For history buffs, Izmir is a must-visit destination. The home of Homer, it was founded by the Trojans and it bears witness to a long and rich history that includes settlements by Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Greeks, among many others.
However, there’s much more to this city on the Aegean Sea than history alone and anyone booking hotels, package or all-inclusive holidays in Izmir will be spoilt for great things to see and do, from culture to shopping, and from attractions to nightlife, plus wining and dining.
Explore Turkish art
Izmir is home to a variety of museums to interest the visitor. In addition to the city’s Archaeological Museum and Museum of History and Art, which collects together ceramics, sculpture and other artefacts from the region, there is also a Museum of Arts and Sculpture, which houses paintings, sculpture and ceramic works, mostly by Turkish artists.
See world-renowned artists at International Izmir Festival
If you’re thinking of booking a hotel or holidays in Izmir it’s worthwhile thinking about timing your visit to coincide with Izmir International Jazz Festival held every March, or the International Izmir Festival that runs through spring into summer.
The latter showcases a wide range of classical, traditional and contemporary music, theatre, opera and ballet featuring Turkish and international artists. Held from May to July at venues that include the historic city of Ephesus, performers who have appeared include Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Kire Te Kanawa, Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, I Fagiolini and Tom Jones.
In addition, the city also hosts International Puppet Days, which in 2015 included 40 puppet groups performing at 27 venues, as well as six exhibitions. Izmir Fair Folk International Dance Festival is held in September.
You may also want to check out the Old Gas Factory Cultural Centre in Liman Caddesi. This former 19th century headquarters of the Ottoman Gas Company is now a cultural quarter with two brick warehouses, which now house workshops and art exhibitions.
Escape to the beach
Ramo Beach on the south coast of Cesme is a short bus or car ride from Izmir. It has white sand and clear water and can be accessed via a dolmus (local taxi) from Cesme.
It can be hard to find, but it’s worth the effort, plus it’s quiet and free of development. Other beaches near Cesme are particularly popular with watersports enthusiasts, especially windsurfers.Other popular beaches near Izmir include Alacati which offers perfect wind conditions for windsurfing and kitesurfing, attracting aficionados from far and wide.
Escape to the hills
Another great place to head to if you fancy a break from the hustle and bustle of Izmir is the beautiful hillside village of Sirince, which despite the development of mass tourism is surprisingly tranquil, especially in the morning and evenings. There is a bazaar and a few mosques and churches, and the village is well-known for the excellence of its wines.
Enjoy a morning coffee or a light lunch at the Nisanyan Hotel, which has a terrace with splendid views over the surrounding countryside.
Take in panoramic views of the city
One of the unmissable experiences on your holidays in Izmir is a trip to Aranos, high above the city in what used to be the Jewish neighbourhood. From here you can enjoy panoramic views over the city and the Aegean Sea.
Access is via a lift built into the hillside. Aranos literally means elevator, and was built by a Jewish businessman in 1907 to facilitate the transport of goods and people. There’s a café-restaurant with stunning views by the exit.
Go shopping for bargains in Kemeralti Market
Kemeralti Market is the historical market area of Izmir and began life in the 17th century. Wander narrow, crowded streets and shop for bargains such as leather goods, jewellery and clothing. There are lots of small cafés and juice stands where you can break off for refreshments. The best time to visit is in the mornings, before the crowds arrive.
For traditional Turkish souvenirs go to Ati Souvenir in Sokak, which sells beautifully crafted backgammon sets, waterpipes and jewellery.
Stroll along Konak Pier
The Konak Pier, designed by Gustav Eiffel and opened in 1890 as a warehouse and French customs office, has been restored in recent years and transformed into an upmarket shopping centre selling top brand designer labels.
It’s also home to a cinema, two chic waterside cafés, restaurants and a bookshop selling books in English.