Izmir: Beating heart of the Aegean

Izmir: Beating heart of the Aegean

The Guide Istanbul team
July 28, 2017

Boasting a cuisine developed on unique ingredients and award-winning wine, Izmir is the starting point of a memorable journey sprawling from resort towns like Alaçatı to the ancient sites such as Ephesus. 

 

 

Known as Smyrna in ancient times, İzmir is a metropolitan city on the west coast of Anatolia. Its famous clock tower is located in the center of the city which was once a busy port exporting goods arriving from the Silk Road to the west. Former trade hub, the city is an ideal base for curious visitors, who want to explore the region, discover the remains of ancient world, and travel further to the booming resort towns of Alaçatı, Çeşme, and Urla.

 
Although İzmir is the third largest city in Turkey, the lifestyle of nearly three million residents runs on a slower pace compared to the rest of the country. Therefore, the visitors find it easy to relax and enjoy peaceful surroundings just like locals do.
 
In recent years, with culinary events like Urla International Artichoke Festival and Alaçatı Herb Festival, generosity of mother nature in the area captured attention of foodies in and out of the country. Covered by international media, the early variety of sakız enginarı has become an endless source of inspiration for local chefs. Rare wild greens —like şevket-i bostan, or cibes—are widely used in regional cuisine, and best enjoyed locally. Same thing applies to seafood: surrounded by the pristine Aegean waters, fish is flavorsome, fresh, and abundant.
 
 
Where to eat
 
A specialty of İzmir, boyoz—a pastry with thin layers of dough kneaded multiple times with a hint of tahini is the way to start the day. Often eaten with eggs for breakfast, this mouthwatering pastry was brought to the region by Sephardic Jews from Spain. Try it at Dostlar Fırını. Kıbrıs Şehitleri Caddesi No.120, Alsancak
 
Located on the main promenade, Kordon Yengeç Restaurant is a prime example of how wild greens turn into quality mezze, served alongside daily caught fish. Go before sunset and pick a table close to the street to enjoy the scenic landscape with a glass of rakı in hand. Reservations are recommended. Atatürk Caddesi No.314/A, Alsancak; T: (0232) 464 57 57
 
İzmir’s take on fastfood, kumru (action-packed meat and cheese sandwich), tastes best at Kumrucu ŞevkiConveniently located at the Gündoğdu Square, the venue is an ideal quick lunch stop. Ali Çetinkaya Bulvarı No.2/B, Alsancak; T: (0232) 421 90 65
 
Tucked away in downtown Alsancak, Pizza Locale is an ingredient-oriented local Italian pizzeria. With many branches around the city, you will want to visit the original one. Open daily from 11am-9:30pm; 1390 Sokak No.5B, Alsancak, İzmir; T: (0232) 463 45 60
 
Located inside the French Culture Center, La Cigale's idyllic garden is perfect for a romantic dinner on a summer night. The charcuterie plate goes hand in hand with a bottle of wine.
Fransız Kültür Merkezi, Cumhuriyet Bulvarı No.152, Alsancak; T: (0232) 421 47 80
 
 
Tour around
 
Popular gathering spot for young locals, Kordon (promenade) runs from Konak to Alsancak port. With cycling and walking tracks, as well as waterfront seating areas, this large inviting quarter is where you watch the sunset.
 
Kültürpark İzmir is an expansive leisure complex containing a vast green space filled with rich flora, where culture events and activities take place. Running tracks, an open-air theater, museums, an amusement park are all part of the infrastructure. The 86th İzmir International Fair, combining cultural, gastronomic and commercial activities, will be organized from August 18-27 at the Kültürpark İzmir and Fuar İzmir building. Mimar Sinan Mahallesi, Şair Eşref Bulvarı, Alsancak
 
Before shopping malls arrived to the city, Kemeraltı was the place to go to. The historic market built during Byzantine times was an important trade hub of the Silk Road. From spices to textiles and clothing, the present-day market caters to the needs of both locals and visitors with a variety of stores lined side by side. One of the entrances is conveniently located in the city center, walking distance from Konak metro station.
Kızlarağası Hanı is a renovated historical inn from Ottoman times, located inside Kemeraltı. The inn houses small shops selling accessories, decorative objects, souvenirs, and more. Turkish coffee served at the local cafe is cooked in the cup.
 
Originally built in 1907, the Historic Elevator that leads to a terrace and a restaurant, offers a panoramic view of the city and the Gulf of İzmir. Open daily 8:30am-11pm; Şehit Nihatbey Caddesi, Dario Moreno Sokak No.76/A, Konak, İzmir
Having lived on the street housing the historic elevator, a famous Jewish poet and singer, Dario Moreno was known for his love for the city. The street named after him is home to a display of Moreno's poem about İzmir. Also, the songs played on the elevator are by Moreno, too.
 
Cable car in Balçova offers a bird-eye view of the city and the gulf. Up high, there is a picnic area with a restaurant. The ride is 8 TL. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-10pm. Teleferik Mahallesi, Sakarya Caddesi, Balçova
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