Kemeraltı Girişi, 1870 - 1890, Alphonse Rubellin, GRI Digital Collection.
Entrance of the Kemeraltı, 1870 - 1890, Alphonse Rubellin, GRI Digital Collection.
Türk Mahallesi, 1860 - 1900, GRI Digital Collection.
Turkish district, 1860 - 1900, GRI Digital Collection.
Pazar Sokağı, 1865 - 1890, Alphonse Rubellin, GRI Digital Collection.
Bazaar Street, 1865 - 1890, Alphonse Rubellin, GRI Digital Collection.


Kemeraltı, one of the largest open-air bazaars in the world, continues to be one of the most important symbols of İzmir for hundreds of years. The region, which has been designated as a trade area since Antiquity, had a very important share in the rise of İzmir as an Ottoman city. Inns, covered bazaars, arastas, mosques, synagogues, warehouse structures, hotels, fountains, coffee houses, restaurants, workshops where all kinds of production were made formed a complex and colorful texture in Kemeraltı.

Panoramik İzmir Manzarası Gravürü, 1719, Chatelain Henri, David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.
Gravure print of the Panoramic View of İzmir, 1719, Chatelain Henri, David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

İzmir, which was the size of a small town when it came under Ottoman rule in the 15th century, turned into an important port city where Eastern products were exported to the European market with the help of the changing balances in the Mediterranean trade as of the second half of the 16th century. The port trade, which increased thanks to the privileges that the French and the British received from the Ottoman Empire, also caused an increase in the interest in İzmir. In this period, while the residential areas were in Kadifekale and the neighborhoods on its outskirts, the commercial area was concentrated around the inner port. At the turn of the 17th century, the population of İzmir began to increase rapidly, with the European consulates moving from Chios to İzmir. Greek, Armenian and Jewish settlers from the Ottoman lands were joined by traders from every country in Europe, and İzmir took on a cosmopolitan structure.

Since the 17th century, İzmir ceased to be a station where only goods from the East were sent to Europe, and turned into a center where industrial products such as cotton, tobacco, grapes and olive oil were grown, as well as foods such as fruits, vegetables and grains grown in the fertile lands in the background. In the 18th century, when it entered by consolidating its role as a key point in the trade between the East and the West, İzmir has now become one of the most important port cities of the Eastern Mediterranean.

İzmir Körfezi Haritası, 1528, Piri Reis, The Walters Art Museum.
Map of İzmir Bay, 1528, Piri Reis, The Walters Art Museum.
Körfezden İzmir Manzarası, 1836, Fulgenzi Album, Harvard Fine Arts Library.
İzmir view from the bay, 1836, Fulgenzi Album, Harvard Fine Arts Library.

Kemeraltı in the 18th Century

Kemeraltı was the common public space in İzmir, where the population was growing rapidly and the newcomers settled in their own neighborhoods according to their nationalities. The people of İzmir do all their shopping in Kemeraltı, the goods exported from İzmir are loaded onto ships from the port here, the foreigners and seasonal workers who come to the city stay in the inns here, and most of the people of İzmir work here. Numerous buildings, shaped according to the needs of the city and trade, were lined up in the narrow streets of Kemeraltı.

1750 Yılında İzmir 3B Görselleştirme, 2021, AREA Müzecilik.
3D Visualization of İzmir in 1750s, 2021, AREA Müzecilik.

İzmir Neighborhoods in the 18th Century

Kemeraltı'nda bir Kahvehane Litografı, 1848, Auguste Raffet, Victoria and Albert Museum.
Lithograph of a coffeeshop in Kemeraltı, 1848, Auguste Raffet, Victoria and Albert Museum.
Kemeraltı Eski Balıkhane, 1848, Auguste Raffet, Victoria and Albert Museum.
Old Fishmarket in Kemeraltı, 1848, Auguste Raffet, Victoria and Albert Museum.

Inner Harbor and Harbor Castle

In the city center of İzmir, there was a natural bay that was used as a harbor from the Roman Period until the middle of the 18th century. In time, the Inner Harbor, which has become shallow and growing with alluvium, has moved away from meeting the port needs of İzmir, has become completely landlocked today and has become a part of the Kemeraltı Bazaar.

The natural bay, which was used as an Inner Harbor, must have been used since the 4th century BC, when the city was moved from Bayraklı to Konak. It is known that this bay was used as a military port during the Roman Period, and the port castle was built for the first time in this period. The castle, which was destroyed and rebuilt during the Eastern Roman Period, was demolished during Timur's conquest of İzmir in the 15th century and was rebuilt during the reign of Fatih Sultan Mehmed. The fortress of the Ottoman Period preserved its existence until the 19th century, and after the inner harbor was dried and turned into a bazaar, it lost its importance and was demolished.

In the 17th century, the Inner Harbor was too shallow for large cargo ships to anchor. In the middle of the 18th century, the inner harbor, where boats and small cargo boats can dock at its piers, has largely assumed the identity of reeds and swamps. Over the next few decades, the inner harbor was dried up and the new parcels were quickly filled with inns, workshops, and businesses.

İzmir Manzarası ve Hochepied Onuruna Verilen Resepsiyon, 1687-1723, Rijks Museum.
View of Smyrna (İzmir) and the Reception Given to Consul de Hochepied (1657-1723) in the Council Chamber, anonymous, c. 1687 - 1723, Rijks Museum.

1750 İzmir Plan and Contemporary Map


While the Kemeraltı region became the heart of the city from the 15th century, many mosques were built in Kemeraltı over time due to the fact that most of the workers in the bazaar were Muslim. The common feature of the mosques, which are still standing and open for worship today, is that they were built on the periphery of the inner harbor and on the beach at the time they were built. Mosques built on new parcels that emerged as a result of the narrowing of the inner harbor during this period are located on an arc that follows the old coastline.


The spatial reflection of exports based on agricultural products to the city showed itself with the rapid increase in the number of processing, packaging and storage areas. Some of the agricultural products (figs, grapes, bonito, tobacco, etc.) produced in İzmir and its surroundings were stored in the places in the city center and exported after passing the necessary procedures. These trade houses were mostly located in inns and similar structures.

The export of agricultural products at certain times of the year, the harvest periods caused a significant population increase in the city. The harvested and dried figs were transported to the enterprises in İzmir by camels. In this period, the number of seasonal workers, consisting of men, women and children working in an inn, was around 800. Most of these inns were formed in and around the inner harbor.

İzmir Hatırası, Üzüm İşçileri, Salt Research.
Souvenir of İzmir, Grape Workers, Salt Research.

In the 19th century, İzmir, which was the largest export port of the Ottoman Empire, had more than 100 inns in this period. While these inns were used for storage, processing and packaging activities, there were also many private businesses and accommodation facilities. The inns, which include simple places where workers who came to the city to work and families who came to work during harvest times, were among the most important elements of İzmir's economy in this period.

Canik Elmasyan İncir Fabrikası, 1850 - 1900, Zeno.org.
Fig warehouse of Canik Elmasyan, 1850 - 1900, Zeno.org.

Distribution of Existing Inns until 1750


There were many churches in İzmir, where a large Christian population lived. The two churches built in the 18th century were large enough to dominate the İzmir landscape. The bell tower of Agia Photini was among the most important symbols of İzmir at that time.

İzmir Hatırası, Aya Yorgi Ortodoks Kilisesi, AREA Müzecilik Arşivi.
Souvenir of İzmir, Orthodox Church of Agia Yorghi, AREA Müzecilik Arşivi.