What To Do In Izmir
Posted 12 September 2006 - 05:25 AM
What is there to see, places to eat and drink, shopping always handy, places to stay?
Any ifo would be greatly appreciated, I might visit one day soon, if the write up is good!
Thanks in advance
Posted 13 September 2006 - 09:26 PM
I don't know if the writeup will be good, but I'll give it a try! Izmir is kind of like a "big small town," in a way. Not so big and impersonal like Istanbul, but not a resort, either.
Basics about the city: Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey, with a population approaching four million. It surrounds the Bay of Izmir and ferries frequently cross it to and from the six or so ferry ports around the bay. It has a very European flavor and is a rather affluent city, with lots of wide, palm-tree lined boulevards and a wide kordon which stretches along the bayside, featuring modern-art sculptures and manicured grass lawns. The kordon is lined with restaurants, bars, and shops selling upscale clothing and other items, they're more expensive than other places since you also pay for the view and the ambiance that goes along with these kinds of places. The main shopping district is Alsancak, which is a popular place to go on weekends to hear live rock and pop music, or even on occasion jazz and blues music, and of course there's always Turkish music being played by various house bands. That kind of sets Izmir apart since in a lot of the resort areas you only have a DJ. There are a few absolutely huge and modern discos in Izmir, but they are difficult to find, much less to describe their location here! But the main ones are Club 33, and forgive me I can't remember the name of the other one, but it's right in the same area! Alsancak also has a large, pedestrian-only shopping area that also has smaller bars and places to hear live rock or pop music. A visit to Gazi Kadinlar Caddesi (veteran girl's street, named after the women who fought for Turkish independence) has smaller, but worthwhile places like Kybele and Bios, among others. The whole street is lined with nightspots. Men may find themselves unable to get in if they don't have a woman with them, perhaps partly to keep the female bar population up, but also to prevent altercations caused by inebriated single men looking the wrong way at another man's date (it happens 'round these parts)!
Izmir also has a large park called Kultur Park, which is the location of numerous trade shows and also the Izmir fair, which is in September of every year. It's worth going there for an enjoyable day of strolling around and seeing various exhibits, and for some interesting shopping experiences.
For more inexpensive shopping, there's the Kemeralti district, in a place in Konak, just south of the city center, that I believe has been there more than a thousand years. It's absolutely packed full of every conceivable type of shop, as well as people visiting them. It's like a maze, though, and easy to get disoriented until you make your way out and try to figure out where you've ended up! I've gotten lost there before, and eventually just wanted to find a regular street outside Kemeralti, only to find that I had a lot of walking to do around Kemeralti to get back to where I came in. Lots of people walking around carrying products and yelling their price for everything from underwear to electronics, and any extra space on the walkways seems to have a large cloth on it, covered with various items for sale, and a guy standing there selling them. You can get some great deals on jewelry, clothing, or just about everything else there, probably because the shop rents are cheaper than in the main shopping areas. Think of any resort area you've been to where they had a shopping district, and multiply it by about 20, and that's Kemeralti!
You probably will meet less people who speak English than in the tourist areas, since Izmir is more of a business-oriented city than a tourism oriented one, however you'll also find that prices at restaurants are substantially cheaper than, say, Kusadasi or Marmaris, or any other touristy place, because it's a city of locals. And the food is quite good, anything from Italian to Chinese, seafood to steak, I've had some of my best meals right here in Izmir, at about one half of the cost I would pay at a comparable restaurant elsewhere.
There are no beaches in the main part of Izmir, but Cesme is only about 50 minutes away, 40 minutes if you drive like a Turk. Cesme has some very nice white-sand beaches. Kusadasi is a little farther, but better for the nightlife since they have a "bar street," however that point is arguable since Cesme has some excellent bars and discos as well. Strangely enough, in the summer, a lot of the bars and discos in Izmir are very uncrowded on the weekends, since everybody packs up and heads to Cesme.
What I like about the city is that there are lots of nice places to just walk around and relax, lots of cafes where you can sip good capuccino and watch people walk by, and lots of live music of various kinds. If you're into art or theater, there always seems to be posters around advertising such things... and several museums including a well-stocked archaeological museum. The typical Izmirian is a well-educated professional type and are known for their dressing styles, especially the women in Izmir, which are reported to be the most stylish women in Turkey. Izmir has a very distinct personality, although difficult to describe. I've lived here for years and love the place, a mix of European and Turkish traditions and cultures, with that famous Turkish friendliness and hospitality everywhere. Recently a friend of mine noted that the main district of Izmir, Alsancak, has five churches, and one mosque!
Around Izmir are lots of sights to see, the ancient city of Ephesus is a mere 45 minutes away, with Pergamum a bit farther, both are main attractions for any foreigner coming to Izmir. The Kadifekale may also impress you, it's a large fortress on the top of the hill overlooking the city, inside it's a playground for kids now, so watch out for flying footballs. It's a good idea to leave before dark though, from what I've heard it's not the place to be, and make sure you put your wallet somplace secure. I've had friends who were "swarmed" by kids there asking for a little spare change, or whatever, and later they found pebbles in their pockets that the kids surrepticiously placed there! Kindergarten for pickpockets, maybe???
The main areas are quite safe, although I have heard and read reports of people getting mugged in some areas, although they were not hurt and in at least two cases either scared away or fought off the person or persons. This aspect of Izmir has gotten a bit worse in the last few years, but you're probably still safer than most European cities. There are places where Brits and other expats regularly go, however I don't want to publish them in a public forum for obvious reasons, these days you just never know...
For a bit of history, Izmir was founded by Alexander the Great and called Smyrna, although it has been inhabited since around 3,000 years BC. Smyrna was addressed by Saint John in the Book of Revelation, in the Bible, and has a cathedral dedicated to him here as well. Smyrna was one of the first churches in what was then Asia Minor, and Saint Polycarp and Ignatius, a disciple of John, formed the church here. Polycarp was later burned to death here by the locals under Roman authority, because he wouldn't renounce the Christ. Polycarp also has a church here named after him.
They are now re-excavating the ancient city of Smyrna, and have located one of the walls of the city which they're working on at this time. There's not much to see of ancient Smyrna, although they have a popular tour called the "Seven Churches of Revelation" that includes it with the other six original churches. Other archaeological sites within Izmir are the ancient Agora, and even remnants of an old Roman theater.
So there's lots to do in Izmir, and lots of out-of-the-way places to do it, I would suggest talking to a few of the locals you'll meet when you're here, since some of the best places to go for dining or nightlife are not so easy to find if you're not from Izmir... but even if you just go to the easy-to-find places, you're sure to enjoy a stay in Izmir.
Posted 15 September 2006 - 10:19 PM
Thanks for taking the time to write, sounds really interesting, more than the normal touristy day trip needed to see a fraction of it, I reckon.
Had a look at Izmir on Google earth, looks so built up compared to little old Dalaman!
Posted 16 September 2006 - 08:52 PM
Izmir is a big city, but you don't really notice it the way you do in Ankara or Istanbul, you can get really lost in those cities, I've wasted a lot of gas trying to figure out how to get somewhere there. Not to mention the numerous U turns because of the way the streets are set up. Ephesus or Pergamum are day trips in themselves because of the distance and things there to see, Izmir proper you can see in a day. The best part to me is just walking around the city and hanging out at the cafes or on the first kordon. Thanks for the chance to showcase the city!
There's a gallery of photos of izmir here: http://www.turkeycen...ery.php?cat=519
Posted 16 September 2006 - 08:56 PM
One of these days I might just make a trip up there, find a nice cafe, and watch the world go by!
Posted 04 February 2010 - 05:55 PM