From Konak Meydanı there is direct access to İzmir’s historic bazaar district of Kemeraltı. A street with the funny name, Anafartlar Caddesi, leads directly into the heart of the area. Wandering off onto the side streets can be rewarding, with the possibility of finding some interesting shops, Ottoman mosques, and synagogues from the once-dominant Jewish population of the area.
Inside the bazaar area, you can find locals doing their shopping for everything from socks to wedding gowns to phones to fish. It’s easy to get lost on the little side streets and paths that shoot off Anafartlar Caddesi. The good thing is that if you aren’t there to shop, most of the main sites sit along Anafartlar Caddesi.
An interesting fact about Kemeraltı is that it once sat on a harbor, which is why Anafartlar Caddesi is curved. It follows the old natural boundaries of a harbor that was filled in by the Ottomans.
One of the best caravanserais in Turkey, the Kızlarağası Hanı, is the crown jewel of Kemeraltı. It was built in 1744 and once faced the old harbor. The building has been redone and is full of shops selling all kinds of souvenirs and jewelry.
In the courtyard of Kızlarağası Hanı is a cafe. In fact, the streets behind and adjacent to it are also full off small coffee shops. This is where you can have a glass of tea or try fincanda pişen Türk kahvesi (Turkish coffee boiled in the cup), a local specialty.
The Hisar Camii sits next to Kızlarağası Hanı and is the oldest mosque in Kemeraltı. It was built in 1592. The interior has red carpet and very nice chandeliers hanging from the dome. The minbar (pulpit) is made of beautifully carved marble. Click here for a virtual tour.
There are some more interesting Ottoman mosques to be found peeking out from behind the shops in Kemeraltı. Four of them lie along Anafartlar Caddesi. From Konak Meydanı, the first one I encountered was Kemeraltı Camii (1774). Around the curve in the road was Başdurak Camii (1652) (click here for a virtual tour), and further up was Kestanepazarı Camii (1668) (click here for a virtual tour).
The fourth mosque, at the end of Anafartlar Caddesi, is Şadırvanaltı Camii. It literally means “the fountain under” – and literally, the ablutions fountain is under the mosque. It was built in 1636. You have to walk up a flight of steps to enter a very beautiful prayer hall. Click here for a virtual tour.