HalalBooking guide to halal-friendly holidays in İzmir
İzmir, the third biggest city in Turkey, has been home to many different civilizations since Neolithic times. It is said that it takes its name from Smyrna, who is believed to be one of the Amazon women. İzmir is a vibrant city and half of its population is made up of young people, lending it a lively, vibrant atmosphere. It offers a splendid seaside holiday with its seafront suburbs, an opportunity to travel back in time with its rich history, and plenty of art and culture with its entertaining festivals.
Halal-friendly hotels and villas in İzmir
Every year the Aegean coastline is host to thousands of local and foreign tourists. With its fascinating city centre and wonderful surroundings, İzmir is one of the most popular holiday destinations. İzmir offers a great variety of halal-friendly facilities as there are many alcohol-free hotels with ladies-only pools (both indoors and outdoors), spa centres and beaches. Those visitors who prefer a city atmosphere can also benefit from numerous luxury accommodation options in the city centre. Those who would like to enjoy the history and culture can visit the ancient city of Selçuk and witness the traces of antiquity while luxuriating in the comfort of a holiday resort. For those who favour historic stone houses and authentic settings, Alaçatı is the ideal holiday destination. Those travellers who would like to delight in a beach holiday with the brilliant sunshine and stunning sandy beach can opt for Çeşme. The nearby beach resorts of Alaçatı and Çeşme both offer a good choice of halal-friendly boutique hotels and resorts.
If you want to do your own holiday search, using your own criteria, simply put your own information such as travelling dates, number of visitors, the ages of children, if any, in the search box at the top of the HalalBooking website.This will allow you to see the prices of halal resorts in İzmir and book at competitive rates If you become a HalalBooking Loyalty Club (HBLC) member for free, you can benefit from extra discounts which are only offered to members. All you need to do is to register on the website. HalalBooking also matches prices to ensure that you always benefit from the best possible price.
Halal food and restaurants in İzmir
İzmir offers an unforgettable holiday experience with its tasty dishes. There are some local plants and vegetables, which are used in local dishes which you won’t find elsewhere, such as:
- nettles cooked with olive oil
- a small type of cabbage known as cibes in Turkish
- salads made with samphire
- stuffed aubergine or zucchini flowers
- artichokes and eggplants cooked in olive oil (known as çığırtma in Turkish)
The local cuisine of İzmir includes kebabs cooked in tandoor ovens, stuffed lamb and different types of meatballs in addition to vegetable dishes made with olive oil. Kuyu Tandırı (meat cooked in a tandoor well) is an outstanding dish of İzmir, which goes back to Ottoman times, and the residents of Tire even eat it for breakfast. İzmir’s köfte (meatballs) are definitely one of the city’s best dishes İzmir’s cuisine offers many other special dishes such as Şevketi bostan yemeği a dish made with a type of thistle, prepared with lamb; squash stuffed with minced meat or braised meat cubes, known as Sandal Sefası; boiled sheep’s head (called Sogus Kelle), kumru (a sandwich with sausages, tomatoes and cheese) and shish kebabs (different types of meat on skewers).
If you visit İzmir, you should not leave before trying its unmissable desserts. You can find lokma (a small round Turkish doughnut) on almost every street corner. There are also alcohol-free restaurants where local dishes, as well as delicious Turkish desserts such as Şambali (also called Damascus dessert) and Gerdan dessert (made of lamb), are served. Most of the restaurants serving local food in İzmir are alcohol-free. Just to be sure, you can ask the hotel receptionist for tips for alcohol-free restaurants nearby.
Places to visit in İzmir
İzmir Clock Tower
The Clock Tower is an important landmark of İzmir. In 1900, the authorities of the time decided that a clock tower with a fountain should be built in İzmir in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Sultan Abdul Hamid’s accession to the throne and this laid the foundation of the well-known İzmir Clock Tower. This gorgeous work of art was designed by a French architect in the Arabic style and today it is one of the most important city landmarks.
Historic Building Asansör
The Karataş Steps were built at the beginning of the 1900s to connect Mithatpaşa and Şehit Nihat Bey Streets as they were not linked due to the hilly geographical conditions. The residents had difficulty climbing up the stairs and some accidents took place. Therefore, in 1907 Nesim Levi decided to build an elevator there. This building is called Asansör (Turkish word for “elevator”) and today it is used for the same purpose. It is a great attraction for tourists, too. Hundreds of visitors stop on the balcony of this building, which serves as a kind of observation terrace, to enjoy the panoramic view of the city and to take photos.
Konak Mosque (Yalı Mosque)
Built in the classical Ottoman style in 1854, Konak Mosque has one dome and minaret. It is also known as Zarif (Turkish word for ‘elegant’) Yalı Mosque due to its elegance and beauty. With the exterior walls decorated with tiles which were brought from Kütahya - a Turkish city famous for the production of tiles- Yalı Mosque is one of the most important historical buildings located in Konak square.
İzmir Wildlife Park
The zoo which was situated in İzmir Fair for many years was relocated in 2008 to an open area, covering some 425,000 m² in Çiğli and it was transformed into İzmir Wildlife Park. In contrast to the zoo, the Wildlife Park includes special spaces for different animal species and provides the animals with the most natural living environment. These are just some of the many sections of İzmir Wildlife Park: the African Savanna for African animals such as giraffe, zebra, hippopotamus, which covers an area of 18,000 m²; the section including one open and one closed area of 15,000 m² for Asian elephants; the Monkey Island extending over an area of 6600 m²; separate areas for tigers, lions and pumas. The wildlife park is open to visitors every day.
Museums in İzmir
İzmir is like a museum paradise and is very rich in terms of culture and art. Visitors can choose from a great variety of museums including those displaying more general history and those showcasing specific collections. The ones you should not miss are as follows:
The Aegean region is home to many ancient cities and archeological excavation sites. Most of the artefacts unearthed in the region are exhibited in İzmir Archaeology Museum. Although the museum was first opened in the building of the Saint Voukolos Church in 1927, it has been situated in its own building located in Konak since 1984.
Located opposite the Archeology Museum in a historical building dating from the 19th century, The Ethnography Museum is known for its magnificent edifice as well as the artefacts inside. The architectural design of the building is a mixture of Neo-classical and Neo-Gothic styles and Byzantine ornaments were used, too. In the museum, handicrafts such as hand embroidery felt work and ceramics are exhibited, as well as local clothes, mother of pearl items and local knickknacks together with traditional home decorations.
İzmir Museum of History and Art
Another museum where the historical artefacts unearthed in the region are displayed is the Museum of History and Art. It consists of three sections: Stone works, Ceramics and Valuables. In the section of Stone Works, there are statues, inscriptions and reliefs dating from the Smyrna period. In the Ceramics section, different ceramic objects made before the end of the Byzantine era are shown. As for the Valuables Section, there are pieces of art which are made of glass and bronze, treasury rooms and coins.
İzmir Museum of Radio and Democracy
Founded by Konak Municipality, İzmir Museum of Radio and Democracy was built at the beginning of the 1900s and is situated in the historical building known to the locals as Asmalı Ev (literally “vine-clad house” in Turkish). At the entrance to the museum there is a visual display which manifests the relationship between radio and democracy. Inside the museum, notice boards with information on radio, newspaper cuttings, around 150 radios, gramophones and records are displayed.
İzmir Women’s Museum
The Women’s Museum is a boutique museum belonging to Konak’s Municipality. The main motivation behind the establishment of this museum is to mirror the lifestyle of Anatolian women since antiquity. This is reflected with biographies of important female figures in Turkish history, traditional clothes, replicas of women portraits drawn by Turkish and European painters and many more works of art which are exhibited in the museum.
Other boutique museums which belong to Konak Municipality are the Play and Toy Museum, and the Mask Museum. Don’t miss them on your holiday in İzmir!
Historical and cultural heritage of İzmir
Agora of Smyrna
This excavation site, which used to be a gathering place of the city in ancient times, is a sight to behold on your İzmir trip, situated very close to the Clock Tower in Konak city centre. The Agora or marketplace was established in the 4th century BC in the north of Pagos at the request of Alexander the Great. Reliefs, statues of figures from Greek mythology, artefacts made of marble and bones were excavated from different parts of the Agora. As the excavation site is in the city centre, there is a plan to transform this place into a big archaeological and historical park in the future.
Ancient City of Ephesus
Located in Selçuk around 1 hour’s drive from İzmir itself, Ephesus is regarded as a significant ancient city of Turkey as the Temple of Artemis - one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - is found there. The excavation site is large and it is considered the biggest open-air museum in the world. Inside the ancient city, there are many important historic structures such as the House of Virgin Mary, the Cave of Seven Sleepers and the Basilica of St. John.
Previously called Pagos, the castle of Kadifekale dates back to the 4th century BC. Its construction began in the times of Alexander the Great, who decided to move the city to the foothills of Mount Pagos after having a dream about it, and it took almost 100 years to complete. Surviving for centuries, the castle is open to visitors today. Kadifekale is a great vantage point from which to survey the city and the Aegean Sea and take great photos. Also, you can enjoy the stunning view as you rest in the cafes and restaurants nearby.
Hacı Mustafa had this inn built in the beginning of the 18th century and today there are several cafes, restaurants and souvenirs shops inside. In an important architecture competition which took place in 2011, it was selected one of the world’s best 30 architectural structures and received an award. Abacıoğlu Inn is among the must-see places in İzmir as it is a calm and peaceful place in all the crowd of Kemeraltı bazaar and it allows you to soak up the historical atmosphere.
İsmail Rahmi Effendi had Dönertaş Fountain built in the name of his father in 1814. It attracts attention with its extraordinary architecture. A mixture of Baroque and Rococo styles, this public fountain was decorated with marble and stone reliefs. Each relief tells a different story and there is an inscription on each of them with the following quotation from the Quran: “We made from water every living thing.” (Surah Al-Anbya, Verse 30).
Districts and natural beauties of İzmir
Named after the Mediterranean seal which used to live in the region, Foça has been a place of settlement since the 9th century BC. With its historical atmosphere, it is an ideal spot for those who dream of moving to a coastal town in the Aegean region. Foça offers a great calming ambience with its cobblestone pavements, stone houses, bougainvillea, lush greenery, peaceful sea views, cycling paths, historical windmills and welcoming locals. According to a legend, if you step on the black stone (Karataş) in Foça, you can never leave or if you do, you will definitely come back some day.
If you are keen on trekking or exploring by bike whilst on holiday, İzmir offers a unique way to do that: Ephesus-Mimas Route. It is 440 miles long and includes walking and cycling tracks - 49 in total. Throughout your journey on this route, you will get lost in amazing nature, history and culture. Beginning in front of the Temple of Artemis, the Ephesus-Mimas Route takes you to 6 different ancient cities. Also, you can enjoy the olive trees and vineyards. You can even jump on the Blue Route and explore the beauties of the coastal islands and the Aegean Sea.
One of the leading holiday towns in the Çeşme region, Alaçatı has become as popular as Bodrum in recent years. The Turks and Rums (Greeks) have been living together in this little old Aegean town for a long time. The most distinctive feature of Alaçatı that separates it from the other Aegean towns which are full of luxurious hotels and places is its authentic atmosphere. In Alaçatı, you can find stone houses with a bay window, blue framed doors and windows, local shops, and roads covered with flowers of different colours so it is the right choice for those who want to find one of the most charming spots of the Aegean region on holiday.
Şirince is very close to Selçuk and has become popular for its fertile terrain, lush greenery and historical atmosphere. The aptly named Şirince (meaning cute, pretty in Turkish) has inspired world-renowned novel writers. As you walk through this peaceful village, you will feel relaxed to be away from city life. While you wander among the historical stone houses in alleys, you can buy homemade products of the locals, handmade towels and sarongs as well as olive oil produced in the region.
Nebiler Valley and Waterfall
One of the outstanding beauties of İzmir is Nebiler, otherwise called Aşıklar (literally ‘lovers’) Waterfall, which is an amazing natural wonder. Located in Nebiler Valley, the waterfall takes its name from the story in which the daughter of a sultan and a nomad fall in impossible love. There are 3 waterfalls and 2 caves in the valley, which is a frequent destination for trekkers and campers.
Karagöl Natural Park
This natural park is ideal for those who like getting lost in nature. It is located in the middle of lush trees at an altitude of 850 metres, which provides the opportunity to make a pleasant family excursion with impressive lake and forest views. You can either go inside the park and eat at the restaurant there or you can bring your own food and have a picnic with your family by the lake.
Bird Paradise (İzmir Kuş Cenneti)
İzmir Bird Paradise will be one of the best parts of your İzmir trip, which is rich in history, art, culture and nature. This natural park hosts 289 different bird species on an area of 8000 hectares and it is home to approximately 100,000 water birds in winter. Some endangered animals such as dalmatian pelicans, pink flamingos and black storks are among the most valuable guests of the park. By using binoculars, cruiser bikes and bird observation towers in the Bird Paradise, you can live an unforgettable experience and meet a great number of bird species - even those you haven't heard of.
Things to do in İzmir
When you travel to İzmir, it is not possible to return home empty-handed. There is a lovely shop or marketplace on almost every corner of the city so it offers a great variety of options some of which are listed below:
- The Historical Kemeraltı Bazaar- accepted to be one of the oldest marketplaces in the world
- Kızlarağası Inn- one of the biggest inns in İzmir
- Kıbrıs Şehitleri Street- a street in Alsancak which is closed to traffic, with lots of shops
- Seferihisar Marketplace- selling fresh fruit and vegetables grown locally
- The Marketplace for Local Women’s Handicrafts in Selçuk- helping to support local women
- Night Market near Güzelbahçe Ferry Port- you can find handmade ornaments, bags and souvenirs.
With the stunning view of the Aegean Sea on one side, the Kordon esplanade with lovely cafes, snack bars and benches on the other, İzmir offers popular activities for those who like going out in the evening. As you walk along the coastline at Kordon you will be mesmerised by the beautiful sea view and free your mind of daily problems. Relax after a day full of shopping or sightseeing, and enjoy a cup of coffee with your family or friends at a cafe with stunning sea views.
Open Air Shows at Historical Coal Gas Factory
Built in 1862, the Historical Coal Gas Factory has become one of the most popular places in İzmir. In 1955 the factory was closed and the building has been used for artistic events since 2008. In summer, the best musicians give concerts there - everything from pop to jazz - and you can watch them for free. The factory also hosts workshops on poetry, story and theatre as well as photograph and painting exhibitions.
In İzmir, there is a festival for every month of the year. Not only artistic festivals, but also food and agricultural festivals are very popular. You can attend the following festivals in the months specified below:
- January: Camel Wrestling Festival in Selçuk
- March: Alaçatı Herb Festival,
- April: Seferihisar Local Food Cooking Contest,
- May: Hıdırellez Festivals celebrated to welcome spring in different parts of the city,
- June: Flower Festival,
- July: Belevi Beach Festival,
- August: Vintage Festival,
- September: Ephesus Culture and Art Festival,
- October: Tangerine Festival,
- November: Olive Festival