Tour Ephesus Turkey: 10 Highlights. #1 is Spectacular!

January 11, 2024

Turkiye is rich in history, including a great many Biblical sites, in which Ephesus (New Testament Book of Ephesians written by the Apostle Paul) is probably the most well-known. The UNESCO city was the 2nd largest city of the Roman Empire and its history can be traced to the tenth millennium BC. There are so many reasons why people tour Ephesus Turkey!

Ephesus is the second most-visited destination in Turkey. Its excavated remains reflect centuries of history, from classical Greece to the Roman Empire – to the spread of Christianity. It was an important port city at the crossroads between East and West. Cobblestone boulevards meander past public squares, baths, theaters, and other ancient ruins.

In 2015, the remarkably well-preserved Ephesus became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is still being discovered and unearthed.

Ephesus is an open-air museum as well as a pilgrimage destination for Christians due to its mentions in the Bible and allegedly the final resting place of the Apostle John.

Brief History

tour ephesus turkey

  • 10 century B.C. – established by the Greeks
  • 129 B.C. – fell under Roman rule; Roman architects created many spectacular works you see today
  • 53 A.D. – visited by the Apostle Paul
  • 262 A.D. – the Goths ravaged Ephesus; it never regained its original grandeur
  • 1304 and 1425 – ruled by the Ottomans Rule and slowly declined
  • 1800s – Excavation of Ephesus began with the search for the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
  • 2015 – awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Estimated that less than 15% of the ancient city has been uncovered to date

Visiting Tips

  • Visit during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall if you can. Although there will still be a lot of people, the crowds will be thinner than during the summer.
  • The site covers a huge hilly area, with many uneven cobblestone, dirt, and slippery marble paths. Wear comfortable walking shoes or sandals and avoid flip-flops.
  • The sun can be intense and there’s not a lot of shade. A hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen are a must.
  • You will need to pay extra if you want to see the House of the Virgin Mary.

10 Sarcophagi Garden

tour ephesus turkey

After entering the ancient city, one of the first sites we came to was the Sarcophagi Garden. The sarcophagi are rectangular structures usually made of stone in which a body is placed. In ancient times, great importance was attached to tombs and monuments. These cemeteries are called Necropolis, which means the “city of the dead.”

9 Gate of Mazeus & Mithridates

hadrian gate

The triple-arched gateway is dedicated to two former slaves, Mazeus and Mithridates who had been freed by Emperor Augustus (reigned 27 BC-14 AD). It stands perpendicular to the Library of Celsus. The Gate was first excavated in 1903 and restored 1980-1989.

8 Terrace Houses

tour ephesus turkey

Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The terrace houses complex was unearthed in 1962 and has become one of the most popular sites in Ephesus. Originally constructed in the first century A.D., the houses show the extravagant lives of the rich who lived in the ancient city. With intricate floor mosaics, marble, and beautiful colored painted walls, the artistic taste of the prowess of the inhabitants of Ephesus is displayed in these private homes.

Notes: The houses are still being restored, and there is an extra fee if you want to enter the terrace houses

7 Curetes Street

tour ephesus turkey

Erik Cleves Kristensen, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Curetes Street is a mile-long marble street connecting Upper Ephesus with the lower city. Also known as the Marble Road, it is alleged that Antony and Cleopatra strolled this very boulevard. Once lined with columns, statues, civic and religious buildings, shops, and monuments it was Ephesus’ main thoroughfare.

6 Winged Nike

winged nike

On the western side of Curetes Street, you’ll see a marble relief of the Greek Goddess Nike. The goddess of victory, holding a laurel wreath for victory in her left hand and a palm branch in her right, dates back to the 1st/2nd century AD.

This beautifully carved piece once decorated the arch over the Hercules Gate, which was the official entrance to Curetes Street.

5 Temple of Hadrian

temple of hadrian

Discovered in 1956, the Temple of Hadrian was built in honor of the great Roman Emperor Hadrian (named one of the “Five Good Emperors”) who brought peace and prosperity to Rome during his 21-year reign.

The Temple of Hadrian is one of the best-preserved and most striking structures on Curetes Street. It was built around 138 A.D. by P. Quintilius and was dedicated to Emperor Hadrian, who came to visit the city from Athens in 128 A.D.

The facade of the temple has four Corinthian columns supporting a curved arch, in the middle of which contains a relief of Tyche, the goddess of victory. Inside the temple is a human figure, thought to be Medusa.

4 Great Theater

tour ephesus turkey

Although there is no archaeological evidence for the Great Theater’s existence before 100 B.C., it is thought to have been constructed during the Hellenistic eras and expanded later by the Romans to have a capacity of 25,000 spectators.

great theater ephesus

It is easy to look down and picture the gladiator battles that would have also taken place here. The theater is also regarded as a holy place due to its multiple mentions in the Bible, most notably where the Apostle Paul began anti-pagan preaching.

After the damage by the earthquakes of the 8th century, the Great Theater was never fully renovated.

3 Arcadiane


The Arcadiane, also known as Harbor Street, was built in the Hellenistic Period but then was restored during the reign of Emperor Arcadius (395-408 A.D.), from whom it takes its present name. The street runs between the Harbor and the Great Theater. Entering from the port, everyone from merchants and sailors to kings and other dignitaries would first arrive on this main thoroughfare, decorated to impress with massive marble columns and sculptures adorning both sides of the street.

2 Temple of Artemis

temple of artemis

The Temple of Artemis (part of Ephesus but approximately two miles away from the main archeological site) was one of the original Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. In fact, of the seven, only the Pyramids of Giza, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in Bodrum, and the Temple of Artemis are still able to be seen…the others have crumbled to dust. Unlike the pyramids which are still amazingly intact, not much remains from the once incredible Temple of Artemis. Ditto for the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.

temple of artemis

The Temple of Artemis (often called the Temple of Diana) was constructed in the sixth century B.C. by Croesus, King of Lydia. Dedicated to the goddess Artemis, it was twice the size of any other Greek temple encompassing 127 columns that were 60 feet high and 4 feet in diameter. The temple took 120 years to complete and was the most magnificent temple of its time.

temple of artemis

In 356 B.C., Herostratus set the temple on fire to bring fame to himself. According to mythology, the same day, Alexander the Great was born. Artemis was reportedly preoccupied with delivering Alexander when her temple caught fire.

The temple was rebuilt but destroyed again when the Goths invaded. The temple was finally demolished in 401 B.C.

1 Library of Celsus

library of celsus

The world-renowned Library of Celsus is considered an architectural marvel and the most iconic picture of Ephesus. I have endeavored to study and see ancient ruins all over the world, and the library at Ephesus has been a Bucket List destination for me.

Built between 110 and 135 A.D. as a tribute to Celsus, a popular bookworm Roman senator, it was the third largest library in the ancient world, overshadowed only by the libraries in Alexandria and Pergamum.

This library is one of the only remaining examples of great libraries of the ancient world and is believed to have held around 12,000 scrolls.


tour ephesus turkey

Ephesus captivates every traveler who visits with its rich history and fascinating ruins. When you tour Ephesus Turkey, you’ll discover a city that has many stories to tell.

Tip: We had lunch at the archeological site (I don’t recommend it, the food was awful) and then toured the site. We spent about 2-3 hours total since we left Pamukkale in the morning to get there. We visited the Temple of Artemis the next day. If you have more time, you could also add the nearby House of the Virgin Mary and Ephesus Museum.

Where to Stay in Ephesus


We took a short break from our cultural and ancient adventures to chill out at the beach resort town of Kusadasi on Turkey’s western Aegean coast, about 30 minutes from Ephesus. Our accommodation was right on the beach with a great view, and we enjoyed strolling and eating our way along the oceanfront boardwalk and enjoying cocktails while watching the sunset over the ocean

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About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and the southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of the “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.

She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the next few months.

Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.

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