Izmir has worn numerous guises throughout its millennia of history. Founded by the Greeks, ruled by the Romans, captured by the Ottomans, and today a part of Turkey, the city was known as Smyrna until the 20th century. Izmir hosts numerous ancient landmarks and is well placed for exploring other regional archaeological sites. Here are your top options for archaeological sites in and around Izmir.
Also known as the Velvet Castle, the hilltop Kadifekale was built in the 4th century BC, during the reign of Alexander the Great. While largely in ruins today, the castle offers a glimpse into Izmir’s past, as well as sweeping views over the city.
Izmir’s ancient marketplace, rebuilt under Marcus Aurelius following a devastating earthquake, provides an evocative vision of the city’s past. With its colonnades, vaulted halls, and gateway, this open-air museum offers plenty to admire.
Izmir Archaeological Museum
Founded nearly a century ago, the Izmir Archaeological Museum showcases a host of treasures that date back to antiquity, recovered from various excavations in the region. Collection highlights include ancient Greco-Roman statues, utensils, and tools, as well as an array of Bronze Age artifacts.
Once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, Sardis still possesses an air of grandeur today. Just over an hour’s drive from Izmir, the archaeological site is a major regional highlight. Be sure to see the ruins of its decorative synagogue, as well as the Temple of Artemis and the Marble Court of Sardis.
Roughly an hour’s journey from central Izmir, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ephesus is one of Turkey’s most important ancient landmarks and among Asia’s most complete ancient cities. While it remains only partially excavated, there’s still an enormous amount to see. Spend a full day discovering the Great Theatre, Terrace Houses, the Library of Celsus, the Temple of Hadrian, and more.
Pergamon and Asklepion
Cited in the Book of Revelation and once the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon, the ancient healing center of Asklepion now exists in the form of exceptional ruins and monuments. Travel roughly two hours north of Izmir to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site further, and be sure to visit the Roman theater, library, and Temple of Asklepios.