Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey and the second biggest port making it a valid holiday destination for anyone.
Whether you choose to linger in the city to discover Izmir’s broad attractions, or use the city as a base for a day trip to the major historical site of Ephesus there is plenty to see and experience including fantastic beaches, Ottoman buildings and mouth-watering food.
Any visitor to Izmir will no doubt end up mingling with locals at Konak Square that is the spiritual heart of the city. This main square has a pretty Clock Tower ornately decorated in traditional Ottoman style, and from here you are nearby to the seafront promenade and the old customs house on Konak Pier that now functions as a shopping centre with cinema, boutiques and restaurants.
Catch your breath for a steep walk up to Kadifekale Castle overlooking the city. These medieval fortifications offer wide views over the port and Gulf of Izmir, and you can still see ancient Roman and Byzantine engravings in the castle walls. If the walk uphill seems intimidating, there are local buses or taxis you can take to the summit.
Sign up for a kite surfing lesson or hire a jet ski at one of Izmir’s many splendid beaches such as Urla or Pilanta beaches. Afterwards, grab an ice cream or cold Efes beer and sit at a beachside caféteria watching the gentle Aegean waves lap against the sand.
Shake off any vertigo with a trip up the Asansor, a historic elevator originally intended to provide easy access for residents of the villas on the top of the hill. Today, you can ride from sea level up to the clifftop terrace restaurant where you can enjoy good food and spectacular views of the city.
Bite into a slice of Turkish heaven at a street stall – kumru is a typical snack from Izmir that consists of warmed bread with sesame seeds filled with grilled cheese and Turkish sausage.
If you don’t have time to take in the larger ruins at Ephesus, head to the Agora in Izmir. This small site is under constant excavation but will give you an insight into the ancient civilization of Smryna with marble columns, tombstones and underground archways.
Drive almost 40 minutes to the city of Manisa that hums with lively annual festivals and a busy mosque (Sultan Mosque). The city is a good base to explore nearby places like the Byzantine ruins at Sardis, or the scenery of the Mount Spil National Park with tulips, thermal springs and wild horses.
Best reached by private car so you have flexibility to see all the impressive archaeological sites in the area, Ephesus is one of the most visited places near Izmir with the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. It is known as Turkey’s ‘Pompeii’ with much of the site still to be unearthed. Don’t miss the two-storey Library of Celsus, the foundations of the Temple of Artemis and the Ephesus Museum. From here, a short drive finds you at Şirince, a picturesque hillside village where you can stay in boutique hotels and sample the village’s fruit wines and olive oil.