Ephesus flourished 2000 years ago as one of the largest cities of the Roman Empire. Its ruins cover a vast area. The Temple of Hadrian, The Celsus Library, the Theater, the City Hall, public baths, marketplaces, courthouses, fountains, an early church - even a brothel and public latrine, all built of marble - stand wholly or partly intact. The site itself requires about three hours to walk around. The secondary attractions around Selšuk (the Museum, the Basilica of St John, the house of Virgin Mary) fill up a full day.
The archeological site is open every day of the year, usually 7.30 am to 7 pm in summer and 8 am to 5 pm in winter. In summer you are advised to avoid morning hours, when the cruiseship crowds typically arrive, and midday, when the heat can be overpowering. The museum is also open every day, but it has shorter hours and a lunch break.
The archeological site is a 12-kilometer drive from Sirince. If you have no car, use the Sirince-Selcuk minibus which runs every half hour during daylight. From the Selcuk bus terminal you can either take a taxi or walk 2.8 kms to Ephesus Lower Gate.
Audio guides are available at the site in different languages. Guides hang around the Upper Gate offering their services. You may find guides for as little as TL 100 for a 2-hour whirlwind tour of the archeological site, but a good guide will not cost less than TL 200. You must establish beforehand the cost and the duration of the tour, and maintain steely nerves in the face of various merchandising attempts.
A Full Day Tour
Here's a tried and tested itinerary for a full day's tour around Selšuk.
Temple of Artemis
Begin your tour at the Temple of Artemis. One of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient world, this temple began attracting pilgrims around 800 BC! All that remains today is a lonely reconstructed pillar, but it provides a good historical snapshot of the different religions that have been practised in the town. Above the remains of the pagan temple you'll see the Christian Basilica of St John & the Islamic Mosque of Isa Bey. Entry is free.
Isa Bey Mosque
An impressive display of early Turkish architecture dating from the late 14th century. Don't miss the collection of old tombstones engraved with exquisite Arabic script leaning against the far wall of the courtyard. The mosque is open to non-Muslim visitors except at times of prayer. Remember to remove your shoes at the door and ladies cover your shoulders and head with a scarf. Entry is free.
Basilica of St John
In the 6th century AD Emperor Justinian erected a magnificent church over the assumed tomb of St John the Evangelist, who is said to have lived in Ephesus with Virgin Mary up to the time of his death. The Basilica offers a great view overlooking the Isa Bey Mosque & the Temple of Artemis with Pamucak Beach visible in the distance, giving you an idea of how much of the land has silted up since ancient times. Open daily from 9 am. Entry: 5 TL.
A few of the best restaurants of Selšuk (eg. Amazon) are located down the hill from the St John Basilica along the street between Isa Bey Mosque and the Artemis Temple.
The Ephesus Archaeological Museum contains an excellent collection of artefacts from the site of Ephesus. Highlights include the collection of personal items found in the Terrace Houses, the fabulous marble statues of the goddess Artemis, and the gigantic head of the Emperor Domitian. There's also a room dedicated to Ephesus's Gladiators. The Museum is within a short walking distance to both the Basilica of St John and Isabey Mosque. It is open every day, but closed from 12 to 1 pm.
House of the Virgin Mary
It is said that the Virgin Mary came to live out the remainder of her days in Ephesus with St John. The House of Mary is believed to be the place where she lived. In 1967, Pope Paul II authenticated the site making it place of pilgrimage for many religions, including Muslims, to whom Mary is Meryemana, Mother Mary, who bore the prophet Jesus.
The entry fee of TL 11 does not go to the church but to the Selcuk council, so donations at the church are welcomed. Mass is held each morning at 7.30 am and on Sundays at 10.30 am. If you are attending mass you are not required to pay the entrance fee.
Ephesus Archeological Site
The best time of day to go (in summer at any rate) is in the late afternoon, around 4 to 4.30 pm when the site isn't so crowded. It's much more pleasant without the hordes! There are two entrances to the site, the Lower (North) and Upper (South). The car park at the Upper Gate is free and by entering here it means you'll be walking downhill through the site, with the view of the library always in front of you. If you have a car you can either retrace your steps back to the gate you came in, or you can take a taxi for about TL 15 or use an old fashioned horse and cart.
Not to be missed are the magnificent TERRACE HOUSES, which were excavated in the 1990s and finally opened to the public in 2006. Don't be put off by the terrible-looking modern roofing. Under it are the remarkably well-preserved remains of several Roman-era upperclass [r 1]houses[/r], with [r 2]wallpaintings[/r] and floor mosaics, private baths and public rooms quite intact. They are a highlight of the site and well worth the additional entrance fee.