Izmir (Photo:muratart/Shutterstock)
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Izmir

Cradled between mountains and the Aegean Sea to the west, Turkey's third-largest city bears witness to thousands of years of turbulent history -- in the form of war, fire and earthquake. Izmir's been ruled by an Amazon queen, relocated and re-established following a dream by Alexander the Great, and thereafter razed, controlled, razed, controlled by Romans, Arabs, Selcuk Turks, Byzantines, Ottomans and modern Greeks before being reclaimed by the Turks, who expelled the Greco army in a bloody battle that left the city in ashes.

About Izmir


Pro

Take an excursion to nearby Ephesus, a well-preserved ancient city

Con

Sellers in the Kemeralti Bazaar can be quite aggressive

Bottom Line

Izmir itself is worth a visit, but incredible adventures await on day trips to nearby historical sites


Find a Cruise to Izmir



Little of the storied path of ancient Smyrna (Izmir's original name) is visible. Today, Izmir is one of Turkey's most populated (3.7 million) and most thoroughly modern cities, with the second biggest port after Istanbul. The container ships, cranes and concrete high-rises that populate the harbor are a drab sight, and, predictably, most cruise travelers bypass the city. Like Kusadasi to the south, Izmir's main virtue is its proximity to Ephesus, an incredibly well-preserved Roman city that lives up to its lofty reputation. Likewise, the ruins of Pergamum and Asclepion, an ancient Greek center of culture and health, are easily accessible and are included excursion options on all ships docking in Izmir.

The city itself is not without merit, and passengers looking to explore the sprawling cityscape in the relatively short time allotted ashore will have options. The sociable Konak Square, with its emblematic Ottoman Clock Tower, is Izmir's main gathering point for young Turks. The square leads into a long, winding Bazaar, a common site throughout Turkey (if you want to buy something, be prepared to haggle). The bayside cafes that line Birinci Kordon, a long main boulevard running parallel to the waterfront, offer the opportunity to relax, sip wine, enjoy appetizers (mezes) of local seafood and watch people wander by. The Agora, an enormous 2,000-year-old marketplace where Roman farmers and merchants once hawked cotton, olive oil and fruit, is one of the few places that has been spared from urbanization, and is a fascinating site.

Though Izmir's modern vibe may initially be off-putting, it's notable that building projects, such as the subway and high-rises buildings, have often yielded fantastic archeological finds such as roman statues and pottery, a reminder of how much history remains just below the surface.

Where You're Docked

You'll end up at Alcansak, a rather industrial-looking pier area, which is a five-minute walk from the shops and restaurants in the neighborhood of the same name and 20 minutes along the waterfront to Konak Square in the center of town. Shore excursion buses are a short walk away, but if you're lucky, the port authority may let buses in to pick you up right at the ship when there's only one ship in port.

Good to Know

In Kemeralti Bazaar prepare for a large number of "salesmen." This is certainly not as bad as some places (like Cairo), but you'll face an incessant wave of requests to buy jeans and designer knockoffs. It also gets quite crowded, so be aware of your wallet.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency is the Turkish Lira and ATM's abound. For current currency-conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. Some shops and restaurants will also accept euros and U.S. dollars, and all major credit cards are accepted.

Language

Turkish, but you'll have little trouble with basic English communication.

Shopping

Pick up some pottery or, for a larger souvenir, a local handmade carpet. Milas, near Izmir, is one of the main carpet-weaving areas in western Turkey.