Istanbul might a favourite for exploring sprawling souks and mosques, but Turkey's third-largest city, Izmir, is an experience that is slightly more feasible to take on for a weekend break. Bordered by the Aegean Sea, the city formerly known as Smyrna boasts a lively party scene and vibrant beachside promenade that make for in fantastic contrast to the Ancient Greek monuments scattered around this storied city. Izmir's proximity to Greece might push you to turn your city break into an Aegean odyssey so it's also perfect for a week-long summer holiday.
The Agora, a crumbling marketplace in Izmir, blends Ancient Greek architecture with Turkish surroundings, and is a playground for exploring still-functioning fountains and waterways. Amid the ruins of the antiquated city of Ephesus is also the Celsus Library, which has an impressive two-storey facade that is still standing.
Cesme is an upscale area that hosts beach club parties with live deep house all day, everyday. Start your day off with seaside mimosas at Kafe Pi, lounge over lunch at Madeo and then claim ownership of a daybed at Before Sunset for the rest of the afternoon. If you're eager to keep the waterfront activities going, get an early start and set out on a day trip to the tiered hot springs of Pamukkale, meaning "cotton castle" in Turkish.
Who to take with you
Your "everything" friend.
When to go
Most likely to bump into
Divers on a tour of the Aegean.
Essentials to bring with you
A rotation of swimwear. You'll need a stylish bikini for beach-club lounging, a one-piece for diving and a swimming costume you couldn't care less about for fully immersing yourself in the hot-spring experience.
How to get there
Fly into Izmir Menderes Airport. From there, airport shuttle busses head downtown every 20 minutes, while the Izban commuter train stops by every 10.