İzmir is a city in western Turkey. It is the third largest city after Istanbul and Ankara. This vibrant and metropolitan port city is situated in the Gulf of İzmir on the Aegean coast. It used to go by the name of Smyrna and has a long history as an important and strategic trading centre.

Izmir is known for its wide boulevards, architecture and culture. This modern, highly developed and busy city has a long sea front promenade called the Kordon in the bay area. With its modern shopping centres, cafes and restaurants, this dynamic city has a very European vibe and plenty of contrast between new and old structures.

With over 3000 years of documented urban history and evidence of up to 8500 years of human settlements since the Neolithic period, the location of the city enabled it to become a major international port by the 17th century. Nearby the ancient cities of Ephesus and Pergamon serve to confirm how important this location has been over the centuries. The House of the Virgin Mary located between Selcuk and Ephesus is also a popular tourist destination. The Vatican confirmed that the Virgian Mary spent the last few years of her life here.

With its markets, mosques and churches, and a host of places to visit either in the city or nearby, Izmir has much to offer the visitor. Ideally you would need to spend at least 2 days to cover just the city itself and the local attractions. Panning out further afield, Izmir is in striking distance of Cesme, Kusadasi and Foca.

In the district of Basmane you can visit Izmir’s traditional shops and the park where the world famous Izmir Fair is held each summer in late August to early September. Although a trade fair, there are also music festival events running at the same time. Be sure to visit Alsancak which stretches along the waterfront pedestrian area and has a host of modern architecture and good quality shopping opportunities. Alsancak train station can be found here with its distinctive colonial architecture. Trains depart from here to Aydin and Denizli.

Izmir is home to the Agora of Smyrna ( Izmir ), an ancient Roman Agora which was originally built with marble by the Greeks in the 4th century. It was severely damaged by an earthquake in 178 AD and rebuilt by order of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

The city has it own very famous public elevator called Asansor. It runs from Mithatpasa Street to Halil Rifat Pasa Street on a hill. Completed in 1907 there are some great views from the summit as well as an open air cafe, tavern and restaurant. Other places to visit should include the Clock Tower in Konak Meydan and Barlar Sokagi which literally means the Street of Bars. More pubs and bars can be found at the Pasaport Dock which was built in 1876 and is located between Konak and Cumhuriyet Square.

There are many shopping malls in Izmir and one of the best is at Bornova near the Ege University. It was once home to the Levantine Community as was the case in the Buca area of Izmir with its preserved mansions and gardens which were once home to many of the British Levantine merchants. For more traditional old fashioned shopping the Kemeralti shopping district has an atmosphere all of its own. With its narrow streets and older buildings from the 19th century you can find almost anything here. This is probably the best place to pick up some good quality souvenirs whilst in Izmir.

The Kadifekale Castle or Velvet Castle dates back from the 4th century BC and provides some spectacular scenic views of Izmir. On the outskirts of the city on the main highway towards Urla and Cesme there are thermal springs at Balcova. The Balçova thermal springs ( Agamemnon Springs ) have several luxury hotels and the temperature of the spring water is over 60 degrees.

The city has a number of musuems, parks and a popular wild life park. The ruins of Teos near Seferhisar and excavations at Tepekule near Bayrakli are also worth a visit as is the resort at Urla which is 42 km from Izmir along the Cesme highway. Try and avoid it at weekends since this is a very popular destination for the citizens of Izmir.

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