Whilst travelling to Izmir from the tranquillity of a small country town in Surrey, I read that the city has a population of around 3 million. Not being a city dweller, these stats triggered alarm bells. I suddenly panicked, with visions of an over-polluted metropolis, intimidating concrete sky scrapers staring down at me, watching my every move with CCTV cameras hanging like gargoyles on every street corner. At night, the constant drone of traffic would only be broken by sirens and car horns as every inhabitant of the city secretly conspires to ruin my sleep. I couldn`t have been further from the truth.
The moment you set foot inside Swiss Mïtel Grand Efes, you notice the calmness and the efficiency of a well-oiled machine. After an 8hr journey, we checked in at 1 o`clock on a Sunday morning, and even at that hour there were plenty of staff to check in our small party of 6. To help unwind, we visited the Sky Bar, the hotel`s own contemporary lounge bar on the 9th floor, with fantastic views of the sea and a welcome breeze to cool the warm evening air.
The 402 guest rooms have a range of views including the Aegean Sea, the hotel swimming pool and the city streets. Though I could see traffic, I could barely hear it. My room was very comfortable in a contemporary style with all the usual mod cons you`d expect from a five star hotel.
The hotel is located in the heart of the city`s commercial hub and is in walking distance to many local attractions. It is also conveniently located near transport networks, making daytrips an easy task.
The comfortable bed meant that rising for an early morning swim was a challenge, but the large outdoor pool made my effort worthwhile and allowed me to indulge myself at breakfast. I needed an appetite to do justice to the choice on offer; cereals, cooked cold meats, juices, yoghurts, pastries and much more. The swim encouraged a temporary health kick, so I went for a large bowl of fresh watermelon and strawberries. Waiting staff attentively did the rounds making sure none of the tourists or business guests were without a hot drink.
The dust and heat of a hard day`s sightseeing was forgotten back at the hotel, with the treat of an hour in the sauna and steam room, followed by a Turkish Hamam (I cannot recommend this highly enough) and then a back massage. Absolute heaven! The hotel`s recent award of `Best Spa Hotel in the World` is an accolade that is well deserved, with space and staff dedicated to a wide range of treatments.
The hotel also boasts world class facilities for conferences, exhibitions and events. This is clearly not a secret to the locals, as a sensational wedding taking place during our stay testified, looking as glamorous as any red carpet event.
Izmir itself has a tranquil ambience for such a populated space. Nowhere seemed particularly busy, but at the same time there was a buzz about the markets, and in the myriad of tourist attractions. The hidden bays provided serenity, allowing the traveller to feel that they are stumbling upon a secret some locals are willing to share. I would love to go back and discover more.
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