Izmir Introduction Walking Tour, Izmir

Izmir Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Izmir

A major city port on the western coastline of Turkey, Izmir is a city of enchanting contrasts. With a lineage that traverses millennia, this jewel of the Aegean Sea beckons travelers with its storied past and cosmopolitan vibrancy.

The city was founded by the Aeolians (one of the four major ancient Greek tribes) around the 3rd millennium BC and was later inhabited by various civilizations, including the Ionians and the Romans.

The name Izmir has uncertain origins. It is likely to be derived from the city's original Greek name, Smyrna, which itself has several possible etymological explanations. One theory suggests that it comes from the word "myrrh", a valuable aromatic resin produced in the region.

Smyrna was a prosperous port city during the Hellenistic period and remained an essential center throughout the Byzantine era. Under the Ottoman Empire's reign, Izmir played a crucial role as a major trading and commercial hub. In the 20th century, the city suffered severe devastation from the Great Fire of 1922 and the subsequent Greco-Turkish War. After the war, Izmir was rebuilt and became part of the modern Turkish Republic.

Much of Izmir's eventful history has found reflection in the local sights. A bustling public space in the heart of the city, Konak Square, serves as a focal point for locals and tourists alike. This square is known for its iconic clock tower, Saat Kulesi, which has been standing as a guardian of time, keeping the rhythm of Izmir's beating pulse since 1901.

Strolling through the square's precincts, one can hear whispers of antiquity coming to life in the venerable halls of Konak Mosque (Konak Camii), an architectural marvel that reverently preserves the echoes of Ottoman splendor.

The perpetually busy Kemeralti Market is a treasure trove for those seeking authentic Turkish goods. Here, a myriad of scents and sights converge, conjuring an exuberant mélange of traditional craftsmanship and gastronomic delights.

Izmir has a rich Jewish heritage, and Synagogue Street (Havra Sokagi) is a testament to that.

Above all that, perched on the commanding heights, the Velvet Castle (Kadifekale) crowns Izmir as an enduring bastion of historical significance, overlooking the city's evolution with a regal demeanor.

Fronted by the azure Aegean waters, Izmir's silhouette stands proud as a lasting witness of the passage of time. Resounding with the echoes of antiquity, the city beckons with open arms to intrepid souls who seek to bask in its effortless charm. Now, you can do it, too, on this self-guided tour.
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Izmir Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Izmir Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Turkey » Izmir (See other walking tours in Izmir)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: felicity
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Konak Square
  • Saat Kulesi (Clock Tower)
  • Konak Camii (Konak Mosque)
  • Konak Pier
  • Kizlaragasi Han Bazaar (Old Bazaar)
  • Hisar Mosque
  • Kemeralti Market
  • Havra Sokagi (Synagogue Street)
  • Agora
  • Kadifekale (Velvet Castle)
1
Konak Square

1) Konak Square

Located in the heart of Izmir, Konak Square is a vibrant and bustling area that showcases the essence of this beautiful coastal city. At the center of the square stands the iconic Izmir Clock Tower, which has become a beloved symbol of the city since its construction in 1901. The clock tower serves as a prominent landmark and a popular meeting point for both locals and travelers.

Facing the clock tower is the official residence of the Izmir governor, known as the konak, which overlooks the square. This historic building adds a touch of grandeur to the surroundings and represents the administrative center of the province. Adjacent to the tower and konak is a small mosque, offering a place for reflection and prayer amidst the bustling atmosphere of the square. The presence of the city hall and bus station further emphasizes the significance of Konak Square as a central hub for transportation and governance.

As visitors explore Konak Square, they are greeted by a lively atmosphere filled with vibrant cafes, restaurants, and shops. The sight of bustling activity and the aroma of delicious local cuisine entice passersby to indulge in the city's culinary delights. The square's palm trees and its proximity to the waterfront contribute to a distinctly Mediterranean ambiance, providing a relaxing and enjoyable environment for leisurely strolls.
2
Saat Kulesi (Clock Tower)

2) Saat Kulesi (Clock Tower) (must see)

The İzmir Clock Tower, located at Konak Square, is a historic and iconic structure that serves as the main landmark of the city. It holds great historical significance, with its construction dating back to the early 20th century. The decision to build the clock tower was made to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Abdul Hamid II's accession to the throne. The architectural design of the clock tower was entrusted to the talented Levantine French architect, Raymond Charles Péré.

Standing tall at 25 meters (82 feet), the clock tower features an octagonal plan and is divided into four floors. The construction materials used for the tower include marble and stone, giving it a timeless and elegant appearance. The tower is supported by an iron and lead skeleton, which ensures its stability and endurance throughout the years.

On each of the four sides of the clock tower, there were once intricate tughras and Ottoman coats of arms, but after the proclamation of the republic, they were replaced with stars and crescents, symbolizing the new era in Turkey's history.

The clock tower was not without its challenges, as it faced destruction on two occasions due to earthquakes. The first occurred during a magnitude 6.4 earthquake on 31st March 1928, and the second took place in a magnitude 5.2 earthquake on 1st February 1974. Despite these setbacks, the clock tower stood resilient, and it underwent restoration efforts in 2019 to preserve its historical charm and cultural significance.

Surrounding the base of the clock tower, there are four fountains arranged in a circular pattern, adding to the architectural beauty and enhancing the overall ambiance of Konak Square. As a functional timekeeping instrument, the İzmir Clock Tower boasts four clocks with a diameter of 75 centimeters each, displaying the correct time to the citizens and visitors of İzmir. Moreover, on the fourth floor, a bell hangs, supported by twelve columns, contributing to the tower's melodious presence.

Over the years, the İzmir Clock Tower has witnessed various historical events, including moments of political unrest. During the protests against the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt, the clock of the tower was stolen, further emphasizing its significance as a symbol of the city.
3
Konak Camii (Konak Mosque)

3) Konak Camii (Konak Mosque)

The Konak Mosque is a magnificent architectural gem that exemplifies classical Ottoman style. With its stunning turquoise tiles and historical significance, the mosque holds a prominent place in the heart of Konak Square, surrounded by other iconic landmarks such as the Izmir Clock Tower, the Government House, and the First Bullet Monument dedicated to Hasan Tahsin, a hero who lost his life during the Greek occupation in 1919.

The exact date of the mosque's construction and the identity of its builder remain shrouded in mystery. However, it is believed that the mosque was named "Mansion" due to its original location by the sea when it was initially built. Some sources suggest that the mosque was constructed in 1755, while others mention that it was commissioned by Katipzade Mehmet Pasha, a notable figure in Izmir, along with a madrasah adjacent to it, in 1774. This connection to Katipzadeler family's ties with foreigners earned the mosque the moniker "English Ayşe Mosque," named after his wife, Ayşe Hanım.

Throughout its existence, the Konak Mosque has witnessed various historical events and undergone several renovations. During World War I, Governor Rahmi Bey took the initiative to repair the mosque, an effort that is commemorated by an inscription on its entrance door. It is believed that the skilled architect Tahsin Sermet was responsible for overseeing this restoration work.

The mosque features a captivating octagonal plan, a hallmark of classical Ottoman architecture. The windows are adorned with intricate tiles, a sight that never fails to catch the eye of visitors. The construction of the mosque is a beautiful blend of stone and brick materials, contributing to its enduring charm.

Inside, the mosque is adorned with splendid tiles, enhancing the sacred atmosphere and creating a visually stunning experience for worshippers and visitors alike. The single-balcony minaret stands tall on a cut stone plinth, adding to the mosque's graceful silhouette against the skyline.

One of the most remarkable features of the Konak Mosque is its magnificent chandelier, a masterpiece crafted by the skilled ceramic artist, Ümran Baradan. This chandelier not only illuminates the prayer hall but also serves as a testament to the artistic brilliance and cultural heritage of the region.
4
Konak Pier

4) Konak Pier

The Konak Pier is a historic and iconic pier that holds great architectural and cultural significance. Designed in 1890 by the renowned French architect and construction engineer, Gustave Eiffel, the pier was originally intended to serve as a customs building. Its strategic location near the historical Konak Square adds to its value, making it a prominent landmark in the city even to this day.

Constructed using stone masonry and covered with rough plaster, the building showcases a blend of sturdy materials and elegant design. Despite its initial purpose as a customs building, the function of the Konak Pier underwent several changes over the years.

In 1960, it was repurposed as a fish market, serving the local community with fresh seafood. However, during the comprehensive restructuring efforts undertaken in 2003-2004, the Konak Pier underwent a transformation and emerged as an upmarket shopping center.

The most ornate façade of the Konak Pier faces the first kordon, showcasing intricate and artistic detailing. The building features multiple entry points, including one from the additional part on the South façade and another on the East façade, facing the pedestrian bridge.

The Konak Pier is not only a testament to Gustave Eiffel's architectural brilliance but also a cherished part of Izmir's heritage.

Opening Hours: Daily 10am -10 pm
5
Kizlaragasi Han Bazaar (Old Bazaar)

5) Kizlaragasi Han Bazaar (Old Bazaar)

The Kızlaragası Han Bazaar, located in the Kemeraltı district of Izmir, has a rich history dating back to the 18th century. Originally built as a roadside inn, this traditional Ottoman structure served as a welcoming stopover for weary travelers seeking rest and relaxation after a long journey.

The Kızlaragası Han Bazaar was designed in a square shape and featured two floors. Its large courtyard was the focal point, boasting a small pool at its center, providing a refreshing oasis for travelers and their animals. Unfortunately, the original building no longer exists today, but its legacy lives on in the bustling marketplace that surrounds the area.

On the upper floor of the han, there were sleeping rooms allocated for merchants. After leaving their camels and goods in the courtyard's basement, these merchants could retire to the upper floor to rest and conduct business. The han's design and amenities catered to the needs of travelers and merchants, making it an essential hub for commercial activity in the region.

Over time, the Kızlaragası Han Bazaar evolved and transformed into a vibrant market that remains one of Izmir's most important and popular destinations. The square surrounding the former han has now become a bustling marketplace where a diverse range of goods is sold. Visitors can find a delightful array of products, including women's handicrafts, artisanal cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables, and various types of oils, among other items.

The market has retained its lively and bustling atmosphere, attracting both locals and tourists alike. The Kızlaragası Han Bazaar showcases the city's rich cultural heritage, offering a delightful shopping experience amidst historical surroundings.

Opening Hours: Mon -Sat: 9 am - 8pm., Sun: 11 am - 7 pm
6
Hisar Mosque

6) Hisar Mosque

The Hisar Mosque is a captivating historical landmark located in the heart of Izmir. This mosque, with its rich history dating back to the 16th century, stands as a testament to the region's Ottoman past and architectural grandeur.

The construction of the Hisar Mosque is attributed to the Ottoman governor Aydınoğlu Yakup Bey, who served as the Bey of Izmir between 1592 and 1598. With its historical significance and striking architecture, the Hisar Mosque holds a special place among the biggest and most notable mosques in the city center of Izmir.

Upon entering the mosque's interior, visitors are treated to an awe-inspiring display of Ottoman Islamic artwork. One of the mosque's standout features is its central dome, which gracefully faces the entrance and is supported by eight imposing pillars. Along with the central dome, there are three large domes on either side, contributing to the mosque's grand and majestic ambiance. Additionally, three smaller domes grace the upper back section of the mosque, adding to its architectural harmony.

The courtyard of the Hisar Mosque boasts a series of seven domes on its sides, creating an enchanting and serene atmosphere. Overlooking the courtyard, visitors will find a şadırvanı, a beautiful fountain used for Islamic ritual washing, adding to the spiritual and peaceful environment of the mosque.

Throughout its long existence, the Hisar Mosque has undergone several restoration efforts to preserve its historical and architectural integrity. It was restored in 1813, 1881, 1927, and 1980 following instances of damage over the years. These restoration efforts have played a crucial role in maintaining the mosque's original splendor, ensuring that future generations can continue to admire its beauty and historical significance.
7
Kemeralti Market

7) Kemeralti Market (must see)

Kemeraltı Market is a vibrant and historic bazaar that stretches from Konak Square to the ancient Agora. Dating back to the 17th century, this labyrinthine market is a melting pot of culture and commerce, offering a diverse array of experiences for visitors to explore.

As you navigate the bustling and colorful streets of Kemeraltı, you'll encounter a delightful mix of shops, eateries, artisans' workshops, mosques, coffeehouses, tea gardens, and synagogues. It's a place where the past and present converge, showcasing the authentic essence of İzmir. Spending a day within this maze-like market allows you to uncover hidden courtyards, historic places of worship, and grand caravanserais, providing a glimpse into the heart of the city. Anafartalar Caddesi serves as the main thoroughfare of the bazaar, and you can use this as a reference point while exploring the area, along with landmarks like the Hisar, Şadırvan, and Kestanepazarı Mosques.

One of the notable highlights of Kemeraltı is the Kızlarağası Hanı, an impressive structure built in 1744. This Ottoman bedesten (warehouse) and kervansaray (caravanserai) shares similarities with the Inner Bedesten found in Istanbul's renowned Grand Bazaar, showcasing the historical significance of this market. Additionally, the Havra Sokak within the historic Jewish enclave houses a vibrant produce market, adding to the market's multicultural atmosphere.

For food enthusiasts, Kemeraltı is a paradise, with a plethora of cafes and eateries offering the city's famous fincanda pişen Türk kahvesi (Turkish coffee boiled in the cup). To fully immerse yourself in the culinary delights of the market, consider joining the Only in İzmir guided culinary walk, operated by the well-regarded Culinary Backstreets outfit, for an unforgettable food-focused experience.

While Kemeraltı Market is a must-visit during the day, it is essential to exercise caution at night, particularly in the area around Havra Sokağı. As with any bustling city, it is advisable to stay vigilant and prioritize your safety during nighttime exploration.

Opening hours:
Mon-Sat: 8 am - 7 pm.
8
Havra Sokagi (Synagogue Street)

8) Havra Sokagi (Synagogue Street)

Synagogue Street is a captivating and vibrant pocket within Kemeraltı, one of the city's most intriguing areas. This bustling street connects the center of the bazaar with the historic Agora and the eastern section of Anafartalar Caddesi, creating a lively and dynamic atmosphere for both locals and visitors.

The street takes its name from the numerous historic synagogues that dot the immediate area, a testament to the rich multicultural history of Izmir. Synagogue Street serves as a hub for purchasing an array of fresh and flavorful produce, drawing locals who come here to procure a variety of goods, including fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, olives, and helva, a sweet delicacy made from sesame seeds.

As part of Izmir's Kemeraltı Bazaar, Synagogue Street is a significant space for commerce, maintaining centuries-old traditions while catering to the needs of modern shoppers. The market is characterized by its busy and bustling environment, with vendors enthusiastically selling and preparing their products. Along the street, you'll find vendors gutting, cleaning, and displaying fresh fish, as well as butchers offering various cuts of meat, including organ meats, racks of lamb, and whole chickens. The lively atmosphere is enhanced by the cacophony of sounds and the presence of stray dogs and cats scavenging for fallen morsels, adding to the street's vibrant character.

By day, Kemeraltı is bustling with activity, with Synagogue Street being no exception. However, at night, the market takes on a different ambiance, with most areas becoming dark and eerily silent. Despite this, certain parts of the market have seen the opening of bars and restaurants, which bring light and energy to the maze of empty streets and shuttered shops, contributing to the revitalization of the area.
9
Agora

9) Agora (must see)

The Agora in Izmir holds a significant place in the city's history and continues to be a center for artistic and educational activities. Situated on the northern slopes of the Pagos hills, the Agora served as the bustling commercial, judicial, and political hub of the ancient city of Smyrna.

Today, the Izmir Agora Open Air Museum consists of five distinct parts, each offering insights into different aspects of ancient life. The agora area itself was a bustling marketplace, where traders, artisans, and locals converged to engage in commerce and social interactions. The base of the northern basilica gate is a striking feature that showcases the architectural brilliance of the time.

The stoa, a covered walkway with columns, provided shelter and shade for those conducting business or seeking respite from the elements. Additionally, the ancient shopping center offered a glimpse into the vibrant and bustling commercial life of the era.

The origins of the Agora in Izmir date back to the Hellenistic era. Following a devastating earthquake in 178 AD, Smyrna underwent reconstruction in the Roman period, based on a well-thought-out urban plan by Hippodamos. The Agora was built on a sloping terrain, spanning three floors and positioned near the heart of the city. Its impressive dimensions include a width of 165 meters and a length of 200 meters, encompassed on all sides by porticos.

An interesting aspect that contributed to the preservation of the Agora is its location beneath a Byzantine and later Ottoman cemetery. This circumstance protected the site from modern constructions, allowing it to retain its historical authenticity and grandeur.

As a result of these fortunate circumstances, the Izmir Agora stands today as the largest and best-preserved among Ionian agoras, providing valuable insights into the lives and activities of ancient civilizations.
10
Kadifekale (Velvet Castle)

10) Kadifekale (Velvet Castle)

The Velvet Castle is a prominent hill located within the urban zone of Izmir. Its name not only refers to the hill itself but also to the ancient castle that crowns its summit. In pre-Turkish times, both the hill and the castle were referred to as Pagos (Pagus during the Roman Empire).

The castle sits atop the hill, commanding a panoramic view of the city of Izmir and the Gulf of Izmir, situated about 2 kilometers from the shoreline. This strategic location allowed it to serve as a fortified stronghold in ancient times, providing a vantage point for defense and observation.

Surrounding the hill are six quarters, primarily composed of slums, with names such as Kadifekale (after the hill itself), Alireis, Altay, İmariye, Kosova, and Yenimahalle. These quarters collectively contribute to the rich cultural tapestry of the area, with Kadifekale standing as a symbol of the city's historical and architectural heritage.

Over the years, Kadifekale and its surrounding areas have experienced periods of neglect and deterioration. However, in 2007, the metropolitan municipality of Izmir initiated extensive renovation and restoration efforts in Kadifekale. These initiatives aimed to preserve and revitalize the historical significance of the hill and its ancient castle, ensuring that future generations could appreciate its importance to the city's heritage.

The restoration works have not only enhanced the appearance of the castle but also improved accessibility and made the site more visitor-friendly. As a result, Kadifekale has become a popular destination for both locals and tourists seeking to explore the rich history and cultural heritage of Izmir.

Today, visitors can ascend the hill and explore the ancient castle's ruins, immersing themselves in the stories of the past and enjoying breathtaking views of Izmir and its stunning surroundings.

Walking Tours in Izmir, Turkey

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Creating your own self-guided walk in Izmir is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles