During the month we stayed in Turkey we settled on a few cities as home bases from which travel either by rental car or using public transportation. One of those cities was Izmir, a large coastal city that was a good central location for visiting other places like Ephesus and Pamukkale. However, Izmir was a very nice city itself, and had lots to offer for the week we spent there.
Izmir was originally known as Smyrna in ancient times. The city was founded by the Greeks, invaded by the Romans and later rebuilt by Alexander the Great before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century.
We chose the neighbourhood of Karsiyaka for our Airbnb, as it was popular for its nightlife and had lots of local shops and restaurants. It also had access to ferries and trains to see the rest of the city.
The neighbourhood had a number of great restaurants to choose for breakfast, so after getting up we walked down the street from our Airbnb to find a local place. There was one restaurant in particular I wanted to visit as I had seen the menu advertise a regional breakfast specialty called the Atom and I was determined to try it.
We took the ferry to downtown Izmir. Because the city is located inside of a bay, ferry travel is common for commuters and locals to get around certain parts of the city including the downtown. It only took about 15 minutes from the pier in Bostanli to the downtown pier and cost just a few dollars each.
From Konak pier we made our way to Kemeralti Market, a huge bazaar that is over 300 years old and like a maze to get through.
Everything was available from fruits and vegetables to pots and pans. For a break, we found a hotel located in the middle of the market area and made our way into a courtyard for a drink. It was a nice peaceful oasis from the hubbub in the market.
Although we hadn’t planned on doing much shopping there was a lot to see and the shopkeepers were aggressively selling their wares. I saw a jacket I liked and went in. Although the shopkeeper didn’t speak much English his “friend” (another shopkeeper) offered to help out and the hard sell was on. Although we knew what we were in for the pressure to make a deal was strong, and after a lot of back and forth we eventually we settled on a price.
Of course the fellow who so generously helped me wanted me to check out his shop too and he wasn’t taking no for an answer. So off we went. As we headed over he kept saying “no pressure to buy” but it wasn’t convincing.
We went into his leather shop and he offered us tea before getting down to the hard sell. He went over lots of leather goods that we didn’t need before we finally managed to find the cheapest item I could use (a leather belt) and tried to buy it quickly and head off.
He kept trying to sell us one more item but we managed to hold fast and just want the belt. With the sale made, we finally made it out.
In spite of his best efforts, we were done with shopping. We had more to see he wasn’t going to slow us down any more. Although we had spent some time haggling with some experienced salesmen in their element I was still happy with the purchases and the price we paid. I think they were happy too.
Just a 5 minute walk from the bazaar were some Roman ruins located right in the heart of the city. We wandered over but compared with the ruins we had seen elsewhere in Turkey these weren’t as impressive so we didn’t pay to go in. I did get few shots of them as we walked around the outside edge of the site.
The modern part of the downtown area is called Alsancak, so we went there to look around before heading back to our neighbourhood.
After checking out the waterfront we headed closer to the shopping area to get a bit to eat. This area is a bit more hip and trendy than the traditional shopping area, the shops are more expensive and the restaurants are a mixture of traditional Turkish, fast food everything in between.
We headed back to the waterfront for one more walk as we gradually made our way towards the ferry terminal. We passed the Tree of the Republic statue, commissioned to commemorate the 80th year since the founding of the Turkish Republic. This square has been an important meeting point since it was built. In the past it has been a popular place for both political rallies and protests.
Near Konak terminal is a shopping area along the water. We decided to stop for a drink before heading back to our place.
We sat in the patio cafe along the water for awhile. They removed the cover and we were able to enjoy the sun as it began to set. It was soon time to take the ferry back to our neighbourhood.
We really had a good time in Izmir. The restaurants in our area of the city (Karsiyaka) were great as were the numerous cafes. With ferry and rail options close to our accommodations, the city was easy to get around in. We rented a car for a few days while we were there and it really opened up options for seeing the west coast of Turkey. The place was vibrant and the people were friendly–it’s a place we would love to visit again.