İzmir is the capital of the Aegean Region in western Turkey and the third largest metropolis in the country. Its fascinating seafront, rich history and vibrant atmosphere make it one of the most fascinating destinations in the North Aegean.
On Ferryhopper, you can find the information you need for your holiday in İzmir. Discover the best beaches, attractions and activities, and find out how to get there. Check also available routes and book ferry tickets to İzmir at no extra cost!
Modern buildings and skyscrapers in the city of İzmir
Vacation in İzmir
Turkey's third-largest city is probably the country’s most liberal, West-oriented and cosmopolitan one. İzmir hosts more than 3 million inhabitants and is a modern city on the rise, with huge skyscrapers and a laid-back atmosphere. It is built along the outlying waters of a 50-km gulf, while inland it extends across the Gediz River Delta.
Despite its contemporary vibe, the Anatolian İzmir, once the Greek Smyrna, was actually founded around 3,000 BCE and is one of the oldest port cities in the Mediterranean Sea.
A century ago, the city used to be really sophisticated and multicultural: in the city you’d find educated Greek, Levantine, Turkish, and Armenian families that would follow the latest fashion trends from Paris, hang out in elegant bars and make fortunes out of international commerce. Their heritage can still be traced in the city’s attractions and architecture.
Though travelers reaching İzmir mostly use it as a gateway to Ephesus, this lively, fascinating city is definitely worth spending a few days! Offering amazing attractions and monuments, art and history museums, bazaars and a relaxed atmosphere, İzmir promises an unforgettable holiday experience!
How to get to İzmir
You can easily reach İzmir by ferry directly from Thessaloniki in Greece, which actually resembles İzmir in many ways. Ferries connect the two cities around 2 times a week.
İzmir also has an international airport, the İzmir Adnan Menderes Airport, 18 km southwest of the city center (25-minute drive), in the Gaziemir district. Moreover, İzmir has two railway stations, Alsancak Terminal and Basmane Terminal, and there are trains arriving there from İstanbul, Ankara, etc.
Find more details about ferry routes and schedules to İzmir below.
What to do in İzmir
Traveling to İzmir means getting acquainted with one of the best versions of Turkish culture, as well as emerging into the city’s long history, marked by the centuries-long Greek presence and cultural glory, whose traces can leave visitors a bittersweet taste. What is for sure, is that there are so many historical attractions to discover in İzmir and the surrounding areas that you could spend your whole vacation sightseeing!
Visiting İzmir also means strolling and having excellent food at the city’s wonderful seafront, wandering into its busy markets and bazaars, and taking day trips to nearby picturesque villages and areas of archeological interest.
Beaches in İzmir
İzmir itself is not really the best place to swim. However, the surrounding Aegean Sea coastline offers plenty of beaches that can be just a 20-minute drive from the city center. The most famous beaches in the İzmir province are located on the Cesme peninsula, which is a vacation and windsurfing hot spot. To the south, the beaches in the Bodrum and Marmaris area are less popular with foreigners but just as charming.
Here are some of the most beautiful and popular beaches not far from İzmir:
- Ilıca: a long beach with white sand, by the town of Alaçatı on the Cesme peninsula. It has shallow waters, great amenities and is perfect for families. It is also a popular windsurfing destination.
- Pamucak: it is a wild, long beach with golden sand, 70 kilometers south of central Izmir. There are some umbrellas and sunbeds to rent at the beach café, but most of the beach is unorganized so you can bring your own beach chair or towel.
- Altınkum: one of the best beaches on the Cesme peninsula. It has white sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters, and is touched by coastal scrub. Apart from a few private beach clubs, most of the beach is free, with just basic facilities.
- Mordoğan beaches: 87 kilometers northwest from Izmir, the village of Mordoğan, on the east coast of the Karaburun peninsula, has beaches. Ardıç and Kocakum beach both have umbrellas and loungers to rent, cafés and restaurants. The wild Alifendere Bay is a small sandy cove with rock cliffs, accessible by dirt road, that is also popular with campers.
- Pırlanta: 94 km west of Izmir and close to Cesme town, you will find this 600-meters gray sand beach. It is a free public beach with very clear and shallow waters, and is good for families. There are sunbeds and umbrellas to rent, but you can also bring your own equipment. It is also a popular kitesurfing destination.
- Mimoza: a calm small cove, surrounded by hills, on the northern point of the Karaburun peninsula. It is a narrow and pebbly strip of shore, with many sunbeds and shades to rent offered by the cafés, restaurants, and hotels that surround it. Protected by waves, it's a popular spot for pedal boats, kayaking, and row boats.
- Badembükü: a secluded beach on the northwestern coast of the Karaburun peninsula, accessible by a twisting road through citrus orchards. It is a wide, golden-sand beach that normally remains uncrowded even in the high season, but can get wavy. There’s only one beach café offering facilities.
- Eski Foça: a little cove with a sandy coast, backed by low cliffs, in the south of Eski Foça's (once Ancient Phocaea) bay. There are almost no amenities available, except bathrooms and a shop nearby. The seafloor is a bit stony.
The long, busy coast of Altınkum
Sightseeing in İzmir
İzmir’s spectacular and multicultural past reflects in its many and diverse cultural sights and monuments. From magnificent mosques to ruins of ancient Greek poleis (cities), history lovers will be excited to explore the area’s rich heritage.
If you are wondering what to see in İzmir, here are some popular sights in the area:
- İzmir Clock Tower (Konak Square)
- Grande Mosque Hissar-Djami
- Asansör (Elevator) - for the best view of İzmir
- İzmir Archaeological Museum
- “Agora” open-air museum of ancient Smyrna
- Atatürk Museum
- Karşıyaka district
Tip: we strongly recommend taking day trips to the world-renowned ancient cities of Pergamon, Ephesus and Phocaea to explore the treasures of Asia Minor’s Greek heritage! All 3 archaeological sites are less than a 1.5-hour drive from İzmir.
Water channel in the ancient Agora of İzmir
Activities in İzmir
One of the best things you can do in İzmir is explore its amazing markets and bazaars and do some shopping! The city’s Bazaar district, Kemeralti Market, is a stunning maze: there are stores everywhere, smells and flavors coming from every corner, and quaint small cafés. Don’t miss a visit at the district’s Kızlarağası Hanı building, now an incredible covered market, originally built in 1744!
The Konak Pier, originally a customs building designed by the famous Gustave Eiffel and now a modern and elegant shopping center, is also an attraction for shopping enthusiasts!
Interested in a shopping trip in western Turkey? Check our ultimate Turkish coast shopping guide!
Finally, an İzmir highlight is a stroll down the long promenade, extending for a few kilometers along the Aegean Sea. The lovely dock is always busy with groups of friends chatting, joggers, mussel sellers and fishermen. It also has many seafood restaurants where you can enjoy the view and breeze.
The historic, chic Konak Pier building
Nightlife in İzmir
Today, İzmir is one of Turkey’s most liberal and cosmopolitan cities. Although a large part of the population is Muslim, alcohol is served almost everywhere and you will see locals chatting while drinking a beer draft.
İzmir stands out for its nightlife, gastronomy and cultural festivals. Its nightlife is extremely diverse and has something for everyone, from laid-back bars to jazz clubs and hardcore rock pubs. You will find the most popular spots around the Alsancak and Konak areas.
Tip: if you visit İzmir in mid-June or early July, don’t miss the musical and theatrical happenings of the International Izmir Festival, a prestigious arts festival held annually in the city.
Food in İzmir
Thanks to the various influences it has received from different cultures and, of course, the area’s incredible climate, İzmir cuisine is one of the richest cuisines of Anatolia. Olive oil plays a leading role in the area’s gastronomy, as do seasonal herbs and greens, flowers (e.g. zucchini and artichoke) and seafood.
The city’s gastronomy scene is large and rich, with a wide range of restaurants. There are also many good options at the Konak and the old Greek quarter of Alsancak, among other neighborhoods.
Some of the flavors that you must try in İzmir’s many restaurants, cafés and street-food stands:
- gözleme (savory stuffed Turkish flatbread)
- kadınbudu köfte (fried ground beef meatballs)
- İzmir köfte (meatballs, peppers and potatoes in a simple tomato sauce)
- keşkek (chicken and wheat stew)
- zerde (traditional rice pudding)
- kumru sandwich, typically filled with kaşar cheese and spicy sujuk sausage
- acma (pastry with olive paste)
- boyoz (pastry made with flour, sunflower oil and tahini)
- simit (Turkish-style bagel)
- lokma (deep fried dough balls soaked in honey)
- Turkish coffee
A mouthwatering “kadınbudu köfte” dish
Useful information about İzmir
One of the biggest and most developed cities in Turkey, İzmir is one of the hidden gems of the North Aegean that deserves more tourist attention. The city has everything a visitor needs: incredible sights, a rich and diverse culture and architecture, shopping opportunities, nearby beaches, and all kinds of traveler amenities necessary, e.g. supermarkets, ATMs, hospitals and clinics (public and private).
In İzmir, you will find a variety of accommodation options depending on your preferences and budget, from luxury hotels to pensions and cheap hostels. Accommodation is actually pretty affordable, and you can even find rooms at a little more than €20 a night. Some of the best neighborhoods to choose from are the city center, Gaziemir, Bornova, and Balcova. Then again, if you are a true sea lover, we recommend staying in Karşıyaka.
Tip: the Turkish lira is the accepted currency in Turkey. In some places you might be able to pay with euros, but you'll probably get better deals if you pay cash and in the local currency. You can exchange currency to lira at ATMs using a debit or travel card.
Important phone numbers for your stay in İzmir
Here are some useful contacts for your trip to İzmir:
- İzmir Port Authority: +902324631600
- Hatay Police Station: +902322435326
- İzmir Şehirlerarası Bus Terminal: +902324721010
- Batı Anadolu Central Hospital: +902323416767
- İzmir Adnan Menderes Airport: +902324550000
- İzmir taxi services: +908508403047, +905375886035
- European emergency number: 112
Transportation in İzmir
Getting around Izmir is very easy, even without a car! Most attractions and popular nightlife/dining options are concentrated in small neighborhoods where you can get around on foot. Walking around is not only a convenient way of transportations in these areas but also a perfect way to explore and enjoy every corner of the city.
Public transport includes bus, metro, tram, and commuter rail services, and is a good option to move from neighborhood to neighborhood. Buses serve all districts, but the network presence is denser in the central area. There are cards and tickets available at ferry terminals, central metro stations and the airport station. You can also use the charging machines available in most stations (metro, train, etc.).
For locations that are not easy to reach by public transport or on foot, we recommend getting a taxi (there are many taxi services in the city). Hiring a car might not be your best option since the streets of Izmir are kind of difficult to navigate for visitors that are not familiar with the city and, occasionally, not clearly marked. Either way, if you want to hire a car in order to be more comfortable and take day trips, e.g. to Ephesus, there are car rental services at the airport or downtown.
Ports in İzmir
The Port of İzmir, also known as Port of Alsancak, is a naturally-sheltered port at the head of Izmir Bay. The port handles a wide range of cargoes, such as Ro-Ro and containers. There is also a passenger terminal for cruise vessels and ferries, a small craft harbor and some terminals for local passenger ferries.
The port is about a 20-25 minute drive from the center of İzmir and around 1 hour 20 minutes by public transport (tram and buses 33 or 35).
Cargo at the large port of İzmir
İzmir ferry: schedules and tickets
The port of İzmir is directly connected by ferry to Greece via the port of Thessaloniki in Macedonia. The ferry from Thessaloniki to İzmir usually runs 2 times a week and the trip takes around 14 hours. Tickets start at €81.
The İzmir - Thessaloniki route is operated by Levante Ferries.
The imposing, illuminated İzmir clock tower at sunset
Where to book ferry tickets to İzmir online
On Ferryhopper, you can find all ferry routes to and from İzmir in Turkey. Check our Map of ferries to visualize your trip, compare prices, timetables and companies, and book ferry tickets to İzmir online with no hidden fees.