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Izmir: Losing Oneself In The Maze Of Kemeraltı

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We just love Kemeraltı Market in the Konak area of Izmir!

We’ve made this comparison before, but for us, when it comes to size and personality, Izmir is to Istanbul what Manchester is to London in the UK.

Izmir is completely different to Istanbul. But it’s impossible not to make such a comparison.

Both cities link their opposite shores by ferries (and Izmir uses the iconic Istanbul ferries to cross its choppy waters).

Both cities have a pedestrianised shopping street – Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul and Kıbrıs Şehitleri Caddesi in Izmir – with lively bars and eateries fanning off to each side.

Both cities have a covered bazaar (but that’s for another post).

Both cities have a maze of crowded streets selling all manner of goods…

Welcome to Kemeraltı, Izmir

Everything in Izmir is on a smaller, more accessible, less overwhelming scale than Istanbul.

And Kemeraltı isn’t huge…but we still managed to get completely lost in the area.

Shoppers wander through Kemeraltı Çarşı in Izmir
Most of the streets are covered so navigation is difficult

The streets around Kızlarağası Hanı, Izmir’s answer to Istanbul’s covered bazaar, are not much different to those around the grand bazaar.

They’re not picturesque but they’re packed with bargains, a whole array of haberdashery , clothes, footwear, jewellery and foods.

Nuts, grains & pulses for sale in decorative containers at the market
Kemeraltı is packed with nuts, grains and pulses for sale

Kemeraltı does a great job of holding your interest and it’s well worth a morning of your time.

We went there twice while we were staying in Izmir, and here’s a tip for you:

If you want to wander around without jostling for space with a hefty-sized portion of Izmir’s population, go to Kemeraltı in the morning and don’t go on a Saturday.

That’s why we went twice! Our first attempt was on a breezy, sunny Saturday afternoon and we were there to look for Kızlarağası Hanı.

Crowds in ancient, narrow streets packed with noisy street traders are not a good recipe for trying to get elsewhere with purpose, especially when you don’t know where you’re going!

We decided to call it a day and return another time.

Simitçi pushing his bread rings through a crowded Kemeraltı market
Just wander

No, as a new visitor to Izmir, you should just surrender to Kemeraltı; wander aimlessly, get hopelessly lost, browse the stalls and breathe in the atmosphere – Kemeraltı is a different world compared to the streets of Alsancak.

While Alsancak makes sure it is the epitome of modern, secular Turkey, Kemeraltı is where you come to view the evidence of Anatolia’s centuries old trading traditions.

And it’s where you come to try Izmir’s famous fincanda pişen Türk kahvesi (turkish coffee boiled in the cup) – you’ll stumble across one of these places all in good time.

Remember, don’t come to Kemeraltı with a mission.

Seafood stall, Kemeraltı, Izmir
Seafood for sale, to take home or eat in Kemeraltı

Kemeraltı also has its own little fish market area.

The family running this particular stall also had a small seafood lokanta just opposite selling cheap seafood meals.

This was one of the places we promised ourselves we’d come back to try – but amongst the söğüş and Çeşme kumrusu, we really did run out of days.

We never went hungry in Izmir…and we now have an excuse to go back to try out the places we missed first time round.

Colourful displays of fruit, ready for juicing
A fruit pit stop for the thirsty explorer

And aimless wandering can be thirsty work – even after you’ve stopped for the famous Turkish coffee – but Kemeraltı is perfectly adept at keeping you fed and watered.

How’s this for a pit stop?

There’s a row of three or four of these little stands and they’re rammed with vibrant fruit displays. The fruits are just waiting to be juiced to quench your thirst.

No seating here.

Elma suyu (apple juice), nar suyu (pomegranate juice), portakal suyu (orange juice), kavun, ananas, şeftali, havuç (watermelon, pineapple, peach, carrot) are all freshly squeezed for the passer-by.

And yes, you can mix the fruits, too.

Join the fast-moving queue, shout to the juice guy which you want and he makes it there and then.

A small glass of orange juice is passed over, you hand over the money, knock back the juice, pass your glass back and move on.

Thirst quenched.

Now you’re ready to go and find Kızlarağası Hanı…but we’ll tell you about a much easier way to find it, taking in another side of Kemeraltı in the process, in another post…

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Turkey's For Life

Thursday 14th of February 2013

@ Ozlem's Turkish Table: Maybe my photos make it look like that or maybe Izmir has changed since you were last there. All the streets were fantastically clean. It was the first thing we noticed when we arrived. :)

Turkey's For Life

Thursday 14th of February 2013

@ Mette: Yes, freshly pressed fruit juice is just perfect isn't it when you're thirsty.

@ BacktoBodrum: It's probably because we've never had any real reason to visit Izmir before that we went off in search of all these places. :)

Turkey's For Life

Thursday 14th of February 2013

@ April: Going to places to visit family or friends is always a completely different experience. We were out and out tourists in Izmir and it was nice for a change but it is good to be shown around by a local, too. :)

@ Jaz: To say we're not fans of shopping, we seem to spend a lot of time in places like Kemeraltı. :)

Ozlem's Turkish Table

Thursday 14th of February 2013

I love all the buzz in Kemeralti - and looks more civil!- those fish and fruit looks amazing! Missed Izmir,good dose from you :)

Backto Bodrum

Wednesday 13th of February 2013

I used to view Izmir as a place to go just for doctors, dentists and squash tournaments - Your posts are suggesting I missed a lot.

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