Urla is a small historical town 30-minutes drive west of Izmir.
It has gained popularity with tourists only in recent years, before then it was known by Izmir locals as an idyllic town and one of the closest places for a swim.
Izmir’s coast is built up, which makes it difficult to access the ocean, and Urla has 40 kilometres of coastline dotted with some great swimming spots.
But it’s not all about the sea, Urla is full of history as it is the site of the ancient city of Klazomenai dating back to 2000 BC. If you like exploring quaint streets paved with cobble stones, shopping at markets for handmade items, trying new foods and wine tasting, then Urla is one for your list.
We visited for a winter getaway and it’s now one of our favourite towns in Turkey. Unlike the neighbouring seaside towns of Çeşme and Karaburun, Urla has plenty to offer in winter. Most of the stores and restaurants in Urla stay open in winter and there are plenty of attractions even when it’s too cold for the beach, like wineries, historical sites and festivals.
The top things to do in Urla, Turkey
Firstly, it’s worth noting that Urla has 2 main parts, one inland with the famous artisan street (Sanat Sokağı) and Malgaca Pazari, an ancient bazaar in the main village of Urla.
The other, Urla Iskele, is situated on the Aegean.
In addition to the 2 main tourist areas of Urla, there are 15 unique villages that make up the wider Urla region, each of which is worth visiting if you have the time.
Wander down Urla’s art street (Urla Sanat Sokağı)
Perhaps the most unique thing about Urla is its streets which are brimming with character.
Everywhere you look in the village centre are historic stone houses. On the main artisan street (Urla Sanat Sokağı) you’ll find handmade items, like jewellery, porcelain and wooden crafts, lining the pavement, as well as designer clothing shops.
Try the great restaurants in the main village
Urla is without a doubt a town for food lovers and there are plenty of eateries, so it can be hard to decide where to eat.
Even locals rate Urla highly in terms of food quality. Turks come here to enjoy fresh fish, lamb and locally grown produce.
The main street (Urla Sanat Sokağı) has some great food spots, with quieter alleyways off to the side where you can dine in peace in excellent restaurants.
Our favourite restaurant was Beğendik Abi – where we had one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten in Turkey. They have indoor and terrace seating, with two fireplaces, which are cosy in winter. We recommend trying their yoghurt mezze and their eggplant dish with ground meat, called Karniyarik.
Cafes are everywhere in the inland village of Urla. After you wander the ancient alleyways, go to the café square in the centre of the village and take in the ambience.
Cup N Cake is on the main street and if you’re looking for a high-quality coffee, or a waffle dripping with chocolate, be sure to stop there.
Shop at a local market
Urla has been described as a busy marketplace and trading port since the 14th century, and today it is no different.
Every Sunday there is a market at the pier (İskele Mah. M.Fevzi Çakmak Cad. No. 511) full of stalls selling handmade items and antiques. Weave your way through the stalls and buy homemade treats, fresh produce and locally made crafts.
But Urla is a town that loves its markets, so in addition to the Sunday market, there is:
- Wednesday market in Çeşmealtı – Denizli Mah. M.Aygüven Cad. No:114
- Thursday market in Zeytinalan – Z.Alan Mah. 4119 St. No:13
- Friday market at Urla Multifunctional Marketplace – Yaka Mah. Erdoğan Ker Cad. No:77
Go wine tasting
Urla is part of the vineyard route in the region and is famous for its wineries. In fact, wine has been made in this region since Roman times.
The wineries are one reason why this simple fishing village is now so popular. In Turkish, wineries are called Şarapçilik.
There are 7 wine producers in Urla, and in all of them you can get a tour of the vineyards and watch the process of wine production.
The most popular are:
- Urla Şarapçilik (a beautiful winery, be sure to take photos. However, there is no restaurant here so it’s best to go in between meals).
- MMG Sarapcilik (they have a great view; it’s the perfect place to enjoy your wine surrounded by nature).
- Urlice Vineyards (be sure to try their house wine and homemade pizza).
- Usca Sarapcilik (they have great snacks to go with their wines).
Visit a festival
Urla hosts several gastronomy-related festivals each year, the most famous of which is the International Artichoke Festival, held every April since 2015. In addition to artichoke tasting, they have market stalls heaped with colourful produce, live street music, food tasting and cooking competitions.
You can visit the Urla Herb Festival in March to mark the arrival of spring or the Urla Traditional Grape Harvest Festival which celebrates Urla as a leader in grape and wine production.
And each September the village hosts the Urla Jazz and Gastronomy Festival.
While this may seem like an impressive number of festivals for a small region, that’s not all. Urla also hosts a Kite Flying Festival, Yacht Racing Festival, Art Festival, International Theatre Festival, the Izmir Youth Carnivale, a Watermelon festival and even a Scarecrow Festival, if you want to see streets filled with scarecrows.
Try seafood at Urla Iskele Pier
Due to being surrounded on three sides by seas, Turkey has an abundance of seafood, and this strategic harbour town is no exception.
For a local culinary experience, you can try seafood from one of Urla’s many fish restaurants, most of which are located in Urla Iskele, a working fishing port 3 miles (4.8 kilometres) from the main village of Urla. On the water’s edge, there are dozens of seafood restaurants, as well as bars for a pre-seafood drink.
Swim at Altınköy Beach
If you are visiting in summer then it’s a must to join the locals and head to the beach. 12 miles (19 kilometres) south of Urla is Altınköy Beach, which is one of the best in the area. Just note that it is a half hour drive from the old town of Urla and it can get crowded on summer weekends.
Other popular attractions in Urla
- Köstem Zeytinyağı Müzesi (Kostem Olive Oil Museum): The oldest olive oil museum in the world and it is also kid-friendly.
- Uzbaş Arboretum (Uzbaş Botanical Garden): A sprawling botanical garden on the vineyard route where you can purchase any plant you see.
- Klazomenai Antik Kenti (Ancient City of Olive Presses): Today you can see the oldest olive oil production facility in Anatolia at the Klazomenai Antik Kenti, which is open to visitors.
How many days in Urla, Turkey?
Urla makes a great day trip from Izmir. If you want to do more than visit for an excellent meal, then you may want to make a weekend of it and stop at the vineyards or even plan to be there over a festival.
How to visit Urla in Turkey
Getting from Izmir to Urla is easiest by car, especially if you want to visit all the wineries which are spread out across the region. Also, Urla’s beaches are not close to the old town. They are mostly to the south about a 20-minute drive away. So we recommend traveling around Urla in a car if possible.
However, Urla is only a 30-minute drive from the airport in Izmir (Adnan Menderes Airport) so it’s also possible to get there by taxi or bus.
I’m a teacher and writer living abroad. I love languages, drinking lots of çay (tea) with friends, experiencing different cultures and going on adventures with my family.