There are plenty of things to do in Izmir, a city that’s packed with history, amazing food, fantastic scenery, and vibrant nightlife. There’s more to Turkey than just beach resorts; it’s home to a range of fantastic cities to explore, and one of my favorites is Izmir. As the third largest city in the country, Izmir has a laid-back, student-like vibe, but it’s far from lacking in substance.
My husband is from Aydin, which is around an hour’s drive away from Izmir. As such, we often visit and spend a few days or even a month there occasionally. It’s a place that’s so endearing, I never want to leave, and because there are so many places to see in Izmir, it never gets boring.
This entire part of Turkey is like an open-air museum, with plenty of Greek-era history to check out. One of the most popular Izmir attractions is nearby Ephesus, one of my favorite places in the whole world. By the end of this guide, I hope you’ll have fallen in love with the idea of visiting Izmir, just as much as I love it in real life.
Best Things To Do in Izmir
First things first: Izmir is a large city, so you’re going to need to use public transport, taxis, or drive to get around. Don’t be worried about that, however, as it’s all pretty easy to do. The best sightseeing in Izmir is in the Alsancak/Konak area, but there are many other areas worth exploring.
There are some great day trips just outside the city and with so many top things to do in Izmir itself, you’re going to want to narrow down your choices. That’s where my handy advice comes in useful!
1. Konak Square & Izmir Clock Tower
One of the most famous places to visit in Izmir is Konak Square, which is also home to the famous Izmir Clock Tower, built in 1901. The square itself is a vibrant spot where people meet to chat, children play, and street musicians perform. It’s a busy part of the city, and the clock tower is always surrounded by many people taking photographs.
I was shocked at how well-preserved the tower is, and the design is so intricate. This is definitely one of the best free things to do in Izmir, and the fact that there are so many delicious street food vendors around just adds to the attraction.
If you’re visiting Izmir on a sunny day, I recommend grabbing a coffee, sitting here, and just enjoying the hustle and bustle going on around you. However, you can also take an Izmir city tour which stops at the clock tower. Click here for details.
Address: Kemeraltı Çarşısı, 35360 Konak/İzmir
2. Walk Along the Kordon
One of the top attractions in Izmir is the Kordon – a 1.5km long waterside promenade that originates from the 1850s, running from Alsancak all the way down past the city center. This is one of the coolest things to do in Izmir, especially on a sunny day.
You’ll see many locals just wandering around and enjoying the weather, but you can also hire a bike (there are cycle lanes), try street food, have a picnic on the grassed areas, or take the old-fashioned tram. This is such a picturesque area, so taking some snaps of your surroundings is a must.
Address: Alsancak, 35250 Konak/İzmir
3. Visit Kemeraltı Çarşısı
One of the top things to see in Izmir city center is Kemeraltı Çarşısı – a huge open marketplace where you can buy pretty much everything you can think of. This is also a great spot for traditional souvenirs, such as Turkish delight, spices, and textiles.
From personal experience, this area is incredibly busy, and it’s important to keep hold of your children if you’re traveling as a family; the bazaar is narrow and winding, and it’s very easy to get lost. Also, do keep hold of your bag here; it’s not unsafe, but it is a hotspot for pick-pockets, and it’s best to be safe rather than sorry, by taking precautions.
Out of all the things to do in Izmir, this is one of the most authentic. You’ll need to haggle, so start practicing now, and you’ll grab the best bargains to take back home with you.
Address: 35360 Konak/İzmir
4. A Day Trip to Ephesus
I’ve been to a lot of places in Turkey, and most of them blew me away, but Ephesus was a totally different beast. This place is so amazing and stunningly beautiful, and it’s one of the top places to visit near Izmir. Dating back to the 10th century BC, this was one of the most important and busiest cities of its time, and the ruins still stand extremely well-preserved today.
Many day and half-day tours go to Ephesus from Izmir, and you’ll typically have a guide with you to help you understand what you’re seeing. If not, there are signs with information everywhere, but I highly recommend you take your time here. It’s a huge space, and it can get very crowded during the summer months. Click here for tour information.
If you can, head to Ephesus during the shoulder months or even the winter. There’s very little shade, which makes visiting in the peak summer months quite uncomfortable. This is such a wonderful place, you don’t want the weather to spoil it.
5. Shop at Forum Bornova
If you get the urge to splash the cash a little, a visit to Forum Bornova is one of the best things to do in Izmir. Packed with domestic and international stores, you’ll find everything you’re looking for here, and probably a lot more besides.
This is an open-air shopping mall, and it’s always decorated for various events, including New Year. There are often exhibits running and lots of things to do at any given time. It’s also packed with restaurants and coffee shops, so you can take your time browsing and enjoy a few pitstops along the way.
6. Eat Street Food in Alsancak
Trying local street food is one of my favorite things to do no matter where I am in the world, but I found some fantastic options in Alsancak. This part of the city is lively and vibrant no matter the time of day, so you’re sure to find lots of different foods to suit your taste.
Make sure you give the famous Izmir bombası a try; Çelebi Unlu Mamuller is the best place to go, (there’s always a huge queue outside, which says a lot!). And a word of advice: if you order it warm, be patient – don’t be like me and burn your mouth! It’s packed with chocolate and will definitely give you a sugar rush.
You’ll find doner kebabs, among other types of kebabs, sweetcorn, Börek, lahmacun, soup, toasties… the list goes on. One of the most fun things to do in Izmir is to take the Izmir City Gourmet Tour where you can fill yourself up along the way. Click here for details.
Address: 35220 Konak/İzmir
7. Visit Hisar Mosque
Built between 1592 and 1598, Hisar Mosque is one of the top places to visit in Izmir, and it’s right in the heart of the city center. Back in Ottoman times, this was the city’s largest mosque, and it still stands proud today, stunningly beautiful in its architecture.
Above the main door, you’ll see the famous inscription in gold leaf: “Whoever goes in there will be safe.” The mosque complex is large and intricately decorated. It’s a serene and calm place in the middle of the city and a wonderful place to explore, whether you’ve been to a mosque before or not.
If you aren’t familiar with mosque etiquette, you’ll need to wear respectable clothes, (no shorts or vest tops). You’ll need to cover your head with a scarf or pashmina if you’re a woman, and everyone needs to take off their shoes, so make sure you’ve got some socks with you. Once inside, spend some time in quiet contemplation and admire the beautiful architecture.
8. Agora Open Air Museum
The area in and around Izmir is packed with history, and so much of it is open to explore. Visiting Agora Open Air Museum is one of the best things to do in Izmir for families because it’s so large and easy to walk around. Children will love checking out the ruins and hiding around the columns while learning something along the way.
I love old things like this, and I particularly enjoyed visiting this huge museum. It’s conveniently located too, unlike Ephesus which you need to travel to. It was originally built in the 4th century by the Greeks but, like many buildings of its time, it was devastated by an earthquake. However, Roman Emperor Aurelius demanded it be rebuilt and it became one of the most important Roman sites thereafter.
This is one of the quicker things to see in Izmir; around 1.5 hours is enough time to spare, so you can easily combine this with something else to fill up your day.
9. Check Out the Sunset from Pasaport
As you’re walking along the Kordon, one of the top things to do in Izmir for couples is to stop around sunset and check out the golden hues from Pasaport Pier. There are lots of small cafes and restaurants around here, so you could combine it with your evening meal, but the view is certainly something special.
I had a delicious meal at Margaux Restaurant while watching the sun go down, and it was definitely an evening to remember. But, even if you don’t want to stop to eat, it’s a great idea to just sit and watch the amazing show from Mother Nature. In terms of what to see in Izmir, I’d highly recommend this as a stop-off point, and it’s another place where you’ll need your camera.
10. Izmir Historic Elevator Building
One of the most unique things to do in Izmir will also give you plenty of amazing views at the same time. The Historic Elevator Building might not sound like much, but trust me, it’s one of the best things to do in Izmir, hands down.
The building itself dates back to 1907, when a Jewish businessman called Nesim Levi decided to create the elevator to allow people to move from street to street with more ease. These days, the building offers the most stunning, sweeping view over the whole of Izmir, and on a clear day, you can see for miles. It’s one of my favorite views by far.
There’s a restaurant at the top, and it’s a great spot to go if you’re looking for a romantic evening with your partner. It’s a good idea to reserve a table ahead of time, however – when I went it was extremely busy, and I was lucky to get a table.
11. Izmir Archaeology & Ethnography Museum
I love museums, and this one is packed with really interesting artifacts dating back as far as the Bronze Age. If you happen to get a rainy day during your visit, definitely head to the Izmir Archaeology & Ethnography Museum as it’s one of the top things to do in Izmir, come rain or shine. Slightly older children, perhaps age 10 and above, will enjoy exploring this museum.
For me, the most interesting piece was The Marble Statue of Androklos, which is said to have belonged to the founder of nearby Ephesus. There are lots of statues that were salvaged from shipwrecks around the area, and I spent a good two hours exploring this huge museum and its pieces. I felt like I really learned something too.
As one of the top tourist attractions in Izmir, it can get quite busy here, especially during the weekends and public holidays. I recommend you go early and then spend the rest of the day exploring the surrounding area.
12. Enjoy Nature at İnciraltı Kent Ormanı
I stumbled upon İnciraltı Kent Ormanı, a wonderful natural space, by accident but I’m so glad I did. If you’re visiting on a mild day and the sun is shining, this is one of the top things to do near Izmir, and so many people don’t even know it exists! However, you will need to walk fair distance or get a taxi to find it – it’s at the very end of the Kordon, so I recommend a taxi to save your feet.
İnciraltı Kent Ormanı is located in Balçova, where you’ll find a small, pebbly beach here too, so take your swim gear. The forest itself is lush and green, with plenty of shade during the hot days. There are small huts where you can have a picnic and even BBQ spaces to take advantage of, although do read the signs and abide by the rules to avoid the risk of fire.
For me, this is one of the best-hidden gem places to see in Izmir, where you can see right over the city, all the way back to Alsancak. Take some comfortable shoes for all the walking you’ll do, but breathing in that fresh forest air is a real treat.
13. Visit Ataturk Museum
A visit to the Ataturk Museum should definitely be on your list of things to do in Izmir. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, is the most important figure in Turkey’s history. You’ll find monuments dedicated to him across the country, but this particular museum helps you learn so much about his life and importance to Turkish people.
This museum is also centrally located in Konak, so it’s easy to combine a trip here with several spots for one full day in Izmir. For instance, you could walk along the Kordon, go to this museum, visit Konak Square and the Clock Tower in a day, and still have time to roam.
I really enjoyed this museum, and I learned a lot. The building itself is also important as it’s where Ataturk himself stayed while in Izmir. Inside you’ll find items that not only tell you who Ataturk was, but also personal items that help you learn more deeply about him.
14. Haggle at Kızlarağası Inn
Shopping is always fun, but when you have to haggle for your purchases, it’s even better. Who knows what souvenirs you’ll come away with? Kızlarağası Inn dates back to Ottoman times, in 1744, and the exterior architecture is pretty impressive, but inside is where you’ll find the treasure trove of shopping opportunities.
Now, I’m not a haggling natural; it took me some time to build my confidence, but now I can bargain with the best of them. The good thing about this particular spot is that it’s really easy to follow and once inside, you’ll know you’re somewhere atmospheric and historic.
This is another spot I found by accident, and I believe that just walking around this place is one of the best things to do in Izmir. You find so many things that seem hidden away, and they’re sure to enhance your visit.
15. Enjoy Izmir’s Vibrant Nightlife
Nomatter what kind of evening you’re after, there are so many things to do in Izmir at night. If you’re after a chilled-out time, head to the Kordon and simply take a walk, to enjoy the calm vibe and view. If you want something a little more vibrant, head to either Alsancak or Bornova. In these areas, you’ll find bars, restaurants, cafes, cocktail bars, and nightclubs aplenty.
I always stay in Alsancak because it’s so central, but equally because the nightlife is so good. Eko Pub is one of my favorite places to go in the evening and their bar snacks are delicious too. Cafe Del Mundo is another top spot, and it’s always a good night at Molly Malone’s Irish Pub.
Address: Alsancak, 35220 Konak/İzmir
Things To Do in Izmir: FAQs
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about the best things to do in Izmir, Turkey:
Izmir is known for being a modern city that’s full of fantastic attractions. The Konak area is famous, thanks to its waterside location but the city has that laid-back vibe that makes you want to return time and time again.
Izmir is open all year around, so there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong time to go – it depends on what you want to do. If you want to spend time outdoors and by the beach, the months between May and October are ideal. However, for easier sightseeing, I’d recommend visiting between March and June, and November.
There are so many things to see in Izmir that it should definitely make it onto your must-visit list. Izmir is a very picturesque city, but it also has lots of history and modern-day fun to dive into.
Three days is enough to get a good overview of the city and to see the major sights. If you want to visit sights around the area, such as nearby Kuşadası and Ephesus, then five days would be better.
Izmir is a safe city to visit as long as you use the same common sense as you would in any other large city around the world. Don’t walk with excess amounts of cash, and avoid flashing valuables, particularly in crowded spaces.
One of the most popular things to do in Izmir is to walk along the waterside Kordon, which stretches from Alsancak all the way down the city and beyond. This route also takes you past Izmir Clock Tower, another famous spot.
The Izmir region is famous for many different types of traditional food, including Manisa kebab, Izmir köfte, and kumru. The Izmir bombası is a sweet treat you HAVE to try.
Three days is enough to see most of the top spots in Izmir, but if you want to explore in a more relaxed way, five days may be a better option.
You can make Izmir as cheap or as expensive as you want. Compared to many other large European cities, the prices in Izmir are very reasonable, but it depends on where you stay, eat, and spend your time.
Izmir’s nightlife is particularly vibrant, and you can find everything from quiet and sedate venues to nightclubs. Alsancak is great for nightlife, where you’ll find bars and clubs open until the early hours.
The city is lapped by the waters of the Aegean, but it doesn’t have a beach. Nearby Balçova has a small beach, but there are several beach resorts very close to Izmir, including Çeşme, Alaçatı, and Kuşadası.
It’s not advisable to swim in the city center, due to the sheer number of boats that use the waters, but you can swim in the sea in the nearby beach resorts and further away from the city center itself.
Both Izmir and Antalya are beautiful in their own right, and neither is better than the other. However, if you want a more cosmopolitan experience, Izmir will serve you better. On the other hand, Antalya has some of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Turkey.
Now you know all the best places to visit in Izmir, the only thing left to do is plan your stay. It’s no surprise that many people go back to Izmir year after year; it’s one of those places that grabs you, and makes it hard to stay away.
The first time I visited Izmir, I was surprised at how beautiful it is. I was so used to spending time in Istanbul that I didn’t think another city could entice me quite as much, but Izmir managed it. I’m quite sure it will be the same story for you.