Known throughout the ancient world as ‘Smyrna’, Izmir's history dates back more than 4,000 years, with archaeological remains that prove the Trojans, Hittites, Lydians and Greeks all had settlements here before the Romans built Izmir into an important trading hub.
Few of the Izmir’s older buildings remain, as the city was almost completely destroyed during the Turkish War of Independence, but there are still some interesting archaeological and historical sites you can visit. Some remains of Roman city Smyrna can be seen at the Agora, and ruins from the Greek and Byzantine periods are spread throughout the city and in the surrounding hills. Here are some worth checking out:
Kadifekale (Velvet Fortress)
Originally built by Alexander the Great, the restored ramparts of the Kadifekale offer sweeping views over Izmir and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. Its name, which means ‘velvet castle,’ is said to refer to the citadel's walls, which look like velvet. The structure, with its solid stone blocks, Byzantine cisterns and Ottoman buttresses, has the appearance of something out of a medieval fantasy.
At the foot of Kadifekale Hill you’ll find the agora — what once was the former Roman city's market. Today the site is a large open space surrounded by ancient columns and foundations, with the well-preserved Roman statues of Poseidon, Artemis, and Demeter at the northwest corner. Part of the agora has been closed off for excavations, but there's plenty to see.
Izmir Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum of Izmir exhibits an impressive collection of Pre-Roman and Roman artifacts recovered from area excavations, including Bergama, Iasos, Bayrakli and Izmir's Agora. The museum grounds are full of oversized amphoras dating to the Hellenistic period, with columns and capitals arranged around the gardens.
This is the place to go for a taste of Izmir’s archeological richness. A chronological exhibit of pottery, ceramics, glass, funerary objects and the reconstruction of a 4000-year-old tomb can be found on the upper floor, while larger stone and marble statues take up the lower floor. The lobby contains a helpful map of Turkey that indicates which regions belonged to which kingdoms in the ancient world.