İzmir, Turkey

Photo: Kusadasi-Guy [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D
Your trips to Turkey have a discernible pattern. You fly to Istanbul, one of your favorite cities in the world, for a few days along the Bosphorus before booking it to the Turquoise Coast. It’s a bit predictable. Some would say boring. It’s time to shake things up.

You need to start your trip somewhere new. Don’t worry. You’re not giving up on Turkey’s largest city. It’s a place to which you’ll constantly return. But it’s time to give another Turkish city a chance. You can even start along the water since it’s where you feel the most comfortable.

İzmir is a fascinating city. The Pearl of the Aegean—it sits on the Gulf of İzmir, which flows into the Aegean Sea—has been inhabited for 8,500 years. That makes it one of the oldest settlements in the Mediterranean Basin. Like so much of the region, the city changed hands many times. The Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Ottomans claimed it over and over again. The Turks finally gained control and began rebuilding from a great fire at the end of the Greco-Turkish War. İzmir is now the second-largest city on the Aegean Sea (after Athens) and the third-largest city in Turkey (after Istanbul and Ankara).

Photo: Key Hotel

Given its long history, you expect İzmir to feel old and boring. Not true. As Turkey’s second-largest port, İzmir attracts ships and people from all around the world. The waterfront Kordon is lined with new apartment buildings, hotels, and palm trees on one side; azure water is on the other. The Konak Pier, a customs-building-turned-upscale-shopping-center designed by the famous French architect Gustave Eiffel, lies south of the promenade. The Konak Ferry Terminal, which connects boats to other neighborhoods and islands, is just a short walk from that.

Konak Square (the main square), the İzmir Clock Tower (seen from all over the city), Kemeraltı (the crowded bazaar), and Karataş (the Jewish quarter) are all within walking distance. Kadifekale, a hill that’s home to the ruins of an ancient castle, overlooks it all. While white-sand beaches aren’t very far away. You immediately feel at home in the sunny, young, and progressive city.

So by the time you reach your room, you’re no longer surprised. Key Hotel sits along the Kordon. The building used to be a bank. It’s now a sleek, luxury hotel. Your high-tech room features an IPTV, mood-control lighting, and electric blinds. Key Restaurant includes a huge wine cellar. They both have an impressive view of the water, especially at sunset. It looks like your old habits are starting to change.

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