CONTRIBUTED BY TUTI HAWKINS
There’s so much to share about my recent trip to Izmir; where do I begin?! Izmir is one of my favorite cities to explore in Turkey. There is just so much to do and so many amazing places to dine, shop, and explore. Of course, the Roman city of Ephesus is a “do not miss” attraction!
Staying in downtown Izmir at the Renaissance Hotel near the waterfront was the perfect launching point to explore all the tourist attractions Izmir has to offer. For example, the white sandy beaches of Çeşme was only a 45 minute drive away, and the Roman city of Esphesus located in Sulcuk was about an hour and a half drive. Plus, there are many things to see within the city as well.
Our First Stop: Konak Square, at the water’s edge, is one of the city’s two main squares North of Atatürk Caddesi. The Saat Kuesi (Izmir Clock Tower), the city’s icon, stands out at the center of the plaza. The center is filled with kids playing, street vendors and a sea of pigeons everywhere. You can purchase some bird seed for 1 TL to feed the birds. My daughter had a blast throwing bird seed as the birds surrounded her.
From Konak Square, about 3 blocks South, you must visit the Kemeralti Pazar (market bazaar). This energetic marketplace spills into a maze of tiny streets filled with shops. The shops sell inexpensive jewelry, clothing, souvenirs, and pretty much anything and everything Turkish that you could possibly want. We had a fun time shopping!
The best part about exploring this area is there are a number of tasty street vendors to purchase grilled corn on the cob, Turkish traditional crisp bread ring (Simit), or Turkish ice cream on a hot sunny day.
Our Next Stop: If you go to Izmir and are looking to bring home some souvenirs for family and friends, I would suggest making a stop at Tugba Bakuruyemis to pick up some amazing Tukish Delight, a variety of roasted nuts, chocolates, Turk Kahvesi, Çay, or 100 different kinds of spices! Tugba was established since 1980. They have 52 store locations in Izmir, Ankara, Istanbul, Bursa, and Denizli. Unfortunately they do not have a store here in Adana, so don’t miss out when you visit one of these cities. You will not be disappointed!
Our Last Stop: The white sandy beaches in Çeşme and the Roman city of Ephesus! These two tourist attractions are definitely places you do not want to miss when visiting Izmir. Çeşme is a popular summer resort destination for many vacationers. It’s gorgeous sand and warm waters have been luring tourists here for years. We visited at the end of high-season, in early October, and the water was still warm enough to swim. I was told that public beaches are generally crowded and don’t have amenities, so if you’re planning a quick dip, you’ll want to spend the extra 20 TL to secure a spot on the beach with lounge chairs, an umbrella and towel service. We decided to enter the beach at the Sheraton Çeşme Hotel in Ilica. Ilica is the closest and most popular beach with a long strip of white sand.
The Sheraton is a little pricey for beach and towel service (we paid 60 TL per adult and 25 TL for a child for their “Beach Day Pass”); however, for us it was worth it because we had easy access to restrooms (a must when traveling with a toddler) and outdoor showers for when we were done swimming. There is also a nice patio restaurant and bar where you can order food and have it delivered to you on the beach.
And when you’re done swimming in the clear blue waters of Çeşme, you can head on over to walk the Roman city of Ephesus in Selcuk (about 49 miles south of Izmir). I would suggest dedicating at least one full day to explore the ancient ruins of Ephesus and the city of Selcuk. There are two ways you can tour Ephesus; pay for a tour guide (2 hour tour costing approximately 100TL) or rent an audio guide with earphones and tour at your own pace (approximately 20 TL). Both options are available at the main gate. For more information and touring tips on Ephesus, read our related article here.