Formerly known as Smyrna, Izmir has been standing on the Turkish Aegean shore for centuries. Turkey’s third largest city, it has been a commercial centre since old times and has evolved into one of modern Turkey’s most liberal cities. Combining ancient sites with oriental bazaars and a lively waterfront, it has been established as one of the major gateways for the western part of the country.
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.
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.
Building up a thriving art scene, Izmir hosts the annual International Arts Festival every June. Also check out if there is a temporary exhibition on at the former building of the city’s Gas Factory, which has now been turned into a modern art house.