Izmir for a Weekend: Where Do You Take Visitors?

Izmir is the sort of city that takes some time to get to know properly, so when you are expecting a visit from a friend or family member who only has a short time to spend with you in the city, you probably want to plan how you will spend your time very carefully, to make the most of the attractions that are available to entertain them. The city itself seems to attract large numbers of tourists, but they often fail to see the real city, stopping here only for a short while on a cruise along the Aegean coast. Having someone with local knowledge as a guide should at least give your guests the advantage over these visitors, even if they are only here for a weekend.

Izmir and the Aegean

Izmir is one of the links in the chain of coastal cities at which many cruises and tours around the Turkish coast choose to stop, and its location on the beautiful Aegean coast is one of its main attractions. It is possible to combine a visit to Izmir with tours of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, or even to travel on, via Istanbul, to the Black Sea. Many visitors come into Izmir on one of these ships, and have only a short time in the city, but joining a short cruise or sailing around the local coast on a traditional gulet can also be a good way to explore the local area when you have a visitor, or even to see more of the country from your base in Izmir when you take a vacation. The coast is full of hidden coves and secluded islands where you can swim and relax, as well as historic sites and cities to visit as you travel, but there are also some interesting places to take your visitors to see in the city itself.

Top Places to Take Visitors in Izmir

Any visitor to Izmir is going to want to see some of the most historic and important attractions in the city:

1. Izmir Clock Tower: one of the most distinctive landmarks in the city, this white marble tower was built in 1901 to mark the 25th year of Ottoman sultan Abdulhamid II’s reign. Make sure that you point out the North African style patterns on the columns, and remember that it makes a great meeting point for visitors who are unfamiliar with the city.

2. International Izmir Festival: the annual festival, beginning in June, is a great time to have visitors since there is so much to see and do, although you should warn them to expect the city to be particularly busy and you will need to plan ahead if you want to get tickets for the most popular events. Many venues in the city hold events, but if you can make it out to the ancient theater at Ephesus, you can give your visitors a truly spectacular experience.

3. Kadifekale: Alexander the Great’s Velvet Castle on the hill of the same name is the place to go for views across the city, and for a historic site that requires less of the imagination than Smyrna, but you should make sure that your visitors are happy to take a long walk uphill if you intend to travel by foot, particularly when the weather is warm. You can find a taxi to take you if you prefer.

4. Smyrna: remnants of the Roman city of Smyrna can still be seen at the Agora. If you have been here before, you can act as a guide for your visitors, but it can be worthwhile finding a guide who knows the history if you are unfamiliar with the site. History lovers will enjoy themselves, but the ruins can simply seem like piles of rocks when you don’t know how they all fit together. The statues in the site’s museum may be more impressive to visitors who aren’t so keen on the ruins.

5. Ethnography Museum: the best place to see some of the local historical treasures is the Archaeological Museum, but the nearby Ethnography Museum can be the best place to take visitors as it has more varied exhibits, relating to all sorts of local crafts and customs. If you can time your visit to coincide with some of the demonstrations, you can even see how different types of ornaments and materials are made.

Alongside these popular attractions, there are plenty of less well known places and activities in Izmir that most tourists miss, but which it can be fun to take visitors to discover. A meal at the top of the Asansör, shopping for souvenirs in the bazaar at Kemeraltı, or spending a day on the beach can be fun, but it is the secret spots, known only to locals that will give your visitors the best experience of Izmir. Among the experiences that are not to be missed are having a mid morning snack on a kumru or two, sipping traditionally brewed coffee in a favourite cafe, like Gümüş Tabak, and taking a peaceful stroll along the Kordon.

Traveling on from Izmir

If you and your visitor have enough time, you can also plan a few excursions outside Izmir, or join your visitor on a longer cruise or tour of Turkey. You might want to travel inland to the capital, Ankara, although it is not as attractive or historic as Istanbul, or take a tour around the caves and sculpted rock spires of Cappadocia. Many of the other coastal towns along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts are also worth a visit, but you can also travel into the Black Sea, or take a ferry across to one of the Greek islands.

Written by Guest Writer: Imogen Reed