One of the most visited Turkish cities by tourists is Izmir. A beautiful coastal city that owns a lot of beautiful scenes, rich in history, diversity in culture, delectable food, and also has many “unspoken” rules that make tourists must “not to know whether to laugh or cry” when discovered. So, is Izmir worth visiting, what to do in Izmir and how to plan a budget trip to Izmir perfectly? Let’s check out our Izmir blog (Izmir travel blog) with the fullest Izmir travel guide (Izmir tourist guide, Izmir guide) from how to get Izmir, best places to visit, best time to come, what to eat as well as top things to do in Izmir as well as suggested Izmir itinerary 2 days (48 hours in Izmir) for first-timers to help you maximize your trip as follows!
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Izmir is known as the pearl of the romantic and vibrant Aegean Sea. Not only having splendid architecture since ancient times, Izmir is also the second largest bustling port city in Turkey, after Istanbul. Coming to Izmir, you will find that this place has a breath of both ancient, modern, lyrical and peaceful.
Overview of Izmir (#izmir blog)
Izmir, also known as Smyrna, is the third most populous city in Turkey and the second largest port city after Istanbul. The city is located in eastern Anatolia on the Aegean coast, at the edge of the Gulf of Izmir. The city is bordered by the provinces and cities of Balıkesir to the north, Manisa to the east, and Aydın to the south. The main rivers that flow through the city are the Küçük Menderes Nehri, the Koca Çay (with the Güzelhisar Dam), and the Bakır Çay.
Although not too vibrant or bustling, this 5,000-year-old ancient city possesses significant culture and history. The intersection of two Eurasian cultures is both ancient and no less modern, experiencing many influences of ancient empires of Ottoman, Greek and Roman. Izmir owns a romantic and lyrical beauty, prompting the footsteps of distant travelers who want to come.
Izmir was founded by the Greeks around 3000 BC before being taken over by the Romans. Izmir was once known as Smyrna – an important city of the Ionian confederacy of the ancient Mediterranean region that became part of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century.
Today, Izmir is known as a modern city of Turkey with the majority of the population is Muslim, mosques abound around the city but you’ll find plenty of women without veils, wine served in pubs, restaurants, Izmir people congregating frequently meeting by the sea for beer and food (including during Ramadan).
Not only culturally, economically Izmir city also has important strategic significance thanks to its prime location. Located close to the Aegean Sea, close to the Gulf of Izmir area. Previously, during the reign of Emperor Alexander, this place was used as a particularly important military maritime port. Today, Izmir is known as the second largest port city in Turkey after Istanbul and home to the third largest population of the country with over 3 millions.
When to come? (#izmir travel blog)
Izmir is dry, hot in summer and wet and cold in winter. The highest temperature of the winter months is between 10-16 degrees Celsius. Izmir has snowfall from December-February next year. The temperature in summer can be reach 40 degrees Celsius (From June to September).
January to March is the coldest time in Izmir with temperatures dropping to around 8°C. July and August are the two hottest months. From April to May, September to December, the weather is pleasant, neither too hot nor too cold. However, April, May is the peak time in Izmir, very crowded with tourists, prices will go up, many hotels, motels will be full, so from September to December is the best time to visit Izmir.
How to get to Izmir? (#izmir travel guide)
From Vietnam, you will have to fly to Istanbul and then you can fly domestically, take a bus to Izmir. It takes 8-10 hours of traveling by bus, 1.5 hours by plane. Bus prices range from 10-14USD, airfares range from 40-80USD/one-way. You can also get to Izmir from Pamukkale, Cappadocia, Antalya…
From other big cities such as: Istanbul, Ankara or Antalya, etc. catch domestic flights to Adnan Menderes airport. Airfares from Istanbul range from 40-80USD/one-way, flight time is about 1.5 hours. If coming from other European cities, there are also many flights with international airlines. From here, it’s just another 15 minutes ride to the center of the city. To find cheap airfares as well as best flight routes based on your departure point, you can access Google Flights, Kayak, Skyscanner to hunt.
From the airport to the center of Izmir you can take a taxi, take a bus or Izban train. The Izban train departs every 10 to 20 minutes, buses have routes 200, 202, 204.
By train (#izmir travel guide)
Train lines from Ankara, Istanbul, Isparta… stop at Basmane or Alsancak station near the center which are convenient for traveling.
It takes 8-10 hours by bus from Istanbul. Bus prices range from 10-14 USD.
By boat (#izmir blog)
Alternatively, you can also get here by waterway, connecting boats and ferries from Istanbul are also very close to famous attractions. Therefore, you can move conveniently and save time.
Where to go and what to do in Izmir?
It seems that there is nothing to explore, but when you come to this charming city, you will find that one day and two day cannot discover all the beauty of this place. There are countless places of interest as well as experiences waiting for you.
The Clock Tower is one of Izmir’s most famous landmarks, located in Konak Square. You can’t visit Izmir without taking a photo with this iconic memorial, which was featured on the old 500 Lira bill (now no longer in circulation). The Clock Tower was built in 1901 by French architect Raymond Charles Péré to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the succession to the throne of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The tower is 25m high, with four fountains placed around the base in a circular shape, the top of the tower is the familiar crescent moon of Islam.
This neighborhood was built in the 16th century in the city of Izmir, walking around the beautiful small cobblestone streets you will see cute little shops located next to each other. Each place sells colorful traditional items. Or, there is also a quiet ancient mosque nestled in the old town, making the space here tinged with time, bringing a beauty to see freely.
Agora Open Air Museum
Address: Namazgah, Tarik Sari Sokağı No:29, 35240 Konak/İzmir, Turkey
The first destination in the journey back in time to the ancient ruins is the Agora market, built in the 4th century BC. Right in the middle of vibrant streets, bustling commercial center, this place has become a highlight, an impressive other world that tourists always come to. Over time, now only the old ruins of stone columns and arches remain, but the shadow of the ancient Greek market is still present and has great attraction.
One of the most important ancient ruins in Izmir that you should not miss is Ephesus ancient city. The complex contains many ancient relics with a large scale, ancient statues, churches or libraries giving you a new perspective on the world thousands of years ago. An attractive destination not only for archaeologists but also for those who love history and explore the ancient empire.
During the long history of its existence, Izmir has witnessed many civilizations flourish and then decline such as Greece, Rome, Ottoman, Persia, Arabia… In which, the ancient city of Ephesus is an outstanding evidence for the Greek and Roman civilizations that still exist today. You can see this through a series of works such as the large Ephesus avenue with two marble columns, the Hadrian temple built from the 2nd century with familiar Greek-Roman architecture, the huge open-air theater is designed in a semicircle with a capacity of up to 25,000 audiences. Ephesus’ most beautiful work is the ancient library of Celsus. Celsus was built in 110 and was once the third largest library in the ancient world (after Alexandria and Pergamum). Celsus once contained up to 12,000 books on all subjects and this was also a frequent destination for ancient Roman scholars.
Address: Konak, 904. Sk. No:52, 35250 Konak/İzmir, Turkey
Referring to Islam, it is impossible not to mention Hisar mosque. Hisar is the largest gathering center of Muslims in Izmir, built in 1597 and is one of the buildings in the Ottoman architectural style. The mosque is made of white marble, the inside is decorated with very delicate rose motifs creating a very oriental feeling. You should note that when entering the mosque, you must wear long-sleeved clothes, keep quiet and if you want to take photos of people, you must ask their permission first.
Stroll in villages, along the coast and traditional markets
Besides the modern of a bustling city, Izmir also has peaceful villages with simple and joyful life. The peaceful old villages with narrow streets, beautiful houses with open door frames tinged with moss, is unusually relaxing. An ideal place for you to relax with a tranquil setting full of sunshine.
If you want to buy something as a gift or simply enjoy the traditional markets in Izmir you can go to Kemaralti in the center. You can visit comfortably, there are many items to choose from. Not only that, there are also many typical local dishes, especially the cheap but delicious cane-shaped candy. And if you go to villages, there are many beautiful handmade crafts.
Another interesting thing about Izmir is that sometimes you don’t have to go anywhere, just walk along the coast, see the daily life of Izmir people, watch them fish, gather, play, gossip or simply sit and drink coffee to enjoy the airy, cool atmosphere of the Mediterranean. If you like shopping for souvenirs and handmade items, then go to Kemeralti Carsisi market. You will find pretty things, twinkling lamps like in stories of one thousand and one nights, drums, scarves, wool, rugs… typical of Turkey and maybe you will get lost in the market to late at night.
Archaeological Museum of Izmir
Address: Konak Mahallesi, Bahri Baba Parkı, Halil Rıfat Paşa Cd. No:4, 35260 Konak/İzmir, Turkey
If you love history and culture then you should definitely spend a few hours in the Izmir Archaeological Museum. There are loads of interesting artifacts in the museum, many of them dating back to the Greek, Roman and Bronze Ages.
Because it is located close to the coast, there is a large space for locals and tourists to enjoy the scenery, fish, and young people to practice dancing on the windy beach. The atmosphere is very pleasant, the seagulls flying over the deep blue sea make your soul feel relaxed. In addition, you can also participate in sports activities such as windsurfing, sitting on a sailboat or surfing to enjoy thrills…
Walking around watching the sunset
The beautiful little town of Foca in Izmir is also a popular tourist destination for its romantic atmosphere and especially the beautiful sunset. During the day above the mountain slopes are the houses painted white very prominently. When sunset falls, the lights are simultaneously lit up, making them sparkling and extremely appealing. At this moment, you can wander to enjoy the slowly fading sun over the sea, watch the boats move on the sea, the music is ringing in your ears.
Izmir Wildlife Park
Address: Tuzla, Ahmet Piriştina Cd. No 3, 35620 Çiğli/İzmir, Turkey
A place that even locals “nod” to recognize as the most beautiful and interesting place in the city. Coming to the park, your family will have met rare wildlife such as elephants, giraffes and lions at extreme distances very close to the car’s trunk with a strong protective layer. Visitors also see peacocks with brilliant tail feathers walking by the shallow lake, surrounded by green trees.
If you move to the artificial lake area, you will see “ferocious” crocodiles, in addition to falcons, small, friendly ponies that children will love when they get up close to them.
After visiting the wildlife park, you should immediately visit the nearby place, equally famous as the wild park, Pirlanta beach. The most special feature here is that the water is very shallow, there are rarely strong waves, so people can rest here with their kids all day without worrying about their children’s safety when swimming in the area.
Those who have a great love for nature should visit Kent Forest Park, a park located on a small hill near the sea, visitors can have picnics, walk, admire the sea – peaceful forest or play with your kids fun entertaining games for free here.
Umran Baradan Oyuncak Muzesi
Address: Yeşiltepe, Birleşmiş Milletler Cd. No:8, 35260 Konak/İzmir, Turkey
In Izmir there is a children’s museum called Umran Baradan Oyuncak Muzesi, a museum features a diverse collection of large-sized toys and extremely interesting for children and parents to study when visiting here.
In addition, among the toys on display here are many antiques with great value that your family will love to spend the morning exploring.
Address: Mimar Sinan, İzmir Fuarı No:9, 35220 Konak/İzmir, Turkey
Referring to the water park in Izmir, the most famous one is Coskun Lunapark, a park located right in the city center, possessing an extremely majestic artistic lighting system that your family will be surprised to see at night.
In Coskun Lunapark, there is also a giant ferris wheel, many attractive amusement zones for lovers of extreme sports, carousels, and a diverse game room for children.
If you want to rest, shop in the park, you can find cafes, souvenir shops, food, drinks and goods in the park that are offered at affordable prices, so you can comfortably play in this water park all day.
Small, dreamy villages
Sirince is a cute little village with interesting history, beautiful views, great food, hospitality and much more. Sirince is a combination of a traditional Turkish and Greek village. The village is located on a hill with quaint two-story houses, narrow cobblestone streets full of sunshine and wind make you feel like you are traveling back in time back to the world before cars and modern industry.
Sirince is green and rich with vineyards, olives, peaches, figs, apples… From a distance Sirince looks like a picture. The village is full of craft shops, and you’ll see unique handcrafted pieces of art, from colorful soaps to Zultanite gem jewelry. In addition, Sirince is also very famous for the fruit wines made by the villagers themselves. Each store has a different type of wine, if you want to taste them all, you will probably need a whole month to have enough.
If Sirince has not satisfied you, then go to Alacati, a bold Greek village with cool cobblestone streets, stone houses, blue and white tables and chairs, colorful confetti and a lovely windmill. In Alacati, you can walk around all day on small streets, winding alleys packed with cafes, restaurants, souvenir stalls decorated with shimmering and vivid colors. Each shop is a different romantic and lovely corner, there is no mixing and repetition. I can sit for half a day just sipping a cup of Turkish coffee or sitting in a corner drinking tea and watching Alacati. The golden sunshine, cool air, delicious and abundant food give the village a strange charm.
Enjoy the Whirling Dervishes
Whirling Dervishes are known to have been passed down by Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi – the Persian sage. According to legend, because Rumi was so sad before his master passed away, he prayed while whirling faster and faster, so that he rested for 3 days and 3 nights. The dance originated from there, gradually Whirling Dervishes came to be considered a religious dance. Dancers are male clerics in white turbans covering their heads, wearing a wide white robe, reaching to the ground, and spinning like a pinwheel. In the music that is both bass and ghostly, the light of the room is dim and lucid, Whirling Dervishes will take you into a mystical spiritual world.
What to eat?
Coming to the land of the Mediterranean, you cannot miss the following great dishes:
- Boyoz: A pastry usually eaten for breakfast, served with eggs and a cup of Turkish tea.
Kumru: A sandwich with sausage, cheese, tomatoes, peppers, bacon, mayonnaise and ketchup.
- Sambali dessert: One of İzmir’s signature desserts, made mainly of semolina flour, sugar and yogurt. Sambali is widely sold on street corners and street vendors in Izmir.
- Seafood: Fresh seafood is Izmir’s specialty, you can enjoy a lot of dishes such as grilled fish, mussels served with lemon, marinated octopus and then grilled…
After a long day of touring around the city, it’s time to pamper your stomach with a hearty meal at Gazi Kadınlar Sokağı restaurant (Address: Alsancak, 1453. Sk., 35220 Konak/İzmir, Turkey/Hours: Open 24 hours) in the famous Alsancak neighborhood. Dishes from all over the world or simply traditional Turkish dishes are fully served with appealing presentation. Doner Kebab dishes filled with fragrant grilled meat, Kofte meatballs, fragrant fatty puddings, etc. are all very suitable to enjoy.
Then on the way back, stop by at a bar to enjoy a glass of your favorite drink in the vibrant atmosphere of melodious music. Or order a chilly Turkish beer, there are many varieties with different flavors to choose from. Or you can call them all to try one after another, which is also very interesting. There’s nothing better than being served by handsome waiters bringing drinks.
Food price in Izmir is quite cheap. For a quick meal like pide, dürum, köfte… the price ranges from 8-15 TL (equivalent to $0.7 – $1.5). An average meal for two (excluding wine) is about 200-400 TL (equivalent to $16 – $34 VND).
Where to stay?
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Park Inn by Radisson Izmir (Agoda, Booking)
- Kaya Izmir Thermal & Convention (Agoda, Booking)
- Wyndham Grand İzmir Özdilek (Agoda, Booking)
- Swissotel Buyuk Efes Izmir (Agoda, Booking)
- TAV Airport Hotel Izmir (Agoda, Booking)
- Smart Hotel İzmir (Agoda, Booking)
- Oglakcioglu Park Boutique Hotel (Agoda, Booking)
Check out more top and best hotels in Izmir on Agoda.com or Booking.com
Notes and tips before you go
As a coastal city, Izmir will of course have many beautiful white sand beaches and most of them are property of the city, only a few of which are privately owned so visitors no need to nervous when approaching a certain beach that you have discovered. The city’s beaches are completely free for visitors to swim, sunbathe, play sports, but beach gear is not “free”, usually you will need to pay only about 1 – 2 USD for the cost of renting these gear and it is recommended to ask people to rent beach gear before using any gear at the beach to avoid trouble.
Like many other Turkish cities, prices are usually fixed when choosing to buy in department stores and large supermarkets. But the price will have a big “difference” when you shop in traditional markets, bazaars, small shops. Therefore, haggling / bargaining is the tip that you need to keep in mind when shopping at these locations. When bargaining, you can pay only to 1/3 of the price offered by the seller, in case you feel the price is still very high after you have bargained the price or you simply are afraid to bargaining, just say goodbye politely and leave the store, the seller will not make it difficult for you.
If you choose a means of transport is a taxi, you should call to book in advance or go to a dedicated taxi stand, do not take one on the road, especially when the taxi you catch without a meter, the driver can be charge at high fare. In addition, the taxi fee also doubles when you travel between half-time and 6 am, visitors should be careful when booking a taxi at this timeframe.
The average voltage in hotels and motels in the city is 220 V, you should choose an electronic device to carry with you with the appropriate voltage level to protect it well during the journey of discovery and relaxation in Izmir. Some budget hotels can use their own generators without using the national grid, so sometimes there will be power outages.
When it comes to tipping for staff, the usual figure is 10% of your total bill if you want to tip at restaurants, bars, and luxury hotels. If it is at the local baths, beauty salons, spas, this number will be at least 20% and you will need to divide it equally among all the staff there.
Tourists need to know that many hotels in Izmir have very strict regulations such as smoking, some hotels have strict rules about no smoking and clearly state the sanctions that apply when guests break the rules.
Besides smoking, many hotels in the coastal city also forbid visitors from bringing any food into the hotel rooms, subject to heavy fines if visitors leave indelible stains on bed sheets and towels… So visitors before entering the hotel they have chosen should carefully review the hotel’s rules to avoid losing money “unexpected”.
Do not wear shoes in mosques, do not wear clothes that are too short, too light in color when going to some religious sites. If you want to go into the sacred places of Izmir easily, without anyone keeping you outside, you need to wear dark clothes such as black, dark blue, brown…, knee-length pants, long-sleeved shirt, closed neck, women also need to cover their heads with a headscarf.
Izmir is also known as the ‘city where the sun never sets’ because it receives a lot of sunshine all year round. You can play water sports such as boating, fishing, scuba diving, surfing… This ancient but dynamic city will never make you feel bored, on the contrary you will find a few days is not enough to experience.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Izmir you can refer to
- Ephesus Day Tour from Izmir with Lunch
- From Izmir: Full-Day Ephesus Tour
- From Selcuk/Kusadasi/Izmir: Pamukkale Full-Day Tour
- From Izmir: Pamukkale Guided Tour with Lunch
- From Kusadasi or Izmir: Ephesus Private Tour
- Ephesus Entry Ticket with Mobile Phone Audio Tour
- Full-Day Tour of Ancient Ruins in Ephesus from Izmir
- From Istanbul: Ephesus & Şirince Day Trip w/ Wine Tasting
- Turkey (Türkiye): eSim Mobile Data Roaming Plan
- From Izmir: 7 Churches of Asia Minor 5 Days/4 Nights Tour
- From Izmir: Seven Churches of Revelation Multi-Day Tour
Read more Turkey guide here