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Luxury Villa and Hotel Collection by ODS Turkey
Izmir is the third biggest city in Turkey, with a population of around 2.5 million, the second biggest port after Istanbul, and a good transport hub. Once the ancient city of Smyrna, it is now a modern, developed, and busy commercial centre, set around a huge bay and surrounded by mountains and was. The broad boulevards, glass-fronted buildings and modern shopping centres are dotted with traditional red-tiled roofs, the 18th century market, and old mosques and churches, although the city has an atmosphere more of Mediterranean Europe than traditional Turkey.
The climate is comfortable, with a relatively mild summer due to the refreshing breeze from the Aegean. The long attractive palm-fringed promenade, Birince Kordon, which stretches the entire length of the city up to the Alsancak Ferry Terminal, is a popular spot for evening walks, and there are many cafes along the waterfront. Izmir has a good selection of culture and entertainment, from the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museums, to the Izmir State Opera and Ballet and Izmir State Symphony Orchestra, to the many bars and clubs. The cosmopolitan and lively city gets even busier during the International Izmir Festival (mid-June to mid-July) with music and dance, with performances also in nearby Cesme and Ephesus.
The history of Izmir stretches back to around 3000 BC when the Trojans founded the city in Tepekule in the northern suburb of Bayrakli. This was the birthplace of Homer, who was thought to have lived there around the 8th century BC. The Aeolians, the first settlers, were eventually taken over by the Ionians, and then the Lydians destroyed the city around 600BC before a brief recovery following Alexander the Great’s arrival in 334 BC.
After his death, Alexander’s generals followed his wishes and re-established Smyrna on Mount Pagos in Kadifekale, and the city then prospered under the Romans. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 178 AD but later reconstructed and became a major commercial port. After the Byzantines, the city had a turbulent time under the Arabs, Seljuks, Crusaders and Mongols, until Mehmet I incorporated it into the Ottoman Empire in 1415. Under Suleyman the Magnificent, Smyrna became a thriving and sophisticated city and a huge trading centre, despite its frequent earthquakes. It was cosmopolitan, with Greek Orthodox, Jews and Muslims, and many languages were spoken amongst locals and visiting traders.
Following World War I and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, Greece was granted a mandate over Izmir and entered the area, coming against the resistance of Ataturk’s nationalists. This resulted in a 3-day bloody battle, during which 70% of the city was burned to the ground and thousands were killed, and the beaten Greeks eventually left on the waiting ships. Ataturk formally took Izmir on 9 September 1922, considered to be the day of victory in the War of Independence and is a national holiday.
Where to visit
Kemeraltı Bazaar :
Asansör (Elevator) :
Botanic Garden :
For many years Izmir has enjoyed its reputation as a cosmopolitan city of culture. The Ataturk Cultural Centre hosts weekend concerts by the Izmir State Symphony Orchestra, and the Izmir State Opera and Ballet perform in an Ottoman art deco building on Milli Kutuphane Caddesi. During the summer there are events at the open-air theatre in the Kulturpark, and mid-June sees the month-long International Izmir festival with many events also in Cesme and Selcuk. The International Film Festival takes place every April, with foreign films shown in original language with subtitles.
Regular nightlife includes a host of bars and nightclubs in the wealthy suburb of Alsansak, with more venues on Birinci Kordon and the surrounding streets. The cinemas around the city centre tend to show blockbuster American films, many of which are dubbed into Turkish.