Visiting Ephesus Ancient City – Top Turkey Historical Site (Guide)

In this guide we cover everything you need to know before visiting Ephesus, a fascinating historical site near Izmir, Turkey.
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Explore Ephesus Turkey

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.

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.

Ephesus has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1988 and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey’s Aegean region. It’s a must-see for anyone interested in learning more about the history of this area.

In this article, we will offer some guidance on what to expect when visiting Ephesus!


How much time is needed to visit 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.

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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, the Museum of Ephesus, and the House of the Virgin Mary, but each of those costs extra. Basilica and Museum should be around $3 each, while the House of the 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.

Entrance ticket for Ephesus archaeological site in Turkey

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.

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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 at the north entrance, which is a bit closer to the Amphitheater, or at the south gate, which is closer to the Library of Celsus. We parked on the south one, but either is good.

Ephesus archaeological site in Turkey


Top things to see in Ephesus

1. The Library of Celsus

The details of The Library of Celsus are simply amazing, and it’s understandable why it’s the most crowded spot, as it offers fantastic photo opportunities.

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. 🙂

Scale of ruins at Ephesus

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. 🙂

2. 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.

Arijana Tkalčec and Matej Špan at amphitheater in Ephesus

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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3. Curetes Street

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.

4. 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.

5. Church of Mary

The Church of Mary was one of the ancient Christian churches in Ephesus, dedicated to Theotokos (Greek: “God-Bearer” – Virgin Mary).

Ephesus archaeological site in Turkey

6. Terrace Houses

To get a better insight into the lives of 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.

Inside of terraced houses at Ephesus Turkey

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. 

7. Ephesus Museum

You can also stop by the Ephesus Museum, which introduces some important aspects of Ephesian history and a glimpse into its incredible past.

Ephesus Archeological Museum holds many sculptures and other artifacts excavated and found in Ephesus.

Sculpture Torso at Ephesus Archeological Museum

Ephesus Archeological Museum is not located at the Ephesus site but rather in nearby Selçuk, which you pass through on the way.

As we were on a tight schedule and didn’t have enough time, we didn’t visit it.

Do you need a tour to visit 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). Or book a private tour/guide so you have a more flexible schedule.


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.

Path through ruins at Ephesus
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Where to stay near Ephesus

If you want to stay near Ephesus, you can opt for a place in the nearby towns of Selcuk or Kusadasi.

Toilets at Ephesus
Btw, this is what the toilets looked like!

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 the 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.

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