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A Turkish city packed with culture

Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city, is a whirl of culture and colourful architecture, where life jogs along at a wonderfully laid-back pace. On the Aegean coast, this port city fringes the Bay of Izmir in west Turkey. An important port since ancient times, Izmir city breaks brim with history, and the Greeks, Romans and Ottomans have ruled here over the centuries. There are echoes of the past almost everywhere you look, from fascinating archaeological sites and open-air museums in the city centre, to the majestic ruins of Ephesus, one of Turkey’s most magnificent ancient sites, about an hour’s drive away.

History lovers are spoilt for choice on city breaks to Izmir, and can spend hours marvelling at ancient artefacts and art at its museums. But the city’s rich history can be soaked up just as easily by strolling the streets, lined with bazaars and Ottoman-era mosques. After days spent sightseeing, relax at restaurants specialising in ‘meze’ and fresh seafood, or dinky bars hidden down cobbled streets. Shopaholics will be in their element. Kemeralti Market is a labyrinth of a bazaar packed with stalls selling brightly coloured spices, souvenirs and trinkets. If the lure of the coast proves too much, many beautiful expanses of sand can be found a short bus ride away. Izmir, with its storied history, captivating archeology and fantastic beaches, adds up to an irresistible city break.

Three tips for a top trip

Go strolling

Izmir’s metro system is great, but to really get a sense of the city, walking is best. Pull on your comfiest shoes and go for a wander.

Take a coffee break

Drinking coffee in Turkey isn’t just about topping up your caffeine levels – it’s a time to socialise, pause and relax. Try a traditional Turkish coffee in Kemeralti market.

Try windsurfing

Izmir is surrounded by excellent windsurfing spots and is considered one of Europe’s best windsurfing destinations. Make your way along the coast to catch the breeze.

Best attractions to see in Izmir

Kemeralti market

This colourful, busy market is a feast for the eyes – even if you’re not shopping, it’s worth browsing the many stalls and admiring the local handiwork.

See the Agora

Gaze up at the towering Corinthian colonnades, Faustina Gate and other ancient structures in this vast space, which dates back to the 4th century BC.

Ancient artefacts

Jewellery, coins and pots from ancient times are all on display at the Izmir Museum of History and Art, set inside the manicured grounds of Kulturpark.

Your Izmir questions, answered

Winters are warm enough for a city break filled with sightseeing and plenty of walking, while the summer brings hotter temperatures and lots of sunshine.
Yes, there’s scope for sunbathing and swimming if you travel a little outside the city. Try the Cesme Peninsula, just an hour’s drive west of the centre.
June, July, and August are typically the warmest and driest months of the year. This is the best time to go if your heart is set on long, relaxing days at Cesme’s beaches. This part of Turkey has a Mediterranean climate, so winters are usually very mild. While the smaller resort towns may be quite sleepy during the off-season, the region’s historic cities are open all year round for local sightseeing. And you may even be able to get a great deal on flights and hotels when travelling outside the main season.
Delicious – thanks to its coastal location, the seafood is unmissable, and its meze platters offer bit of everything. Also try raki – a popular aniseed liqueur.
Turkey’s Izmir province is known for its beautiful Aegean coast and rich Greek history. It’s also famous for being one of the oldest Ionian cities, founded around 3000BC. This is one of Turkey’s largest cities. The iconic Konack clocktower that stands in the centre of the city is a famous landmark. Browse any stand of postcards in one of Izmir’s beachfront stores and you’re sure to see the clocktower on most of them.
No. Rule changes that came into force in 2020 mean holders of regular British and Northern Ireland passports fall under the visa exemption programme. So you can enter Turkey and travel to Izmir using just your passport, with no need to apply for a visa. The Turkish Government does recommend that you have at least six months remaining on your passport. And that there is at least one blank page so immigration officers can put entry and exit stamps into it.
Izmir is one of the most family-friendly parts of Turkey. There’s plenty to keep the kids entertained and happy, like browsing and picking up trinkets at the markets, visiting the local wildlife parks, taking day trips to the nearby islands, and playing all day on the beach or splashing around in the water. The nightlife here isn’t over-the-top, either, so you’ll find it's quite a laid-back environment. Izmir’s family-friendly hotels cater excellently to those travelling with young kids, too, with lots of amenities.
Definitely. Especially if you’re a beach lover. Izmir has some of Turkey's best beaches, mainly around the Cesme district. But you'll discover much more than that. Not only is there tons to see and do in the Izmir province itself, it’s also a great base for exploring further afield. You could visit the Dilek Peninsula-Buyuk Menderes Delta National Park which is about two hours away by car. Or you could even hop on a 30-minute ferry from Cesme over to the Greek island of Chios for a little country hopping.
If you want to travel around the Izmir province, hiring a car can be a good move, especially if you’re travelling as a family. It can be more economical to hire a car for everyone rather than buying separate tickets for public transport. And you can set your own schedule. If you just want to enjoy a relaxing holiday in one of the resorts, you probably won’t need a car. But there really is a lot to do in and around Izmir, and the main sites are quite spread around, so a car can help you discover more.