Is Izmir Worth Visiting?
Many people ask me this question as I lived in this Izmir for over a year, and my answer is... hell yes! Well, ok in terms of tourism Izmir doesn't really compare to places like Istanbul or Cappadocia, but there is still a lot to see and do. On top of this the people in Izmir are some of the most friendly and open minded in all of Turkey, so if you want to make friends with some local people and get a feel for what their lives are like, this is a great place for that too!
Here is just a few of the things you can do in Izmir.
Konak is considered the touristic center of Izmir and is full of historical mosques, the famous clock tower and many small streets with cafes, restaurants and bars.
Kemeralti is basically the Grand Bazaar of Izmir, and personally I prefer it to the Grand Bazaar! It's a massive maze like market where you can buy absolutely ANYTHING. During my last visit we joked that the only thing you can't buy in this market might be bacon 😉 Everything is, or at least should be cheap if you know how to bargain.
Kemerali is also full of great, cheap restaurants here like my personal favourite Antik cafe, where you can eat a top quality iskender kebab for just 7tl (€2.50)! Oh and keep your eye out for the juice stalls nearby this restaurant where you can get a glass of freshly squeezed juice for just €0.20!
20 minutes walk from along the seaside from Konak square you can find Asansor, which is an elevator built in 1907 to help people travel between the top of the cliff to the seaside. Definitely no visit to Izmir is complete without checking this place out, not only for the history but for one of the best views in Izmir. There is a fancy Italian cafe at the top, but despite its classiness the prices are VERY reasonable, around 3tl for a coffee.
Drink a Beer by the Sea in Alsancak
To me, this is Izmir! Since the first day I visited this city I have spent countless nights with friends, sitting on the grass by the sea drinking our beer from the shop. There are often free concerts here, or just enjoy the wonderful atmosphere of 1000s of young people spending good times with their friends.
Ephesus (AKA Efes)
Ephesus is an ancient Greek city founded around 3000 years ago. It is most famous for the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. It was also considered the home of Mary, mother of Jesus. Entry is 25tl but if you are interested in history Ephesus is a must see.
Ephesus - Photo by Esther Lee
Not far from Ephesus is Sirince, a small Turkish village famous for its beautiful white houses and for making fruit wine which you can buy in shops around most of Turkey. Entry is free and you will be treated to many free glasses of wine to try as you walk around its streets. As it is very close to Ephesus it is recommended to see both these places in a one day trip.
Go to the Beach!
While it's not possible to swim in Izmir center, there are many beach areas within a short bus or car ride from Izmir.
The best of these, and in my opinion the best in all of Turkey is Ramo beach on the south coast of Cesme. Pure white sand, crystal clear water, much less crowded than other beaches in Turkey and no hotels what-so-ever! You can also camp there, just ask permission from one of the security at the bar or go find a quiet spot in the wild.
It can be hard to find, which is probably the reason for its natural beauty, but don't let that put you off. Click here for a map. You can either take a dolmus from Cesme center, or walk/hitchhike from Çiftlikkoy. The beach is completely free to enter, but some dishonest bars may try to charge you 20tl to pass through their bar. DO NOT PAY, they do not have the right to do this, if they won't let you pass simply walk around the side of the bar.
There are also several other beaches around Cesme, as well as in Foca to the north, and Kusadasi further south.