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.

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.