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Izmir's history goes back a long way. 3000 years BC, the Trojans already founded a settlement on the same spot where we find Izmir these days. Much later, the Greeks turned it into the city of Smyrna and they, in turn, were beaten by the Romans. As of the beginning of the fifteenth century, Smyrna formed part of the Ottoman Empire. When it collapsed, the Greeks returned for a short period of time after World War I, but the Turkish national hero Atatürk expelled them. Because of the devastations during World War I, the subsequent battle against the Greeks, a city fire in 1922 and an earthquake in 1928, very little of the city was preserved. Izmir is Turkey's third-largest city (after Istanbul and Ankara) and a busy mixture of a traditional oriental and modern city.
Not much is left of the old fortress on the Kadifekale Hill that was built during the reign of Alexander the Great; only the defensive walls still (partially) survived. It's still nice though to climb the hill on which the fortress lies, even if it is just to enjoy the beautiful views of the city.
The agora (the central or market square in Greek cities), has, however, partially been preserved, although parts of this large square have also disappeared underneath buildings from a later date. Yet it is still the center of market trade, as the large, busy, colorful Kemeraltı Bazaar is located right next to the ancient agora. Here you can wander around the narrow streets for hours and browse through the merchandise on offer, ranging from fresh fruit and flowers to trinkets, spices and herbs.
On the large Konak Square near the sea you'll find the marble clock tower that was built in 1901 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Abdul Hamid II's reign as sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The designer was clearly inspired by Arab architecture. The clock itself was a gift from the German Emperor Wilhelm II, one of Abdul Hamid's political friends.
The red tower near the hill is a special construction. It is the Asansör (which means elevator) that was built by a Jewish businessman in 1907. He wanted to make it easier for people (and goods) to get up the hill. Originally, the elevator functioned based on a water-driven mechanism, but following the renovation they placed an electric motor.
Near Karşiyaka lies a protected natural area that houses many bird species. This wetland is the Birds Paradise Çiğli. Besides the birds that permanently live here, many other species choose this habitat in winter and in summer and it is also a resting place for migratory birds. You can therefore see different bird species at different times of the year in this eighty-square-kilometer-large area.
If you want to get active, we suggest you go to Çeşme, a small village west of Izmir at about a half hours' drive. It is known for its excellent opportunities for windsurfing and kitesurfing. The latter mainly at Pirlanta-Ciftlikkoy Beach. In the center of town, right next to the sea, there is also a beautiful castle, Çeşme Kalesi.
One of the main attractions near Izmir are the ruins of Ephesus. The Greeks already founded a city here, but Ephesus only truly flourished under the Romans. The ruins give a good impression of life in those days. You'll find columns of temples, Roman baths and even a toilet system with running water! It also houses a well-preserved amphitheater. This is not the case for the Temple of Artemis, also known as the Temple of Diana, of which only one column is left. In Ephesus you can also visit the Cave of the Seven sleepers. There are different versions of the legend surrounding these sleepers, but they all involve seven brothers who were persecuted for their Christian beliefs and who were locked insight the cave where they fell asleep, only to wake up 200 years later. The brothers were under the assumption they had only slept one night. A divine miracle!
Izmir is an important economic center and so traffic is fairly busy. There are various parking garages and parking lots in the center, but if you want to visit the city we recommend leaving your rental car at your hotel. Most hotels have private parking facilities.
Izmir International Airport – Adnan Menderes Airport – is located 18 kilometers southwest of the city. You can easily reach the airport by rental car. The airport is situated off the road from Izmir to Selçuk and the ruins of Ephesus.