Spend the perfect weekend on Turkey’s sunny west coast
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İzmir is located on the west coast of Turkey overlooking the Aegean Sea. It’s an hour away from Istanbul by plane. Strikingly, the antiquity is still visible, a mosque and a church can stand side by side, and a woman in a burkini and a woman in a two-piece can wade into the sea on the same beach. So plan a day trip to İzmir and the surrounding coastal region, where there is much to see and taste.
DAY1: Into modern İzmir
10 a.m. Start with a small cup of cay (tea) or kahve (coffee), which are usually served without milk in Turkey. Coffee is a strong, thick drink in a cup, and tea can be flavoured or unflavoured.
Both can be bought in cafés and stalls around the city for a few lira or less. The Roman Agora, the remains of a fourth-century public square, should be the first place you visit. Even though the site is still being excavated and enlarged, you can walk through the arches and columns and imagine how people lived in ancient times.
At 12 p.m., you can stroll through the 500-year-old Kemeraltı Bazaar, a huge collection of open-air stalls and traditional shops selling everything from clothes to spices, to juice and souvenirs.
3 p.m. The heart of the city beats in Konak Square, with its ornately patterned Ottoman-style clock tower. The 117-year-old clock was a gift from the German Emperor Wilhelm II and is a beautiful piece of architecture. The picture is further embellished by the small mosque at the edge of the square. The gardens around it are like an oasis.
6 p.m. In a seaside town, you almost have to take a walk by the water. At Konak Pier there is a cinema, shops and restaurants.
9 p.m. Kumpir, a jacket potato with toppings, doesn’t get the attention it deserves in Turkey. Try Atıştır Café, where you can specify the ingredients you want on your jacket potato and they’ll serve them up for you. You can use corn, meat, sauces, vegetables, cheese or cheese. Go crazy.
DAY2: Romance in ruins
10 a.m. Most tourists start their trip to Ephesus from İzmir. Take a bus or train to Selcuk, the nearest town, then hop on a shuttle to take you to the site. It’s a huge historical site, so allow about three hours for sightseeing. The sun is a relentless enemy, so take plenty of water and sunscreen.
People have lived in Ephesus since the Bronze Age, but it wasn’t until the sixth century BC that it became a well-known Greek city. One of the ancient wonders of the world, the Temple of Artemis, stood here. The Persians and then Alexander the Great, who was a raider, conquered the city. In the next period of its history it became part of the Roman Empire and flourished under Augustus Caesar and later under Tiberius. When Christianity spread in the first century AD, this area became an important centre of its power. After that, the city slowly went downhill (if you’re going to the Turkish coast, you should stop in Bodrum)
The most impressive buildings on the site are a theatre that resembles the Colosseum and can hold up to 25 000 people, and the rebuilt Library of Celsus, which can hold up to 25 000 scrolls. But it’s worth exploring the entire site on your own, from the ancient gymnasium to the thermal baths.
There is a separate fee for visiting the terraced houses. Even when you’ve had your fill of the ruins, you can see how people lived in Roman times. Once at the top of the hill, you can take a horse-drawn cart down or walk the 1.8 miles back to the shuttle point.
4 p.m. Before returning to İzmir, make a detour to the Basilica of St John at the train/bus station. This is the ruin of one of the oldest churches in the area. It’s in a beautiful location and shows what early Christianity looked like. The Isa Bey Mosque is right next door. It’s not comparable to any other mosque as it was built in the Seljuk style of the 1300s on top of a former temple of Apollo, using parts of Greek and Roman buildings.
When you return to the bus station, you could do with a snack. Try pide, a simple dish of bread, cheese and toppings. When you return to Izmir, try some of the oranges, melons and apricots grown in the area.
Day 3: Relaxation and Local Cuisine
On your final day in Izmir, head to the Karsiyaka Bazaar, a lively marketplace located on the city’s waterfront. Here you’ll find everything from fresh seafood to handmade souvenirs.
From the bazaar, head to Alsancak, one of Izmir’s most vibrant neighborhoods. Take a stroll around the neighborhood’s lively streets and indulge in some of the local cuisine.
Izmir City Beaches
Finally, end your trip with a visit to one of Izmir’s many beaches. Some of the best beaches include Altinkum Beach, Pamucak Beach, and Boyalık beach.
Altinkum Beach is located in the nearby resort town of Kusadasi, about an hour’s drive from Izmir. This sandy beach is popular with both locals and tourists alike, and offers a wide range of water sports and activities.
Pamucak Beach is located about 20 kilometers south of Izmir and is known for its clear waters and soft sand. This beach is less crowded than some of the more popular tourist spots, making it a great choice for a quiet day in the sun.
Boyalik Beach is located in the heart of Izmir and is a popular spot for locals to escape the city heat. The beach is equipped with showers, changing rooms, and umbrellas, and there are plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby.
The small town of Urla is about 1.5 hours from Izmir. Most people who go there are from the area. The bus ride from the train station to the beach is mostly along the water, which is a nice introduction to beach fun.
When people get off the bus in their swimming costumes, you should do the same. This will lead you to long stretches of beach where people are on holiday. You can rent deck chairs and umbrellas for the whole day.
Local Cuisine to Try in Izmir
Kofte is a popular Turkish dish made with ground beef or lamb, onions, and spices. It is often served with salad and bread and is a great option for a quick and delicious lunch.
Pide is a Turkish flatbread that is typically topped with cheese, meat, and vegetables. It is often compared to pizza, but has a distinct flavor and texture.
Baklava is a sweet pastry made with layers of phyllo dough, chopped nuts, and honey syrup. It is a popular dessert in Turkey and can be found at most local bakeries and cafes.
Izmir is a vibrant and fascinating city with a rich history and culture. Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s ancient ruins, relaxing on the beach, or indulging in some delicious Turkish cuisine, there is something for everyone in this beautiful city. We hope this guide has helped you plan your 72 hours in Izmir and that you enjoy your trip to this enchanting city.
Q1: What is the best time of year to visit Izmir?
A1: The best time to visit Izmir is between March and May or September and November, when the weather is mild and the crowds are smaller.
Q2: Is it safe to travel to Izmir?
A2: Yes, Izmir is generally considered to be a safe city for tourists.
Q3: What is the currency used in Izmir?
A3: The currency used in Turkey is the Turkish lira.
Q4: How do I get around Izmir?
A4: Izmir has a comprehensive public transportation system, including buses, trains, and ferries. Taxis and rental cars are also available.
Q5: What are some other popular tourist attractions in Izmir?
A5: Other popular tourist attractions in Izmir include the Asansor, the Kizlaragasi Han Bazaar, and the Izmir Wildlife Park.