Iznik (Turkey) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main sights of Iznik with descriptions in the guidebook with a map.
City of Iznik
Iznik (formerly Nicea) is a small city in northwestern Turkey in the eastern part of the Marmara region and ila Bursa. Known in ancient times as Nicaea, it is one of the oldest cities in Anatolia, fascinating for its historical sites, nature and crafts.
With a history dating back to the second millennium B.C., Nicea was important to modern Christianity, being the site of two Ecumenical Councils. The First Council of Nicaea actually defined the development of Christianity and the formation of modern religion. In Iznik you can see well-preserved Roman-Byzantine walls, an ancient basilica, converted in the Middle Ages into a mosque, some wonderful monuments of the Ottoman era, and enjoy the picturesque views of Lake Iznik.
Things to do (Turkey):
€150 per tour
First Steps in Istanbul
The Ayia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and Basilica Cistern with professional guide
€150 per tour
Eastern Istanbul: Kadıköy, Usküdar, Kuzguncük and Çamlıca Hill
Walking on non-tourist trails and discovering authentic corners of the Asian part of the city
Geography and Climate
Iznik is located on the eastern shore of Lake İznik, 140 km away from İstanbul. The city’s climate is generally similar to that of neighboring Bursa, being a mixture of oceanic and Mediterranean climate. The main difference is the warmer and sunnier microclimate, which allows some palm trees and subtropical trees to grow. This gives the city more of a Mediterranean atmosphere. Iznik has a small size and flat terrain. Most of the sights are within walking distance, so a leisurely stroll through the city is the best way to explore it.
- Population – 44 thousand people
- Language: Turkish.
- Currency – Turkish Lira.
- Visa – for up to 60 days is sufficient to have a passport, which is valid for more than four months from the date of entry into Turkey.
- Time – UTC +3
It is believed that the first settlement in Iznik was founded in the middle of the third millennium BC. In the 7th century BC there was a city called Helikara. In 316 BC. Helikara was conquered by Antigonus Monophthalmos I. After his death the city was conquered by Lysimachus who gave the city the name of his wife, Nicaea.
In 325 AD. Nicaea was the site of the first Ecumenical Council in the history of Christianity, which was convened by Emperor Constantine (who was a pagan at the time). The result of this council was the adoption of the creed, the establishment of the date of Easter and the Sunday off, and the final separation from Judaism. In 787 the Second Council of Nicaea was held in Nicaea.
Byzantine Walls at Iznik.
When Byzantium lost Constantinople to the Crusades, members of the imperial dynasty founded the Latin Empire in Iznik, which later restored the integrity of the Byzantine Empire. Later, Nicea was the capital of the Anatolian Seljuk state between 1075 and 1086. In 1097 the city was captured by the Crusaders and the Byzantines, returning to Byzantium.
Nicaea remained part of the Byzantine Empire until 1330. Then it was finally captured by the Turks and became part of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans renamed the city Iznik. Under the Ottoman Empire the town became the center of art, trade and culture. In the 14th and 16th centuries it was famous for the production of pottery.
How to get there
You can easily get to Iznik by dolmus (microbus) from Bursa and Yalova. You can easily get to Bursa and Yalova by ferry from Istanbul.
The Yalova ferries leave from Yenikapı harbor and the Bursa ferries leave from Kabataş harbor.
The Old City at Night
The nearest train station is in Osmaneli, about 30-40 km east of Iznik. Osmaneli is on the main railway line connecting Istanbul and Ankara. There are regular dolmus services from Osmaneli to Iznik.
Iznik is known for its traditional pottery and pottery tradition since the 14th century. So the products of these crafts are excellent souvenirs.
Iznik can be considered an open-air museum with many sights and monuments from the early Antiquity to the Ottoman era that are definitely worth seeing.
Hagia Sophia Mosque (former Hagia Sophia Church)
The Hagia Sophia Mosque (formerly Hagia Sophia Church) is one of the most important historical monuments in Iznik, although it is inferior in scale and prominence to its famous namesake in Istanbul. This early Byzantine basilica, built in the 7th century A.D. on ancient Roman foundations, was the site of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (II Nicaea) in 787.
The church is located in the center of ancient Nicaea, at the intersection of roads running from the four city gates, surrounded by walls. In 1331 (after the capture of the city by the Ottomans) basilica was converted into a mosque. During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566), a mihrab was added to the building and large arched openings were created in the side aisles. During the First World War the ancient building was damaged and was in a ruined state for about eight decades. The restoration was completed in 2011.
Eastern Gate (Lefke)
Ancient Nicaea was once surrounded by impressive walls built by the Romans and fortified by the Byzantines. The walls, which were 5 km long, no longer dominate the old city, but their ruins are still impressive. Fragments of the four main gates have survived. The original ancient walls also included 12 secondary gates and 114 towers.
Eastern Gate (Lefke)
The most impressive section of the ancient fortifications, which is still 10-13 meters in height, can be seen in the southeastern part of today’s Iznik, between the East Gate (Lefke) and the South Gate (Yenişehir). The Lefke Gate itself has three very well preserved Byzantine arched portals.
Just behind the Eastern Gate is an ancient aqueduct, which stretches for several hundred meters and gradually disappears into the fields behind the city, as well as the old city cemetery.
The ruins of the Lake Gates
Only fragments remain of the Lakes Gate, as do the secondary Palace Gate, which is photogenically located on a quiet country road between olive groves.
The Istanbul Gate is the northern entrance to the ancient city. They are the most impressive and decorated with decorative elements.
The ruined Roman amphitheater is located on the path between Ataturk Boulevard and the Palace Gate (Saray). Located in the southwest of Iznik, it is one of the most impressive ancient Roman artifacts in Anatolia. The theater was built by the Roman Emperor Trajan in 2 AD. It is now closed to the public and is the site of archaeological excavations.
The Green Mosque is one of the masterpieces of early Ottoman architecture. It was built by Chandarli Halil Pasha, the Grand Vizier of Murat I, in the 14th century. The mosque is located in the eastern part of the old city of Iznik, near the Eastern Gate. The building has one minaret which bears traces of Seljuk architecture. The mihrab of the mosque is made of marble and has a solid masonry structure. The minaret, covered in zigzag tiles of turquoise, green and purple, actually gave the mosque its current name.
Hadji Ozbek Mosque
Hacji Ozbek Mosque is the oldest Ottoman mosque in Iznik and was built between 1333 and 1334. It is a simple stone building measuring only 7.92m x 7.92m. The dome of the mosque is eight meters in diameter and has no minaret and is covered with tiles.
Iznik Museum is located in a small square in the park next to the Green Mosque. It is located in a 14th century medieval building which was a canteen for the poor. Its courtyard has several marble sarcophagi, columns and other artifacts from Roman and Byzantine times.
€150 per tour
Antalya Old Town – A Journey into the Past
A stroll through the winding streets of the historic city center and ancient squares, towers and mosques.
200 €170 for the tour.
Photo date with Istanbul
Capture yourself in the most interesting scenery of the city on a walk with a professional photographer.
Izmir or ancient Smyrna: What’s so interesting about the city?
People do not come to Izmir for a beach holiday. Ancient Smyrna (as the Greeks called the city) is visited to get acquainted with the ancient architecture and culture over three thousand years old. For what ancient monuments travelers come here, where to stay and what to do in the largest Turkish city, you can find out in the article below.
Ancient Smyrna – birthplace of Homer
Izmir is the largest city in Turkey, the third largest in terms of population. The resort is an important industrial and cultural center in the country. It is famous for its large port and, of course, for its ancient archaeological monuments of antiquity.
Interesting! It is believed that the famous poet of ancient Greece, Homer, was born in ancient Smyrna. He wrote the legendary ancient poems “Iliad” and “The Odyssey”.
The history of the city
The first settlements on the territory of Smyrna were found around three thousand years BC. However, some finds of archaeologists testify about the life in this area in the period between four and six and a half thousand years. This is evidenced by the artifacts found in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. The first settlers of the town were the ancient Greek tribes of the Aeolians and later the Ionians.
In 133 BC, Smyrna was taken over by the Roman Empire and the city began to flourish. During this period, trade, the economy grows and the number of inhabitants increases. However after 45 years of growth Smyrna was hit by the greatest catastrophe – an earthquake that completely destroyed it. Thanks to Emperor Marcus Aurelius the city was completely rebuilt. The buildings of those times have partially survived to this day.
In the first millennium, Izmir was under Byzantine rule, but was soon conquered by the Turks. After the Greco-Turkish War of 1919, the city passed entirely to the Turkish Republic. Christianity is replaced by the Muslim faith in Smyrna.
Where is Izmir
The city is located in western Turkey in the region of Izmir. It is located on the coast of the Aegean Sea at the Bay of Izmir. The city is surrounded by low hills and the Gediz River, the largest in Turkey, flows into the sea.
Izmir on the map
The city has a Mediterranean climate. Summers in Izmir are hot and dry, while winters are humid and cool. The warmest months of the year are July and August with maximum temperatures around 32 – 33 degrees above zero. During this period, the water in the sea is considered the warmest. The coldest month is January (thermometer readings reach only 11 – 12 degrees).
Bathing season begins in May and lasts until September. However, in the first month of autumn the water begins to cool. The nights are cold, but the days are still hot. For those who do not like the scorching heat and want to visit the attractions nearest to the city, it is advised to visit the resort in spring or autumn.
In November it starts to rain and it gets colder in Izmir. The warmth comes to the city in April.
How to get to the resort
By plane. There are no regular direct flights to Izmir. From Moscow or Kiev, you can get there with connections in other cities in Turkey. The international airport of the resort, which was named after the Prime Minister of the country Adnan Menderes is located not far from the city – 18 km. The main carriers are Pegasus Airlines and Turkish Airlines.
From the airport to different parts of the city take city buses number 200, 202, 204. There are also regular buses Havas and the train Izban. The most convenient way to get there is by cab; the fare is about 60 Turkish Liras ($16.6).
By train. There are two railway stations in the city: suburban and for long-distance trains. The second one is Basmane Gar which has direct trains from Ankara, Bandirma, Eskisehir and other cities.
By Bus. In 6 km from the resort there is a bus station, which takes buses from different cities of Turkey. For a more comfortable journey between cities, METRO buses, which go to Izmir from Istanbul, Ankara and Bodrum are suitable.
By ferry. Since the city has a large port, the ferry service is very well developed. Every week you can take a ferry from Istanbul or Venice to Izmir.
The main public transport of Izmir is the Eshot buses. It is a large comfortable buses, painted red. For travelling between the coasts of the city ferries run. In total there are seven piers in the city. There is also a subway in the resort. It has only one line and 14 stations. From the airport to Izmir Bay regularly runs Izban train.
To pay for travel in ancient Smyrna is used a travel card. It can be purchased at kiosks, on the piers and at metro stations. The card costs 6 Turkish liras and the price per trip is 2.4. It can be used many times and can be recharged at points of sale or from vending machines.
The card is valid for 90 minutes. If you do not have time to buy or recharge a pass, you can buy a single ticket from the driver.
In the city are also constantly running local buses – dolmushi. This is the cheapest way to travel. The fare varies from 1.5 to 3 Turkish liras depending on the distance.
Rent a vehicle
If you plan to visit various city attractions, you can rent a bicycle in Izmir. There are 33 bicycle rentals in the city with an automatic rental system. They are called Bisiklet Izmir. The cost is 2,60 liras per hour.
In order to see the remarkable places around Smyrna on your own, you can rent a car. You can do this both at the airport and in the city. Renting a car will cost about 85 Turkish Liras.
Remember! The city center is often saturated traffic. Free parking is very scarce. Gasoline prices are rather high – about 5,35 lira per 1 liter.
You won’t have any trouble with lodging in Izmir, which is available for every taste and in different price categories. Prices range from 70 – 100 lira in a hostel to 400 – 700 lira in a five-star hotel.
Some of the best, according to travelers’ reviews, are considered to be the following hotels:
- Hilton Garden Inn Izmir Bayrakli 3*;
- Key Hotel 4*;
- DoubleTree by Hilton 4*;;
- Swissotel Grand Efes Izmir 5*;
- Renaissance Izmir Hotel 5*.
For a budget holiday suit the following options:
- Piano Hotel;
- In House Hostel;
- Lotus Garden Hostel.
If you’re looking for an accommodation on your own you should take into account that most streets in Izmir are numbered.
Attractions of the resort
The center of the city is its main square, Konak. It is always lively. But not only tourists who want to see the important sights. On the square is a major transportation hub: the central bus station, as well as the pier and subway station.
The symbol of the square, as well as the city itself, is the clock tower, located in the center. It was built in 1901. The tower was made in the Ottoman style, its height was 25 meters. Near the tower there is a small mosque called Yala, built in the XVIII century. It has unusually small size. It is interesting with its octagonal shape and mosaic decoration of the facade.
The agora of Smyrna is also considered to be the main symbol of the city. Until now only its remains have survived. In ancient times it was a central square where the market trade was conducted and various public events took place. Today it is an open-air museum and an architectural monument from the ancient times.
Surprisingly, the landmark of Izmir is Kemeralta market. It is considered the soul of the city, because the trade in this place has been going on since ancient times. Kemeralti is one of the biggest markets in Turkey and the prices here are cheaper than in other cities of the country. Also, walking between the shops, you can see the largest mosque of Izmir, which was built in the 16th century. It is the Hisar mosque in the Ottoman style.
For those who want to see the beauty of the city from above, we recommend a visit to Kadifekale Fortress. It is located on a mountain Pagos, which offers a picturesque view. Of course, only ruins remained of the fortress. And it was built in the IV century by the Byzantines.
There are a lot of interesting monuments in the neighborhoods of Izmir. The ancient city of Pergam, founded in the XII century BC is located one and a half kilometers from the city of Bergam in Izmir province. Of course only the ruins of Pergamon have survived.
Today you can see the surviving remains of the altar of Zeus, the temples of Athena, Trajan, Dionysus, the ruins of the Acropolis, the Asklepion and other attractions. In this ancient city was the second largest library at that time. The Christian church of Pergamum is described in the Bible as one of the churches of the Apocalypse.
Interesting! There is a legend that this is where parchment was invented after the ban on the export of papyrus from Egypt.
Near the town of Selcuk are the remains of the ancient city of Ephesus. It was famous for its temple built in honor of the goddess Artemis. The temple is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Unfortunately, only one restored column has survived to this day.
However, there are still plenty of other remarkable buildings of the ancient Ephesus period: the library of Celsus, the stadium where gladiatorial fights took place, the temple and the Hadrian’s Gate, theaters and others.
Outdoor activities and entertainment
For those who are tired of looking at ancient ruins, there is a large park in the city. This is a huge area for a variety of recreational activities for families, companies, and even singles. It is always crowded, and especially so between the end of August and the end of September. At this time is the traditional annual International Trade Fair.
For tourists with children the trip to Izmir Zoo is quite interesting. Its area is quite large – 425 thousand square meters. It is worth considering, because it will not be easy to get around the whole territory. The park is home to about 1500 wild animal species and 120 tame species. Instead of cages, natural barriers are used, allowing you to watch the animals live in their natural environment.
The Izmir Zoo is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Ticket price: about $1 per adult, children under 6 are free.
Izmir is a major modern city, so you can have an interesting time at night here as well. According to the reviews of tourists and locals, the most popular places to hang out in the evening are the following:
- Doy Doy Pub;
- Dante Cafe & Bar;
- Beach Cafe, Mambo Beach Club nightclub;
- Sirena Pub.
Since Izmir has a major seaport, the water at the resort is not very clean. Few people dare to swim near the city’s shores. Therefore, tourists and locals prefer to relax on the beaches of nearby towns.
At 80 kilometers from Smyrna is the town of Cesme, famous for its clean beaches and mineral springs. Here are the most expensive and luxurious hotels, as well as very well-developed infrastructure. Near Cesme there is a clean and soft beach with a very warm water, called Ylıca. It is particularly good for children.
A little further away is another popular resort destination – Kusadasi. It also has a port, but the beaches are clean with soft white sand.
Cuisine and restaurants of Izmir
As in many seaside resorts in Izmir the cuisine is based on fish and seafood. In the city you can try the famous Turkish dishes – kebabs, kofta, shawarma, dolma, mezuzu and others. But do not worry those who prefer other foods. An abundance of restaurants with cuisines from all over the world will not leave anyone hungry.
Along the promenade are the most expensive restaurants and cafes. For budget tourists in Izmir there is a lot of street food with delicious snacks. Mostly all kinds of buns: simitas, lokmas, bojoz.
Of the haute cuisine restaurants, the preferred ones are:
- Deniz Restaurant;
- Kordon Yengec Restaurant;
- Bogazici Restaurant Uckuyular;
- Aquarium Restaurant.
Of the more budget-friendly establishments, the guests recommend the following:
- Cagdas Bufe;
- Doyuran Manisa Kebap Salonu;
- Kardesler Bufe.
Izmir is a dainty place for shopping lovers. Here you will find both shopping stalls for avid bargain hunters and equipped malls to buy up at fixed prices. In this city you can buy everything you want. Leather goods, textiles, wine and of course, lukum are the most common things you can buy from Smyrna.
To plunge into the culture of Turkish trade, you should go to one of the largest markets of Turkey Kemeralta. It is considered the most popular in the world. You can buy everything here – from clothing to carpets. And, of course, you can and should bargain here.
For the lovers of shopping malls and boutiques:
- MaviBahce Shopping Center;
- Optimum Outlet ve Eglence Merkezi;
- Agora Alisveris Merkezi;
- Selway Outlet Park.
Antique monuments, Ottoman-style architecture, and unparalleled Turkish culture are why you should visit Ancient Smyrna. This place will fascinate even the most inveterate traveler, because very few places you can see a combination of a large modern city and ancient monuments several thousand years BC. Treat yourself to a trip to the shores of the Aegean Sea near the charming and mysterious Izmir.