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Visiting Ancient Ephesus, Turkey

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

Celsus Library

Celsus Library

Located in southwestern Turkey, just a few kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea is the ancient Greek city of Ephesus. First settled in the 10th century BC by Greek colonists, Ephesus became one of the most historical and important cities of the ancient Roman Empire.

Ephesus reached its peak during the first and second century AD, while it was part of the Roman Empire, and many of the most celebrated and well-preserved structures here were built during this era.

One of the things that makes Ephesus so revered from an archaeological perspective is the fact that much of the ancient city is still buried and well preserved. Experts estimate that just fifteen percent of the city has been uncovered, which gives visitors an idea of just how vast Ephesus was for its time.

In its heyday, Ephesus was the second most important city in the Roman Empire behind Rome. Historians are uncertain of the exact population of Ephesus during this period, but estimates range from about 50,000 to as high as 250,000.



For visitors today, a walk through Ephesus is an incredible journey and a glimpse into life centuries ago. The site has two entrances and the preferred method of touring is to start at the upper Magnesia Gate and walk downhill to the lower Harbor Gate.

Ephesus was built on a hill that at one time descended down to a harbor. Time and Mother Nature have reclaimed the harbor and today Ephesus sits a few kilometers from the sea. The distance from the upper gate down to the lower gate is about three kilometers so come prepared for some walking. Plan on a minimum of two to three hours to visit Ephesus. A half a day is sufficient to do the site justice and see the Terrace Houses.

Odeion Theatre

Odeion Theatre

Odeion Theatre

Upon entering the site the first notable structure you will come to is the Odeion Theatre. This theatre, which could seat about 1500 people, was where the Congress of Councilors would meet to conduct their business in addition to hosting concerts and plays.

In addition to the theatre, the upper part of Ephesus contains municipal buildings and the State Agora. Although the term “agora” is commonly used to represent a marketplace, the State Agora was used more as a meeting place for government officials to conduct business.

Pollio Fountain

Pollio Fountain

Pollio Fountain

Just to the south of the State Agora is the Pollio Fountain. Water was brought to the fountains of Ephesus through a system of three aqueducts and clay pipes. Amazingly, the aqueducts brought water from over 25 miles away and this was instrumental in the development of Ephesus. The fountains of Ephesus, including the Pollio Fountain provided water free of charge to the citizens.

Public Toilets

Public Toilets

Temple of Hadrian

As you continue down Curetes Street, the main thoroughfare of Ephesus, you will come to the remains of the Temple of Hadrian. Built in 138 AD the temple honors the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who did visit Ephesus during his rein. This area of Ephesus has several notable sites including the Roman Baths and the Public Toilets. The baths were not just for bathing but were a common venue for socializing and philosophizing. The Public Toilets were actually quite sophisticated with a drainage system and running water. It’s amazing to think how developed they were over two thousand years ago.

Temple of Hadrian

Temple of Hadrian

Terrace Houses

Terrace Houses

Across from the Temple of Hadrian is one of the highlights of Ephesus, the Terrace Houses. Excavated in the 1960s this area requires a separate entrance fee and the area is now covered with a protective roof to limit the erosive effects of the weather. The Terrace Houses are a “must see” and will give you an excellent look into life here over two thousand years ago. The Terrace Houses contain the remains of six residential houses spread out over three terraces. The oldest of the homes is thought to date back to the 1st century BC.

Terrace Houses

Terrace Houses

Bedrooms with frescoed walls

Bedrooms with frescoed walls

These houses were not your average homes for this period and were actually the residences of the well to do. The homes contain some amazing frescoes on the walls and the mosaics that cover most of the floors are stunning. The level of technology for this period is unbelievable and these homes not only had hot and cold running water but were also heated. The Terrace Houses contain dining and living rooms as well as bedrooms, guestrooms, and even a basilica. If you have come all this way to see Ephesus make sure you go the extra mile and see the Terrace Houses, you will not be disappointed.

Celsus Library

After touring the Terrace Houses you will exit to the area directly in front of the centerpiece of Ephesus, the Celsus Library. Constructed in 117 AD, the Celsus Library contained more than twelve thousand scrolls and was the third largest library in its day. The library was originally built as a monument to honor the Roman Senator, Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, and he is entombed beneath the floor of the library that bears his name. The façade of the library was reconstructed in the 1960s after earthquakes over the centuries destroyed it. The elaborate two-story structure is certainly the most photographed and most famous icon of Ephesus.

Celsus Library

Celsus Library

Lower Agora

Just to the right of the Celsus Library is the Gate of Mazeus with its three arched passageways that lead to the Lower Agora. Built in a square and surrounded by columns the Lower Agora measured about 110 meters on each side. This was the commercial hub of ancient Ephesus and at that time the harbor extended to the Lower Agora as goods came and went from this market area. Today the harbor is about six miles to the southwest in Kusadasi.

Great Theatre of Ephesus

Great Theatre of Ephesus

Great Theatre of Ephesus

As you continue through the Lower Agora you are now walking on what is known as the Marble Road. This road leads from the Celsus Library and the Lower Agora and takes visitors to the Great Theatre of Ephesus. This magnificent theatre was built into the side of Panayir Hill and has a seating capacity of 25,000. Used for entertainment, political gatherings, and religious events the theatre contains sixty-six rows of seating with the lower levels made from marble and reserved for the important people of the day.

As you climb to the upper reaches of the stadium you realize what an incredible vantage point it offers and can imagine how the view out over the harbor must have looked hundreds of year ago.

Great Theatre of Ephesus

Great Theatre of Ephesus

Whether you are on an extended tour of Turkey or in the Port of Kusadasi or Izmir on a cruise for just a day, please be sure to visit Ephesus. I’ve been fortunate to visit ruins in Rome, Pompeii, Siracusa, Agrigento and Athens, and in my opinion Ephesus is one of the best-preserved examples of the ancient Roman Empire and should not be missed. I hope you enjoyed this tour of ancient Ephesus.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is it economical to go to Ephesus without booking a tour? My friend and I plan to visit Ephesus this coming June. Can you advise please?

Answer: You can certainly visit Ephesus without doing a tour. Depending on where you are coming from you can take the bus there. If you are coming into the port of Kusadasi as part of a cruise you can definitely catch a bus to the ruins for a reasonable fare. I will say that having a guide to explain the ruins and the history of Ephesus was a big plus. Personally, unless I knew the complete history of Ephesus I would utilize a guide. They really add so much to the experience. Instead of just looking at ruins you get the history behind it.

© 2014 Bill De Giulio


Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 09, 2016:

Thank you ValKaras. Glad you enjoyed the hub. I have also become quite fascinated with ancient ruins and must say that Ephesus is one of the best that I have visited. I would love to return in a few years to see if they have excavated further. The remarkable state of preservation of Ephesus is truly amazing. Thanks again, have a great day.

ValKaras on November 08, 2016:

For quite some years I have been freakishly passionate about archaeology and everything ancient, seen all episodes of "Ancient Aliens", served military in Macedonia, with Roman Aqueduct located at the edge of our exercise field, climbed the Mayan pyramid at Chiche-nitza on Yucatan.

Not much, especially when compared to your amazing travelling experience, but enough to be fascinated with your hub and its superb photos. It's quite tantalizing to know that only 15% of Ephesus has been excavated, along with all other global sites of yet undiscovered underground treasure of ancient history. Thank you for sharing, Bill.

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on October 25, 2015:

One of the ancient ruins I would most like to visit Bill. I've not been to Turkey, but it must be on my list and Ephesus is perhaps the prime site in the country that I want to see. I've seen Roman ruins at Leptis Magna in Libya and Jerash in Jordan, and in Italy, I've seen Rome and Pompeii (but only as a child), but from all that I've heard, Ephesus compares favourably and your article seems to confirm that. The frescoes and mosaics of the Terrace Houses particularly appeal, so thanks for emphasising that they are worth the extra cost.

A very good review Bill, well laid out and complimented by your fine photos.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 12, 2015:

Hi Bobby. Thank you. We were fortunate to visit Turkey before things got out of control in that part of the world. Ephesus really was amazing and yes it's the people we meet that make traveling such a wonderful experience. Thanks again. Have a great day.

Robert Morgan from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Gilbert AZ on August 11, 2015:

Thanks, Bill, great pictures and what a good review of the sites in Turkey. They could use a boost with all the negative press right now. Hope things cool down in that part of the world so we all can once again enjoy the history and beauty of theses wonderful places, not to forget the amazing people we meet. Blessings, Bobby.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 24, 2015:

Hi Mona. Thank you. What an amazing place. I find it fascinating that they were so sophisticated 2000 years ago. What they have uncovered here is truly incredible.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on March 24, 2015:

Beautiful photos. I may never visit Ephesus in my life, but can now say that I've seen it through your eyes. Amazing work these archaeologists have done, unburying the city and preserving so much detail in this historical place.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 20, 2015:

Hey Lee. I have not been to fethiye but it sounds wonderful. Perhaps on our next visit. We did love Ephesus. Just an incredible archeological site. If you have not been there look into it. Thanks again for all the visits, have a great day.

Lee John from Preston on January 20, 2015:

WoW Again such a great hub! my father has a house in turkey, truthfully I was apprehensive at 1st going to turkey, but i love it my fathers place is in fethiye not sure if you have been before, again its very much like Greece simply beautiful ( well they are next to each other) and the weather is great in summer but not that good in winter i heard Thanks Lee

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on December 11, 2014:

Hi Ertunga. So nice to hear from you. I hope all is well with you and your family. To this day visiting Ephesus with you is still one of our greatest travel highlights. We have plenty of other friends who would like to go someday so hopefully we'll see you again in the future. Our best to you from Massachusetts.

Ertunga on December 11, 2014:

Hello Bill,

I've just came across this text and virtual tour, and it is really well done. Ephesus looks great on your photos! Thank you for reccommending me to other travelers. Best regards from Turkey

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 09, 2014:

Hi there smine27. Thanks for stopping by. Ephesus is simply amazing, I highly recommend a visit when you travel to Turkey someday. Soon I hope :). Have a wonderful day.

Shinichi Mine from Tokyo, Japan on November 09, 2014:

Thank you for sharing. Turkey has always been on my bucket list. I dream of going one day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 08, 2014:

Hi Stephen. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. We were only in this one area of Ephesus but Turkey has so much to offer. We look forward to returning someday. Thanks again.

Stephen88 on May 08, 2014:

Great article! Always have wanted to go to Turkey, especially the cities of the 7 churches in Revelation.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 03, 2014:

Thank you Gardener Den. I appreciate the visit and comments. Have a great weekend.

Dennis Hoyman from Southwestern, Pennsylvania on May 03, 2014:

Bill Thank You on a great article and well written to. I will be back to read more of your articles! Great Job! keep up the good work! Gardener Den

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 24, 2014:

Hi Mary. Thank you. We really loved Ephesus, an amazing place. Have not been to Ireland yet but hope to someday.

As always thank you for the share, votes, etc. Have a great weekend.

Mary Craig from New York on January 24, 2014:

I think this hub could be the cornerstone of your book! Your pictures are breathtaking and though my only visit to any country sharing the age and beauty was Ireland, I would certainly love to see Ephesus.

As always Bill your descriptions are inviting and your information spot on.

Voted all but funny, shared but can't get Pinterest to work!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 18, 2014:

Hi Amanda. You are too kind, thank you for the nice comments. I will say this, if you get the opportunity to visit Ephesus please do it. My words and pictures really do it no justice, it's that amazing. The area around Selcuk is loaded with archaeological wonders. In addition to Ephesus there is St Johns Basilica, the Temple of Artemis, The House of the Virgin Mary, the Isa Bey Mosque and the Museum of Ephesus. It's a fascinating area.

Thanks again, have a great weekend and thank you for the HOTD suggestion. :)

Amanda Littlejohn on January 18, 2014:

Oh this is one of the places that I've always wanted to visit but never have, But this hub is so wonderful in it's detail and evocation of the history and atmosphere of the place - not to mention your wonderful, original photographs that i feel as if I have actually visited Ephesus after reading it - and with a superb, talented and charming guide.

Thank you for this wonderful hub. I'm going to put this in as a suggested HOTD. :)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 09, 2014:

Hi Glimmer. It is an incredible place. I'm so glad you had the opportunity to visit. Sounds like you and your aunt had some special trips together. Thanks as always for stopping by, have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 09, 2014:

Hi Joelle. Happy New Year to you and yours also.

Wasn't Ephesus just amazing. It was crowded while we were there but not overly, we were there in late October. I was very impressed with the site and would love to go back someday if they excavate more of the area. Have a great day.

Claudia Mitchell on January 09, 2014:

Well I had to come visit because years ago I went to Ephesus with my Aunt. It was incredible and I remember it so well. I would love to go back someday. My Aunt has since passed away, but that was our favorite trip together. Incredible hub Bill.

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on January 09, 2014:

I visited Ephesus in 2007 and just loved it! It's a huge place to visit, and I found the ruins quite impressive. They were quite advance when we consider they even had public toilets! The good thing for you is that looking at your pictures you don't seem to be in a sea of tourists :-) I was there beginning of October.

Happy New Year to you and your family!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 08, 2014:

Hi Lenzy, so nice to see you here. Thank you for the nice comments, we really enjoyed Ephesus, it's an amazing place.

Lenzy from Arlington, Texas on January 08, 2014:

Bill, great job on the tour of Ephesus. The pictures are great and the travelogue is very interesting. Your work is meticulous and I always enjoy reading your Hubs.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 06, 2014:

Hi Crystal. Glad you enjoyed the tour and the photos. They may have been sophisticated for their day but their sense of privacy was somewhat lacking :) Thanks for stopping by, have a great week.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 06, 2014:

Hi Suzie. It's great to see you back here after a tough time. Hope you and your family are finding the strength to get through this difficult time.

Yes, Ephesus was quite incredible. Beyond my wildest imagination. We are really looking forward to returning to Turkey someday soon. Many thanks for the votes, share, etc... So nice to see you back!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 06, 2014:

Hi prasetio30. Glad you enjoyed the tour. Do add Ephesus to your list, it's wonderful. Thank you for the vote, have a great week.

Crystal Tatum from Georgia on January 06, 2014:

Another fantastic hub. I particularly enjoyed the photos with this one. Yikes to the public toilets!

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on January 06, 2014:

Hi Bill,

I am so glad you got to see Ephesus in Turkey, it is quite incredible. As you know I have spent many months through the years in Turkey and love this country. Your photos are truly amazing and capture the place perfectly. An extraordinary place you have brought to life and brought back many wonderful memories, thank you! As always, you have written this in your usual professionalism which never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Votes, shared and pinned.

Thank you for your continued support in the past while it has been greatly appreciated through this difficult time.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on January 05, 2014:

I love the virtual tour of "Ephesus". Brother, you have complete information about this place. I'll put it on my travel list. I hope I can go there one day. Voted up!


Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 05, 2014:

Thank you Linda. We really enjoyed visiting Ephesus and the place really is incredible. I'm not sure the pictures do it justice but hopefully they give you an idea of what the site looks like. Thanks for sharing, hope you're having a nice weekend.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 05, 2014:

This is a wonderful hub, Bill! The photos are beautiful and the overall effect is awe-inspiring. I felt like I was travelling back in time as I read your hub and looked at the pictures. What a fascinating place to visit. I'll share this hub.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 04, 2014:

Hi brownella. Thank you for stopping by. You will love Ephesus. So much history and the ruins are amazing. Make sure you go into the Terrace Houses. It has a separate entrance fee but it's worth it. You will be wowed! Can't wait to hear about your trip when you return. Have a great weekend.

brownella from New England on January 04, 2014:

Great hub, I am visiting Turkey this spring and Ephesus is on the docket so this was a nice overview to have beforehand. Thanks for sharing :)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 04, 2014:

Hi FA. Thank you. Both Malta and Ephesus were incredible. We did talk about the safety issue before we went but we were on a cruise and felt that it would be okay. We had no issues and did not see anything that made us feel unsafe. The eastern Mediterranean is a treasure trove of history and beautiful islands. I would definitely go back to this area again. Many thanks for the vote, etc. Happy New Year.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 04, 2014:

Hi Tolovaj. Thank you for the visit. Ephesus is a powerful place. We really enjoyed our time there. Thank you for stopping by and glad you enjoyed the tour. Happy New Year.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 04, 2014:

Hi Evan. Lucky you to be in Rome to study. Make sure you put some time aside to see as much as you can, Rome is amazing also. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy Italy. Happy New Year.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 04, 2014:

Hi srsddn. Thank you. I hope I'm around when they finally excavate the rest of this site. It's really amazing how sophisticated they were that long ago. Many thanks for the visit, vote, etc. Happy New Year.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 04, 2014:

This is an incredible hub, Bill. You are a terrific travel writer -- now covering Malta and Turkey! Terrific photos. I am impressed with what they were able to accomplish with architecture so many years ago. Did you have any safety concerns with traveling to the region? My husband and I have talked about going, but that's the only concern that has been discussed (mostly by relatives). Voted up and more, plus pinning!

Tolovaj on January 04, 2014:

This is like a time machine... I can already feel the power of all the stories behind those walls through the photos. Live experience should be much stronger. Although I wasn't there yet, I can add an info too: this very same city has several sorts of very good beer:)

Beautiful presentation, thanks!

Evan Smiley on January 03, 2014:

These pictures are beautiful! I'm studying abroad in Rome this summer, but this hub makes me want to change my destination! The library is breath taking!

Sukhdev Shukla from Dehra Dun, India on January 03, 2014:

bdegiulio, awesome. If this is fifteen percent of Ephesus I wonder what it would be in its entirety. The development at that stage is difficult to imagine. Very many thanks for sharing such a treasure. I wish you Happy New Year, 2014. Voted up and awesome.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 03, 2014:

Thanks Heidi. Definitely put this place on your list, it's worth the effort. A Happy New Year to you also.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 03, 2014:

Hi ologsinquito. There is so much history to this place. Mother Mary spent her last days in Ephesus and nearby is St. Johns Basilica where John the Apostle is buried. An incredible place. Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 03, 2014:

Hi Nell. I think Ephesus is the holy grail of ancient Roman sites. I was just totally blown away by this place. I have no words other than simply amazing. Add this to your list, you'll love it. Have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 03, 2014:

Hi MG. Thank you, glad you enjoyed Ephesus. It's an amazing place.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on January 03, 2014:

Another gorgeous group of photos! I've got to put these amazing places on my bucket list. :) Happy New Year!

ologsinquito from USA on January 03, 2014:

I'd love to go there. I have a refrigerator magnet of the Blessed Mother's house in Ephesus.

Nell Rose from England on January 03, 2014:

What an amazing place! I have visited Cyprus and Kos and Corfu, and they have some awesome ancient monuments, but I really want to visit this one now, just my kind of holiday! Fantastic hub! voted up!

MG Singh from UAE on January 03, 2014:

Awesome post. Will visit it some time. Voted up.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 03, 2014:

Thanks Bill. Of all the places I've been the place really just blew me away. It's nothing short of amazing what they did over two thousand years ago. The architecture, running hot water, heated buildings, just incredible.

Have a great weekend.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 03, 2014:

Bill, the pictures are breathtaking. What incredible architecture. Blows me away what they were capable of building without modern machinery. Wow...that's all I can say.

Thanks as always for the tour. Have a great weekend.

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