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Once demoted on tourist agendas, İzmir is now Turkey’s third largest city and affords an ideal base for touring the many classical antique sites such as Ephesus and Pergamum that are day trips from the city. İzmir has been inhabited since the 9th century BC, and its strategic location as a port city on the Aegean Sea made it an ideal commercial and trading center. Throughout the Ottoman centuries (roughly 1500-1900), Smyrna, as it was known, was brilliantly cosmopolitan and catered shamelessly to mercantile traders and foreign business interests. Until the early 1920s, Smyrna was regarded as decadent due to its remarkable tolerance and ...

Once demoted on tourist agendas, İzmir is now Turkey’s third largest city and affords an ideal base for touring the many classical antique sites such as Ephesus and Pergamum that are day trips from the city. İzmir has been inhabited since the 9th century BC, and its strategic location as a port city on the Aegean Sea made it an ideal commercial and trading center. Throughout the Ottoman centuries (roughly 1500-1900), Smyrna, as it was known, was brilliantly cosmopolitan and catered shamelessly to mercantile traders and foreign business interests. Until the early 1920s, Smyrna was regarded as decadent due to its remarkable tolerance and diversity and, in particular, the frivolous gaiety of its multicultural residents. Turkey’s War of Independence in 1922 left İzmir a sombre, sober city with few foreigners. Many of the remaining grand houses in the Buca and Bornova districts of the city are good examples of the traditional 19th-century architecture that characterized the city’s Levantine heritage. The city is also known for its authentic Ottoman-era hans (commercial trading centers), wide boulevards and the harborfront promenade, or Kordon. As the regional headquarters of NATO in Turkey, İzmir sports a much more Western ambiance than other Turkish cities. Christian churches, synagogues, mosques, open air markets and a splendid Culture Park endow the city with its previous progressive and energetic character. And the International Space Camp puts an other-worldly touch on the city’s upwardly mobile image. Nearby Balçova has one of the best geothermal spas in Turkey.

Suzanne Swan
About the Expert

Suzanne Swan is the main author of DK's Eyewitness Travel Guide Turkey. She updated and wrote original material for DK's Eyewitness Travel Guide Istanbul.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Western Anatolia, on eastern shoreline of the Aegean Sea
  • Language: Turkish
  • Currency: Turkish Lira
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    May or June, and between Sept and November