Introduction to Ephesus
Ephesus, an incredible ancient city, was once the “art center of the world” and a cultural melting pot that combined Greek culture with its neighbors, including Rome and Persia. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey’s Aegean region and a must-see for anyone interested in learning more about the history of this area. Ephesus has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1988.
The ancient Greeks were a society worthy of their historical glory, and this city is home to some of the most stunning ruins in the world. It will leave you captivated by its monumental architecture. You can’t help but marvel at the towering marble columns, the remains of the library, the temple of Artemis, and more.
In this article, we will offer some guidance on what to expect when visiting Ephesus!
How much time is needed for visiting Ephesus?
You can easily spend a day in Ephesus and around, as the area holds some cool sites as well, like the House of the Virgin Mary, the Temple of Artemis in the town of Selcuk, and the nearby village of Sirince.
Expect to spend a good few hours exploring just the Ephesus Archeological Site and Terrace Houses.
How much is the entrance ticket to Ephesus?
The ticket price to Ephesus depends on what you choose to see. We personally chose and recommend the combo of the main Ephesus grounds and the Terrace Houses, and it cost us around $15 per person.
While visiting Ephesus, you can also choose to see St. Stephens Basilica, Museum of Ephesus, and House of the Virgin Mary, but each of those costs extra. Basilica and Museum should be around $3 each, while House of Virgin Mary should be about $7.
Also worth noting is that you can visit Ephesus with a purchased Turkey Museum Pass that covers many museums and historical sites.
Note: In the photo, you can see the price was 160 TL. If you calculate it into another currency, keep in mind that as of late 2021, the Turkish Lira, unfortunately, keeps drastically falling, and 160 TL in October 2021 is not the same amount as now. So the price in Turkish Lira might be a lot higher when you visit.
What is the opening time of Ephesus?
Ephesus is open from 08:00 until 18:30 during summer (April to October) and from 08:30 until 17:30 during winter (October to April).
If you wish to visit the Terrace Houses, note that they have slightly different working hours, as they open about 30 minutes later than the main grounds and close 30 minutes sooner.
How to get to Ephesus
The easiest way to get to Ephesus is by using a car, and it takes about 1 hour to get there. There are also many tours going either from Izmir or Kusadasi.
If you’re coming to Ephesus in a car, you can choose to either park on the north entrance, which is a bit closer to the Amphitheater, or on the south gate, which is closer to the Library of Celsus. We parked on the south one, but either is good.
Top things to see in Ephesus
The Library of Celsus
The details there are simply amazing, and it’s understandable why it’s the most crowded spot, as it offers fantastic photo opportunities.
The Library of Celsus is also one of the most stunning parts of the whole ancient city, and the friendly cats around will be perfect photo props. 🙂
Travel tip: Make sure to visit in the early morning and make it your first stop if you want to have it all for yourself. You can easily explore the parts you previously skipped on the way back. That’s how we did it. 🙂
The Ephesus Amphitheater
Ephesus’ Amphitheater stands as one of the best examples of Greco-Roman architecture. Romans at some point even enlarged the theater, and it could house about 25.000 people.
The Amphitheater was built into the side of the mountain. It is believed that Ephesians used it for more than just plays; it was also used for religious ceremonies, political meetings, philosophical discussions, and even as a place to watch gladiator fights.
Honestly, the Amphitheater seemed somewhat small to us, and it just wasn’t as impressive as the one we saw in Pamukkale. Worth a visit, though, and you can walk through the whole site. Make sure to go down in the middle of the stage, try the acoustics (sing, whistle, clap), and walk up to the very last row of the Amphitheater to enjoy the view.
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Curetes Street is a road that runs through Ephesus and stretches from the Celsus Library to the Heracles Gate. It was the main street of the ancient city and connected the upper part of Ephesus to the lower part of Ephesus.
Since the street was the center of the city, there were a lot of important buildings along the way. On both sides of the street are column-lined galleries with mosaics with the city’s benefactors in front of them.
Temple of Hadrian
The Temple of Hadrian was built in honor of the Roman emperor Hadrian across the street from the Terrace Houses along Curetes Street.
Church of Mary
The Church of Mary was one of the ancient Christian churches in Ephesus, dedicated to Theotokos (Greek: “God-Bearer” – Virgin Mary).
To get a better insight into the lives of the Ephesus’ wealthy citizens, you can walk on a glass walkway above the Terrace Houses. You can see the layout of old houses that still hold beautiful murals and mosaics on the walls and floors. It’s clear that the elite lived here.
Travel tip: If you’re not sure about adding Terrace Houses to your Ephesus itinerary, they are definitely worth your time, and they turned out to be the highlight of our Ephesus trip.
You can also stop by the Ephesus Museum, which introduces some important aspects of Ephesian history and a glimpse into its incredible past.
As we didn’t have enough time, we didn’t visit it.
Do you need a tour for Ephesus?
As for every other historical site, if you’d like to learn in detail what life was like at Ephesus during its heyday, it is worth going on a tour with a registered guide.
You can easily explore Ephesus on your own, though, and there are also audio guides that you can rent for a few dollars at the entrance.
We noticed that the tours passed by all spots really fast, so if you want to have more time at this location, it’s maybe better to explore it on your own (like us).
Best time to visit Ephesus
The best time to visit Ephesus is during the spring or fall. Due to its proximity to the Aegean Sea, summer in Ephesus is unbearably hot and humid.
But if you are visiting during summer, make sure to get there early enough, so you avoid the harsh sun, as there is not much shade to enjoy.
Where to stay near Ephesus
If you want to stay near Ephesus, you can opt for a place in the nearby town of Selcuk.
Other sites to visit around Ephesus
The area’s other attractions are also worth visiting if you have time and if you’re interested in learning more about history. For example, the House of Virgin Mary is located on a nearby hill (a few minutes drive by a car), and The Temple of Artemis is right outside Selcuk. The temple was once one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but now there is not much left, but a few ruins and a single standing pillar.