Formerly known as Smyrna, Izmir is Turkey's third largest city and its major port on the Aegean. Settlements can be traced as far back as 3000 B.C., but most of the remains from its long and eventful history have been swept away by war, fire and earthquakes.
In recent times, it was the disastrous fire in 1922 that caused the city to be rebuilt in a modern style, leaving few historic remains. Before the great fire and a Greek invasion, the city, still known then as Smyrna, was the most Western and cosmopolitan of Turkish cities. Many foreign diplomats, traders, merchants and sailors made their homes here. Among famous early citizens included the poet Homer, the founder of Western literature. After wars of destruction, the city lay in ruins until Alexander the Great refounded Smyrna on Mount Pagus, a fortification that still crowns a hill in the center of the modern city.
Izmir lies at a central position on the western coast of Asia Minor in the Gulf of Izmir, which forms one of the finest bays in the Aegean region. Backed to the east and south by mountains, the city enjoys a dramatic setting. One of the most important streets for visitors is the long Ataturk Caddesi, which stretches for two miles south from Alsancak, the port at the northern tip of the city. This scenic seafront promenade, lined with handsome modern buildings, passes alongside the harbor as far as the old district of Konak. Here is the entrance to the bazaar. Its main street winds through Izmir's most picturesque quarter. In the midst of the crowded city stand the remains of the ancient marketplace (or agora) including Corinthian colonnades, vaulted chambers and a reconstructed arch. The agora was built on the orders of Alexander the Great, but was destroyed in an earthquake in 178 A.D. Later, under Roman rule, Emperor Marcus Aurelius provided money and men to aid in the reconstruction.
With its Mediterranean atmosphere and beautiful setting, Izmir welcomes visitors to spend time in this prosperous city before taking excursions into the interior.
Going Ashore in Izmir
The ship is scheduled to dock at the Alsancak Passenger Port located at the town center. Taxis are generally available at the pier for trips farther afield.
Izmir's large bazaar is a fascinating place for shopping and exploring. Its maze of narrow streets and lanes is lined with countless workshops, small shops and stalls. Textiles, brass items, and leather articles and clothing are offered along with Smyrna carpets, well known for their patterns and quality. Wandering through the maze of alleys, you can see several 18th-century caravanserais and a number of small mosques dating from Ottoman times. The local currency is the lira.
The city's most interesting eateries can be found along the waterfront, where many of the restaurants have sidewalk tables with views of the harbor activity. Although meze dishes are considered appetizers, they are so plentiful some diners prefer to eat them as a main course. Fresh fish prepared in a variety of ways is another good choice, especially when accompanied by a nice Turkish wine.
Cumhuriyet Meydani (Republic Square)
An equestrian statue of Ataturk, called the Independence Monument, adorns this city square. It symbolizes Ataturk's leadership as he began the counteroffensive from Ankara in August 1922. A few blocks north of the square is the Southeastern Headquarters of NATO. The building is recognized by its row of flags in front.
At the southern end of the seafront promenade, known as Ataturk Caddesi, lies Konak Square, home to the imposing modern town, the Cultural Center complex, the old city landmark of the Clock Tower and the little Konak Mosque.
This recently constructed museum contains many finds from ancient Smyrna, Ephesus, Miletus, Sardis, Pergamum and other excavation sites. Among the exhibits are sarcophagi, a colossal Roman head, a mosaic pavement and fine collections of glass, coins and jewelry.
Next door to the Archaeological Museum is this interesting museum housed in an old stone building. Colorful displays demonstrate folk arts, crafts and customs of the city and its surrounding province. It even shows how the curious little blue-and-white "evil eye" beads are made, a craft that goes back hundreds or even thousands of years.
To the east of the bazaar area are the partly excavated remains of the ancient market. The best view over the whole agora can be had from the hilltop location of the Kadifekale citadel.
Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Shore Concierge Office on board.