A major commercial center and seaport — and an economic powerhouse — Izmir ranks as Turkey’s third largest city, after Istanbul and Ankara. Its cosmopolitan atmosphere is as much Mediterranean as Turkish, the result of 4,000 years of history between the Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Ottomans. Although a major fire in 1922 destroyed much of Izmir (then known as Smyrna) and its ancient architectural legacies, today it’s a vibrant modern city with lots of energy where — unlike many other tourist towns — there's a strong, local culture and a real sense of place.
What We Love
The Kemeralti Market: Located in the city center, the market is the prime destination for both locals and visitors to bargain for clothing, jewelry, leather goods, and of course, Turkish carpets. You'll also find lots of cafés, where you can pause for a re-energizing shot of Turkish coffee.
Hisar Camii Mosque: Within the bazaar complex, this mosque is Izmir’s largest. Once inside, be sure to gaze upward at the gorgeous blue-and-gold domed ceiling.
Best Known For
Seafront Promenade: In the afternoon — especially after working hours and on weekends — locals gather at the Kordon for sunsets over the Aegean Sea. Some just stroll up and down the length of the promenade, while others take horse-drawn carriage rides. The promenade is also home to some great seafood spots: Choose a piece of fresh fish on display and then have it grilled to order, paired with a light Turkish white wine. During June and July, the Izmir Art Festival is also a major draw.
Access to Ephesus: While Kusadasi is the closest port to the ancient Roman ruins at Ephesus, if your ship calls on Izmir you should be able to visit on a shore excursion or independent tour — Ephesus is only about 50 miles away.
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Who It's Best For
City Lovers: Izmir is for those who enjoy the urban bustle; there's an array of cafés and restaurants to choose from and open spaces for a chance to relax and unwind.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Keep Track of Your Wallet or Pocketbook: Beware of pickpockets in the crowded market; they can be quick and crafty when you're not paying attention.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.