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The ancient Greek city of Ephesus is one of Turkey’s most popular tourist destinations due to the stunning and well-preserved remnants of a once powerful empire. An ideal side trip while in Izmir, we rounded up everything you need to know before planning your visit to the famed open-air museum.
From Izmir, Ephesus is pretty easily accessible by bus, and at Izmir’s main bus terminal, many local travel agencies have buses that drive directly to the historical site. You can reach the bus terminal by taking a cab or one of the minibuses from Basmane Square that goes directly to the bus terminal. Izmir to Ephesus by bus lasts about 1.5 hours and costs around 10 Turkish Liras. If you’re not a big fan of big tourist buses, you can also negotiate with one of Izmir’s cab drivers to drive the 85 kilometers (53 miles) for an affordable price. Some people who have gone this route say the taxi drivers will charge around 120TL for four people there and back (plus waiting time).
Ephesus began its life with the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once located in Selçuk. After the city was moved to its current area and declared the capital of Asia Minor by the first Roman emperor Augustus, its population saw a large increase, around 400,000 in its heyday. By the first and second centuries AD, it rivaled Rome in terms of importance, but like most great cities, it faced its inevitable demise through disease and a failed seaport. During the 1860s, European archaeologists rediscovered the city through excavations, and it went on to became one of the most visited historical ruins in the world.
Nowadays, the ruins of the once great city continue to tell a glorious tale, especially considering their excellent preservation throughout the years. You can see the entire city by foot through clearly marked pathways, complete with signs, which help visitors navigate their way. It’ll take you around two hours to see the whole site, which is open year-round and costs around 40TL for entry.
The Library of Celsus is one of the most impressive ruins, with a façade reconstructed through the use of its original materials. The library, built in 125 AD, honored the memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus (a governor) and once held more than 12,000 scrolls. The ancient city’s open-air theater is also a stunning sight, and with a seating capacity of 25,000, it’s one of the world’s largest. Apart from the beautiful agoras and bath complexes, the Temple of Hadrian is also a major standout and was also reconstructed using original materials; however, its reliefs are on display at the Ephesus Archeological Museum (also definitely worth a visit).