When you step aground from your MSC cruise in İzmir, the third largest city of Turkey, you can enjoy its enviable position straddling the head of a 50km-long Mediterranean Sea gulf.
Surrounded on all sides by mountains, it’s arrayed like a gigantic amphitheatre, with the Ionian Sea functioning as a sort of never-ending show, a really wonderful holiday landscape. Offering views across most of the city, the old-fashioned Asansör (lift) makes an ideal place to start a visit to İzmir.
Constructed in 1907 in a 50m-high brick tower, it originally served as a quick route to and from the mansions perched on the hill above. The elevator has since been completely refurbished; from the highly recommended restaurant-café at the top, you can look down on narrow streets of crumbling houses and out over the bay.
The Archaeological Museum features an excellent collection of finds from all over İzmir province and beyond. The only surviving pre-Ottoman monument in the flatlands, the agora is İzmir’s most accessible ancient site. It’s an impressive site, with water still coursing through ancient ducts and channels.
Principal structures include a colonnade of fourteen Corinthian columns on the west side and the remains of reputedly the second-largest basilica in the Roman world. MSC Mediterranean cruises also offer excursions to Ephesus (80km south of Izmir), of Turkey’s superb array of ancient cities, it’s by far the best preserved. In fact, with the possible exception of Pompeii, one could argue that it’s the world’s finest surviving example of a Greco-Roman classical city.
A big claim, but with so much to back it up – the ruins here are not merely rocks on the ground, but near-fully-fledged incarnations of what life must have been like in ancient times.