5 Awesome Things to do in Izmir

Izmir, Turkey is a city that I visited way back in March 2001. I remember thinking that it was a boring industrial city that was a good midpoint between Istanbul, Ephesus and the great Turkish coast to the south. I never gave much thought to going back to Izmir.
peacock, sirince
However, as luck would have it I was invited to return and now I have done a complete 180. Izmir is a great town that has made huge strides in the past decade or so. There are so many things to do in Izmir that I could write several posts about it. But in the interest of time and trying not to gush too much about it, here are 5 awesome things to do in Izmir and the surrounding area.
Food, Izmir, Swissotel
Swissôtel Büyük Efes
Swissotel pool, Swissôtel Büyük Efes, Swissotel Buyuk Efes, Swissotel, Izmir
I normally don’t start with hotels but the Swissôtel Büyük Efes was such a great base to explore Izmir that I wanted to make sure it got its proper due. First the hotel was fully renovated just 7 years ago and is top of the line in terms of technology and style. It is very Swiss/Scandinavian in look and feel as you might imagine but that’s never a bad thing.
Olives, Swissôtel Büyük Efes, Swissotel Buyuk Efes, Swissotel, Izmir
The rooms are large, the beds are comfortable and the wireless is tremendous; which is always a huge plus in my book. But the coolest things about the Swissôtel Büyük Efes are visible when you go exploring around the hotel.
bed, Swissôtel Büyük Efes, Swissotel Buyuk Efes, Swissotel, Izmir
The Swissôtel Büyük Efes has amazing art pieces pretty much everywhere in the hotel. They even have their own private gallery along with many sculptures and pieces from before it was renovated. Some of them are quite impressive.
art, Swissôtel Büyük Efes, Swissotel Buyuk Efes, Swissotel, Izmir
The Swissôtel Büyük Efes is super modern. The art, along with the great spa, chic rooms and furniture (especially the amazing beds), make it really special. The other great thing about the Swissôtel Büyük Efes is the location. It’s right off the water and the Kordon and about as centrally located as you can get. It’s the place to stay and hang out in Izmir.
Swissôtel Büyük Efes, Swissotel Buyuk Efes, Swissotel, Izmir
The Swissôtel Büyük Efes has Skybar at the top of the hotel for awesome drinks and views. The Flames of Fig is amongst my all-time favorite cocktails and the presentation is second to none!
Flames of Fig, cocktail, Skybar, Swissôtel Büyük Efes, Swissotel Buyuk Efes, Swissotel, Izmir
Also, worth mentioning for both excellent food and incredible ambience is their Aquarium Restaurant which as you can see, is built under and into the swimming pool for an awesome feel. Live music and Greek/Turkish flavors make it a must dine at in Izmir.
Aquarium Restaurant, Swissôtel Büyük Efes, Swissotel Buyuk Efes, Swissotel, Izmir
The Kordon
The Kordon, Kordon, Izmir, Turkey
The vibrant coastal city of Izmir, a city that dates back to biblical times, resembles Thessaloniki, Greece in many ways but mainly for its water setting. It has a great coastal walk called the Kordon that encircles much of the center part of the city.
Kordon, Izmir
The Kordon is a beautiful part of the city that acts as a central hub for friends and families on the weekends and is a great place to stroll or jog. It is also very nice, attractive and has a ton, literally, of trendy restaurants, bars and great views across the bay.
Kordon, view
The Kordon is the type of place that you want to hang out at. You want to see the locals doing their thing and café hop while sipping delicious Turkish coffee.
Turkish Coffee, Izmir, Turkey
Old meets new on the Kordon. You can see new trendy apartment buildings next to old homes that survived years of conflict, fire and earthquakes. One amazing place I visited and highly recommend is the Arkas Museum. It houses many masterpieces by Hoca Ali Riza and the building itself is worth a visit even if you don’t love art.
Arkas Museum, Izmir, Turkey
I’m the first to admit I am not a huge art guy but the Arkas Museum is great because it’s small, has nice pieces of art, you can get a feel for the history of the pieces and the place-plus the curator is very nice!
Arkas Museum, Izmir, Turkey
I really enjoyed my time in the Arkas Museum, plus walking and driving along the Kordon. You can actually still ride a horse and carriage if you want. Just make sure to take some time and admire the view!
Arkas Museum, Izmir, Turkey
View from Nisanyan Hotel, Sirince, Turkey
Sirince is a little jewel of a place! I literally had no idea it existed until my trip to Izmir but I am so happy I do now. Most people take day trips to Ephesus; which rightfully so is a fantastic place and pretty famous. However, quietly nestled up in the mountains above Ephesus and Selcuk is Sirince.
streets, Sirince, Turkey
Sirince is simply put a small little town situated on a mountain where you walk around and just enjoy the tranquility of being there. There is a little bazaar and a few churches and mosques of course but the real attraction is the peacefulness.
Nisanyan Hotel, Sirince, Turkey
Nowhere better is this exemplified than at the Nisanyan Hotel. This little slice of heaven is actually situated over a pretty large piece of land. It has a main house with some guest rooms and if you climb up a bit there is so much more.
Nisanyan Hotel, Sirince, Turkey
They have cottages, gardens, a marble pool and the most picturesque walkways you’ve ever seen. You honestly could be in Sicily.
Nisanyan Hotel, Sirince, Turkey
The Nisanyan also has the absolute best views of Sirince below. The owner is the nicest woman ever and will happily show you around. She’s been there for over 30 years and has literally built the place from the ground up.
Nisanyan Hotel, Sirince, Turkey
So stop in, have a look around, try some coffee and walnut liqueur and tell them that I sent you. You won’t regret visiting Sirince!
Street seller, Sirince, Turkey
Yedi Bilgeler Winery
Yedi Bilgeler Winery, Selcuk, Turkey
The Yedi Bilgeler Winery is another hidden gem in the Turkish countryside around Selcuk. To be honest, I knew they made wine in Turkey but I knew nothing about it. So stopping at the Yedi Bilgeler Winery was a must-do for me and what a great stop it turned out to be.
Yedi Bilgeler Winery, Selcuk, Turkey
Yedi Bilgeler Winery is as picturesque as anything in Italy or Spain. I won’t go so far as to say the quality of taste is as good but as far as beauty of the vineyard it was fantastic.
Yedi Bilgeler Winery, Selcuk, Turkey
Not only did we do a wine and cheese pairing but we also had an amazing lunch that the vineyard arranged for us. It was tremendous and afterwards I was so full I could barely walk!
Yedi Bilgeler Winery, Selcuk, Turkey
However, walking around the grounds is where you get the best views, especially as the sun is starting to go down. Whether it’s the pool, the cottages, the rooms in the main house or the private dining areas, Yedi Bilgeler Winery has something for everyone and surprised me with how beautiful it was. I forgot I was in Turkey.
Yedi Bilgeler Winery, Selcuk, Turkey
Sights Around Town
Izmir, art
As I keep saying, Izmir is a great town with a lot to see and do both in and around it. Like most smaller cities, the best way to see it is to just explore on your own or even better with a local. Here are three of my favorite sights around Izmir.
Panoramic view of the coastline of Izmir, Turkey, Izmir
1. Asansor is what it sounds like if you translate it into French or Spanish; it’s an elevator! This elevator is very special to the people of Izmir and is a popular place to hang out with friends. It also serves as a means of getting from the lower town to the upper town. Plus many couples who get married or families for special occasions come here to take photos together. The reason is it gives the best view of Izmir and the Aegean Sea from an elevated viewpoint. It has truly stunning views!
Clocktower Square, Izmir, Turkey
2. The Clocktower Square is the main square in town and is a very cool place to walk around. On weekends and holidays it teems with life as locals take their families out for walks and kids are playing. It’s a very pleasant place to be and worth a visit. It also makes for great photos!
Old Bazaar, Izmir
3. The Old Bazaar is similar to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul but it’s a lot more manageable and less hectic. Much of it is outside and there are really cool pockets of peace for having a coffee or a light meal if you head off the main drag. You can pretty much buy anything here as you’d imagine and it’s a real mix or old and new Izmir. It’s definitely worth a visit if you have some time in Izmir.
Izmir, Restaurant, Old Bazaar
Izmir is the second city, well maybe even the third city (if you count Ankara) of Turkey but can certainly hold its own. I find it very relaxing, pleasant and found the people incredibly hospitable and full of life and passion. What else could you ask for?
Izmir, Swissotel sculpture
Enjoy Izmir for what it is and definitely see the amazing old cities in close proximity but stop to look around town-you will be pleasantly surprised as there’s way more than 5 awesome things to do in Izmir!

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  1. I agree it’s a fascinating beautiful city and not many people know about it outside of Turkey. Great post, Lee.

  2. I really enjoyed Izmir when I was there last year. I particularly liked the clock tower area. The hotel looks lovely and the photos of the breakfast look amazing! Just a query about the Swiss/Scandinavian decor comment – Sweden and Switzerland are often confused but they are very different countries in very different parts of Europe. Is the hotel really influenced by both Swiss and Scandinavian design, or just Swiss? Sorry if I sound picky, but I lived in Sweden for 4 years and know how often people confuse the two countries 🙂

    • Hey there and thanks for the comment and trust me I know the difference between Sweden and Switzerland! To clarify for you and others reading who may wonder, Swissotel in Efes has that sleek Scandinavian style that many apartments, hotels and office buildings have not just in Sweden but in much of Scandinavia…at least in my eyes there is a specific look to it. This particular Swissotel is a very chic business resort as I would describe it where it’s ultra modern/sleek like Scandinavia but also sleek as some newer Swiss hotels/buildings are. I hope that helps a bit!

  3. Cool post, nice hotel, beautiful photos from Sirince. I have always wanted to visit there and Ephesus and this has inspired me. Thanks a lot Lee.

  4. Beautiful photos! What camera do you use Lee?
    I have never even heard of Izmir but it looks spectacular and you make it sound even better. Thanks for distracting me for a bit today!

  5. evren ozdemir says

    Hi i am an izmirli (from izmir). For people who want to see places succesfully sugested by Lee i am avaliable as a professional licensed tour guide.

    • ebrahim hassam says

      hi, i am planning to visit Izmir for three days in early January 2016, from the 7Th to the 10th .January 2016.

      please advise whre to visit and what are your charges. we will be 4 adults travelling.

      many thanks

  6. As a hometowner, I can say that it is quite nice post… I really liked it… But you forgot about to mention the most important part of Izmir : Beautiful girls :))

  7. Nice article and I enjoyed it very much. I have lived in Izmir for years and I didn’t know of the winery. Thanks for that. However I am not sure saying “I could forget I was in Turkey” is the right kind of flattery for the location.

  8. lara gurbuz says

    If we talk abaut Sirince ?zmir,we have to see tho old school house and museum(Artemis restaurant@wine house)

  9. Hi
    We are thinking of visiting Izmir in last days of November and wondering whether it is a good time as I read it is the rainy season but we have no choice due to kids holidays . Any ideas what to do and where to stay ?
    We are a couple with 3 boys age 17;15and 12 .

  10. Hi !
    I’m in Izmir late December this year (22nd to 29th) , primarily for a wedding on 26th but making a week of it ! ! Being a mainly non-Christian country, I’m hoping things are very much business as usual over this period for most shops , clubs , businesses , attractions etc .

  11. marcia Lin says

    We are from Taiwan which is a small island next to China in Pacific ocean. We(5 ladies) are to attend friend’s daughter wedding in Istanbul. Besides Istanbul, we planned to go Izmir but have no idea of how to set up our itinerary in Izmir. Luckily, we found your blog which enable us of how to exploring more attractions in Izmir tks so much

  12. WE live here and love it. one thing I have missed and have not found in my wanderings around the city is a nice restaurant which is set in an unusual setting. We were in a smaller town and they had transformed a Turkish bath into a restaurant and store, it was amazing and unique. The second to last picture looks like it could be one of those places where was it taken?

  13. Greg Pederson says

    I’m really late to this article, but thanks for the info. I have been to Izmir several times, but not to the bazar or Asanor. I’ll also have to check out that bar on the swiss otel.
    Some other recommendations is to go across the bay to Kar??yaka and Bostanl?. You can take one of the boats, for cheap, and have good views. West of Izmir is Çe?me and an old Greek town, Alaçat?. Alaçat? is definitely a must see. It’s like a Greek Island town in the middle of Turkey. Old stone buildings and brick streets. I believe it was a Greek fishing village until the Greeks lost a war and had to evacuate.

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