Whether you want some sun, a break from the drudgery or both during these cold winter days, head to a city that doesn't know much about winter. İzmir (or Smyrna) is a special place, with warm weather, warm people and a wide variety of Aegean cuisine. There may be some chilly or rainy days from time to time, but usually residents and visitors alike wake up to a warm, sunny day in the middle of winter. If that sounds like exactly what you need right about now, read on.

Day 1

To get to the city center, you can take a train or rent a car from the airport to the Konak neighborhood. Renting a car is the best option to discover nearby areas that are a short drive away but are fairly difficult to walk to. Public transportation here is a bit lacking, so you'll need some motivation to explore every nook and cranny of this beautiful city. That shouldn't be a problem — just keep your GPS handy.

Konak Pier via Website


Your first destination is Kordon. Grab a snack from any market in the area, lounge on the grass, hug the Aegean Sea and watch the sun dip into the water: a drop-dead gorgeous experience. Take the opportunity to check out the clock tower, a symbol of the city. Architecture aficionados, Konak Pier is a must-visit. The famous French architect and construction engineer Gustave Eiffel designed it in 1890 to function as a customs building. Later it was a fish market, and now it's an upscale shopping center. 

Clock tower, Konak Square, Konak, İ​zmir
Konak Pier, Atatürk Cad. No: 19 Konak, İzmir​. +90 232 489 1004; konakpier.net


Konak Pier is within walking distance of a grand and labyrinthine bazaar: the historical market Kemeraltı. At this popular tourist destination you'll find authentic food and lots of shopping. Order a Turkish coffee in any cafe that grabs your attention. Not a fan of strong coffee? Turkish tea is almost as beloved and is an important element of Turkish culture.

Konak, Anafartalar Cad., 35250 Konak, İzmir
 

Reyhan Pastanesi via Facebook


Your next stop is the Alsancak neighborhood, which is also part of the Konak area. As you wander the streets and people-watch, you'll stumble on plenty of cafes and shops located on the famous Dr. Mustafa Enver Bey street. For a sweet treat, pop into Reyhan Pastanesi — this famous bakery is reason enough to visit İzmir. It may be a simple place, but its chocolates, traditional Turkish pastries, cakes and ice cream are anything but. If you visit in the morning, try the classic Turkish full-table breakfast experience. Afiyet olsun (bon appétit)!

Dr. Mustafa Enver Bey Cad. No: 24, Alsancak, İ​zmir. +90 232 444 79 46; reyhan.com.tr


Still hungry after that pastry? Walk to Dönerci Orhan, where you'll find all different kinds of doner in a variety of styles. The Durum  basically a doner wrapped in tortilla  is the most popular dish. Pair it with ayran, a yogurt drink. The place is no-frills but cozy, with excellent food.

Dr. Mustafa Enver Bey Cad. 6 A, 35220 Alsancak, Konak. +90 232 422 58 88; donerciorhan.com


Drive through the city to the 7,000-square-meter Key Museum, whose 130 cars tell the story of the automobile since its invention. The collection also includes motorcycles, mascots and scarves to transport you to an era of 20th-century glamour. An old gas station and a themed coffee shop round out the experience, whether you're a gearhead or get behind the wheel only when you really must. 

Çapak Mah. Özgörkey Cad. No: 5, Torbali, İ​zmir. +90 232 850 35 35; keymuseum.com
 

Kaplan Mountain Restaurant via Facebook


Continue your drive to the Tire area and head straight to the top of Kaplan Mountain for views so pretty you'll just have to stop and Instagram. Once you've taken in the sights, try the famous specialty, the Tire kebab. Chase it down with a creamy ricotta cheese dessert with blackberry jam. You can indulge in local dishes at Kaplan Mountain Restaurant; work up an appetite before or burn off calories after your feast by hiking in the forested area next to the restaurant.

Kaplan Köyü, 35900, Tire, İ​zmir. +90 232 512 66 52; Facebook

 

Before you retreat to your hotel for the night, head to Gazi Kadınlar in Alsancak — the area is known for its bars, pubs and nightclubs, and at night it becomes the liveliest part of İzmir. Two fail-safe options are 1888, always hopping thanks to its garden area, live music and DJ sets, and House 44 Midnight, right next door, which blasts Turkish pop music. Pro tip: Bounce between the two.

1888, Cumhuriyet Bulvarı, No: 248, Alsancak, İ​zmir. +90 542 547 18 88; Facebook
House 44 Midnight, Cumhuriyet Bulvari, No: 250, Alsancak, İ​zmir. house44.com


2 Rooms Hotel via Website


Head to the Urla region for the best accommodations, which you'll find at the 2Rooms Hotel. Urla is known for its wines, and you can see the hotel's own vineyard from the window of your sun-soaked room. Although the drive is a bit long (about 30 minutes), this place, modern and lush, with a relaxed elegance, is definitely worth exploring.

Kuşçular Köyü, 8028. Sk. No: 12, 35430, Urla, İ​zmir. +90 232 759 0111; 2roomshotel.com

 

Day 2

If you have a lingering hangover from the festivities of the night before, the fresh air and vineyard scents should help. After a Turkish breakfast of champions, take a long walk ... and get ready for more wine. At Urlice vineyard you can pair your sips (cabernet sauvignon, syrah, chardonnay and more) with beautiful food as you sit beside the fireplace or in the vineyard. The welcoming owners take great care of their customers, so all you have to focus on are the food and vino before you.


İçmeler Mah., 1168. Sk., No: 7, Urla, İ​zmir. +90 533 466 92 68; urlice.com


Urla Artichoke Festival via Website


Get another dose of Turkish bazaar culture and food at the original Tire farmers market, home to local food galore. Visit in April for the Urla Artichoke Festival, where the delicious thistle takes center stage in all manner of dishes.

Tire Merkez
, Tire, 35905, İ​zmir 


Yengeç via Website


If locals urge you to try Yengeç Restaurant, take them up on the suggestion. The restaurant offers more than 100 types of mezes, and if you're paralyzed by the options just ask for seasonal recommendations. The friendly family who runs Yengeç eschews loud promotion for word-of-mouth marketing. Fortunately, the food and hospitality speak for themselves.

Iskele Mah. 2121. Sk. No: 6 Daire: 1, Urla, İ​zmir. +90 232 752 11 52; yengec-restaurant.com


By Yasemin Soyen

Yasemin Soyen is a freelance writer and entrepreneur. She is obsessed with discovering places, good food, culture, experience, people and their stories. She currently lives in Seattle. Follow her on Instagram at @yaseminsoyen.