Growing up I always read stories about historical figures such as the Apostle Paul, and Timothy walking around Ephesus, speaking to large crowds of people. As someone who loves history, I was entranced thinking about all the years of culture that rests within this archaeological site. It’s not often that you are given the opportunity to walk amongst old columns and stone arches that were touched and seen by great characters of the past.
Taking a tour to Ephesus in Turkey is the way to see this old city, as the guide will be able to give valuable historical information that will make the ruins in Ephesus come to life. However, while the things to do in Ephesus city are best enjoyed with an Ephesus tour, it is possible to experience the sights on your own or with a group of friends.
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Places To Hit In Ephesus In Turkey
Library Of Celsus In Ephesus In Turkey
The city of Ephesus Turkey is home to the Library of Celsus, also known as the Library of Ephesus. This was the third largest library in ancient Greek and Roman times, and it held over 12,000 scrolls. Though Ephesus was founded in the 10th century BC, the library was rebuilt during Caesar Augustus’s reign. His reforms led Ephesus to being in its most abundant time which continued until the 3rd century AD.
When I went and visited with my grandparents and sister, we saw just how grand the structure still is. The front entrance is surprisingly still largely intact and it is extremely visible from multiple different parts of the city. The entrance gates into Ephesus are at the top of a hill, and the main city street slopes down from there, with the library at the bottom. I enjoyed marveling at the ruin from both afar and up close. When we went, there were even people who walked down and wandered amongst their large columns.
Theater In Ephesus In Turkey
This impressive 25,000 seat amphitheater is a must see when coming to this city, and honestly, I’m not sure you could miss it even if you tried. Positioned on Pion Hill, it overlooks the ocean below and towers over the rest of the town. This theater consists of the seating area, an orchestra and a modest stage building. The grandeur of the theater can be attributed to the rule of the Romans who expanded its orchestra and seating arrangements and enclosed its area more during its time of operation.
I was able to go into the theater and stand at the top, which allowed me to take everything in down below and it was incredible to say the very least. The rush of emotions that you feel when you are in a place that was frequented by so many people in ancient times is hard to describe.
Terrace Houses In Ephesus In Turkey
A highlight of this town is the Terrace Houses. These are a collection of excavated houses that belonged to the very wealthy. From the ruins, we are able to gather a lot of information about the way of life for rich families during this time period. These ruins make up six different residences, the oldest of which dates back to 1BC. The houses are located across from the Temple of Hadrian on the northern slope of Bülbüldağı Hill.
To experience these ruins, you follow a glass path that takes you around multiple rooms and villas that belonged to merchants and political figures. Because of the see-through pathway, you are able to see the ruins lying beneath you as well as all around. One of the biggest signs of wealth were the bathhouses that they contained. Within the walls and floors were clay pipes that would filter in hot air and hot and cold water into the different rooms, depending on their intended function. The walls and floors were covered with mosaics with pictures on them that have remained fairly well preserved even after thousands of years.
Museum Of Ephesus In Turkey
Located in Selçuk, this museum has artifacts from past as well as current excavations. Within the museum, they categorized the items based on different landmarks in Ephesus. Here, they have sculptures from various fountains, coins (which show examples of some of the first coins to ever be used in money exchange), tools from the Terrace Houses, pieces from Ephesus history across multiple time periods, and much more.
Tickets for the museum can be purchased at the door, and the entrance fee is about $8 USD. The museum provides some very valuable perspective on the type of life that was lived by the inhabitants of Ephesus at the time. It also emphasizes the importance of preserving history for the modern day peoples.
Artemis Temple In Ephesus In Turkey
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus Turkey, known also as Temple Diana Ephesus and commonly misconstrued as the temple of Ephesus, is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The temple was destroyed in a fire that was set ablaze in 356 BC. The man, Herostratus, wanted to go down in history so he torched the structure. Following this terrible incident, the temple was rebuilt in the same design and some even claimed that it was more magnificent than it had been previously. It was sadly plundered by the Goths in following years, and then destroyed by a Christian mob for the final time in 401 AD.
Even still, visiting this site is powerful as you are able to imagine what used to stand. This is a spot where it is especially recommended that you have a tour guide with you so they can describe the once present structure of the temple. Today, there are only a few column bases and a single column that was re erected after its excavation in the late 1800s.
Church Of Mary In Ephesus In Turkey
The church at Ephesus is significant as it pays tribute to the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is said that she and the disciple John resided in Ephesus after the death of Jesus, and this is where John lived out the rest of his life and wrote the book of Ephesians in the bible. Today, the church is a slightly confusing conglomeration of designs from different time periods.
During the time of my visit with my family, we were able to see the still standing columns and a large portion of a curved stone wall behind. The detail within the columns and the stones that make up the walls are unreal and it really makes one wonder about how grand the building must have been when it was completely erect and functioning. This site is a slightly underrated portion of the city but I recommend that visitors still go to it because of its historical and religious significance.
House Of The Virgin Mary In Ephesus In Turkey
Finally on the list, we have the House of the Virgin Mary. This charming stone house is supposedly where Saint Mary spent her final years after coming to Ephesus with Saint John.
The building itself is small and unassuming, and tucked in a garden. Visitors are able to walk through it to see the shrine of Mary that is placed for people to come and pay their respects and feel moved by being in the same place that this religious figure allegedly resided.
What To Know Before You Go
During my trip, my grandparents, sister and I had a private tour bus and guide that took us to the city of Ephesus, the Temple of Artemis and the House of the Virgin Mary. Outside of the city are artisan stalls that sell a variety of things from hand crafted bags, tapestries, shirts, trinkets and treats. I bought turkish delights which obviously I had to do, because how often am I in Turkey? And they did not disappoint.
There is a lot of walking that you will be doing around the city as no cars are allowed, obviously. So definitely bring shoes that are comfortable. The weather in Ephesus Turkey is typically nice and sunny, as it follows the classic Mediterranean climate. This means that they have nice long summers and short winters. When I visited in July I was comfortable wearing shorts and a loose t-shirt. I would also suggest that you bring sunscreen and a water bottle and maybe an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun, or the rain.
As part of our tour our tour guide took our group to a traditional Turkish restaurant where we enjoyed dishes like Gozleme. It is a pancake-like dish that is filled with meats, potatoes, cheeses and vegetables, depending on your taste. We also sipped on tea which is very popular there as Turkey consumes the highest per capita amount of tea in the world.
Before we end, there is one thing that should be clarified because there is a lot of confusion. A lot of people ask “how do you say Ephesus?” or “how to pronounce Ephesus?” It’s pronounced eh- fuh- suhs. So there.
While Ephesus is regarded as being highly important for its extensive religious significance, it is also a truly wondrous sight to behold solely based on the amount of history that has been preserved within its stone streets, walls and buildings. I hope I have painted a clear picture of this fascinating city full of rich history in a way that excites you to visit. Ephesus in Turkey is one of those places that you truly need to see in order to fully understand its magnitude and emotional impact.
I would say a resounding yes. As I mentioned before, with a tour guide they will be able to give you background information about all of the sights that you see so everything will come to life. They will also be able to answer the questions that you have and show your group the best places to get food.
My family and I spent a full day in Ephesus, and I still feel as though I didn’t do and see everything that I wanted. I would have really enjoyed the opportunity to spend a few days there. However, I think that a day in the town is plenty to be able to see everything that you would like to.
From April to October, the city is open from 8am to 7pm. From November to March, it is open from 8am to 5pm.
It’s $25 per person to enter into the city gates. The House of Mary is $9 and the Temple of Artemis is free. Tickets for a tour from Kusadasi to Ephesus can be reasonably priced. For a group of two to enjoy transportation, entrance fees into the city, the House of the Virgin Mary, the Temple of Artemis, and a traditional lunch, it is around $80.
Ephesus is about 340 miles south of Istanbul. The two towns are about a five and a half hour car ride, and about a nine hour bus ride from each other. So while it is possible to do a day trip if you leave early, I recommend making the trip from Kusadasi instead. It is only about a 30 minute car ride.
The best time to visit Ephesus is April, May, October or November. During these months the weather is pretty mild. This will of course mean that there will be more tourists, so larger crowds.