Once known as Smryna, Izmir Turkey is the third largest city in the country after Istanbul and Ankara, the nation's capital. It is steeped in history that stretches back to more than 3,000 years before the Christian era, and there are numerous Izmir attractions that make it the second most visited city in Turkey, after Istanbul. Because of this, there are many flights to Izmir and it boasts a modern, international airport. It also is an internationally important seaport and routine port stop for large ocean cruise liners.
The Izmir Adnan Menderes International Airport is named for the first democratically elected leader of Independent Turkey. Domestic flights to Izmir come from cities all over the country, as there are almost twenty major airports in Turkey. There are international flights from several major hubs in other countries in Europe, and there is excellent transportation from the airport into the city (about five miles away).
Izmir is only about 50 miles north of the Aegean beach resort of Kusadasi, and between the two are the ancient ruins of Ephesus and the unusual natural pools and hot springs of Pamukkale. These are Izmir attractions that draw tourists from around the world.
More than 5,000 years of history makes Izmir Turkey one of the oldest human settlements in the Mediterranean Basin. This is an area that encompasses the ancient cities of Greece, northern Africa, Italy, and southern Europe. This means that the Izmir sights you see and visit will often be ancient. These include the ruins of the ancient Agora (marketplace) of Smyrna, which is highlighted by marble columns and pillars, archways and staircases, and merchant houses dating to the seventh century BC.
While Izmir Turkey was little more than a village for hundreds of years, it grew in importance after Alexander the Great built a new city on the slopes of Mt. Pagos (today’s Kadifekale). The city continued to grow during Roman rule, and in the first century AD, it became an important Christian center, during which time one of the Seven Churches from the Book of Revelations was built. This was St. Polycarp Church that is today the only one of the Seven Churches still functioning as a church. Ruins of another one, the Basilica of St. John, are in nearby Ephesus. These are two of the Christian Izmir attractions that draw the most visitors.
The origins of the importance of the Izmir Turkey port in the world date to the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, when mariners and traders from Greece, Italy, Israel, and as far away as the Netherlands and France transformed it into a cosmopolitan international crossroads. This is one of the reasons that Izmir is the most Westernized and liberal in all of Turkey. Smyrna was captured by Turks in 1076, when it was renamed Izmir. It was then recaptured by the Byzantine Empire. After that, it changed and re-changed hands between Turks, Ottomans, Templar Knights, and invaders from Venice, until the British arrived in the mid-nineteenth century. Turkey finally became independent in 1923 after World War I.
As with almost all Turkish cities, one of the best things to do in Izmir is shopping. The city’s Kemeralti Market is a huge indoor and outdoor bazaar—a labyrinth of narrow alleys lined with stalls that is truly authentic. There are jewelry, craft, and carpet stores, entire streets devoted to wedding garb or other specialty items, and little corners where you can have a cup of tea. If you end up at the sea front side of the market, you can sit down and enjoy dining on authentic Turkish cuisine. There are twelve major museums in the city that cover history, culture, art, and archeology. If you want to go during special events and festivals, you should consider booking your flights to Izmir to arrive about mid-June. The month-long Izmir International Fair, boasts concerts by international headliners like Elton John, dance performances, art exhibitions, and much more