Izmir city in Turkey is a good alternative if you want to swap from Istanbul. Any good travel book naturally lists Istanbul as Turkey’s best destination for city-break holidays. Attempting to knock Istanbul off its throne is something only a fool would contemplate but further down the Aegean coastline, the bustling city of Izmir and surrounding coastal resorts make for a great weekend break as well.
Though Izmir cannot match Istanbul’s historical value, the region has much to offer travellers. Repeat visitors to Turkey who want to see something new will enjoy exploring the city and surrounding coastal districts thanks to its underrated attractions and rarely discussed history. As the third-largest city in Turkey, Izmir is also a popular cruise ship port, although passengers often pass through on their way to visit Ephesus’s ancient Roman city ruins.
Sitting on the same peninsula and surrounding the city centre, smaller coastal resorts like Alacati, famed for its windsurfing or upmarket and sophisticated Cesme, are popular with Turks who own summer homes there. Albeit, but mention Izmir to most locals and the first thing they will tell say is the most beautiful girls in Turkey live there!
About Izmir City in Turkey
How to Get to Izmir in Aegean Turkey
The simplest way is via Izmir Menderes airport with a year-round flight schedule and good connections to Istanbul new airport. Otherwise, Izmir connects to other places in Turkey via the countrywide bus system. Moreover, many cruise ships arrive at Izmir centre because the port is an official entry stop and, if driving, come via the D550, E881, or E87 highways.
Hotel Accommodation in the city
Naturally, as a centre of business, finance, and tourism, take your pick from plenty of hotels. The Swissotel Grand Efes Izmir is a well-known and respected establishment; otherwise, budget travellers can opt for a simple B&B or self-catering apartment. Although most sit out of the city centre, Izmir also has esteemed Spa hotels that rely on natural spa water for healing treatments.
Food and drink around the city
Naturally, as with any great city, expect an abundance of shopping and nightlife opportunities. Firstly, head to the Kordon area of Alsancak, where the locals hang out, especially in the seafood restaurants. Traditional food to try includes Izmir kofte, a form of meatballs. The Kumru sandwich, a blend of tomatoes, cheese and sucuk is the local favourite, as is Boyoz pastry eaten for breakfast. Otherwise, the best clubs to party in sit within the Alsancak and Konak areas.
Why History Buffs Like Izmir Centre
Most books and travel guides don’t talk about Izmir’s history for unknown reasons, even though the city was one of the Bible’s Seven Churches of Revelation. Previously named Smyrna, Izmir has an extensive urban tale dating thousands of years and, at the turn of the 20th century, was the wealthiest city of the Ottoman Empire.
Despite this achievement, Izmir is sadly more famed for the 1922 great fire, a devastating incident during the Turkish War of Independence, which changed the lives of roughly 2 million people. Giles Milton’s book Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 and the Destruction of Islam’s Greatest City covers this period.
Also, investigate the Levantine aspect because many Latin Christians based their businesses in Izmir and prominent social circles. They contributed significantly towards the economic status of Izmir during Ottoman rule, and their impressive mansions still stand in the suburbs like Bornova or Buca.
Things to do in Izmir and Top Travel sights
An excellent place to start is Konak old city part, near Izmir’s most famous landmark, the elaborate and Ottoman themed city clock tower gifted by a German Emperor in 1901. After head to the nearby Kemeralti bazaar, a great place to shop for souvenirs and soak up a traditional Turkish atmosphere at the same time.
Kadifkale Castle, widely believed to be where Saint Polycarp was martyred, has a fantastic panoramic view of Izmir City. The archaeological museum has a fascinating collection of Roman and Greek art, while the agora highlights ruins from the Hellenistic and early Roman times of Izmir.
During the day, though, the Izmir Wildlife Park, with its resident tigers and elephants, usually excites families while birdwatchers should visit Paradise Park, a haven and protected area. In addition, the local structure of Asanor (Elevator) is popular with locals for its view and restaurant.
Further Reading About Izmir
Ephesus Grand Ruins: Although this attraction is not within the centre and belongs to the larger province of the same name, Ephesus ruins should be on your list. The theatre, Roman terrace houses, Celsus Library and other ancient landmarks make for a great day trip out of Izmir city in Turkey.