The Perfect 1, 2 or 3 Days in Izmir Itinerary

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by Brittany Scott-Gunfield

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Our Izmir itinerary is full of historic, cultural, delicious and fun activities that take you all over the city to learn about Izmir’s ancient and modern city life. Over 1, 2 or 3 days in Izmir, you can enjoy views of the city from the sea, the streets and the mountain tops thanks to the city’s unique landscape with numerous hills leading straight down to the seaside and the city centre sandwiched in the middle.

How Many Days in Izmir?

Although not an internationally famous Turkish city like Istanbul, or a renowned holiday destination like Antalya or Cappadocia, Izmir is a bustling city with numerous historic sites and a beautiful coastline. So if you’re in Turkey for a while and are wondering how many days to spend in Izmir, you should spare at least a week to explore the city and surrounding towns and villages.

But if you’re just coming over for a short trip to the city a long weekend 3 days are ideal for a whistlestop tour of the main sites, with one evening spent experiencing the nightlife, or at one of Izmir’s cultural centres.

Over 2 days in Izmir, you can see the old bazaar of the city centre as well as the central ancient site located within and enjoy a coastal walk as well as views over the city from the 2,300-year-old castle.

Thanks to the great public transport, you can easily get from one place to another without spending too much time waiting for trains or walking around. If history isn’t your priority, you can still enjoy the hustle and bustle of Izmir city life and the fantastic kebabs, Aegean cuisine and Turkish sweet treats on offer all over the city.

If you’re just using Izmir as a transfer stop or taking a day trip from another Turkish attraction or perhaps the nearby Greek island of Chios in the Aegean Sea, there’s still plenty to enjoy over one day in Izmir.

Concentrate your time around Konak and Kemeraltı Market for some amazing food, shopping and a glimpse into Turkish culture.

View of Izmir from Mount Kadifekale
View of Izmir from Mount Kadifekale

Getting To & Around Izmir

Getting to Izmir is very easy thanks to the large airport just outside of the city centre. You can fly to Izmir Adnan Menderes (ADB) Airport from most major cities in Europe, as well as transfer in Istanbul and take the 45-minute flight to Izmir.

If transferring in Istanbul (IST) Airport you can make the most of your time there by visiting the airport’s museum which has a collection of artefacts from all over Turkey, demonstrating the country’s long and significant history.

If you’re travelling to Izmir from another part of Turkey, you can easily get there by bus, with buses from Istanbul taking 8 to 9 hours, from Bodrum in the south taking just 3 and a half hours and from Pamukkale in the east taking about the same. You can view schedules here.

From Izmir Airport, the easiest way into the city is via the suburban train, and changing for the metro in Hilal to get to your accommodation. If you have lots of luggage, you might be better off getting a taxi, which you can find lined up outside when you exit the airport.

If you’re spending longer than a few days, you can rent a car at the airport too, but if you’ll just be staying in the city centre, the public transport system is very well run and much easier to use than trying to drive in the city and spend your days looking for a parking space.

Within the city, it’s very easy to get around using the metro and the tram. There are buses and public minibuses called dolmuşes, but the traffic can be bad, so the fastest and simplest way to travel within Izmir is by tram or metro. The tram also takes a coastal route, so you can enjoy views across to the opposite side of the city as you travel.

As Izmir is spread out along the coast in a horseshoe shape, the best way to get from one side to the other is by ferry. There are numerous ferry stations which take foot passengers and cars across, which gives you another vantage point of the city.

The metro, tram, bus and ferries are all part of the Izmir public transport system and use the same transport card. You can buy the transport card at major ferry, metro and train stations which you can then top up at various machines located in the transport stations.

With this card, your second journey within 90 minutes is half the price of the first. Or, you can buy a paper ticket at the same machines which gives you 3, 5 or 10 trips.

Izmir Clock Tower
Izmir Clock Tower

1, 2 or 3-Day Izmir Itinerary

Over three days, you’ll spend your first two exploring the city centre and each historic site it has to offer as well as gaining fantastic views from several vantage points thanks to the city’s unique landscapes, while enjoying a leisurely or active day out on your third day.

Day 1 – City Centre

Your first day should be concentrated in the city centre to see how the busy modern city life and historic old centre mix to create a unique atmosphere. It is possible to take a city tour if you prefer to explore with a guide.

Izmir Clock Tower (İzmir Saat Kulesi)

To begin your trip to Izmir, you should start in the very centre, at the city’s most iconic monument: the Izmir Clock Tower. If you’ve arrived at Konak Square by tram or purchased a transport card, you’ll have seen images of the clock tower all over, so the landmark should be top of your list of things to visit in Izmir.

Constructed in 1901 to mark the 25th anniversary of Sultan Abdul Hamid II’s rise to the helm of the Ottoman Empire, this impressive marble and stone structure stands proudly in the middle of a huge square, surrounded by pigeons, tourists and busy urban dwellers.

When the 25-metre-tall tower was built, it originally featured Muslim calligraphy and Ottoman symbols over each side, but these engravings were reconstructed into the Turkish stars and crescent moons after the declaration of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

After being partially destroyed in an earthquake in 1928 and again in 1974, the clock tower has been reconstructed several times in its history, most recently in 2019. Nevertheless, this wonderful monument still stands strong and symbolises the city of Izmir.

Around the square, you have the coast on one side behind the tram station, and a small but beautifully decorated mosque on the other. Constructed in 1755, this mosque has ornate blue tiles covering the outer walls and is another iconic emblem of the city.

Konak Square is a common meeting point for Izmirians, so a good place to know while you’re in the city, as well as making a great starting point before wandering into the nearby historic bazaar to find the ancient city that showcases Izmir’s long and significant history.

Smyrna Agora Ancient City

Izmir was founded by the Greeks and known for many years as Smyrna, before being conquered by the Romans and rebuilt by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE. The heart of Smyrna was the now ruined ancient site of Agora, which originally reached from the castle on Pagos Hill (the Kadifekale) to the port of Kemeraltı.

While the site is much smaller today than its original form, you can still see a lot of the impressive site, some of which stands strong despite the numerous earthquakes that have struck the area.

Some parts are largely in ruins with some tombstones from the Ottoman period, but you can enter the courtyard from Gazi Osmanpaşa Bulvarı and see the remains of the columns that made up the court and other important judicial buildings as well as the basilicas, marketplace and impressive Faustina Gate.

The site is open every day and is well worth the modest entrance fee.

Agora of Smyrna
Agora of Smyrna

Kemeraltı Bazaar

Leaving the ancient site of Agora, you come back into the crazy hustle and bustle of Kemeraltı Bazaar. While the sellers are nothing like those in the medina of Marrakech, there are a great many small shops and friendly shopkeepers looking to sell their wares all over this maze of small streets and squares that dates back to the 17th century.

While wandering, discover the 16th century Hisar Mosque in the heart of the bazaar, the largest mosque in Izmir, with beautiful Ottoman and European-inspired designs on the interior, but remember to dress appropriately, covering arms and legs, (and hair for women) before entering.

Part of the fun of wandering this area is getting lost amongst the narrow streets and discovering beautiful squares, mosques and cafes along the way, but if you prefer to save some time and not get lost in the labyrinth of streets, there are walking tours and food tours available to join to make sure you don’t miss any of the highlights of the marketplace.

There are some fantastic places to eat in Kemeraltı, from historic doner places to the large square offering all kinds of kebab by the Hisar Mosque, or the quintessential Turkish dish of rice-stuffed mussels in the old fish market.

You should also make sure to stop by the tea and coffee streets and main square by the Kızlarağası Han for a traditional mastic Turkish coffee to perk you up for the rest of your day in Izmir.

Mount Kadifekale

35 minutes walking or by the 33 bus from Konak, you reach the ancient hilltop castle built during the reign of Alexander the Great in the 3rd century BCE: Kadifekale, or the Velvet Castle.

The 186-metre incline can be tricky for some but is worth the effort to discover more of Izmir and take in the breathtaking views from the castle and its surrounding area.

The neighbourhood around the castle is known locally as the Izmir slums and it’s inadvisable to travel around the area at night or alone, however, after the area’s reconstruction in 2020, most of the area around the castle has been turned into delightful parks with many paths which you can enjoy walking around.

A visit to the historic castle is free and will enable you to delve further into the history of Smyrna, with some signage about the fortress as well as the Byzantine cistern that is located in the area.

Walls of Kadifekale
Walls of Kadifekale

İzmir Atatürk Museum

Heading back to Konak Square with the 33 bus and then walking along the seaside, you can see the Izmir coastline with the over 100-year-old Konak pier designed by Gustave Eiffel stretching out.

This coastal promenade (known as kordon in Turkish) is a lovely way to discover the city while staying away from the main busy shopping and working districts and instead taking in the fresh sea air. Strolling along the promenade is absolutely one of the best things to do in Izmir.

After 30 minutes, you’ll come across a distinct house on your right; the Izmir Atatürk Museum. The museum was originally built as a house by an Armenian merchant in the late 1800s before being abandoned and later used as a base by the Turkish Army.

It’s noticeable due to the Greek and Armenian influences in the architecture, which contrast with the classical architecture of the neighbouring buildings.

It’s here that the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, resided and studied, receiving the house as a gift from the municipality of Izmir, which turned the house into a museum dedicated to the leader following his death in 1938.

Walk amongst the rooms Atatürk lived in and see the Turkish legend’s life through his eyes. The museum is open every day, welcoming visitors for free.


The last stop of your first day is the trendy neighbourhood of Alsancak. With plenty of restaurants, bars and pubs, there’s a great deal to do in the evening.

Try Izmir’s oldest and most renowned Italian restaurant Pizza Venedik, new, reasonably priced yet exquisite food in restaurant Buke Garni, or go more traditional with seafood on the coast in Veli Usta Balık or Veli Usta Körfez just next door.

Then, visit the nearby Arkas Art Center for a cultural event for your evening’s entertainment.

Day 2 – History and Views from the Outskirts

Starting the day where you left off in Alsancak, on day 2 in Izmir, we explore Turkey’s history and artistic scene, before heading west to the outskirts of the city for spectacular views.

Izmir Culture and Arts Factory (İzmir Kültür Sanat Fabrikası)

If you’re looking for a museum to visit in Izmir, look no further than the newly revamped Izmir Culture and Arts Factory.

The building itself, the Alsancak Tekel Factory, was built in the late 1800s, but after a 2020 earthquake damaged some of Izmir’s prominent buildings, the municipality made a decision to move the former arts and culture museum and the archaeology and ethnography museum into the factory and unite the large area into a cultural centre.

With two libraries, an art workshop and an open-air theatre as well as the museums, the factory and its outbuildings have been given a new lease of life and create an amazing venue for art and history lovers.

In the Archeology and Ethnography Museum, you can discover more than 6,000 artefacts, largely from the region of Izmir which is rich with ancient Greek communities and their belongings, including an impressive replica of the 2,300-year-old Belevi Mausoleum in the entranceway.

You can easily spend a couple of hours perusing the display cases of gold, terracotta, metal, marble and textiles discovered all over Izmir, learning about the long history that was once hidden under your feet.

If you’ve managed to prise yourself away from the incredible history, or simply have a deeper interest in art, you can spend a further couple of hours seeing the 400 works of art in the Izmir Painting and Sculpture Museum within the cultural centre.

Turkish artists are not among the most internationally renowned, so take the chance to discover the unique and largely unknown collection from the last several artistic periods.

The museums are open every day, with a small fee to pay at the door.

Izmir Historic Elevator (Asansör)

In the southern part of Izmir, we come across one of the city’s historic curiosities, a public elevator. Taking the tram towards Fahrettin Altay and getting off at Karataş, you can easily reach the elevator from the city centre, just 30 minutes from Alsancak.

The historic elevator was built in 1907 by businessman Nesim Levi to unite the two districts of Mithatpasa Street below and Halil Rifat Pasa Street above. You can ride the elevator for free, reaching the top in no time at all, ready to enjoy the spectacular views over the city.

Originally functioning with water being used to move the elevator cabins up and down, this mechanical marvel changed the lives of the locals who otherwise faced a very steep walk to reach the above district. Today, you can sit with a Turkish tea while you take in the views over the gulf.

Izmir Historic Elevator
Izmir Historic Elevator

Balçova Cable Car (Balçova Teleferik)

A little further along the coast from the elevator, is another opportunity for amazing views of Izmir, this time with a picnic and barbecue area ready for lunch. From the bottom station in Balçova, you can purchase a return ticket for under a euro or use your Izmir transport card, before travelling 418 metres to the peak of Dede mountain in a few minutes.

Once at the top, enjoy the amazing views over the area, in one of the most natural areas of Izmir, take a glass of tea in the hilltop restaurant or purchase some meat, vegetables and side dishes to do your own barbecue in the designated areas.

First built in 1974 and renovated in 2015, the cable car is a part of Izmir life, with many locals enjoying a barbecue on a summer’s day as well as the international visitors who come for the stunning views and photo opportunities.

You can access the cable car from 11.00 to 18.00 every day, so watch out for the time before you take a seat in the restaurant.

Göztepe Football Match

Football is a hugely popular sport in Turkey, particularly in Izmir, with several popular teams, including Göztepe S.K.

In the west of the city near the cable car station, you’ll find the Göztepe Gürsel Aksel Stadyumu hidden amongst residential buildings and easily reachable with public transport. If you like football or want a Turkish cultural experience, grab yourself a ticket online and head down to watch a match with the energetic local fans.

As with all countries, there is occasional aggression displayed from fans in the stands but with the new ticket system, Turkey has successfully encouraged safer environments for fans so more women and children are present at matches.

While you should be sensible and avoid derbies with local teams that may cause more tension in the crowd, you don’t need to worry about any hostility from the fans.

Day 3 – Day Trips from Izmir

Izmir is a huge city with plenty to see and do, but if you’ve got three days in Izmir, it’s a great idea to spend your day seeing nearby towns and villages, or getting active and enjoying the landscape.

Ephesus Archaeological Site

About an hour’s drive from Izmir centre is the magical ancient site of Ephesus. You can rent a car to reach it according to your own schedule, take a coach from Izmir coach station, or join an organised tour.

Built in the 10th century BCE by the Greeks and later taken over by the Romans in the 2nd century BC, this site has seen massive transformation and has remained a significant city for almost 3,000 years, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

You can spend the best part of a day wandering around the ruins, seeing what’s known as one of the world’s oldest adverts preserved in the stone, as well as an epic 24,000 seater amphitheatre and the ornate facade of the Library of Celsus, which was reconstructed in the 1970s by archaeologists following an earthquake centuries prior.

With constant excavations, more of the site is being uncovered, with a large dwelling with huge mosaics recently uncovered and able to view by small walkways over the site. 

While a guided tour is recommended due to the limited signage describing the site’s history, you can also discover more of the friezes and sculptures found over the hundred years of excavations in the nearby Ephesus Archaeological Museum in Selcuk.

If visiting many museums in the area, you can buy a Museum Pass for discounted entry, however, if the site of Ephesus is your only stop, then you can simply buy a ticket at the entrance.

Ruins in Ephesus
Ruins in Ephesus

Manastır Balçova Terapi Ormanı Hike

If you enjoyed the views from the cable car to the top of the mountain, you can head back to the same area, known as Manastır Balçova Terapi Ormanı, where you can enjoy a day’s hike.

A wonderful natural site, with trails all around the mountain leading to the weir, you can stop at many locations to enjoy a picnic while exploring the greenery.

You can rent mountain bikes to explore the trails or spend your day hiking up and around to enjoy the wonderful views over the city.


Çeşme is a beautiful seaside town that you can easily reach by bus from Izmir if you want a beach day, or walk along the quaint stone streets and visit the amazing historic castle set just behind the harbour.

Built in the early 16th century to defend the town against attacks, the castle now holds a museum with many antique objects that have been discovered in excavations around the area as well as objects recovered from a Russian ship that attacked the town in the 18th century.

As well as a museum, the castle now hosts Çeşme’s international music festival which is well worth a visit if you’re there at the right time.


Urla is another lovely town in the Izmir region, famous for its wine production. You can amble through the pretty town centre, attend the incredible artichoke festival in spring, or simply stop for an amazing lunch in Begendik Abi if you love vegetables, or Seyhan Et if you love incredible meat dishes. Then spend your afternoon in a vineyard for some wine-tasting.

USCA is the most renowned in the area, with a longer history, expert winemakers and beautiful grounds. It can be tricky to reach, so get in a taxi from the town centre or rent a car to take yourself because it’s well worth the visit.

There are English-speaking wine-makers onsite so while you taste you can ask for an introduction to the wines they produce and tasting notes.

Urla has its own pretty seaside, with delightful fish restaurants such as Yengeç if you plan to stay for the evening and drive or get a late bus back into Izmir. You can reach the seaside, iskele, by taxi or bus from Urla centre, and take a bus back to Izmir using the city’s transport card.

Kitesurfing in Gülbahçe

If you’re looking for an active day and are a keen kitesurfer, one of the best spots in Turkey is in a small village, just one hour on the bus from Izmir. This small village is usually the spot of students but comes alive in summer as many Turkish people come to their summer homes and international tourists come to enjoy the strong winds.

With several kitesurfing schools set up on the beach, you can ask at one of the receptions about setting up your equipment or renting for the day to go out and enjoy the spot. With shallow water and strong winds, it’s a very popular spot for kiters to come to spend the day.

Unfortunately, kitesurfing is not a sport you can learn in a day, so if you want to learn, you should book at least a week’s stay in Urla Surf House, a hotel, restaurant and kite school directly on the beach. But if you already know how to kitesurf, you can also contact them about renting equipment for daily use.

During the summer months, Urla Surf House also hosts a number of very popular concerts, so check out their calendar to see if you can catch an intimate gig in their hotel garden when you visit.

Coastline near Urla
Coastline near Urla

Where to Stay in Izmir

Zeniva Hotel – This mid-range hotel in the heart of Izmir makes for an excellent base. They have several modern rooms on offer, a location only 50 metres from Cumhuriyet Square and breakfast is available each morning.

Key Hotel – This seaside hotel boasts 34 luxury rooms and it’s perfect for those after a plush, yet central, stay in Izmir. They have an on-site restaurant, a fab breakfast, and a gorgeous view over the Gulf of Izmir.

Lotus Garden Hostel – Budget visitors looking for a social atmosphere and an affordable stay will love this centrally located hostel. They have a range of room types available and great common areas to enjoy.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Izmir hotels!

Izmir is a city unlike most others in Turkey; enjoy the bustling city life while soaking up the history and enjoying the nightlife with the city’s vast youth. Over 3 days, you’re sure to have an amazing trip, with an array of things to see, do and eat.

Are you planning to visit Izmir? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Brittany Scott-Gunfield

Brittany is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Colchester, England, she is slowly but surely travelling the world as a digital nomad. She loves to hike around different landscapes and has a deep love for travelling around France (and elsewhere in Europe).

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