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Inspiring Izmir

For history junkies Izmir offers unrivalled historic sites, it's no wonder that European archaeologists have been fascinated with this city for well over 100 years. It is their discoveries, which have contributed to unravelling this city's history, said to date back to 6000 B.C. On the surface, it would appear that Izmir is devoid of such a rich heritage. It has experienced several earthquakes over the centuries and during conquests by waging tribes and dynasties it was raised to the ground. It has been rebuilt many times and has a modern, trendy feel to it, yet scratching beneath the surface of the today’s tower blocks and open spaces reveals one of the oldest inhabited areas in the Mediterranean region.

Must See

Although it is not one of the oldest monuments in the city, Izmir's clock tower is a key feature of the harbour. Designed in 1901, this 25 m high structure features ornate marble Moorish towers and four fountains.  Despite its relatively young age, the clock tower adorns postcards and thousands of visitors' holiday photos. It has become a familiar landmark and should be on your sight seeing agenda. The Archaeological Museum of Izmir, located in Konak Square, houses some impressive stonework and sculpture, including statues of Poseidon and Demeter. This area has a concentration of museums devoted to preserving all aspects of Izmir's rich heritage, from the Ethnography Museum, which houses an impressive collection of folk artefacts, Bergama and Gordes carpets, traditional costume, textiles and leather work. Don't forget to visit the Museum of Fine Art for the best collection of paintings by some of Turkey's finest artists.

Izmir's many mosques are also great ways to see ancient architecture, which is still in use today. The 16th Century Hisar Mosque is a popular attraction, as are the Salepcioglu, Sadirvan and Kemeralti Mosques in and around the Kemeralti Quarter. Saint Polycarp Church is a superb example of 19th century religious architecture; it is lavishly decorated and offers a good contrast to the earlier mosques. The city still has plenty of traditional Turkish baths known as Hammams. They are somewhat like a steam bath usually constructed next to a mineral spring. Usually the hammas have single sex bathing areas but there are some in the city where you can rent a family room.

Family Value

The Kulturpark, where the annual International Fair takes place, is bang up to date and offers more family-friendly entertainment including an amusement park, zoo and many restaurants, all set in beautifully manicured gardens. A great way to combine some retail therapy, whilst still taking in the sounds and scents of ancient Turkey is a visit to Kemeralti Market, home to traditional Turkish goods and some authentic souvenirs. This market is part covered and spans an extensive area.  Traditional Turkish rugs, jewellery, spices and bargain leather goods are all on offer for a little bit of bartering! The old bazaar, Agora, is also a shrine to bargain shopping, It was originally built for Alexander the Great, then rebuilt by the Romans. It displays some incredible architecture with high vaulted ceilings and an array of old gravestones from when it was a Muslim burial site. Another great place to wander is the waterfront area, known as Güzelyali, which means 'Beautiful Waterfront'. The area has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation, which includes a new park and promenade called the Kordon as well as some impressive renovations to the Customs House known as Konak Pier, which was originally constructed by Gustave Eiffel.

Sunset on the Skyline

The ancient fortress Kadife Kale, built in the 4th century BC, has stunning harbour views. Original surviving Roman and Byzantine engravings adorn the remaining fortress walls. Another 20th century innovation is the Asansor lift, which was built in 1907 for local residents to reach their homes at the top of the hill with greater ease. Originally water driven, these lifts - along with the hilltop villas - were restored in the early '90s and now carry passengers up through the brick tower to a cafe on the top floor. By far the best way to absorb the whole of Izmir is to find a high spot and watch the sun set over this dramatic cityscape. Another enjoyable view can be obtained by taking the Balcova Cable lift, which covers 1,000 m in length up the 423 m of the hill with the same name, where sports enthusiasts can paraglide and nature lovers can hike around some spectacular countryside. Izmir has a lot to offer.

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