Top Things to Do in Ephesus

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Ephesus Travel Blog and Guide – Top Things to Do in Ephesus

The ancient city of Ephesus, together with the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace in Istanbul is one of Turkey’s most visited three museums.

Ephesus has been an important city both in Ancient Greece and Roman Empire. As you walk through the streets of Ephesus, the best preserved Roman ruins of the Eastern Mediterranean, you may feel like a Roman citizen living in ancient times.

Visiting the ancient city of Ephesus is a great historical experience. However, the region where Ephesus is located has such a rich culture that everything is not just about the ruins of Ephesus. In this article we will try to introduce the beauties that will take a few days to discover. I hope you enjoy things to do in and around Ephesus and have a nice holiday.

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Things to Do in Ephesus 2020

When you see things to do around Ephesus, you will see that it is not a good idea to come to Ephesus for a day trip. Most visitors miss the sights around the ancient city of Ephesus as they come to the region with cruise ships and day trips.

Ephesus is within the borders of Selcuk, a beautiful town in the city of Izmir. For those who visit Ephesus, it is a good idea to stay at hotels in Selcuk. There are budget-friendly small hotels and nice restaurants where you can find local Turkish cuisine. Things to see in Selcuk include a Roman Aqueduct, Byzantine Church and Ephesus Archeology Museum.

  • Ephesus Ruins

The ancient city of Ephesus dates back to 1000 BC. The legendary founder of the city, Prince Androcles, found Ephesus with the prophecy of the oracle of the Temple of Apollo.

Having a strong cult of mother goddesses, Ephesus was the religious center during the period of polytheistic religions. Initially dedicated to the goddess Cybele, the city later adopted the cult of the goddess Athena.

Ephesus was the most important of the city states called the Ionian League during the Ancient Greek period. During the Roman Empire it was the capital of Asia Minor. Therefore, it was a lively trade center and had a population of around 250,000.

Ephesus, which was a center of pilgrimage thanks to the Temple of Artemis during polytheistic religions, maintains this feature even today. This is because it has an important place in the history of Christianity. Since Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived here for a time, Ephesus is on the Christian pilgrimage route.

It is worth noting that Ephesus is the third largest Roman ruin in the world. The three most important monuments in Ephesus are the Temple of Athena, the Celsus Library and the Temple of Hadrian.

Hire Private Tour Guide in Ephesus

It is a good idea to hire a private tour guide while in Ephesus, as the site is so big, a guide can help to make sure that you don’t miss anything and that you get all the information you need.

Library of Celsus in Ephesus

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  • Ephesus Museum

After visiting the beautiful Ephesus, your next stop has to be the museum, which is located right in the heart of the town. Here you will see some of the best finds from the ancient city on display as well as the Gladiator Room, which features exhibits from the gladiator cemetery excavation.

  • Basilica of St. John

This citadel-like basilica was once ranked as one of the Byzantine Empire‘s largest churches. However, after the Seljuks captured Ephesus in 1130, the church was converted into a mosque and later served as a bazaar until an earthquake eventually destroyed it. It has now been partially-restored but gives a good idea of the original building; it’s well worth a visit.

Top Things to Do in Ephesus

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Basilica of St. John


  • Temple of Artemis

Just one single column is all that remains of the Temple of Artemis, which was once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. So famous and rich in history, though, it’s a place you should visit if you’re in the area.

Temple of Artemis in Ephesus

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Temple of Artemis
  • Meryemana

The Meryemana is a significant tourist attraction, and according to legends, the Virgin Mary traveled to Ephesus with St. John and is said to have died here.

The chapel here is tiny, and the site is often crowded with tour bus groups, so be aware of that before you visit. Also, there is a small wishing well is on-site, where it is customary to tie a piece of cloth and make a wish.

Virgin Mary House in Ephesus

Meryemana Evi


  • Ayasuluk Fortress

This magnificent Fortress sits on the hill high above Selcuk providing fantastic views over the town and the surrounding countryside. However, before you walk up the hill, be sure to check that this site is open as archaeologists are still excavating it, so it is sometimes closed to visitors.

  • Isa Bey Mosque (Isa Bey Camii)

This is a Seljuk era mosque and is a beautiful example of the fine architecture from the 14th century. Visitors are welcome to visit and have a look inside the mosque outside of prayer times, but you must dress appropriately with shoulders and knees covered, and female visitors should wear a headscarf.

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Isa Bey Mosque
  • Roman Aqueduct

The Roman Aqueduct runs through the center of Selcuk is a partly preserved Byzantine aqueduct, which has since been made even more of a tourist attraction because there are several stork nests built on top of it. If you visit during stork nesting season, which is from March to September, you’ll most likely see the elegant birds sitting regally in their nests.

  • Grotto of the Seven Sleepers

Many Roman emperors in history had implemented a policy of persecution of Christians. Christians fleeing from the Roman soldiers took refuge in rural geographies such as Cappadocia. The underground cities, valleys and rock churches you will see in Cappadocia today are proof of how Christians resisted these conditions in those days.

There is a similar legend in Ephesus. Legend has it that in AD 250, the Roman emperor Decius punished seven faithful Christians by imprisoning them in a cave. Christians who fall asleep in the cave wake up like a normal person after 200 years. Christianity was then free on the territory of the Roman Empire.

They live the rest of their life in the city of Ephesus in peace. When they die, they were buried in the same cave. Therefore, the cave, which has Seven Sleepers, is on the pilgrimage route of Christians.

The Grotto of Seven Sleepers is located about two kilometers from the ancient city of Ephesus.

  • Sirince

This picture-perfect village which has red-roofed stone houses that cascade down a hill slope and are surrounded by dense forest. It’s beautiful and a place you’ll want to take photos of. While you have to climb up the cobblestone alleys to the top of the village, where you can visit the Church of St. John the Baptist, it’s worth it to take panoramic pictures of the village from there.

Top Things to Do in Ephesus

Things to do in Ephesus
  • Tire

Tire is where you will find real and rural Turkish life. It is renowned for its felt-making tradition, and if you wander around the village, you will likely see master felt craftsmen at work. Also, a perfect day to visit is on a Tuesday when they have a famous local market, which is well worth a visit.

  • Pamucak Beach

When you’re done with the sites, the history, and the education from all the ancient ruins, about seven kilometers from Selcuk, you will find the beautiful Pamucak Beach where you can get some sun and enjoy plenty of swimming.

It can get hectic on weekends, particularly during summer, so plan your trip right and leave your sunbathing for a weekday. If you’re here during late-winter and early spring, you can usually spot flamingos in the nearby estuary.

History of Ephesus Ancient City

The ancient city of Ephesus is the most significant ancient city in the Eastern Mediterranean and one of the most well preserved ancient cities in the world.

Famous for the Temple of Artemis, Ephesus was under the influence of the goddess of fertility, Cybele. She evolved into the Greek goddess Artemis, and the temple was built in honour of her. Today there is sadly not much left of the temple, but many people still go and visit it.

According to the legends, Ephesus and Istanbul were founded in similar ways as both cities began with the mysterious prophecies of an oracle in Delphi, Greece. Legend has it that, Androcles, the son of the King Codrus, sought the advice of the oracle of Temple of Apollo after his Father died. He wanted to leave Athens and make a new start, but he didn’t know where to go. The oracle advised Androcles to go to the East, cross the Aegean Sea and land there; it said: “The fish will give you a signal, and the pig will guide you.”

So, Androcles crossed the Aegean Sea and anchored his ship at the bay where Kucuk Menderes River meets the sea. He and his men started fishing, and one of the fish jumped to the floor. Then, a pig came out of the bushes and stole the fish and ran away. Androcles chased the pig up a hill and then hit the pig with his arrow.

The fish gave the signal, and the pig guided them, and Androcles founded his new city where he killed the pig. This city, which Androclos founded in 1000 BC, would be one of the most important cities of ancient times.

Ephesus Ruins Entrance Fee 2020

The entrance fee to Ephesus Archaeological Site is 72 Turkish Liras as of 2020. The ticket price does not include a visit to Ephesus Terrace Houses and it costs 36 Turkish Lira extra. Admission is free for children under 8 years. Both Museum Pass Turkey and Museum Pass Aegean are valid at the entrance to the ancient city of Ephesus.

Temple of Hadrian in Ephesus

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Hadrian Temple

Ephesus Museum Opening Hours 2020

Entry times to Ephesus Antique City are determined in two categories as summer and winter season. Ephesus ruins can be visited from 08:00 am to 7:30 pm between 1 April and 31 October. It closes at 6:00 pm between 1 November and 1 April, which is considered the winter season.

Visiting hours of museums and archaeological sites in Turkey may change according to some activities or renovations. For this reason, I recommend you to visit the official website of the Ephesus Archaeological Site and check the latest situation before you go.

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Roman Ruins

Where to Stay in Ephesus

There are beautiful places to stay near the ancient city of Ephesus. Selcuk is the closest one to Ephesus. However, you can also choose places like Kusadasi, Sirince and Izmir. According to your travel plan, each will give you some advantages. For more information on the subject, you can review our article on where to stay in Ephesus.

Kusadasi Cruise Port

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Most of the foreign tourists visiting Ephesus come from Cruise Ships which are anchored in Kusadasi. For this reason, Kusadasi has accommodation options for every budget.

Private Guided Tour of Ephesus

The Ephesus Travel Blog is sponsored by a licensed travel agency.  We can organize your private guided tour of Ephesus. It is recommended to visit the ruins of Ephesus, which covers a large area, with a professional tour guide.

Thus, you can fully understand the cultural experience that Ephesus will offer you. If you would like to arrange a private tour of Ephesus, you can write us through Contact Us page.

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Ephesus Travel Blog by Serhat Engul