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Izmir Holidays

Pearl of the Aegean

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Preserving the golden age

Izmir, overlooking the Aegean Sea on Turkey’s west coast, is the country’s third largest city. It’s been an important port ever since being the ancient Greek city of Smyrna and has been continuously populated for some 8,500 years. Packed with bustling bazaars and ancient ruins, with a long, elegant seaside promenade, Izmir continues to entice visitors today, many of whom come for its easy access to ancient Ephesus and stay for its fresh seafood, historic sights and stunning coastal scenery.

Stroll along the Kordon, the mile-long waterside promenade, or take a horse-drawn carriage tour of this popular thoroughfare where locals congregate to relax on the grassy banks or hang out in the many bars, cafes and restaurants that fringe its eastern edge.

Konak Square, with its intricate and well-preserved clock tower from 1901 is very much the city’s hub, and Konak Pier, designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel, is also worth time spent in its cinema, shops and restaurants.

Wander around the Alsancak neighbourhood and stop for a bite on Gazi Kadinlar a popular street lined with many colourful and tempting fish eateries, as well as many of the city’s liveliest bars. Book your flights to Izmir today and start exploring.

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Make the most of your Izmir holiday

Izmir’s many beaches are attractive enough of course, but for a change of scenery and a pleasant bus ride that hugs the water’s edge, consider visiting the charming seaside town of Urla. Vast tracts of sand lined with umbrellas to rent, inviting beach bars and temperate deep blue seas await at this spot favoured mostly by in-the-know locals

What are the best things to do in Izmir?

1. Most visitors will naturally want to visit Ephesus, the sprawling ancient Greek city dating back to the 6th Century BC. Allow half a day to explore the extensive ruins, including the Temple of Artemis, one of the ancient wonders of the world, a vast Colosseum-like theatre holding 25,000, a gymnasium, bath complex and a reconstructed Library of Celsus that held 12,000 scrolls. A separate entrance fee gets you into the terraced houses, which give you a slice of domestic Roman life.

2. You don’t need to travel that far to see some ancient ruins. The Agora Open Air Museum is right in the city centre. The fascinating remains include colonnades, vaulted chambers, basilicas and cisterns. Agora was built in the 4th Century BC when the city was still known as Smyrna. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 178 AD and subsequently rebuilt by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius shortly afterwards. It even served as a cemetery for a period after laying vacant for centuries.

3. Kemeralti Bazaar is the city’s sprawling, 17th Century, open-air market that easily rivals Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. You can spend a full day wandering around its maze of colourful, cobbled streets, historic mosques and synagogues, hidden courtyards and grand caravanserais. Fortify yourself with a strong Turkish coffee in one of the many cafes between the Hisar Mosque and the Kizlaragasi Han before throwing yourself into the melee and shopping for everything from spices and clothes to souvenirs.

4. Take in the fine city and sea views from the top of Asansor, a monumental elevator built in 1907 to connect the Karatas area with its steep hillside environs. Asansor literally translates as ‘elevator’ and while the structure was initially used only to transport goods, nowadays it mostly delivers visitors looking for scenic photo opps, while many also go on to frequent the restaurant of the same name at the very pinnacle.

5. Muradiye Mosque, built around 1584 by Mimar Sinan for Sultan Murat III, is a truly exquisite example of Ottoman architecture and design, from its twin minarets and Iznik tiling, right through to the delicately tiled niche. That it was heavily influenced by Istanbul’s Blue Mosque is no surprise, since one of its supervising architects was also responsible for that structure. Once you’ve finished marvelling at the building’s stunning interiors, you can relax in its pleasant courtyard gardens.

Where are the best places to stay in Izmir?

Konak is the most central location for visitors holding many of the city’s key sights, including Kemeralti Bazaar and Konak Square. It’s also Izmir’s prime dining and drinking destination peppered with many Turkish and international restaurants, alongside a great choice of taverns and bars. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a glass of raki paired with a sublime view of the Aegean.

Studenty Bornova owes much of its character to the prestigious Ege University. The area is also blessed with pleasant green spaces, such as the Bornova Botanic Park with a great variety of plants, making it perfect for a leisurely stroll. It’s also Izmir’s main nightlife hub, while shoppers will enjoy its fantastic range of stores, bazaars and markets, including open-air shopping mall Forum Bornova.

Gaziemir, a district to the south of Izmir, is another good bet if you don’t mind staying a little further out. It’s served by excellent public transport and is a key crafts and manufacturing centre for the entire country. The Optimum Shopping Mall delivers a unique shopping experience with fashion brands and an extensive food court.

Balcova is a western coastal area popular with families, wellness enthusiasts and nature lovers. It’s famed for its medicinal hot springs. The Balcova Therapy Forest is another key attraction in the area, with a majestic waterfall that’s the perfect setting for a relaxing picnic. Reach it with a trip on the Balcova Cable Car and perhaps spend some time in one of the many thermal hotels there.

Pamukkale Hot Springs, about three hours’ drive from Izmir, contains gorgeous natural rock pools characterised by white terraces formed of sedimentary rock called travertine and warm bright blue waters said to revitalise the body. These contain 17 hot springs which have been used since the 2nd Century BC.

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