Most long distance buses come into the huge bus station, around 8km northeast of the city centre, and there are public buses and taxis to and from the city. Izmir is connected to every part of the country, with major destinations having a service at least every hour. These include: Istanbul (10 hours), Ankara (9 hours), Antalya (9 hours), Bursa (7 hours), Marmaris (6 hours), Bodrum (4 hours) and Konya (8 hours).
From Uckuyular bus station, 7km southwest of Konak, there are regular services to Cesme (90 mins) and Seferihisar (1 hour).
Main Bus Station Tel: (0232) 472 1010. Fax: 472 0418
Uckuyuklar Bus Station Tel: (0232) 259 8862
Izmir has two railway stations: Basmane in the city centre is the major terminal for intercity trains, and Alsancak in the north is mainly a commuter and local route.
The main intercity services include: Ankara (Mavi Tren is the fastest at 14 hours), Denizli (3 express trains daily, 5-6 hours) and Isparta (9 hours). Trains for Istanbul connect with a ferry at Bandirma.
Basmane Station Tel: (0232) 484 8638
Alsancak Station Tel: (0232) 458 3131
There is a weekly ferry from Istanbul-Izmir (19 hours), operating at weekends, and one or two weekly ferries between Izmir and Venice (67 hours). All ferries dock at the Alsancak Ferry Terminal, 2km north of the city centre.
Alsansak Yeni Liman (terminal) Tel: + 90(0232) 464 8864 / 89. Fax: 464 7834.
Adnan Menderes Airport, 16km south of the city centre, has several daily flights to Istanbul, Ankara and Antalya. There are also regular flights from many European cities. Airport buses go to and from the city centre, and there are hourly trains to Alsancak Station.
Airport Tel : +90 (0232) 274 2187. Fax: 274 2071
İzmir is the third biggest city in Turkey with a population of around 2.5 million, the second biggest port after Istanbul, and a good transport hub. Once the ancient city of Smyrna, it is now a modern, developed, and busy commercial centre, set around a huge bay and surrounded by mountains and was. The broad boulevards, glass-fronted buildings and modern shopping centres are dotted with traditional red-tiled roofs, the 18th century market, and old mosques and churches, although the city has an atmosphere more of Mediterranean Europe than traditional Turkey.
The history of Izmir stretches back to around 3000 BC when the Trojans founded the city in Tepekule in the northern suburb of Bayrakli. This was the birthplace of Homer, who was thought to have lived here around the 8th century BC. The Aeolians, the first settlers, were eventually taken over by the Ionians, and then the Lydians destroyed the city around 600BC before a brief recovery following Alexander the Great’s arrival in 334 BC.
After his death, Alexander’s generals followed his wishes and re-established Smyrna on Mount Pagos in Kadifekale, and the city then prospered under the Romans. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 178 AD but later reconstructed and became a major commercial port. After the Byzantines, the city had a turbulent time under the Arabs, Seljuks, Crusaders and Mongols, until Mehmet I incorporated it into the Ottoman Empire in 1415. Under Suleyman the Magnificent, Smyrna became a thriving and sophisticated city and a huge trading centre, despite its frequent earthquakes. It was cosmopolitan, with Greek Orthodox, Jews and Muslims, and many languages were spoken amongst locals and visiting traders.
Following World War I and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, Greece was granted a mandate over Izmir and entered the area, coming against the resistance of Ataturk’s nationalists. This resulted in a 3-day bloody battle, during which 70% of the city was burned to the ground and thousands were killed, and the beaten Greeks eventually left on the waiting ships. Ataturk formally took Izmir on 9 September 1922, considered to be the day of victory in the War of Independence and is a national holiday.
Kemeraltı Bazaar : The huge bazaar in the city centre stretches from the coast road to the Konak area, and is a major shopping centre with a vast array of goods inside. It combines modern businesses, shops and cafes, with antiques, dried fruit, household and leather goods in old alleyways with vaults and domes.
Inside the bazaar is one of the most interesting structures of Izmir: Kizlaragasi Hani is an Ottoman caravanserai inside the Halim Aga Bazaar and was completed in 1745. This covered market sells hand-made products, carpets, leather and souvenirs. There are many entrances to the markets, from Basmane, Konak and Anafartalar. Konak is one of the oldest areas of the city, with most of the buildings that survived the great fire, although the traditional areas are gradually being modernised. This is the location of the city’s landmark, the Saat Kulesi (Ottoman clock tower) decorated with tiles.
Asansör (Elevator) : The elevator was constructed by Jewish businessman Nesim Levi in 1907, in order to make life easier for the local residents going to their mansions on top of the hill. These days tourists use it to admire the views of the old streets and houses of Mithatpasa. Located in the heart of Izmir’s old Jewish quarter, it is housed in a 50m-high brick tower and after refurbishment in 1992 it now contains a café on the top floor, and the original hydraulics are exhibited on the ground floor. In its heyday in the 1930s, it also contained a theatre, cinema, refreshment stall and photographer’s shop.
Kültürpark : The huge Kulturpark in the city centre is one of the densest green areas in Izmir, covering 30 hectares. Within it are a zoo, artificial lake, parachute tower, open-air theatre and a collection of bars and cafes. This has been the venue of the International Izmir Fair every August since 1936.
MUSEUM, ANCIENT CITIES
İzmir Archeology Museum : This was one of the first museums to be established in Western Anatolia, and has exhibits unearthed from excavations in the Izmir region. In addition to Greek and Roman remains, friezes, ancient terracotta, Lycian sarcophagi, and Bronze age pottery, there is also art from the Ion, Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods. The entire collection is spread over three floors and a garden floor.
Museum Tel : (+90-232) 489 07 96
Address: Bahri Baba Parkı Konak
Opening hours: 08.30 - 12.00 & 13.00 - 17.00, closed Mondays.
Ethnography Museum : Opposite the Archaeological Museum, the Ethnographic Museum building was constructed on an inclined terrace in the early 19th century, in a Neoclassical style. It used to be St Roch’s Hospital for treating patients with the plague, was repaired by the French in 1845 and then became a centre for an organisation caring for poor Christian families. It was restored between 1985 and 1988, and then re-opened as the museum.
Inside, the colourful displays reveal local crafts, homes and folk culture from the 19th century. These include a reconstruction of the first Ottoman pharmacist in the area, and part of a traditional house, bridal chamber and kitchen. There are explanations and displays relating to camel wrestling, pottery production and even a kiln to make the blue beads to ward off the evil eye.
Museum Tel : (+90-232) 489 07 96
Address: Bahri Baba Parkı - Konak
Opening hours: 08.30 - 12.00 & 13.00 - 17.00, closed Mondays.
İzmir Atatürk Museum : This building, on the huge waterfront street Birinci Kordon, was constructed as a residence between 1875 and 1880. Ataturk stayed here whilst participating in the Izmir Economic Congress on 17th February 1923, and the building was presented to him as a gift in 1926 and then opened to the public as a museum after his death. The mansion contains furnishings and ornaments from Ataturk’s era. Museum
Ödemiş Archeology Museum : There are exhibition halls, administrative departments, library, warehouses, photography hall, atölye and laboratory room. 12.000 years of age pieces of art coming from Prehistoric Age are exhibiting in the Museum, opened on 1987.
Museum Tel: (+ 90 - 232) 545 11 84
Open hours to visit: 08.30 - 12.00 / 13.00 - 17.00 Open days to visit: Everyday except Monday
Tire Museum : In the museum composed of an archeological and ethnographic hall 3592 pieces of archeological pieces of art, 3080 ethnographic pieces of art, 21980 coins, 78 pieces of archive documents, 16 pieces of manuscripts and other pieces of art.
Museum Tel: (+ 90 - 232) 512 18 62
Address: Cumhuriyet Mah. Şanizade Meydanı
Open hours to visit: 08.30 - 12.00 13.00 - 17.00 Open days to visit: Everyday except Monday
Bayraklı (Former İzmir) : Located at the northeast of Izmir Bay, Bayrakli was the first known settlement of Izmir, which archaeological excavations indicate was probably around 3000 BC. There is a structure from the 7th century BC, situated on the upper part of Bayrakli, which was the grave of the mythological king, Tantalus.
Kadifekale (Velvet Castle) : The old fortress on the hill at the southeast of the city offers unrivalled views of the surrounding area, and at its best at sunset, when the lights start to come on and the call to prayer echoes from many mosques. It was founded in the 4th century BC by Lysimakhos, one of Alexander the Great’s generals, and was strategically placed in view of the harbour and the city. It is possible to walk up to the citadel from the Agora, through narrow streets and old houses, and it remains open although is not lit at night. On the walls of the ruins are Roman and Byzantine engravings and the remaining structures include the south walls and five towers at the west, which date back to the Medieval Age.
Agora : Within the crowded streets of Konak, the agora used to be the venue for political gatherings and elections. It was built on the orders of Alexander the Great, probably in the 2nd century BC, and is the only surviving pre-Ottoman monument, although what remains was the reconstruction by the Romans after a devastating earthquake. There are 14 Corinthian columns, vaulted chambers and hundreds of Ottoman graveyards in the eastern section. Many treasures unearthed during excavations are now exhibited in the Archaeology Museum.
MOSQUE, CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUES
The most important mosques in the city are Hisar, Yali (Konak), Salepcioglu and Kestane Pazari Mosque. Others in the city include Sadirvan, Basdurak, Kemeralti (built in1812), Faik Pasa, (repaired in 1842), Han Bey, Hatuniye Mosque, Seyh, Fettah, Yali, Ali Aga, Selvili Mescit, Abdullah Efendi and Iki Cesmelik Mosque.
St. Polycarp Church, in Gaziosmanpasa, is the oldest church in Izmir and was lavishly rebuilt in the 19th century by the French. St Polycarp was Smyrna’s first bishop, and when he refused to follow the orders of the Romans to renounce his faith, he was burnt at the stake.
Other churches include;
Dome Cathedral St. John
Sehit Nevres Bul.29, Alsancak.
Halit Ziya Bul. No: 67
Notre Dame De St. Rosarei
1481 Sokak. No: 8, Alsancak
Notre Dame De Lourders
81 Sokak No: 10, Goztepe
St. John the Bapist
Kemalpasa Caddesi. No: 15, Buca
Kars Okulu Sk. No: 5, Bornova,
St. Anthony of Pauda
1610 Sokak. No: 5, Bayrakli
1729 Sokak. No: 53, Karsiyaka
St. John's Church (Anglican)
Talat Pasa Bulvari, Alsancak
St. Mary Magdalene (Protestant)
Hurriyet Caddesi No:18, Bornova
Aya Fotini (Orthodox)
1374 Sokak. No: 24, Alsancak (Open for only festivals)
Synagogues; Bet Yisrael
Mithatpasa Caddesi. No: 265
927 Sokak. No: 7, Mezarlikbasi
1390 Sokak. No: 4, Alsancak
Ikicesmelik Caddesi. No: 40
Balçova Thermal Springs : Mentioned in Homer’s epics as Agamemnon Thermal Springs, and in the writings of geographer Strabon, these waters have been used to cure various ailments. Members of Alexander the Great’s army used the spring to heal their wounds, which made their healing powers famous. The hot water mud baths and mineral springs, which contain sodium bicarbonate and chloride, are said to cure upper respiratory inflammation, nephritis, rheumatism, skin diseases and metabolism problems. The resort is 10km west of Izmir, and there is accommodation available at the resort.
ART, CULTURE AND AMUSEMENT
For many years Izmir has enjoyed its reputation as a cosmopolitan city of culture. The Ataturk Cultural Centre hosts weekend concerts by the Izmir State Symphony Orchestra, and the Izmir State Opera and Ballet perform in an Ottoman art deco building on Milli Kutuphane Caddesi. During the summer there are events at the open-air theatre in the Kulturpark, and mid-June sees the month-long International Izmir festival with many events also in Cesme and Selcuk. The International Film Festival takes place every April, with foreign films shown in original language with subtitles.
Regular nightlife includes a host of bars and nightclubs in the wealthy suburb of Alsansak, with more venues on Birinci Kordon and the surrounding streets. The cinemas around the city centre tend to show blockbuster American films, many of which are dubbed into Turkish.
The busiest shopping area is the Kemeralti Streets, which still retain a 19th century atmosphere of pull-down shutters, thresholds of the doors, low ceilings and old briquettes. On both sides of Anafartalar Caddesi is the lively atmosphere of the street vendors, bronze workers and fishermen, and Fevzipasa Bulvari which is famous for its leather garments. In contrast to the traditional and busy old market, Alsacak has modern boutiques and Cankaya has a huge shopping centre much.
Izmir’s cuisine has largely been affected by its multicultural history, hence the large variety of food originating from the Aegean, Mediterranean and Anatolian regions. Another factor is the large area of land surrounding the region which grows a rich selection of vegetables. Some of the common dishes found here are tarhana soup (made from dried yoghurt and tomatoes), Izmir meatballs, keskek (boiled wheat with meat) zerde (sweetened rice with saffron) and mucver (made from squash and eggs).