Historical travel and adventure travel probably aren’t what you are looking for if you come to Izmir, but just by taking a bus or catching a cheap flight, you can enjoy the great nightlife, shopping and ambiance of this city any time of the year.
Alsancak is probably the best place to begin and perhaps to end your days in Izmir. During the day there is shopping galore on the pedestrianized Kibris Sehitleri Caddessi which slopes from Talatpasa street and then heads down to the cruise ship docks where the eerie never to be completed highway girders stand sentinal over the empty end of the Kordon park. The end away from the docks where the pedestrian boulevard begins is THE spot to meet with friends in Alsancak, Sevinc (Sevinch) a restaurant where you will see ten to twenty people standing and checking cellphones expectantly at any given time of the night or day. From Sevinc you can take the short walk down to the waterfront past Starbucks, local coffee joints, and the bar where you are most likely to meet an expat (EKO – Never been there, but I’ve heard it was a big NATO joint- hence why I’ve never been) before reaching the big statue of horses and riders which marks the Kordon. Going down Kibris Sehitleri will take you past shopping, restaurants, and all the amazing little side streets which lead to bars, bars, more bars, cafes, college bars, and more cafes. Whether you are looking for overpriced drinks and fancy clothing and a too high cover charge (Berlins – 10 lira beers and 15 lira cover without an actual good vibe) or some heavy metal chillax time (Tatoo Bar) or something more down tempo (Sardunya), or just a place to sip tea and watch the college kids get progressively more drunk, you will find it. This is where I’ve been living in Izmir. Right on Kibris Sehitleri in the heart of the drinking town. My flat? Well, I rented a tiny (I mean very tiny) cold room from two heavy metal head 21 year old guys. It’s cold, rather dirty, and there is no space to hang out – but it’s been interesting for a month and the price was worth it just to get to explore this very interesting part of Izmir. The guys are nice, but I’ll be leaving now. My feet are too cold and my back is aching from the jutting bedsprings.
On the other side is the seedy side of the street. I”ve walked through it and been propositioned by the trannys who lurk in the shadows (psst- come here, I want to show you something! – Uh, no thanks. I’ve got one. lol.) Up the street are very dive looking bars and a few cabarets for cross dressing revues….I haven’t been, but I bet it’s interesting.
Going down to the water you reach the Kordon (Attaturk Caddessi) and you can stroll along the water for a few miles. Thankfully, the idiot plan of building a big ugly highway was struck down but not until they’d already put in the girders. Talk about a waste of money, but you can be sure someone got rich from both ends of that deal, just not the taxpayers.
On the Kordon are scores of tiny bars and restaurants that specialize in beer, nargile (hookahs), fresh fish, and overpriced tea. A few recommendations? Popcorn, Sunset, Sunrise Cafe, and really it doesn’t matter, they are all about the same. Rumor has it if you order the big beer pitchers with spouts they come half filled with water…The sea side has a park and the other side is most of the restaurants. If you sit in the park or stroll, gypsy women will approach you and offer to read your fortune, men on bikes with big thermos’ will ride by offering chai or nescafe, and men selling seeds, pastries, or offering shoe shines will meander by with their goods. If you walk on the restaurant side the touts will do everything they can to get you to come in. Literally the other day I heard two touts going after a couple at the same time…
Tout 1: Hey, remember me?
Tout 2: Where are you from?
Tout 1: You promised you would come back.
Tout 2: English, Espania, Allegmania?
Tout 1: Please just sit for a while.
Tout 2: No pressure, just tea.
and so on….
The couple, they just walked on as if no one was speaking which is what you have to do. If you meet the eyes or give any sign of encouragement, they take it as a fish on the hook. It sucks, but you have to deny them any humanity or you put yourself in the position of having to be rude about saying no. Same for the gypsy fortune tellers, kids with flowers, and others.
Eventually, you will reach the old customs building at Pasaport (now a police station and ferry terminal) and then the cafes move to the sea sidewalk too. The Kordon can be broken into three parts by my reckoning. Alsancak ferry terminal on the bottom, Pasaport ferry terminal in the middle, and then the Konak Pier which looks like a dumpy old fishing pier but is actually a very high end shopping mall inside. The bookstore inside here has the largest selection of English language books I’ve seen anywhere in Turkey so far. Also a KFC and Burger King have found their way here, Turks think of western fast food as status food…even if it is greasy and not as tasty as a 2 lira doner durum.
Along this way you will find the Attaturk house Attaturk Evi) which was the house that Attaturk stayed in during the 1930’s. Don’t be surprised if you walk in and it’s empty but then suddenly it fills with a school group or huge family. The house is representative of the big houses of the wealthy that used to line the Kordon. The wealthy merchants were often of foreign families and referred to as Levantines even if their heritage in Izmir was hundreds of years old. Many of them were Jews expelled from Spain by Queen Isabella and also Greeks and other Christian merchant families.
Inland Alsancak is a high end store mecca. Everything from Mango to Marks and Spencer. While it can be fun to walk around or shop, don’t expect to feel like you are in Turkey as you wander through these areas, though the infrequent horse and cart going by serves as a reminder.