popular festival in Turkey, attracts gourmets and vegetable lovers. The festival takes place every year and hosts more than a million visitors from all around the world!
Located 70 kilometers from Izmir, Foca historically known as Phokaia, has been home to various civilizations throughout history. The town is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Izmir offering visitors long blue flag beaches, healthy and delicious Aegean cuisine, and a fascinating natural landscape. There are six small uninhabited islands facing Foca: Orak, Incir, Kartdere, Fener, Hayirsiz, and Metelik Islands. Orak and Incir, are the islets known as the Sirens' Rocks mentioned in Homer's Odyssey. Eski Foça (meaning Old Foça in Turkish) is one of the most peaceful holiday towns with picturesque fishing boats along the coast, streets lined with flowers and adorned with white stone houses, a blue flag beach and one of the best sunsets in the world. Yeni Foça (meaning New Foça in Turkish), a recently developed part of the town is mostly visited in summertime by summer vacationers. The places to visit in Eski Foça, which was one of the most important settlements of the ancient Ionia, include Beşkapılar Castle and City Walls, Eski Foça Port, Athena Temple, Cybele Open Air Temple, Kayalar Mosque, Fatih Mosque, Devil Bath, and The Windmills. Orak Island, Incir (Fig) Island known as the Sirens’ Rocks where Mediterranean monk seals live are as popular and worthwhile to visit, offering one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. Kozbeyli Village is another destination that we think will impress you with its authentic texture and charm. It’s also an ideal place for those who want to have a rich and delicious village breakfast.
Located in eastern Selçuk which is a district of Izmir and about 8 kilometers from Ephesus, Şirince is one of the most renowned villages in Turkey. Şirince is also world famous for its wines and brick stone mansions. With its fabulous nature, unique architecture, and welcoming residents, the town’s reputation exceeds the borders of Turkey. The village was once called Kirkice, Kirkince, and Çirkince by Greeks who lived there before Turkish War of Independence. After the Greeks left the town following the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the village started being called Şirince. There are still many houses in the village that once belonged to Greeks. Some of these houses, which are meticulously preserved by their new owners, welcome visitors as boutique hotels, today.
Nesin Mathematics Village founded by Nesin Foundation with the goal to teach mathematics to young people and to encourage mathematical research has been in service since 2007. The studies and courses are run by instructors and educators specialized in math, philosophy psychology, and sociology. In the village, young people can attend seminars and at the same time take part in the daily errands of the village. The village is also open to visitors. When you visit Şirince remember to visit the open-air market in the center of the village where you can find a variety of unique products including handmade soaps, pure olive oil, and Turkish handicrafts crafted by local female residents.
Another must-do activity in the village is wine-tasting. Sirince is world famous for its exquisite wines. You can stop by the wine houses and wineries to taste a wide selection of local wines. The wine is made from many types of fruit, mostly peaches, blackberries, blueberries, melons, strawberries, and grapes that have been grown locally. The Sirince winery produces 12 kinds of fruit wines.
Urla is located about 35 kilometers away from the Izmir city center. The town has a 40-kilometer long coastline, deep blue sea, fascinating nature, and historical sites. The district is very close to tourism destinations including Çeşme, Seferihisar, and Karaburun. Çeşmealtı is the most touristic location in the district, not only because of its beaches but also because of the thermal springs in İçmeler. Klazomenai Olive Oil Plant, which is the first olive oil production facility in Anatolia; Gazhane Building, Necati Cumalı Memorial House, and Urla Underwater Museum are other places you can visit when you visit Urla. Urla hosts Artichoke Festival, Kite Festival, Traditional Grape Harvest Festival, and Village Theater Festival every year.
Bergama, one of the most prominent settlements in the history of civilization was founded on the ruins of the Ancient City of Pergamon. The region’s history dates back to Bronze Age and the earliest findings from the excavations demonstrate that the town was founded in 7-6th century BC. There are other places besides the Ancient City of Pergamon where you can see traces from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman periods. Mevlana Hacı Hekim Bath, Bergama’s Great (Yıldırım or Ulu) Mosque, Seljuk Minaret, The Altar of Zeus, Pergamon Asklepion Ruin, Red Basilica (Temple of Serapis), 7 Churches, Pergamon Akropol Ruin, and Selinos Brook and The Ancient Bridges are among those places. You can also visit the Pergamon Museum and explore unique artifacts dug out in the excavations.
You can wander through the narrow streets of Bergama, take photos, visit the famous carpet sellers in the Ottoman Bazaar to explore famous Bergama rugs and carpets, and enjoy a cup of tea, coffee or black mulberry juice on your shopping break. If you visit Bergama in May, you can visit the Bergama International Theater Festival. You can also buy parchment paper as a souvenir or a gift for your loved ones.
As one of the most important centres of the ancient era that is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015, Ephesus had been inhabited approximately for 9000 years throughout the Hellenistic Era, Roman Period, Byzantine Era, the Period of Principalities and the Ottoman Era. It was a very important port city and centre of culture and commerce. The whole site comprises Çukuriçi Mound, Ayasuluk Hill (Selçuk Fortress, the Basilica of St. John, İsa Bey Bath, İsa Bey Mosque, Temple of Artemis), the House of the Virgin Mary, and of course the ancient city of Ephesus.
Ephesus is particularly important for faith tourism as it contains the House of Virgin Mary. It is believed that the Virgin Mary was taken to this stone house by St John, where she lived until her death at the age of 101. The Church of the Virgin Mary, close to the original harbour of Ephesus, was the setting for the Third Ecumenical Council in 431. Two other religious sites worth visiting are the Basilica of St John, built in the sixth century, and İsa Bey Mosque, which is a sample of Seljuk architecture. Ephesus is not just a touristic site. It is home to the International İzmir Festival utilizing its grand amphitheatre, Celsus Library and the House of the Virgin Mary.
The ancient city of Ephesus is Turkey’s most important ancient city, and one of the best preserved and restored. One can still stroll for hours along its streets passing temples, theatres, libraries, houses and statues. It contains such grand public buildings as the impressive Library of Celsus, the theatre, the Temple of Hadrian and the sumptuous Temple of Artemis which is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The ruins also include public toilets and even a brothel dating mostly from the fourth century BC.