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A beautiful and mysterious landscape full of tradition
Third largest city in Turkey

Previously known as Smyrna until 1930 when the name was changed to Izmir, this city is one of the oldest settlements of the Mediterranean basin. Findings of recent excavations bear traces of Neolithic settlements pre 7-8 Century BC.  By 1500BC the region had come under the rule of the Hittite Empire. Invasions from the Balkans people destroyed much of the area after which it fell into what is known as the Anatolian period. The city came under both Lydian and Persian rule and was then captured by Alexander the Great around 340BC who re-founded the city on a new location beyond the River Meles. It is argued that Homer, also known as Melesigenes was born in Smyna and the River Meles located within the city limits still carries the name.

By 130 CAD the city had become part of the Roman Empire and enjoyed a new era of prosperity. Hadrian visited the city as part of his journeys through the Empire.   In first century AD it appears one of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor in the Book of Revelations and populations of both Christians and Jews numbered among its citizens.

In the 16th CAD Izmir had remarkable growth when it became one of the trade centers of the Ottoman Empire, attracting French, English, Dutch, and Venetian traders. Each country had its own quays and ships and would anchor under their own flags. By then its population numbered 90,000 made up of Greeks, Jews, Armenians and Dutch English and Italian merchants. The first railway in Turkey departed from Izmir and continues to this day.

Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WW1 it was intended that large parts of Anatolia would be given to theallies under the Treaty of Sevres.   In 1919 the Greek Army landed in Smyrna but its push into western Anatolia ended in disaster when it was defeated by the Turkish forces who took possession of the city on 9 September 1922. Four days later a disastrous fire destroyed the Greek and Armenian quarters with a great number of deaths. The Greek population was evacuated from the wharfs by allied destroyers.   The fire was the greatest disaster in the city’s history and those black days still influences the physe of Greeks and Turkısh people.   The remaining Greeks left in 1923 as part of the population exchange between Turkey and Greece.

Today Izmir is a cosmopolitan city with a quite different feel to Istanbul. It is a hub for manufacturing and still very much a trading city. The Izmir Exhibition Grounds host many conventions and trade shows each year. With its new modern airport with international flights from all over Europe it is a starting off point for tourists visiting Kusadasi and the famous sites such as Ephesus and Pamukkale.

What to See

The Tomb of Tantalıus stands of Mount Yamanlar along with those found in Kamalpasa and Mt Sıpylus The Agora of Smyrna is preserved in the Agora Open Air Museum of Izmir. On top of Kadifkale is the ancient castle, one of the landmarks of Izmir where it is also believed that St Polycarp is buried under today’s urban zones.

The Izmir Clock Tower is a landmark of Izmir harbor area, made of marble and standing 25 meters high İt was designed by French Architect Raymond Pere in commemoration of Adbulhamid 11 ascenion to the Ottoman Throne. It stands ın Konak Square which is a short walk to the cafe lined seaside promenade the Korban.   The old customs house on the Konak Pier has been restored as a chic shopping and cafe area –   great for coffee and look out over the harbor.   You can take a short ferry ride across the bay for good vıews over Izmir.

The Kiziaragasi Han and Keralti Bazaar with narrow streets and old Ottoman mosques the best of which is Sadirvanli Camii.   Off Anafartalar Caddesi is the site of the old Roman Agora with new interpretation panels and there are 9 Synagogues in the Jewish area of Karatas.   The Izmir Bird Sanctuary near Karsivaka of 80 square kılometres has 205 record species of resident and migratory birds.

What to Buy

The old passages and hans around Klziaragası and Keralti Bazaar are worth exploring for old wares. handicrafts and nick naks. Just the opposite to the new chic shops down by the waterside and pier with their upmarket brands.

What to Eat

Boyoz is a Turkish pastry associated with Izmir is prepared according to original recipe from the Sephardic Jews from Spain. Made of a mizture of sunflower oil flour and tahini, itt is eaten plain or can have meat cheese or spinach stuffings. Kumru is a special kind of Izmir sandwich which is turtle dove shaped filled with cheese and spicy sucuk sausage ıt comes served with pickles. All ingredients must be cooked in a coal burning oven and made with chickpea sourdough.

As well there are many great restaurants in Izmir serving international cuisine and along the Konak on the waterfront you can enjoy a fish meal while watching the sunset.

Turkey Travel Guide Tours