So you’ve decided to visit Izmir. Good choice! It’s a beautiful metropolitan town and is a quick day trip away from one of the worlds best ancient sites, Ephesus and it hasn’t yet been run over by tourists. So here’s my guide to getting the most out of your visit.
Ideally two or three days is enough to spend in Izmir, including day trips to Ephesus, Pergamum, Sardis and Çeşme. Izmir makes the best home base for day trips
Where to Stay in Izmir
I took an hour flight from Istanbul to Izmir and checked into the Shantihome Hostel in the heart of Izmir. Beds here are super cheap (from $12 for dorm beds and $25 for private rooms) clean and includes free wifi, and a fully equipped kitchen. The vibe is laid back, colourful and the hostel will arrange tours to many sites around Izmir including Ephesus.
If you’re looking for a more private budget friendly hotel I recommend the Ibis Izmir which is located farther away from the Old Town but closer to the pier. Room rates are from $45 a night. Wifi costs extra per day but the beds are definitely more comfortable if you’re looking for a good nights sleep and not meeting people.
What to do in Izmir
Take a Tour Through the Roman Agora
Izmir can be visited in a day. I recommend exploring the Old Town and the Roman Agora of Smyrna first before the cruise ships dock into port. The hilight of your visit to Smyrna will most definitely be the reconstructed Roman Archways which gives you a great feeling of what it was like to walk through this Roman City. It also remains one of the best preserved ancient sites in all of Turkey.
Grab a Bite and Explore Kemeralti Market
Located just steps away from the Agora is the Kemeralti Market, Izmir’s main food and shopping market. This is where you can pick up some picnic or dinner supplies, grab a quick bite at one of the many food stalls, or pick up some trinkets and souvenirs. It is a winding bazaar and it’s easy to get lost so just find your own way around and follow your nose
Day Trip to Ephesus
The biggest draw to Izmir is most likely it’s close proximity to the Ancient site of Ephesus. Getting here takes about an hour by public bus or you can join one of a hundred tours on offer from Izmir. If you are going to venture out on your own and prefer your own freedom I highly suggest downloading a audio walking tour like this one from Rick Steves (Ephesus Walking Tour) It’s also available to download from the App Store as Rick Steves Europe. Once downloaded just scroll down to Turkey and download the Ephesus section. I can’t tell you how many times i was stopped by people asking what I was listening to and how they could get it. Trust me you’ll get so much more out of your visit if you come prepared with this tour. Rick Steves has never ever steered me wrong (and no he doesn’t pay me to say that!)
Ephesus was once one of the most important ports in the mediterranean for International trade and was the centre of culture, academia and the arts. The city was practically decimated from hundreds of years of earthquakes and war and it was left largely abandoned until its rediscovery in the 1860s. But what you can see from what has been uncovered is how advanced this civilization was. I definitely recommend staying here for a few hours.
Day Trip to Sirince
If you’re doing a trip to Ephesus on your own, I highly recommend a trip to Sirince. Grab a bite to eat or a cup of coffee from the cafe in town then head over to the chapel. This is the site of where the Virgin Mary was believed to have spent her final days. You can get to Sirince from Ephesus by walking to the nearby town of Selcuk. From here you can hire a cab, or take the public bus from the bus station. Buses leave every 30 minutes. To return to Izmir, you can take a train from Selcuk back
The town of Sirince is also worth exploring. The hills are home to some fantastic wine producers and there are a number of cafes that overlook them. My favourite was the Uzum Cafe which has stunning views of the hillside, great wine and great foodThe narrow streets are also full of tiny shops selling a variety of handmade items from rugs to handbags.
Where to Eat in Izmir
Cafe del Mundo If you’re looking for some light bites or just want a quiet place to grab a beer.
Gozlemecim Inexpensive place for food on the go and a large variety of gozleme which are extremely delicious and hearty
Tavaci Recip Usta If you’re looking to sit down to eat a traditional meal this is the place to go. Amazing local seafood. If you’re looking for something hearty, order their mixed grill.
Know Before You Go
Is it safe to travel to Izmir?
Yes! In general Turkey, especially Western Turkey is safe to visit. Yes there is political volatility and conflicts around Turkey’s borders but I felt completely safe in my travels here. As a female traveling alone, of course you’ll get some unwanted attention but I never found myself in any danger.
Do I need a visa
Yes. Most tourists will need a visa. Check with the Turkish embassy to see what you need but for most people you apply for a visa online and you get an electronic visa sent to you within an hour
Do I need to learn Turkish
If you’re traveling to smaller towns then yes I’d say you need to learn a few key phrases. But for the most part, especially in tourist centres you can get by with the bare minimum or in most cases English
Do I need a Power Adapter
Yes. If you’re traveling from North America you’ll need a European power adapter. Some power sources will have a universal plug, but don’t count on it.
What is the best season to travel to Turkey
I would say the best time is from Spring to mid autumn to take advantage of the warm weather. With that being said it does get crowded mid summer so if you’re willing to bear some colder waters in the spring then I’d say come visit in April or May. My favourite time to visit is September-October
Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip. Feel free to leave a comment if you think i’ve left something out or to let me know about your trip.
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