Known in Turkish as "Beautiful Izmir", the city lies at the head of a long and narrow gulf furrowed by ships and yachts. The climate is mild and in the summer the constant and refreshing sea breezes temper the sun's heat. Behind the palm-lined promenades and avenues which follow the shoreline, the city, in horizontal terraces, gently ascends the slopes of the surrounding mountains. The third largest city in Turkey, Izmir's port is second only to Istanbul's. A cosmopolitan and lively city all year round, during the International Arts Festival (June/July) and the International Fair (August/Sept), Izmir bursts with an added vibrancy.
The original city was established in the third millennium B.C. (at present day Bayrakli), and at that time shared, with Troy, the most advanced culture in Western Anatolia. By 1500 B.C. it had fallen under the influence of Central Anatolia's Hittite Empire. In the first millennium B.C. Izmir, then known as Smyrna, ranked as one of the important cities of the Ionian Federation; during this period - one of the city's most brilliant - it is believed that Homer is lived here. The Lydian conquest of the city, around 600 B.C., brought this period to an end, and Izmir remained little more than a village throughout the Lydian and the subsequent 6th century B.C. Persian rule. In the fourth century B.C. a new city was built at the instigation of Alexander the Great on the slopes of Mt. Pagos (Kadifekale). Izmir's Roman period, from the first century B.C., gave birth to its second great era. Byzantine rule followed in the fourth century and lasted until the Seljuk conquest in the 11th century. In 1415, under Sultan Mehmet Çelebi, Izmir became part of the Ottoman Empire.
The Archaeological Museum, near Konak Square, houses a superb collection of antiquities including the statues of Poseidon and Demeter which, in ancient times, stood in the Agora.
Neighboring the Archaeological Museum, the collection of the Ethnographical Museum contains folkloric artifacts, among which are a fine collection of Bergama and Gördes carpets, traditional costumes and camel bridles.
Situated on Atatürk Caddesi, in an old Izmir house used by the founder of the Turkish Republic, the Atatürk Museum exhibits photographs of the leader as well as some of his personal effects.
The Selçuk Yasar Art Museum is a private museum on Cumhuriyet Bulvari with a collection of 20th century Turkish art.
The Natural History Museum in Bornova attracts as a natural reserve of the Aegean Region landscapes' historical preservation.
The excavations at Bayrakli have unearthed a temple dedicated to Athena, and the wall of the Ionian city which flourished here between the seventh and fifth centuries B.C. Pottery dating to the thid millennium B.C. has also been uncovered.
On Kadifekale, Mt. Pagos, stands the impressive ruins of a castle and its walls, built by Lysimachus in the reign of Alexander the Great, which still dominate Izmir today. The castle offers an excellent vantage point to enjoy the magnificent view over the Gulf of Izmir.
The Agora, or marketplace, in the Namazgah Quarter was originally constructed during the rule of Alexander the Great. What remains today, however, dates from the re-building under Marcus aurelius after a devastating earthquake in 178 A.D.
The Sirinyer and Yesildere Aqueducts, two examples of Roman engineering which span the Meles River, supplied Izmir's water throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman eras.
An 18th-century Ottoman inn, the Kizlaragasi Han, a fine example of the architecture of the period, is being restored to its former glory.
The symbol of Izmir, the Saat Kulesi, or Clock Tower, stands in Konak Square - the heart of the city. A gift from the Sultan Abdülhamid, and built in 1901, it is decorated in an elaborate, late-Ottoman style.
Recently-restored old houses fill the old Asansör quarter, also known as the Jewish quarter. In this quarter, Dario Moreno Sokagi is the main pedestrian street to the Asansör, an elevator from the 19th century which is fifty-one meters in height, and provides access between the lower and upper streets. Situated on the upper side, the Asansör restaurant offers a beautiful view of Izmir.
If you find yourself on Havra Sokak in Kemeralti, notice the old buildings and synagogues.
Hisar Mosque is the largest and oldest in Izmir. Built in the 16th century, with restorations in the 19th century, it has a delightful interior with an interesting mimber (pulpit) and mihrab (altar). Other mosques in Izmir are Salepçioglu (20th century), Sadirvan (17th century with 19th-century restorations) and Kemeralti (17th century); all are situated close to the Kemeralti Quarter.
In the streets of the Kemeralti Market area, it is possible to find fascinating antiques, both fine and fun jewellery, a great variety of clothing, and the dried figs and sultanas for which Izmir is famous. The fish restaurants in this colorful area serve up the local specialities, trança and çipura, two types of sea bream.
The best modern and most elegant shops line the Kordon Promenade in Karsiyaka or Cumhuriyet Caddesi. Take a horse-drawn carriage-ride along the promenade during the day; afterwards spend the evening absorbing the lively atmosphere of the shops and cafes around the Passport Pier.