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4 March 2012
A Complete Insiders Guide To Izmir
From our guest blogger: Imogen Reed
If you were, suddenly and unexpectedly, dropped into the centre of Izmir from elsewhere, what would you need to know? Izmir is one of those cities that does not always reveal its charms immediately, but those charms are there, without question. For holidaymakers jumping off their charter flight or Med cruise, and for those who come to live in Izmir, the city has much to offer. These are some of the must-sees, must-knows must-dos of Izmir.
Getting to Know Izmir
Izmir is a modern city with a long past. Landing in Izmir, you might not realise at first that it is 5000 years old. Its centre is characterised by wide boulevards, lined with trees, attractive squares and modern buildings. Much of the city was destroyed following the First World War, although some of its ancient architecture does remain. The city has long been an important trading port, thanks to its setting in a large, sweeping bay. Today, it is still the most important commercial port in Turkey. Its port and modern city centre function against a stunning backdrop of rocky cliffs and olive groves.
Things to Do
Izmir's wide streets and squares are good just for wandering around and taking in the city. The central district is called Konak. Konak corresponds to 'old Izmir', and so there you will find many of the city's older buildings. In particular, there are some impressive churches and mosques in Konak. Konak Square marks the city's centre. Head down from there to the waterfront, and you will find the Kordon, a waterfront promenade which is a great place to either begin or end a day. On a hill above the city you'll find the ancient castle, Kadifekale. It has been rebuilt many times over the generations, but is has been an ever-present in one form or another throughout the city's history. To educate yourself about that history, head to one of the city's museums. The Izmir Ethnographical Museum and the Izmir Archaeological Museum sit next to each other and between their vast collections tell the story of the area and its people. For something more relaxing, you'll find several thermal spas in Izmir where you can get a massage or just enjoy bathing in the warm mineral waters - a truly invigorating experience.
As anywhere in Turkey, you won't struggle to find a good meal in Izmir. Restaurants, cafes and street stalls serve up a tempting choice of both international and Turkish food. Izmir's traditional food is influenced by many different cultures, with Arabic and Greek cuisines having made their mark over the years. The rich, fertile land that surrounds Izmir means that it has access to a wide range of fruit and vegetables, and its coastal location means fish features heavily. Try the upmarket Deniz restaurant for top quality fish and seafood. For a great range of classic Turkish food at low prices, head to Dört Mevsim Et Lokantasi amongst others. For good kebabs and other street food, try the cafes and stalls in the bazaar.
Drinking and Dancing
One of Turkey's most modern cities, with a large population of students and young people, Izmir has a busy nightlife. Bars along the waterfront are a good place for an evening drink as the sun goes down and the city's workers relax. The main nightlife area is Alsancak. There, you will find a wide choice of bars and clubs to suit all tastes. If you want to watch traditional Turkish belly dancing, watch some live music, hang out with expats, or get to know locals, you'll be able to in Alsancak. It is not a place anyone ever gets bored in.
Izmir's bazaars offer a glimpse into the city as it was in times past. They are one of the liveliest and most interesting parts of the city. Even if you don't want to buy, you will find plenty to amuse and entertain in the bazaars. Particular types of traders cluster along particular streets, so if you are in the market for some gold, head to the street with the goldsmiths. Sharpen your bargaining skills before doing so. If all that shopping is giving you achy feet, you will find you are practically tripping over tea-houses in the bazaars. For more western-style shopping there are plenty of boutiques and chainstores around Alsancack, and shopping malls by the waterfront.
The Izmir International Fair takes place in August and September each year. It is a huge trade show and exhibition, with exhibitors from all over the world across all sectors.
For music fans, the Izmir International Festival takes place in June and July each year and brings some of the world's top classical orchestras and jazz artists to various venues around the city. More jazz music can be heard in March, at the Izmir European Jazz Festival. Small music events are held throughout the city at various bars and clubs.
Football is the most popular sport in Izmir, and several football clubs play their home matches in the city, most notably Fenerbahçe, Götzepe and Altay.