Blog Post

Gezenthi Travel Blog > News > Blog > Kemeralti Bazaar Today
Kemeralti Bazaar Today

Kemeralti Bazaar Today

Colorful Kemeraltı Bazaar From Past To Our Day

In the 14th century, Izmir which was behind Foça, Çeşme, and Kuşadası in commerce, was under the dominance of Venetians and Geneosians in trade. After these communities, Izmir’s commerce passed into the hands of French, English, and Italians. Slowly, Izmir was passing from town to Metropol. The majority of commerce in Izmir in those times consisted of wool, cotton, silk, dried fruit, and spices.

In fact, because Izmir was situated at the west end of the Silkroad, it has always been an important element in commerce. All the goods which were produced in Anatolia were delivered to Greece, Italy, and to the countries in the Aegean sea from the Izmir port, and also all the goods which were produced in these countries were delivered to Anatolia from the Izmir port.

This situation made Kemeraltı Bazaar which was in the city center, become an important trade point.

Kemeraltı Bazaar which has been in commerce continuously harbors 230 sectors, over 800.000 products, 14.482 shops, 10.000 artisans on 270 hectares area.

Because Kemeraltı was in a key location, in the 19th century particularly for sea commerce it was very important. In that period, different sectors like forge, spice, charcoal shops were born in the Bazaar and all of them were positioned in different areas.

Today in the streets of Kemeraltı that look like a labyrinth you can find anything from handicrafts to diamonds, clothing to jewelry, petshops to gourmet restaurants, spice shops to glasswares, basically anything…

Today, although Izmir port lost most of its importance, despite the shopping malls opened all around Izmir, Kemeraltı stays at a very important point where Izmir folk can find anything they are looking for.

That clients can bargain, taste the foods, try the clothes, and find multiple different products in one shop are the most distinctive characteristics of Kemeraltı Bazaar which separates it from modern shopping.

Kemeralti 1950

Kemeraltı is Changing

The years the 1950s indicate a turning point both for Turkey and The Historical Kemeraltı Bazaar. Till these years you were able to find anything you would like from clothing to pharmacies, stationery to theatres, basically everything in Kemeraltı. The Bazaar which had served both the rich and the poor as a center of commerce slowly started to return to the mass shoe production place. Yusuf Rıza Primary School which was the only primary school in Izmir in those times became a truck traffic place for shoe production.

From Regression To Downfall

After the 2nd World War, Turkey was trying to gain a place in the market. The multi-party liberal period which started in the 1950s put Izmir like Turkey into a new configuration. With Izmir liven up a little bit, internal migration which started as a minor problem became a major problem. This internal migration also started squatting which ended with an ugly outer view for Izmir. Thus it took a step to become a metropolitan. With the population and demand growing, apartments substituted garden and low-story story houses on the seaside. Also, the profile in Kemeraltı changed and uncontrolled growth nearly brought the area to collapse.

Kemeraltı which was a center of living commerce and tourism once became a pedlar spot thus a place where Izmir folk didn’t prefer also because of safety reasons.

Republic Period

Kemeraltı in Republic Times – Regression Period

Izmir has specific importance in the republic period, it is the one that started the Salvation War. Also politically it’s the city of the firsts. In the War of Independence, it took all the attention. Before the foundation of the Republic, it was the place where the first bullet was thrown. During history, it was memorized as the city of Levanthens, and the city where the non- Muslims preferred to live the most. In commerce, it’s the harbor city of Anatolia that looks to the west. It gained the attention of the countries of the world because it owns the first international fair in Turkey. Izmir is special. Izmir is the city of tolerance, it is purified prejudice.

After the Industrial Revolution

In the face of the Industrial Revolution which was done in the 19th Century in Europe, Ottoman Industry wasn’t able to a standstill. After all, Ottoman Industry, mostly, was consist of foreign foundations. Thus Ottoman commerce was in the hands of foreigners. Big Great Fire Of Izmir which had happened in the year 1922, one year before the establishment of the Republic, caused the economy to recess even worse and burned most of the commercial shops in Kemeraltı. After the fire, the abandonment of Rum and Armenian folk caused a loss of fond-stock and workforce.

The city which rises in Ottoman Empire

In the 18th century, with the battles lost, the Ottoman Empire continued to lose reputation and power. At the beginning of the 19th century, industrialization in Europe fasten the downfall in Ottoman trade, and the Ottoman Empire was unable to find the center to develop its industry.

When the world was renewing and developing in the industry, the Ottoman economy wasn’t able to keep up with the process and try to keep its existence with a closed economy based on agriculture. Compromises given to other countries caused administrative, financial, social problems inside the Ottoman Empire and this situation caused the Ottoman Empire to become a free open bazaar for Europe. When the Ottoman Empire started to regress, beautiful days were waiting for Smyrna on the horizon.

In the 19th century, to stop the bad going, Ottoman Empire forms a movement for westernization which is called ‘’ The Rescript of Gülhane’’. By this, in fact, religion and moral compass were provided for non-muslims, also to live more easily and safely. This progress was like invitations that the Ottoman Empire gave to non-Muslims and foreigners.

In those times Izmir became the most favorite place for non-Muslims and foreigners. The cosmopolitan structure of the city, kept Izmir distinguished from the period’s Ottoman Empire who was using pressure and authorization. Even Abdülhamit The Second’s harsh regime over the government couldn’t enter Izmir. Unfortunately, even though Izmir was sparkling, each day passing the Ottoman Empire became dependent on Europe and exploited by many countries.

With the opening of Izmir port in 1875, the commerce in Izmir got to liven up and it became the 2nd city that has the biggest economical volume in the Ottoman Empire. Izmir staying out of the Ottoman’s closed economy, cultural and social system, embracing people from different cultures, religions, and socio-cultural groups, continued its art and commerce activities at its ultimate level. Also, Ottoman Inns showed in those times because of need originated from intense commerce in Izmir.

However, with the filling of the docks, Kemeraltı Bazaar started to lose its importance for Levantines, and they carried their working places to the Alsancak area. In those times although Turkish merchants tried to make work the places which Levantines had left, Kemeraltı started to fall out of favor. Just after the salvation of Izmir on 13 September 1922, during the big Izmir fire, Kemeraltı lost most of its important historical structures and entered the period of regression.Kemeralti in Ottoman Empire

It’s impossible to separate Kemeraltı from the history of Izmir. There have been lots of places which got famous during years of powerful empires but also there have been lots of places which lost their importance afterwards.

Kemeraltı when it wasn’t known for its trade, ancient harbour cities like Ephesus, Miletos and Heraklia had already got the reputation for commerce. Later, in the 13th century, when those places started to lose their power, with Genoa Empire, thanks to its protected harbour, Kemeraltı became more efficient in commerce. This period continued like this till 17. Century when Kemeraltı found a more important place for itself in the Ottoman city system.

In the 1600s in the Ottoman Empire, when Izmir’s reputation rose even higher, non-muslim communities had a tendency to continue their commerce in Izmir, which created a class of people called ‘’Levanten’’. In those times, Europeans used to call Izmir ‘’Petit Paris’’ which comes to meaning ‘’Small Paris of Ottoman’’, and Latins used to call Izmir ‘’Elle Fiore del Levanti’’ which comes to meaning ‘’the flower of Levanten’’.


History Of Kemeralti, Kemeraltı Bazaar, no doubt, is the most mysterious and exciting place in Izmir. Kemeraltı Bazaar has a different air. Crowded, excited but always colorful.

Thanks to its strategic location, gaining the reputation the most important commercial center in Izmir, Kemeraltı is like an open-air museum that has been there for hundreds of years. At the same time, it has the reputation of being the biggest open Bazaar in the whole World.

Historical Kemeraltı Bazaar, whose borders start from Mezarlıkbaşı & Izmir Anafartalar Street, and includes Konak Square, gained its appearance after landfill over the sea at 1650. Even though when Kemeraltı is pronounced, lots of people think thousands of people shopping in a rush, as soon as you start walking in the streets of Kemeraltı which look like a big and a complicated maze, you’d see that it’s full of mysteries and it has the traces of a unique history … But before coming to our present day, let’s see the historical process which created Kemeraltı’s today


The statues of Demeter the Goddess of Fertility with her beautiful hair, the God of sea Poseidon, and the Goddess of pure light Artemis which were found after the excavations done in Izmir Agora whisper us the reason of fertility in trade-in Aegean: Earth, sea, and the perfect balance of pure light… Thus Aegean has been a host for glorious civilizations, at the same time been attacked by numerous clans.

Thanks to its protected harbor, Smyrna ‘’Izmir’’ has been a major element in commerce between Asia and Europe, also thanks to its fertile lands and strategic position played a big role in the development of sea commerce. For all those things counted, it had become the city of most important civilizations like Iskender, Ionia, Lidya, Karia, Roma, Byzantine, and the last Ottoman Empire.

Kemeraltı Bazaar’s history goes back to the Byzantine Empire. According to the references, the most important element that created Kemeraltı is the Izmir Harbour Castle that was constructed by Byzantines during 12. Century. Built both to maintain the inner security of harbour and protect the city Izmir ‘’Smyrna’’ with its old name against attacks from outside, Izmir Harbour Castle became home to Sultans, Civilizations and religions… Neon Kastron, Castle Of Genoa, Castrum Smyrnarum, Castle Of St. Petros, Le Chateau, Hafen Katell, Kal’ an Izmir-i did are the most important names that Izmir Harbour Castle took during its history. Izmir Harbour Castle which was constructed to provide security to the city played a major role in the creation of Kemeraltı Bazaar.

According to a legend, famous Aegean philosopher Aristotales told Alexander The Great ‘’if you don’t see Smyrna, you’ll be missing a piece’’. Because Izmir which lots of clans tried to possess during history had always been the center of an area where philosophy, poetry, and art flourish. Many poems were written for Izmir which had inspired lots of poets

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *