36 Hours in İzmir, Turkey

DSC_0111Now a chic metropolis, the bustling modern city of İzmir is set against an incredible ancient backdrop. Behind its contemporary facade lies a dramatic and fascinating past, which still shines through in the historic architecture of the old quarters. Originally founded by the Trojans in 3000BC, the city has been home to a variety of civilisations including the Greeks, Romans and Byzantines, before prospering under the Ottoman Empire. Taken over by the Greeks in the aftermath of World War One, İzmir was officially recaptured by the Turks in 1922, and is now one of the country’s biggest tourist draws. This turbulent past means that the city has been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, and its history can be read in the contrasting architecture of the area.

To get a sense of the region’s ancient past, visit the ruined city of Ephesus, one of Turkey’s top attractions. Easily accessible from İzmir by taxi, public transport or on a private tour, it’s best to go early to beat both the crowds and the heat. The site was home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and while only the foundations remain there are still a number of beautifully preserved monuments and buildings. These include Roman relics, such as a medical school and the impressive Celsus library, as well as temples built for the city’s large Egyptian population, and a theatre built in the third century BC.

As the day warms up, get out of the sun by heading back to the centre of İzmir. Konak Square combines the vivacious atmosphere of the contemporary city with beautiful old architecture. The square is home to İzmir’s iconic clock tower, built in 1901, and to the governor’s residence, a replica of the 19th century original which burnt down in 1970. Modern buildings surround these heritage landmarks, so grab some lunch at one of the many restaurants and take in the busy, welcoming atmosphere.

If you feel like exploring, visit the Kemeralti Bazaar, a huge market that’s popular with locals and tourists alike. Selling food, coffee, clothes and traditional goods, this is a great place to take in the liveliness that characterises everyday life in İzmir. In the evening, wander over to the Kordon, a promenade that looks out over the Aegean Sea. The area is particularly celebrated for its seafood restaurants, but you can also take a stroll on the beach, a carriage ride through the streets, or head to one of the many stylish bars for a liqueur.

Next morning, finish your trip with a gentle wander around fashionable Alsancak, home to some of İzmir’s most desirable properties. The Kıbrıs Şehitler Caddesi is particularly worth visiting: known for its luxury brands, cafes and restaurants, the walk to the famous shopping street takes in some of the city’s finest examples of Ottomon, Turkish and European architectural styles.

The buildings of İzmir reveal the city’s fascinating and ancient past, as well as its status as an integral part of modern Turkey. With a shop located in nearby Çeşme, and three others on Turkey’s western coast, Engel & Völkers’ can easily help you find your own place in this lively and historic hub. Visit our E&V website to start searching for your new home now.

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