Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey, with a population of around 4,28 million, the second biggest port after Istanbul, and a good transport hub. Once the ancient city of Smyrna, it is now a modern, developed, and busy commercial center, set around a huge bay and surrounded by mountains. The broad boulevards, glass-fronted buildings and modern shopping centres are dotted with traditional red-tiled roofs, the 18th century market, and old mosques and churches, although the city has an atmosphere more of Mediterranean Europe than traditional Turkey.
The climate is comfortable, with a relatively mild summer due to the refreshing breeze from the Aegean. The long attractive palm-fringed promenade, Birinci Kordon, which stretches the entire length of the city up to the Alsancak Ferry Terminal, is a popular spot for evening walks, and there are many cafes along the waterfront. Izmir has a good selection of culture and entertainment, from the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museums, to the Izmir State Opera and Ballet and Izmir State Symphony Orchestra, to many bars and clubs. The cosmopolitan and lively city gets even busier during the International Izmir Festival (mid-June to mid-July) with music and dance, with performances also in nearby Cesme and Ephesus.
What to do In Izmir?
Kemeralti Bazaar: The big bazaar in the city center stretches from the coast road to the Konak area, and is a major shopping centre with a vast array of goods inside. It combines modern businesses, shops and cafes, with antiques, dried fruit, household and leather goods in old alleyways with vaults and domes. Inside the bazaar, there is one of the most interesting structures of Izmir: Kizlaragasi Hani is an Ottoman caravanserai inside the Halim Aga Bazaar and was completed in 1745. This covered market sells hand-made products, carpets, leather and souvenirs. There are many entrances to the markets, from Basmane, Konak and Anafartalar. Konak is one of the oldest areas of the city, with most of the buildings that survived the great fire, although the traditional areas are gradually being modernized. This is the location of the city’s landmark; the Saat Kulesi (Ottoman clock tower) decorated with tiles.
Asansor (Elevator): The elevator was constructed by Jewish businessman Nessim Levi in 1907, in order to make life easier for the local residents to go to their mansions on the top of the hill. Nowadays tourists use the elevator to enjoy the views of the old streets and houses of Mithatpasa. Located in the heart of Izmir’s old Jewish quarter, it is housed in a 50m-high brick tower and after refurbishment in 1992, it now contains a café on the top floor, and the original hydraulics are exhibited on the ground floor. In its heydays in the 1930s, it also contained a theatre, cinema, refreshment stall and photographer’s shop.
Kulturpark: The large park area; Kulturpark, at the heart of the city is one of the densest green areas in Izmir, covering 30 hectares. There are zoo, artificial lake, parachute tower, open-air theatre and a collection of bars and cafes. This has been the venue of the International Izmir Fair every August since 1936.
Botanic Gardens: One of the best Botanical Gardens of Turkey, is in the Ege University campus complex. There are around 3.000 species of plants from the tropical regions to the Alps, many of which are kept under appropriate natural or artificial conditions. The arboretum has hundreds of species of trees and bushes, and the herbarium centre contains dried plant samples that are preserved for the use of scientific research.
Don’t leave without
– Visiting Birgi Cakiraga Mansion, Kızlaragasi Han, and Asansor,
– Stepping into the past in Izmir Archaeology Museum, Ataturk Museum, Kordonboyu and Kemeralti Bazaar.
– Tasting Izmir’s famous meatballs in the Asansor Restaurant.
– Buying tasty local dried figs and sultanas (dried raisins)
– Shopping for Odemis Silk (Pembizar), hand-painted handkerchiefs and Gorece blue beads,
– Visiting the International Izmir Festival.