24 Things To-Do in Your Ephesus Trip

Even the main foundation year of Ephesus is unknown, most of the sources are claiming that it was founded in 6000 B.C. Ephesus was built for Artemis to show their respect.

Ephesus is an Ancient Greek city that is now on the Western side of Turkey, Izmir. In the origins, the city belonged to Greece. Ephesus was also the capital of Hellenic Greece. As Ephesus was in Greece in the past, you may also see Greek culture combined with Turkish culture. 

Ephesus is a great place to explore if you are into history. Because the city has many historical sightseeing spots. Ephesus would not be a great idea to go to Ephesus for people who enjoy exploring modern places, cafes, and streets.

Ephesus is now under the protection of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee since 2015. According to UNESCO, the city is remarkably contributing to the overall Outstanding Universal Value within its long historical status. 

Moreover, the city contains many important places in the context of historical settings. Library of Celsus, the Temple of Hadrian, the library and the most important place in Ephesus; Temple of Artemis. This temple has been nominated as one of the Seven Wonders of Ancient Worlds.

Here is a list of things that you can do and the places you can see in Ephesus. If Ephesus is in your bucket list, here are the places that you should visit.

1- Wandering around the city center of Ephesus Ancient City 

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Selcuk, where the ancient city of Ephesus is located, is also one of the most fertile lands in Anatolia. For this reason, many trade routes pass in this direction. However, there is also a port that connects the east and west of the world.

B.C. With its annexation to the Roman Empire in 129, the development of the city has increased many times over. As a result of these developments, Ephesus becomes the capital of Asia. Ephesus, whose population increased rapidly after becoming the capital city, turned into a metropolis. Ephesus is also seen as the Pilgrimage Center of Christianity. 

In my opinion, the best months to visit Ephesus are spring. Because you can also experience the lush nature of the city during these months. You can walk through this metropolis city by yourself. There is also the option of a guided walking tour to tour the city. This tour takes about 2 hours, and a fee of 12$ is paid at the entrance to the ancient city.

The visiting hours vary within the season. You can visit the Ancient City between 8 A.M to 7 P.M. in the summer season (April 1st- October 1st). On the other hand, the winter season (October 1st- April 1st) hours are 8.30 A.M to 6 P.M. The place is open everyday except the religious holidays. The Ancient City is closed until noon only on the first day of the religious holidays.

2- See the library residues of Library of Celsus

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The Library of Celsus has been ranked as the third biggest library in the Ancient World. The library was built by the Roman Empire in their golden times. Even if the certain completion year of the library is unknown, the most common date that has been told as A.C. 135.

It is said that the library, named after Tiberius Celsus, a powerful Roman senator and a book lover, has 12-15 thousand scrolls of parchment. In the west wing of the library and under the ground floor there is Celsus’s tomb. Since it was not customary to be buried at the city border at that time, the burial of Celsus here is seen as a special honor.

It seems that in the architecture of the Celsus Library, special attention has been paid to the protection of books. In the main reading room, there are double walls with a gap of one meter between them. Shelves and cabinets in rectangular niches were built on these interior walls to prevent damage to the books, and the books were kept here. Thus, they are protected from excessive heat, humidity and insects.

The visiting hours of the library are the same as Ephesus Ancient City as the library is also located there. The 12$ entrance fee also includes the library.

3- Visit the House of the Virgin Mary

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Virgin Mary is also known as the mother of Jesus, a central figure of Christianity. Before Jesus was crucified at the age of 33; he entrusted his mother to his friend and apostle St. Jean. St. Jean brings Virgin Mary to the biggest and the most peaceful city of the age, Ephesus. She is thought to have spent her last days in the House of the Virgin Mary.

A German bedridden patient named Anna Katherina Emmerick was consoling herself with special visions of the life of Jesus and Mary. The advancement of these visions caused her to express historical places, people, and events in more detail.

These special visions attracted the attention of one of the German poets of that period, Clemens Brentano. For this reason, the poet moved to a house close to where the woman was and started to take notes of what the woman said. The poet compiled what Anna Katharina Emmerick said and published a book called The Life of Mary.

People who read Brentano’s book started to search for the Virgin Mary’s home to check if the story is real. After some long exploration process, they found the house. If you want to enter the Virgin Mary House, which is built of stone and in the form of pilgrimage, it is necessary to wear a scarf on your head to show your respect.

The Church of Virgin Mary’s entrance fee for foreigners is 4$. From November to February, The House of Virgin Mary can be visited between 8 A.M and 5 P.M In other months, you can visit the house between 8 A.M to 6.P.M.

4- Imagine yourself watching a theater in Ephesus Ancient Theater

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Ephesus Ancient Theatre has been known for being the biggest open-air theater of the ancient period. The capacity of this theater is 25 thousand people and it includes 65 rows. Ephesus Ancient Theatre is considered one of the most important structures worldwide in terms of art history.

The theatre has not been only used for artistic activities. It has also been used as a place for gladiator fights. Even if the stage of the theatre has collapsed, the rows are still solid.

The story of the theatre actually tells us about the formation of modern theatre. According to this story; various performances were held to honor Dionysus, the god of wine, during the vintage festivities. The main subject of these games was Dionysus’ life philosophy, which alternated between pleasure and pain.
Endless struggles between humans and gods were depicted. The roles were performed by wearing masks with different expressions instead of facial expressions. Over time, these performances took shape and formed the contemporary theater of today. Here comes the story of the laughing and crying masks of the theatre.

The entrance fee to the Ephesus Ancient City also includes the theatre, the same goes for visiting hours.

5- Wander around the Temple of Hadrian 

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The temple was built by P. Quintilius in honor of the visit of the emperor Hadrianus and is estimated to have been finished before 138. The inscribed pedestals in front of the temple were built between 293-305 AC.

On the door lintel in front of it, the foundation legend of Ephesus City is displayed with reliefs.  Bronze statues of the Roman Emperors Diocletian, Constantius, Maximian and I. Theodosius were erected in 300 AC. There is a statue of Emperor Hadrian in the cella.

The Temple of Hadrian has recently been renovated. Within this renovation, original statues and friezes have been replaced with their replicas. The original pieces are being displayed in the Museum of Ephesus.

6- Smell the fresh air of the Temple of Artemis 

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Temple of Artemis, is also known as the Temple of Diana. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Artemis was completed in Ephesus around 550 BC. The temple was built entirely from marble. Even if the temple has been used for more than 800, it was never really completed.

The architect of the temple, known as Artemisium in Latin, is known as Chersiphron from Greece. When the temple was first built, it was visited by many people from kings to artists, traders, and travelers, and was used as a religious building where they offered their blessings and beliefs to the goddess.

There is no entrance fee for the Temple of Artemis. Visiting hours of the temple have been announced from 9 A.M to 7 P.M but as there are any guards in the neighborhood, the hours might be flexible too.

P.S: Most of the temple has collapsed over the past years, there are some few columns left as a residue. The main purpose of visiting the Temple of Artemis should be experiencing its historical environment.

7- Check out the engravings at Trajan’s Fountain

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Trajan Fountain, M.S. It was built between the years 102-114 in the name of Roman Emperor Trajan and Artemis of Ephesus. The original architecture of the fountain, which has 2 floors, was later restored and rebuilt as a single-staired.

Some of the sculptures in the fountain are exhibited today in the Ephesus Museum and some in the British Museum.

The fountain used to be Rome’s most famous fountain, we also can see that within its architecture which includes lots of engravings on the columns.

8- See how the city was governed in Prytaneion

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The person known as Prytan was the Mayor of Ephesus. Since there are emperor and goddess statues around the Prytaneion, this palace is accepted as a sacred place.

Prytaneion is the sacred place where the sacred fire of Hestia is lit, which represents the independence and sovereignty of the city in every Greek city-state. The word comes from the word prytaneis or pyrtan (the executive board of the democratic Greek city), where sacred rituals and dinner parties attended by the city’s rulers were held, and above all important decisions were made for the city government. 

The sacred fire of Hestia symbolizes the immortality of the city, the extinction of this fire was regarded as bad luck, Prytan’s most important task was to make sure that this sacred fire won’t blow out.

With this location, it was the most important of the official buildings and the heart of the city. Besides, the official guesthouse was also within the parts of this building.

9- Experience the story behind the Seven Sleepers Cave

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According to a legend; MS. In 250 BC, Christianity was spreading rapidly. The Roman Emperor Decius, who was a complete Christian enemy, wanted to stop the spread of Christianity. Decius’s aim was to make Christians worship idols again.

For this reason, some Christians had to leave the region. 7 friends and dogs among the group that left the city hid behind Panayır Mountain in Ephesus and prayed constantly. After a while, they fell asleep.

After a long time from this process, all events were forgotten, even the emperor changed. When one of the friends woke up after 200 years and went to get something to eat, he learned that he had actually slept for 200 years.

When he came and told his friends, none of them knew what to do and decided to go to sleep again, never waking up again.
Learning about this situation, the new emperor started to work to find a place for young people.

When the new emperor Theodosius, who went to the cave, found the sleeping youths, he saw that their faces glow brightly.

10- Pass through the Heracles Gate

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It is a late antique gate located at the end of Kuretler Street. The two-door jambs bearing Heracles relief were joined by an arch. The two sides of the belt were bordered by the Nike motif.

The remains of an inscription found here are claiming that the building’s possible to date would be the 3rd quarter of the 5th century AC. The Nike motif which is on the two sides of the belt could be dated as the first half of the 4th century AC.

11- Take a walk around Harbor Street

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The street that starts from the Grand Theater and extends to the harbor is 528 meters long and 11 meters wide. It is described as one of the most spacious roads in the ancient world.

Columns adorned both sides of the street, and there were many galleries and shops on both sides. There was also a developed sewage system under this spacious road.

Since the end of the street leads to the harbor, it was called “Harbor Street”. Kings, emperors, ambassadors, merchants who came to Ephesus by sea were welcomed on this street with an official ceremony. 

 It is also known as “Arkadiane Street” since it was destroyed in the earthquake in the 4th century and repaired by Emperor Arkadius between 395-408. After the adoption of Christianity, the statue of the four apostles of Christ was placed on the street, and these sculptures, unfortunately, do not exist today.

12- Sightseeing in Ephesus Terrace Houses 

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Terrace Houses have gone down in history as a neighborhood located in the heart of Ephesus and appealing to the elite part of the city. Although there are no civilian residential areas in the center of ancient cities, Terrace Houses in Ephesus were an exception. 

The foundation of the Terrace Houses was laid in the 3rd century BC. After Ephesus became the capital of Asia, the neighborhood started to experience its brightest days (between the 1st and 3rd centuries AC).

The most elite part of the city lived in the houses, so each residence was 400-950 square meters in size. The floors of the houses were decorated with mosaics and frescoes on the walls.

There is a 2$ entrance fee for Terrace Houses.

13- Taste the “Hamam” culture in Varius Bath

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The bathhouse was built by Skolastika, a wealthy Roman woman living in Ephesus, and therefore the bath complex is mostly known as the Skolastika bath. Another name for this bath complex is Varius Bath. 

It consists of 4 main sections: Calderium (hot water room), Tepidarium (warm water room), frigidarium (cold water room) and apodyterium (dressing room), which we are used to seeing in all ancient baths.The bath is heated by a central heating system and the bath has a capacity of one thousand people. The use of the baths is free and consists of 3 floors. 

Baths in antiquity are also known as places where people can socialize and establish good friendships because they were used not only for cleaning but also for socializing and having fun. Among the surviving remains of the bath complex, only the ground floor is suitable for sightseeing.

14- Explore the old columns in Agora

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Located right next to the Celsus Library, the square is the city’s most important trade and cultural center, Agora, which is the marketplace. Agora has a total of 3 doors, and was built in BC.

 It was founded in the 3rd century during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Agora was damaged due to a big earthquake in the 4th AC. century and became unusable.

In the 6th century AC, a new agora was established in the northern part using the remains here. The section where the newly established agora is located today serves as the Gendarmerie barracks center and entrance to that area is prohibited.

15- Another must-see temple is the Temple of Domitianus

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It is a great temple built in the name of Emperor Domitian in the 1st century. It is the first temple dedicated to a Roman emperor in Ephesus. At that time, owning an emperor’s temple, assuming its guardian duty was valued as a very honoring privilege among cities.

However, after his death, many statues of Domitian, whose memory was cursed for his mismanagement and cruelty, were destroyed or destroyed. There was a “U” shaped altar in front of the temple.

Parts of the Domitian statue, which has a very large size compared to a normal human size found here, are exhibited in the Ephesus Museum. The galleries under the temple are used as Ephesus Inscriptions Gallery and storage.

Only the foundations can be seen in the temple area today. With Christianity becoming the official religion, the temple was destroyed to its foundations.

The “Temple of the Emperors of Asia State in Ephesus” mentioned in the inscriptions is accepted as this temple.

16- See the Pollio Fountain

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According to the Latin and Greek inscriptions, this building was built as a “Mausoleum” for C. Sextilius Pollio by his stepson, in the area allocated by the city administration.

Thus, the person who built the Basilica and Marnas Aqueducts and dedicated them to the emperor and the city was honored on behalf of the city.

There is also a small pool inside. The water of this pool comes from the wall of the Agora. On the bench in the pool was the Polyphemos sculpture group, which is exhibited today in the Ephesus Museum.

17- Smell the Byzantine culture in Byzantine Aqueducts

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The parts of the aqueducts starting from the east of the Saint John Pursuit Gate within the district, especially around the station, have managed to remain intact. Byzantine aqueducts passing through the district continue northward through the Şirince Strait.

These arches supply the drinking water supplied from the water sources in the east of Pranga locality between Belevi and Selçuk, the Byzantine Period settlement in Selçuk Ayasuluk Hill and St. It was used to deliver it to the St. Jean Church.

You can see reused marble blocks brought from Ephesus and Artemision at the feet of these arches, which reach a height of 15 meters around the station. Among these, Ionic capitals from the Archaic period are standing out.

18- Wander in Marble Street

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Marble Street provides transportation between the Grand Theater and the Celsus Library. The marble-covered street was the main road of the city and part of the religious Procession Road during the Empire period. 

We can say that the high platforms, which can be used by pedestrians on the street where cars are used, actually formed the basis of today’s sidewalks.

Ephesus stands out as a place with a people-oriented urbanism understanding, although it was centuries ago. There is a marble with a woman’s foot and head engraved on the street. Considered to be the world’s first billboard, this marble depicts the Love House, which is just ahead.

The Love House, a favorite place for sailors coming to Ephesus, is located at the intersection of Kuretler Street and Marble Street. The house is said to be connected to both the Celsus Library and the Skolastika Bath through a secret passage.

It is known that the men entered after a short ritual in front of the Aphrodite statue at the entrance.

19- Visit the public toilets in Latrina

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How does the “public toilet” idea sound to you? There are still some public toilets except the ones in cafes or restaurants, but they are mostly located in concerts or festival areas and they are for one person.

But, in Ephesus, around the 1st century, a public toilet was made by Romans. These toilets are literally for everyone and they don’t even have walls. The other shocking thing is that those toilets are also used as a socializing tool, the use of the toilets was also free!

Clean water was flowing for treatment in the channel passing in front of the seating benches. The Romans used to look at each other in a chat and chat, and they would openly defecate.

20- Explore the Vedius Gymnasium

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Vedius Gymnasium was built by a wealthy from Ephesus in the 2nd century in the name of Vedius Antonius, who was a member of the Vedius family, which was well known in Ephesus at that time, has a magnificent structure where both sportive and cultural education was made.

There is a ceremony hall, dressing room and bath in the middle part, and a courtyard in the east part. While moving from the Vedius Gymnasium towards the ruins, there is the stadium on the left.

Vedius Gymnasium is thought to host many sports races, gladiator games, Olympics, chariot races and cultural events during the period it was held.

21-Visit the UNESCO Heritage St. John’s Basilica

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St. John’s Basilica is the largest religious building built after the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. The tomb of St. John, the youngest apostle of Jesus and also one of the writers of the Bible, and the basilica built on it may be one of the most important places on the list of places to visit in Selçuk.

With the spread of Christianity, St. A monumental tomb in the name of John and a basilica was built on it in later periods. It is known that in the 12th century, the remains of the sacred tomb were moved to the Church of Saints in Istanbul.

The basilica was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinianos and his wife Theodora, the church was designed with a cruciform plan. Cut stone blocks extracted from the Temple of Artemis were used.

It has special importance since it has become a pilgrimage place for Christians since the Middle Ages. Millions of Christians visit this place every year to become pilgrims.

The entrance fee to the basilica is 1,5$.

22- Watch the view of Ephesus from Ayasuluk Hill

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Ayasuluk Hill is also known-as Selcuk Castle. Ayasuluk Hill  was under risk until the mid-1980s due to the threat of modern urbanization, looks to the future with confidence with the conservation decisions taken by UNESCO in the following years.

On the Ayasuluk Hill, which has traces of the Byzantine, Aydınoğulları and Ottoman periods, settled around Selçuk, the St. John Basilica, fortresses and walls from the Aydınoğulları Period, and some buildings added to the castle during the Ottoman Period are still standing. The hill allows us to examine pieces from many nations.

Visitors on the Ayasuluk Hill will visit St. In addition to St. John’s Basilica, you can see the Oppression Gate, city walls, inner fortress walls, cisterns, castle mosque, bath, and monumental structures. This hill, which has been undergoing restoration works since 1960, is seen as one of the most important cultural treasures of Western Anatolia.

Ayasuluk Hill, where today’s Selçuk Castle is located, was the first settlement in the region. As it is connected to the sea with natural harbor bays, it is also in a very important place as it is surrounded by a very fertile rural area in terms of other resources.

23- After a long, full of history trip you deserve a coffee or a tea

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You saw all the historic places you must see. After this long and full of exploration trip, you should be tired. That’s why this recommendation includes a treat for yourself.

Go to “Efes Fırın – Cafe & Bakery” and have yourself a tea or coffee whether you like. Also, if you are hungry, you can try their bakery products too.

22- Don’t forget to buy some souvenirs for your home

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Before you leave this ancient city, I suggest you get some souvenirs for your home or your loved ones. In my opinion, this trip was worth remembering.

You can stop by “Ephesus Souvenirs” to buy some small souvenirs. You can get some mini statues, magnets, glasses, keychains, etc.

Ephesus is a legacy of ancient civilizations. It must be seen to be able to observe the lives of past civilizations even if a little. It is an important place not only in Turkish history but also in world history.

As you can see there are many historical spots in Ephesus. Even though the city is mostly in ruins, you can smell the historical air while exploring. If you are into history and ancient cultures, Ephesus would be an amazing place for you to discover! 

I hope this article could be a guide for you while exploring Ephesus. There are still some other places to see but these are the most important ones. Enjoy reading and have a great trip, if you are on your way!