Throughout history, İzmir has been a port city and Konak has been the city centre of İzmir. Following recent restorations this area has also been turned into a recreational centre, and thus is now a lively spot throughout the day. In the square can be seen: - the monumental statue of Hasan Tahsin, who fired the “first bullet” at the occupation forces during the War of Liberation, the Yalı Mosque decorated with tiles from Kütahya, the Clock Tower, the Municipality Building and the Governor’s Office.
The Office was built between the years 1868 and 1872. The Turkish flag, raised at the Governor’s Office, marked the arrival of the Turk ish army on September 9, 1922. This event symbolized the liberation of İzmir, giving this location particular importance.
İzmir’s century-old symbol
The Clock Tower, which is a symbol of İzmir, is located at Konak Square, and is a favourite meeting place for today’s residents of İzmir. The Clock Tower was designed by the Levantine French architect, Raymond Charles Père in 1901 in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the ascension of Abdülhamit II. In the construction, the use of iron and lead elements between the cut stone meant that the tower was rendered earthquake resistant. The clock in the tower was a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany to Sultan Abdülhamit II of the Ottoman Empire as the symbol of their personal friendship besides the Turk-German friendship.
The fountains located on all the four corners of the wide chamber under the Clock Tower have also given the tower the characteristics of a “Şadırvan” (fountain used for ritual ablutions and usually located in the middle of a mosque courtyard). Another feature of the tower is the city gas installation built inside it. In the past, this was used as a lighting source at night and in the evenings.
Bayraklı / Smyrna
İzmir’s first settlement
The history of İzmir was re-written as a result of the excavations carried out by the Archaeological Department of the Aegean University in the District of Bornova in the 2000’s. Significant artefacts such as reliefs and small statues of animals, arrows made from flint stone, short handled spoons made of fired earth and seals with labyrinth motifs were unearthed particularly at Yeşilova Höyüğü (Mound) and classified as dating back to the Neolithic Period. These are very recent historical developments for İzmir, and these finds have proved that the city had been a continuous settlement for 8500 years.
The second most well known ancient settlement in İzmir is located at a place currently called Bayraklı Tepekule, and dates back to 3000 B.C. Bayraklı, which was under water in Ancient Times, was built on a peninsula extending out towards the Gulf of İzmir. Bayraklı at that period exhibited contemporary characteristics with Troy I and II. Megaron-style, rectangular designed houses dating back from the 10th century B.C. to the 7th century B.C. in the settlement where proto-geometric pots were unearthed have the characteristics of the Archaic Period.
İzmir’s first crown
Taking a bird’s eyes view of İzmir and the port, Kadifekale, which was called Pagos in ancient times, has the characteristics of an acropolis due to its position at an altitude of 186m. The ruins of walls on the western and southern parts, comprising of five towers, date back to the period of Lysimachus, one of the generals of Alexander the Great.
The settlement in İzmir was re-located to Kadifekale from Bayraklı in the period that followed the arrival of Alexander the Great in Anatolia in 334 B.C. According to the geographer Strabo, the urban core of İzmir, which was one of the 12 most beautiful Ionian cities, extending from Kadifekale to the port, comprised of streets paved with smooth stones, a temple dedicated to the mother goddess and Homer, a theatre, agora, which was a lively trade centre, a stadium, grain warehouses, water cisterns and aqueducts
Center for arts, trade and philosophy Agora, etymologically, means “city square, shopping centre, market place”. At the heart of all trade, Agora with its open vaulted three- walled porches, monuments, altars and statues had commercial, judicial, religious and political functions besides it was a venue for intensive artistic activities. It was also the place where the foundations of philosophy were laid.
The agora located in the District of Namazgah in İzmir dates back to the Roman Period (2nd C. A.D.), and according to the grid planned Hippodamos model, it was built on three floors at a location near the centre. Of all the Roman Agorae, the Agora in İzmir is the largest and best preserved.
It is understood that the Agora in İzmir was a composite structure in a rectangular form, built on arches and surrounded by columns with a central courtyard; it has three floors and a staircase in front of it.
It is also understood that the relief of the Goddess Vesta at the northern gate of the agora is an extension of the reliefs from the Zeus Altar unearthed in the initial period of excavations. In addition to some statues of various gods, namely Hermes, Dionysus, Eros and Heracles, many artefacts including statues of men, women and animals, reliefs, figurines, marbles, bones, glasses, metal works and articles made of fired earth were uncovered. The newly unearthed inscriptions provided information about the people who assisted the city during an earthquake which occurred in İzmir in 178.
A historic bazaar
Kemeraltı is a historic bazaar covering an area extending from the neighbourhood of Mezarlıkbaşı to Konak Square. Anafartalar Avenue, that constitutes the main street of the bazaar, forms a wide curve. This curve stems from the fact that the street once surrounded the perimeters of the internal port, which existed in previous centuries.
As in the past, Kemeraltı Bazaar is a major shopping centre in İzmir today. The bazaar, having an outdoor and indoor section, offers visitors a rich variety of products and services ranging from traditional Turkish handicrafts like ceramics, tile panels, wooden products, copper, carpets, rugs and leather products, to delicious Aegean foodstuffs.
Kordonboyu Source of inspiration for poets and songs Kordonboyu (1.Kordon) is just like a pearl necklace running along the coast in the district of Alsancak, enjoying the popularity it has received for providing the inspiration for many poems and songs. It offers romantic sunsets, sea breezes, cafes, fish restaurants, stylish stores, parades, running and biking courses. It also provides an ideal atmosphere for entertainment and recreational activities, bringing together the people of İzmir.
The Fountain is located in Basmane-Dönertaş. Dönertaş Fountain was named after the rotating column in the corner, and the area in the vicinity is called by this name. It was built at the beginning of the 19th century, with a single dome and a square plan. The fountain is one of the most beautiful examples of the Turkish baroque style. Of particular note are the bouquet vase and the fruit bowl compositions, the relief decorations on the marble, with a theme peculiar to the Tulip Age. As decorative elements, tulips, roses, flower buds, leaves, branches and other similar plants have been used. The structure is one of the best examples of fountain architecture in İzmir.
The Asansör (lit. elevator) Building, which was constructed by the Jewish businessman Nesim Levi in 1907 to facilitate reaching the upper part of Mithatpaşa Street, is one of the interesting tourist spots in İzmir today. This aesthetically designed building is recognized as one of the indispensable social structures in İzmir.
Inn An Ottoman experience Kızlarağası Han (Inn) was built by Hacı Beşir Ağa in 1744 to serve the public. The inn, one of the rare works of Ottoman architecture in İzmir that has survived until the present day, has the design of other Ottoman inns, with bazaars and courtyards. Kızlarağası Han is a glorious structure with its rectangular plan, two-storey “bedesten” (vaulted part of a bazaar where valuable goods were kept) and courtyard. Following restoration in recent years, it has become an authentic shopping and social centre in İzmir.
Inn Located opposite the Kızlarağası Han. It was built in the 19th century. Çakaloğlu Han is distinguishable from other inns nearby by the architectural features peculiar to it.
Yalı (Konak) Mosque
Yalı (Konak) Mosque at Konak Square, built in the 18th century, is noteworthy for its tiles and octagonal plan and is one of the most elegant mosques in İzmir. The mosque decorated with turquoise tiles blends in totally with Konak Square and has become the second symbol of İzmir after the Clock Tower.
Located adjacent to Kızlarağası Han in Kemeraltı, is one of the biggest mosques in İzmir. Hisar Mosque built in 1597. The mosque was built of cut stone. The interior decor displays many beautiful examples of the Ottoman Decorative Arts.
Built in 1667, the mosque comprises of a large dome on a square space and four domes surrounding it. It is rumoured that its magnificent mihrab (niche in a mosque wall indicating the direction of Mecca) was brought from İsa Bey Mosque in Selçuk.
The mosque, which was built in 1636, was named after the şadırvans (fountain used for ritual ablutions and usually located in the middle of a mosque courtyard) located adjacent to and below it. It was repaired in 1815. The mihrab (niche in a mosque wall indicating the direction of Mecca), minber (pulpit beside the mihrab reached by a long, straight flight of steps) and sermon place of the mosque are all made of marble. On its eastern side, the mosque has a minaret with a single şerefe (balcony) and on its western side it has a library.
This mosque was built by Salepçizade Hacı Ahmet Efendi in 1906. It has a large dome and its exterior walls are made of marble and green stones. One of the most precious mosques in İzmir, the six-compartmented Salepçioğlu Mosque is architecturally elegant.
Built by Yusuf Çavuşzade Ahmet Ağa in 1671, the mosque is one of the most significant historical works in İzmir. The worshipping space has a single dome and a square plan as its minaret is located in the west. There is a madrasah (theological school attached to a mosque), a library and a sebil (kiosk built for the dispensing of free water as an act of piety) surrounding the mosque which is noteworthy for its gypsum decorations.
Church of Saint Polycarp (İzmir Church)
Oldest church in İzmir
Built with the permission of Süleyman the Magnificent in 1625, this church is the oldest church in İzmir, which is still in service. The interior, famous for its glamorous frescoes and wall decorations, depicts the killing of Saint Polycarp, the protective saint of İzmir, by the Romans in the ancient stadium at Kadifekale. Architect Raymond Charles Père, a native of İzmir, who restored the frescoes in the 19th century, depicted himself as someone watching the event helplessly with his hands tied. Mary Père, the daughter of Charles Père, is depicted as the child Mary in the scene “The Saint Mother and Child Mary” on the sidewall of the northern nave.
Church of St. John
Construction began in 1862 and services started in 1874. The main altar was a gift from Pope Pius IX. It is known that in 1863, Sultan Abdülaziz, the then Ottoman ruler, donated a large sum of gold for financing the construction of this church. Both Protestant and Catholic American communities presently use the church.
Church of Saint Helen
Located in the District of Karşıyaka bearing the signature of Raymond Charles Père, the Church of Saint Helen is the most monumental example of recreating the Gothic style. The church was built on a plot of land donated by the Levantine Aliotti family following permission by Abdülhamit, the Ottoman emperor of the time.
The synagogues in İzmir are mainly located in an area adjacent to the neighbourhood of Namazgâh. This area is also the settlement place for the Jewish community. The Jews, who settled in İzmir in 1492 and the ensuing years created their own settlement in a manner similar to the one observed in other cities, with each such group opening a sanctuary. In recognition of this Street No 927 at Mezarlıkbaşı is known as Havra Sokağı (Street of Synagogues). The street is called by this name because of the amount of synagogues in the vicinity.
Beth Israel Synagogue
Since the Jews in İzmir were relocated to the neighbourhoods of Göztepe, Karantina and Karataş towards the end of the 19th century, the Beth Israel Synagogue, the largest one in İzmir, was built in Karataş Neighbourhood upon an order by Sultan Abdülhamit II, the Ottoman Emperor of the time, on March 15, 1905.
The interior decoration of the synagogue, which began service in 1907, was an ongoing process, achieving its present condition in the 1950’s. The wooden decorations made of solid mahogany are the works of the famous masters of the period. The synagogue was designed to hold 600 people, with its lower floor exclusively for men and the upper floor for women. It is a favourite spot for religious celebrations like the wedding ceremonies and Bar Mitzvahs.
It was built by the Algazi Family in 1724, and is the largest synagogue after the Beth Israel. It is open for services on Jewish religious days.
The Archaeological Museum, which was opened to visitors in 1984, is a three storied building exhibiting many artifacts from the prehistoric 18 periods to the Byzantine Period. İzmir Archaeological Museum, where artifacts unearthed at the ruins such as Aphrodisias, Bayraklı, Bergama (Pergamon), Bodrum, Çandırlı, Efes (Ephesus), Erythria, Iassos, Claros, Klazomenia, Colophon, Kyme, Larissa, Lebedos, Magnesia, Miletus, Notion, Phocaea, Stratonikeia, Teos and Tralles are exhibited, is home to baked earth remains found, dating back to prehistoric ages and the third millennium BC. The artefacts exhibited include: - Western Anatolian earthen pot vases decorated with black and red figurines, jugs, bottles, masks, small statues, and ornamental articles made of gold, silver and precious metals, coins, statues, busts and portraits.
The building which since 1987 has served as an Ethnography Museum was built according to the neo-classic style at the beginning of the 19th century. The museum aims to provide information about social lifestyle and interactions in the İzmir area in the 19th century. Handicrafts, that faced extinction following industrialization, such as tin smithery, ironmongery, pottery making, blue bead making, wood printing, carpet weaving, rope making and the production of felt are all exhibited. The first Turkish chemist shop, a famous sherbet seller’s store and period clothes from İzmir can also be seen. In addition, items on display include a guest room, a bridal room, a circumcision room, bridal head-dressings, purses, glassware and hand ornaments, coins, hand written books and lettering sets, all of which are from the 19th century.
History and Arts Museum
The History and Arts Museum opened in 2004 exhibits artefacts from Ancient Smyrna in Bayraklı and other Western Anatolian ruins such as Miletus, Ephesus and Claros. The single storied museum building displays the significant artefacts from the Hellenistic and Roman Periods in three separate compartments, namely, ceramics, stones and precious artefacts. A rich assortment of coins and bronze objects are displayed in the precious artefacts section. The museum is located near Montrö Gate, one of the gates that provide access to the Culture Park.
Built between 1875 and 1880 and located at 1. Kordon in the Neighbourhood of Alsancak, this building follows the line from the neo-classic period. The museum building displays features of the architecture, which is very common in İzmir, with its two storeys and bay windows. The lower surface of its entrance floor is made of marble, and it exhibits the busts of Atatürk, crystal mirrors and valuable marble statues. In the rooms of the museum, a magnificent 19th century fireplace is on display.
The House Museum of İsmet İnönü
This house, located at No. 20 on İnönü Street, was the home where İsmet İnönü, one of the leading commanders in the War of Liberation and 2nd President of the Republic of Turkey, was born on September 24, 1884. The house in the neighbourhood of İkiçeşmelik was opened to visitors in 1999 and exhibits İnönü’s personal belongings and clothes. Visitors are able to watch a documentary film about İnönü.
İzmir Metropolitan Municipality Ahmet Piriştina City Archive and Museum (APIKAM)
This building, which served the inhabitants of İzmir as a fire station for many years, was converted into a museum for the purpose of preserving memories of the city and providing the next generations with a rich archive on İzmir’s urban history. The museum is named after Ahmet Piriştina, one of the famous mayors of the city.
Railways Museum and Arts Gallery
Built by the British between 1856 and 1858, the two-storied museum comprises of nine rooms and two halls. The museum is located on the upper floor of the building with an arts gallery in the entrance floor. It exhibits the registration plate numbers which identify the locomotives and wagons used in the past. Components of the steam locomotives and train signal lanterns, track measurement devices and office supplies used by the railways administration since its foundation as well as the first telephone systems used, models of steam locomotives and photographs of Atatürk are also displayed.
Parks and Recreational Spots
The Culture Park is a major recreational spot for the inhabitants of İzmir offering a number of sports and recreational facilities within an area displaying palm trees and vegetation typical to the Mediterranean landscape. Since 1936 the annual International İzmir Fair is held in this park at the end of August.
Aegean University Botanical Garden
Located within the complex of the Aegean University in the Bornova district, this park is the only internationally qualified botanical garden in Turkey, and it offers a rich variety of plant life. The garden accommodates many species of plants ranging from those from the tropical regions to those from the Alps, kept in artificial conditions. Hundreds of shrubs and trees are grown in the garden that accommodates about 3000 species. The garden also houses a Herbarium Research and Application Centre where dried plant samples are preserved for scientific research.
Cable Car Facilities
The cable car located in the Balçova Neighbourhood charms visitors with the breathtaking scenery displayed on the journey.
“Agamemnon Spas” cited by Homer’s legends and the geographer Strabo’s works have been used as a curing centre from ancient to present times. The spas where the wounded soldiers of Alexander the Great were treated were very popular in those times. This region is presently called “Balçova Spas” and offers thermal waters, mud baths and a source of drinking water. The Balçova Spas, which also provides accommodation, are particularly beneficial for the treatment of disorders relating to the upper respiratory system, chronic infections, rheumatism, metabolism and skin. The curing water of the Balçova Spas contains sodium chloride.
101 km. of golden sands
The Aegean coastal strip in the Province of İzmir runs for a length of 629 km. A 101 km. section of this coastal strip is a natural beach. The geographical formation of İzmir’s coastal strip consisting of a peninsula and some small bays provides ideal opportunities for water sports as well as the use of a beach. The most popular beaches in the province include beaches at Pamucak, Urla, Gülbahçe, Çeşme, Ilıca, Alaçatı, Altınkum, Gümüldür and Özdere, as well as those at Dikili, Çandırlı, Foça and Ören in the north. Transport to and from the beaches is very convenient. Throughout the day there is transport from the bus stations at İzmir central and Üçkuyular to almost every district.
The southern part of the Çeşme Peninsula in İzmir, in particular, forms one of the major yacht routes in Turkey. The route between Çeşme and Kuşadası is the area where yacht tourism has developed the most. The small bays which extend side by side in the south of the sub-district of Alaçatı are paradise for yacht lovers.
The combination of its cultural accumulation dating back thousands of years with the climate and the geography enables the city to offer visitors a cuisine which is one of the richest cuisines in Anatolia. The multi-coloured and tolerant history of the Aegean civilizations has made its mark on this diversified cuisine. Albanians, Bosnians, Levantines and Jews are just a few of the representatives from this multi-cultural society, who have left their imprint on the cuisine.
The cuisine of İzmir is a very different experience... “Meals cooked with olive oil” are a kind of meal that the Turks familiarized themselves with upon their immigration to Anatolia. Olive trees, one of the oldest plants in the geography of the Eastern Mediterranean civilizations, have also played a significant part in the Aegean Region for thousands of years. Olives, which are part of the common cultural heritage of the Mediterranean nations, were a historical sustenance. Olive oil, which is the source of health, beauty and healthy nutrition, is the most important ingredient of vegetable based meals such as vine leaves, broad beans, small reddish coloured beans, black eyed peas, stuffed peppers, artichokes, spinach, pumpkin, pumpkin flowers and cabbage.
In the summer months, olive oil is mostly used in dishes using aubergines, peppers, courgette and pumpkin as the main ingredient, and in the winter months dishes with carrots and cauliflower.
Herbal types such as arapsaçı, chicory, stinging nettle, dandelion, garden rocket and purslane are the favourite flavours of the dishes. The immigrants from the Aegean islands had a considerable effect in the spread of the herbal culture in İzmir.
As a main course in İzmir’s cuisine, “İzmir köfte” served with tomato sauce and “köfte” (meatballs), specialties from Ayvalık, Bergama, Ödemiş and Tire, which are served with various garnitures and sauces, date back to the Seljuk and Ottoman Periods. Arnavut ciğeri, ciğer kapama, çöp şiş, elbasan tava, kuzu etli arap saçı and şevket-i bostan are some of the favourites of the local cuisine.
Sea food is another major stop during the journey into the cuisine of İzmir. Fish dishes such as sardines cooked in vine leaves, sole fillet, fried picarel, sea bream, fried papalina, fish cooked with milk (sütlü balık) and salty fish, octopus nibbles, scallops, shrimps, mussels, stuffed mussels, cuttlefish and hermit crab are a selection of what will be served at table.
This journey is never complete without fruits and desserts. For centuries the elegant fig has been the crown of all the fruits. Especially, the type called Bardacık which grows in İzmir, particularly in Çeşme, but the number of trees producing is decreasing gradually. Figs, which are an ideal breakfast accompaniment and a favourite fruit in summer, become a delicious dessert when baked with walnuts. Figs produce a completely different taste when served with almonds, plums, lemons, pomegranates, black mulberries, mulberries, tangerines and oranges.
There are several delicious desserts, namely lokma, lor tatlısı, Aegean fruit salad, fırında sütlaç, tulumba, kalburabastı, kazandibi, revani, sakızlı muhallebi, su muhallebisi, şambalı and zerde, which will entice someone into taking this journey again.