Throughout history, İzmir has been a port city and Konak has been the city centre of İzmir. Following recent restorations this area has also been turned into a recreational centre, and thus is now a lively spot throughout the day. In the square can be seen: - the monumental statue of Hasan Tahsin, who fired the “first bullet” at the occupation forces during the War of Liberation, the Yalı Mosque decorated with tiles from Kütahya, the Clock Tower, the Municipality Building and the Governor’s Office.
The Office was built between the years 1868 and 1872. The Turkish flag, raised at the Governor’s Office, marked the arrival of the Turkish army on September 9, 1922. This event symbolized the liberation of İzmir, giving this location particular importance.
İzmir’s century-old symbol
The Clock Tower, which is a symbol of İzmir, is located at Konak Square, and is a favourite meeting place for today’s residents of İzmir. The Clock Tower was designed by the Levantine French architect, Raymond Charles Péré in 1901 in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the ascension of Abdülhamit II.
In the construction, the use of iron and lead elements between the cut stone meant that the tower was rendered earthquake resistant.
The clock in the tower was a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany to Sultan Abdülhamit II of the Ottoman Empire as the symbol of their personal friendship besides the Turk-German friendship.
The fountains located on all the four corners of the wide chamber under the Clock Tower have also given the tower the characteristics of a “Şadırvan” (fountain used for ritual ablutions and usually located in the middle of a mosque courtyard). Another feature of the tower is the city gas installation built inside it. In the past, this was used as a lighting source at night and in the evenings.
İzmir’s first crown
Taking a bird’s eyes view of İzmir and the port, Kadifekale, which was called Pagos in ancient times, has the characteristics of an acropolis due to its position at an altitude of 186m. The ruins of walls on the western and southern parts, comprising of five towers, date back to the period of Lysimachus, one of the generals of Alexander the Great. The settlement in İzmir was re-located to Kadifekale from Bayraklı in the period that followed the arrival of Alexander the Great in Anatolia in 334 B.C. According to the geographer Strabo, the urban core of İzmir, which was one of the 12 most beautiful Ionian cities, extending from Kadife kale to the port, comprised of streets paved with smooth stones, a temple dedicated to the mother goddess and Homer, a theatre, agora, which was a lively trade centre, a stadium, grain warehouses, water cisterns and aqueducts.
Center for arts, trade and philosophy
Agora, etymologically, means “city square, shopping centre, market place”. At the heart of all trade, Agora with its open vaulted threewalled porches, monuments, altars and statues had commercial, judicial, religious and political functions besides it was a venue for intensive artistic activities. It was also the place where the foundations of philosophy were laid.
The Agora located in the district of Namazgâh in İzmir dates back to the Roman Period (2nd C. A.D.), and according to the grid planned Hippodamos model, it was built on three floors at a location near the centre. Of all the Roman Agora, the Agora in İzmir is the largest and best preserved.
It is understood that the Agora in İzmir was a composite structure in a rectangular form, built on arches and surrounded by columns with a central courtyard; it has three floors and a staircase in front of it.
It is also understood that the relief of the Goddess Vesta at the northern gate of the Agora is an extension of the reliefs from the Zeus Altar unearthed in the initial period of excavations. In addition to some statues of various gods, namely Hermes, Dionysus, Eros and Heracles, many artefacts including statues of men, women and animals, reliefs, figurines, marbles, bones, glasses, metal Works and articles made of fired earth were uncovered. The newly unearthed inscriptions provided information about the people who assisted the city during an earthquake which occurred in İzmir in 178.
A historic bazaar
Kemeraltı is a historic bazaar covering an area extending from the neighbourhood of Mezarlıkbaşı to Konak Square. Anafartalar Avenue, that constitutes the main street of the bazaar, forms a wide curve. This curve stems from the fact that the street once surrounded the perimeters of the internal port, which existed in previous centuries. As in the past, Kemeraltı Bazaar is a major shopping centre in İzmir today. The bazaar, having an outdoor and indoor section, offers visitors a rich variety of products and services ranging from traditional Turkish handicrafts like ceramics, tile panels, wooden products, copper, carpets, rugs and leather products, to delicious Aegean foodstuffs.
Modern Shopping Center
Gustav Eiffel, in his offices in France, designed Konak Pier, which is also within walking distance of the business and commercial centres such as Alsancak and Konak, before it was built in the Ottoman Period between 1875 and 1890. It served as a customs building until the mid-20th century. Famous for its steel construction, this structure has been restored and re-designed as a modern shopping and recreational centre. There are restaurants, cafes, cinemas, and about 50 stores in a 20,000m² area of this centre which was re-named the Konak Pier.
Source of inspiration for poets and songs
Kordonboyu (1. Kordon) is just like a pearl necklace running along the coast in the district of Alsancak, enjoying the popularity it has received for providing the inspiration for many poems and songs. It offers romantic sunsets, sea breezes, cafes, fish restaurants, stylish stores, parades, running and biking courses. It also provides an ideal atmosphere for entertainment and recreational activities, bringing together the people of İzmir.
The Fountain is located in Basmane-Dönertaş. Dönertaş Fountain was named after the rotating column in the corner, and the area in the vicinity is called by this name. It was built at the beginning of the 19th century, with a single dome and a square plan. The fountain is one of the most beautiful examples of the Turkish baroque style.
Of particular note are the bouquet vase and the fruit bowl compositions, the relief decorations on the marble, with a theme peculiar to the Tulip Age. As decorative elements, tulips, roses, flower buds, leaves, branches and other similar plants have been used. The structure is one of the best examples of fountain architecture in İzmir.
The Asansör (lift-elevator) Building, which was constructed by the Jewish businessman Nesim Levi in 1907 to facilitate reaching the upper part of Mithatpaşa Street, is one of the interesting tourist spots in İzmir today. This aesthetically designed building is recognized as one of the indispensable social structures in İzmir.
An Ottoman experience
Kızlarağası Han (Inn) was built by Hacı Beşir Ağa in 1744 to serve the public. The inn, one of the rare works of Ottoman architecture in İzmir that has survived until the present day, has the design of other Ottoman inns, with bazaars and courtyards. Kızlarağası Han is a glorious structure with its rectangular plan, two-storey “bedesten” (vaulted part of a bazaar where valuable goods were kept) and courtyard. Following restoration in recent years, it has become an authentic shopping and social centre in İzmir.