Once famous for figs, the ancient city of Smyrna, is now called Izmir (EEZ-meer). The city has transformed into a modern, developed and busy commercial centre, that’s set around a huge bay and surrounded by mountains. The city boasts broad boulevards, glass-fronted buildings and modern shopping centres that attract visitors from all over the world.

The skyline of Izmir is dotted with traditional red-tiled roofs and is home to an 18th century market, old mosques, and centuries-old churches. The vibe of Izmir is more Mediterranean than traditional Turkish culture, and Turkey's 3rd-largest city is a rapidly growing city on the Central Aegean coast of Turkey. Use our guide to learn a little more about this seaside city and how to can make the most of your time in Izmir.

What to See and Do­­

Even if you don’t have a lot of time in Turkey, a visit to Izmir is well-worth squeezing into your busy travel schedule. Spend a night here, enjoy Izmir's Aegean ambience, see the sights, wander in the bazaar, sip drinks and dine at the pleasant waterfront restaurants.

Agora

The ancient Agora, built for Alexander the Great, was ruined in an earthquake, but rebuilt soon after by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. The Agora’s constructed Corinthian colonnades, vaulted chambers and arches will give you real-life example of what a Roman bazaar looked like. A Muslim cemetery was later built on the site and many of the old tombstones can be seen around the perimeter of this historical site.

Konak Meydani

This wide plaza was named after the large Ottoman-era government house in the easy and it marks the cultural heart of the city. Pedestrians frequent the area, enjoying the warm weather and sun, wandering in and out of shops, and generally having a good time. Jutting into the sea to the north is Konak Pier, which was built in 1890. It is the work of Gustave Eiffel—the same man who designed Paris’ iconic tower.

Kordon

It’s difficult to imagine modern life in İzmir without its iconic seafront promenade. The Kordon is a pedestrian-friendly plaza where bars and restaurants succeed in attracting visitors and locals to their shops for a quiet, end of the day drink. Kordon is also an ideal spot for watching picture-perfect sunsets over the horizon.  

At the southern end of the Kordon is the new Arkas Art Centre. It lives in the former French consulates home and hosts a rotating set of exhibits. Even if you aren’t interested in the art, the house itself is worth a visit so you can see the intricate and stunning interior that was built back in the earl 1900s.

Hisar Camii

Hopefully you won’t be too tired of checking out mosques by the time you visit Ismir. The Hisar Camii is a quintessential example of true Izmiri architecture and decoration. It is the city’s largest mosque and was built back in 1597.  As you enter, you may notice that the stark blue-and-gold motifs on the domed ceiling are simpler and less Oriental than classic Ottoman designs. If you are detail-oriented, see if you can spot the roses and grapes carved along the bottom of the women’s gallery and the smaller designs on the stone staircase.

Travel Tips

  • İzmir is a fairly safe town, but travellers should take care around the train station at night. Bag snatchers have been reported in the alleyways.
  • The area around the train station is also something of a red-light district; lone women should take care and normal safety precautions.
  • In the bazaar, be alert to pickpockets and thieves—the more crowded the space, the easier target you become.

Bask in the beauty of this seaside city and get to know the ins and outs of a place where you can relax, learn and have some fun along the Mediterranean. If you’ve travelled internationally before, you already know how much of a lifesaver travel insurance can be. Whether you use your policy for medical help, luggage delays or just for peace of mind, when you have a policy in your back pocket you can take your mind off the smaller worries and focus on the fun to be had in Izmir instead.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Thomas Depenbush.