The ruins of Ephesus Turkey are filled with inspiring examples of ancient craftsmanship; however, none compare to the masterpiece that is the Ephesus Library of Celsus. Towering over the rest of the ruins, the remaining facade is enough to impress even the most apathetic of travellers.
The Greeks constructed portions of the ancient city of Ephesus as early as the 10th century BCE. It was passed to the Romans after the death of Attalos the King of Pergamon in 129 BCE.
First view of the Library of Celsus
From a distance, we could spot the impressive Ephesus Library of Celsus towering over the ruins, yet its true grandeur became apparent when we got closer. In truth, every building at Ephesus seems to challenge modern architecture to keep up with history.
Despite the crowds, walking down Curetes Street is enchanting. This is the same marble road once walked by Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. Curetes Street is one of the three main streets of Ephesus and it connects the Gate of Hercules with the Ephesus Library of Celsus.
Construction of the Ephesus library began in 114 AD to honour the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus. He lies in rest in a decorated marble sarcophagus in a mausoleum built under the structure, thus giving it the name Ephesus library of Celsus.
Ideally, we would have arrived at 8 am when the ancient ruins open, and we might have avoided some of the crowds. But despite how it looks, we could always hear our guide.
Ephesus Library of Celsus
Today, we see only the facade of the Ephesus library. The architectural masterpiece once held over 12,000 scrolls and was home to the second school of philosophy in the Aegean. Fire gutted the library’s interior, including the books, in 262 AD. An earthquake later destroyed the remaining facade. Archaeologists re-erected the ruins in the 1970s.
Apparently, there was a tunnel leading from the Ephesus library to a brothel/drinking establishment. Perhaps it offered a sordid study break.
Other key sites at the Ephesus ruins
I often wonder how the Greeks and Romans built this so long ago. Even with today’s modern equipment, there is rarely this much detail and craftsmanship put into construction.
The Trajan Fountain was built in the 2nd century AD and was dedicated to Emperor Trajan.
Temple of Hadrian
The Temple of Hadrian in Ephesus is one of the most well-preserved buildings of the ancient city.
Market Basilica arcade
Both commercial activities and meetings of the law courts were conducted at the 160m long Market Basilica arcade.
The Great Ephesus Theater held up to 25,000 spectators.
Visiting Ephesus from a cruise port
The ancient city of Ephesus is a popular excursion from the cruise ports of Izmir (1-hour drive) or Kusadasi (25-minute drive). The best ways to get to Ephesus are:
- Excursion organized by the ship: This is the easiest option, as the ship arranges everything, including a local guide, and guarantees to get you back on board even if the tour runs late. The downside is often larger group size and higher costs.
- Independent tours: Many local tour companies offer cruise excursions that pick up and drop off passengers at the cruise port. The advantages over the ship’s excursions are usually smaller groups, more personal attention, and lower cost. Many offer the same guarantee to get you back on board. The disadvantage is the need to arrange your own tour (often as easy as an online form) and the potential loss if the ship cancels a port.
- Do it yourself: Many passengers hire drivers or take public buses at ports. The advantage is more control of the venues seen. The disadvantage is that private drivers often cost more than independent tours, and there are no guarantees. Plus, in the case of Izmir to Ephesus, the public transportation option is difficult, even for Turkish speakers.
Ephesus library isn’t the only intricate craftmanship detail
The images below are:
- Possibly one of the rooms in a brothel.
- These latrines were the public toilets of the city and they were not free to use.
- Mosaic floor tiles still exist in areas. They remind me of the Ancient Roman mosaics we saw in Volubilis, Morocco.
Recommended Ephesus excursions and tours
While there are other options from either port, we recommend Ephesus. It is one of the most amazing places we have visited.
Tours From Kusadasi
- Ephesus Sightseeing Tour: This top-rated 8-hour shore excursion takes you through the ancient city of Ephesus, as well as to the home of the Virgin Mary and the Basilica of St. John. It’s covered by Viator’s worry-free shore excursion guarantee.
⇒ Check price and reviews.
- Tour of Ephesus, House of Virgin Mary & Artemis Temple: This 7-hour tour starts at your Kusadasi hotel and visits the ancient city, the home of Virgin Mary, and the Temple of Artemis.
⇒ Check price and reviews.
Tours from Izmir:
- Ephesus, House of Virgin Mary, and Artemis Shore Excursion: This 8-hour tour begins and ends at your ship. You will tour the ancient city of Ephesus, seeing all its major sites including the Ephesus Library, visit the final resting place of the Virgin Mary, and see the Temple of Artemis. Lunch is included.
⇒ Check price and reviews.
- Best of Ephesus Guided Tour: This 9-hour private tour puts you in control of what sites you will see. Discuss with your expert local guide and then follow the plan.
⇒ Check price and reviews
We visited Ephesus while on a Mediterranean cruise. You can find our best cruise tips here.
Practical information on Ephesus Library of Celsus and the ruins:
- The ancient city has two entrances. If you enter at the Magnesia gate, you will walk downhill and exit at the lower Hercules gate.
- Allocate two hours to see the ruins.
- The ruins open daily at 8 am, closing in summer at 7.30 pm and in winter at 5.30 pm.
- If it’s a hot day, be sure to bring a water bottle or buy one in the shops at either entrance.
- If you are spending the night in Turkey, consider staying in one of the 78 accommodation options in nearby Selcuk. In the morning, you can walk or often borrow a bicycle from the hotel to ride to the site.
Other key sites in Ephesus
- Temple of Artemis: The Temple of Artemis is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Fire destroyed much of the Temple of Artemis in 356 BCE. Nearly 800 years later, Christianity had become the dominant religion of the region and Emperor Theodosius forbid the worship of the goddess Artemis. A Christian mob destroyed what remained of the Temple of Artemis. Today, only a single column remains.
- Ephesus Archaeological Museum is home to the statue of Artemis, recovered from the Temple of Artemis.
- House of Mary: Early Christians frequently visited the city of Ephesus. Here we can visit the house in which the Virgin Mary lived after the crucifixion. It has been recognized by the Vatican as the final resting place of the Virgin Mary.
- Basilica Saint John and also the tomb of the evangelic Saint John.
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- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Accommodations: we use Booking.com (hotels) or VRBO (self-contained).
- Cars (gas or electric): we use RentalCars to search for deals and dealer ratings.
- Campervans or Motorhomes: we use Campstar where Albom Adventures readers get a 3% discount
- Private guides: we love the private guides at Tours by Locals
- Travel Insurance: our go-to is World Nomads*.
Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
*World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
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In Turkey, we also visited Istanbul.
wow, the pics are amazing! I just visited Mercadi di Traiano yesterday in Rome, and to be honest, this one in Turkey did such a good job (perservation) to show the antique architecture and beautiful decoration (Romanesque) to us!!! Would definitely like to visit it one day.
I’m sold on ancient ruins and wanted to visit Ephesus last time we were in Turkey. Unfortunately, we only had time for Istanbul, but we promised ourselves to return. It’s impressive how well preserved some of these relics still are. The Library of Celsus was one of the most famous edifices in the Roman Empire.
It definitely must have been the time of day! It was more crowded like this when we first arrived, but the tours all left to get back to their original destination by about 6 p.m. There were a few smaller groups, but the majority of the crowds had already left at least for us.
Turkey is such an iconic country! Amazing!
Great photos! I’ve visited lots of ruins but seldom get such good pictures. Ephesus just got added to my list of what to see in Turkey!
Love these pictures! Ephesus is such an interesting destination, and one we’d love to explore.
I really enjoyed visiting Ephesus. The guide made a big difference by pointing out a lot of the subtle features.
indah nuria Savitri
Such an incredible library, Rhonda. I would love to visit it myself. Even the ruins are magnificent!
The ruins of Ephesus make you wonder about how advanced their technology was to build such long-lasting structures.
Ephesus library looks quite incredible (sorry to hear you were disappointed with Pompeii). The façade is such an incredible structure (from your pictures anyway!) though I can definitely see it draws the crowds. I guess something we have to deal with these days. I’m genuinely amazed that such ancient cities haven’t been completely destroyed – even though obviously in ruins, how well preserved some of the structures are blows my mind when you consider the period of time.
It does draw crowds, but the majesty of it overshadows the crowdedness.
I’d never heard about Ephesus before but what an interesting place it is! Would love to visit!
There are so many fascinating things out in the world to discover.
Visited Ephesus long time ago back in 2009 and it was a mind blowing experience. I mean, I didn’t expect it to be so grand and stunning. I really love all the details and the story behind. A tunnel leading from the Ephesus library to a brothel/drinking establishment? Now I’m really curious about it, lol! And btw you took some really great pictures here. Wow!
Sandy N Vyjay
Loved reading about Ephesus library and the other buildings. Always been fascinated by the Roman history, culture and architecture. I was reminded about Rome while reading this post and looking at the stunning pictures. You took a wise decision of going to Ephesus.
I love learning about the history while I am standing in the ruins. I find it easier to visualize that way.
I haven’t been to Ephesus, but it looks incredible and is definitely on my travel wishlist. I can only imagine what it must of looked like before the fire and earthquake, when it had all those strolls. Funny to learn about the brothel nearby. Part of me now wonders if some of those scrolls weren’t a bit more lurid in content as well 😂
LOL – I hadn’t thought about naughty Roman scrolls before, but maybe. Too bad we will never know.
Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields
I love Roman ruins – another one to add to the travel todo list.
Honestly, this site and the aqueduct of Segovia are my two favourites that I have seen.
I’m glad you were able to have an enjoyable time. I know it can sometimes be hard to muster up the “passion to travel” after you’ve been disappointed by a particular destination. The architecture looks absolutely great! Definitely something I would love to see. Looks like a lot of other people enjoy it too! In one of your pictures, it looked quite crowded!
I always have the passion to travel. I can brush off disappointments, although they do sometimes play into future decisions.
Beautiful photos. The history behind every single brick just takes my breath away. And I’m with you – it’s incredible how they managed to build these amazing with elbow grease and pullies alone!
Every brick and tile, the mosaics on the ground are as impressive as the building.
Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats
These look amazing. We visited some amazing ruins around Antalya Turkey on our last trip there, but have not made it to Ephesus yet, something to look forward to!
We are the opposite, Antalya is on our list of places to get to on our next visit to Turkey.
Bryna | Dotted Line Travels
What beautiful ruins! I’m the same way – when I visit ruins, I always wonder how they managed to build something that grand without the technology that we have these days. The details are amazing!
These are an engineering marvel. Can you imagine, that archway has stood for 2000 years?
Love Turkey and Ephesus is a shining example of their many ruins. I love the way the library changes colour in the different photos I see of it. Must be the stages of the sun hitting it.
It’s a combination of sun position, cloud cover, camera settings, and post-processing
I must say having also been to Pompeii and been disappointed that this place looks amazing. Yes, i think the men announced they were going to the library and then snuck off through the tunnel lol. These ruins look amazing and so well preserved. Maybe a visit in the winter months would find less tourists their.
Somehow, I was able to not let the crowds bother me so much.
No, I don’t think the inhabitants visited the library then headed to the brothel, it was probably the other way around lol. So nice to revisit the library through this post. I was also there on a cruise and it was way too brief. I’m so glad you didn’t skip Ephesus even though you were tempted.
I am so glad we didn’t skip it also. I only wish we had skipped the leather factory they tacked on to end of our excursion and had gone to one of the other famous sites there instead. I am sure you can relate
We were supposed to go on a cruise a few years ago and one of the stops would have been Ephesus! I wish we had gone! It’s so beautiful and fascinating!
Hopefully, you did something else, equally as wonderful, in its place,
I remember Ephesus very well. Yes, I was impressed by the marble streets and the different structures. On the other hand, I can see it has changed a bit. I visited on the month of July and there was barely nobody there. I see it has gotten very popular.
I am surprised that it was empty in European summer.
Sally's Tips 4 Trips (aka Toddlers on Tour)
Thanks for the trip back down memory lane, an amazing place.
Although when I visited some years back, I went to the ruins late in the afternoon. It was a bit cooler, the sun lower for photos and far less crowds.
Another downside of a cruise. We had only a few hours in the port, no time to wait for better lighting.
I find Greek runs fascinating and I’d love to see Ephesus in person. Interesting that there was a secret passage to a brothel!
Learning about things like the tunnel is one of the primary reasons I like to have a tour when we go places. If we walked on our own, we never would have known.
I have not been here and all I can say is WOW! Your photos are amazing and really showcase the stunning architecture. I’m always up to visiting ancient ruins and find the history fascinating.
Ephesus took us by surprise. We knew it was detailed and huge, but standing in front of these structures is just an incredible feeling.
Amazing photo, you brought the ancient site to life for us! Interesting that Ephesus library has a tunnel to a brothel/drinking – Men!!
Well, they do say prostitution is the oldest profession.
I’m always blown away by ancient ruins – the architecture is out of this world, so creative to even think of an escape tunnel to the brothels for the men-folk!!!! Imagine how impressive it would have been when it stood proud and filled with people and books and statues. Visiting Ephesus would have been amazing.
The library is so impressive with only a facade remaining. It must have been such a masterpiece. And all those scrolls lost. What a tragedy.
Your photos are absolutely gorgeous. I first went to Esphesus 30 years ago, and then I returned three years ago. I was blown away by how much more they had excavated. It was amazing. Did you go on the tour of the homes of the elite, You can actually still see coloured marble tiles on the floor. They had running water, and heated floors for the colder nights. It was astounding.
We didn’t have time for special tours, although we did see some of the mosaic tile floors. It is so impressive what the Greeks and Romans could do so long ago.
There’s so much depth associated with Roman history that it’s still evident even from the ruins left. love the detailed architecture, the mosaic carvings.Thanks for sharing the wonderful tips 🙂
I love learning about the ancient history while at these sites. It really brings it to life.
This place looks fantastic. Makes me want to jump on a plane and go visit right now. I love seeing the old sites in Europe, and I still have yet to really explore Turkey.
I have barely explored Turkey, and really hope to get back someday. We only came here to Ephesus and to Istanbul, both cruise ship ports.
What amazing detail – The Romans knew a thing or two about beauty when it came to building things. Awesome it has survived relatively intact for so long!
Pretty impressive. I don’t think many of the structures built today would last 2000 years.
The ruins look stunning. They seem a lot more intricate and well maintained then Pompeii. Crowds are almost everywhere! Gosh, it is such a put off for photographers. But I liked your clicks! Especially of the arch 🙂
Ephesus felt more complete than Pompeii, as so much of the Pompeii ruins had been moved to the museum.
This looks like an amazing place! I’m always in awe when I see such beautiful ancient ruins. Just think about all the knowledge that went lost in the fire and during the earthquake … There was probably a tunnel to the drinking establishment because in many ancient cultures, alcohol was a muse for poets and writers. When the Greek philosophers and poets drank some of this good stuff, the reached a stage of “divine madness” which “helped” their thinking and writing. I’m not 100% sure about that, but I learned this once at school :D.
Interesting. I love that you know this and shared it here. It makes sense that the tunnel went to the “bar”, but what about the brothel?
Oh, I simply love Turkey. I have been there a couple of times and there is still so much to explore!! Epheus looks just jaw-droppingly amazing.
I have only been to Ephesus and Istanbul, but I do hope to get back someday.
I really enjoyed our half day at Ephesus when we were in Turkey in 2012. I actually have very similar photos to yours. It is astonishing that the ancient Romans built these amazing buildings all those centuries ago. I think they have done a brilliant job in restoring a lot of it.
I think everyone who travels there would have similar photos.
I was happily admiring the beautiful architecture in your photos, when I saw the crowds and got a shock. It looks more crowded than even Pompeii (when I visited). Had no idea that it was such a popular destination! I can see why people are drawn to it though. You’re right, people just don’t do buildings like that anymore.
That’s why I included the photo. I worked hard to get the images without people, but I need to show at least one image that gives the true impression.
You made me so jealous with post, Rhonda! Did you get to see the tunnel to the brothel? We’ve have only been in Istanbul so far and were planning to return to Turkey and visit some other sites. Unfortunately, after last year’s events in Istanbul we decided to postpone our visit for a while, but the political instability in the region is not getting any better. Now I’m sorry we didn’t go last year.
No, we didn’t see the tunnel, but our guide told us about it. He also showed us the naughty image carved into the stones in front of the door or the brothel.
Lydia C. Lee
Wow. That looks amazing!
It really is a cool place.
What an incredible place, I would love to visit Ephesus. The craftsmanship like you say is fantastic, it’s such a shame we don’t invest in our buildings in this way nowadays. People in a few thousand years time will look back at what we have left architecturally and really scratch their heads!
LOL – you are probably correct. Especially in some neighbourhoods, where every house is the same, and none are interesting.
I would love to visit Ephesus – it looks amazing. Great photos!
Wow! I have not been to Ephesus but I would love to go! The architecture is amazing. I’m in a study of the part of the Bible written by Paul to Timothy when Timothy lived in Ephesus, so I’ve just been looking at maps of this area. I’d love to go!
Many of the early Christians lived in or passed through Ephesus. The ancient history is really interesting.
It’s interesting, I actually thought Ephesus was a little bit of a let down after visiting the much less touristy but spectacular Pamulkale and Aphrodisias which is better preserved with more incredible structures to see. There’s so much amazing history and historic sites in Turkey and Aphrodisias is hidden because of its location.
I am sure if I had been to Pamukkale and Aphrodisias I would feel the same way about Ephesus that you did.
L. Diane Wolfe
Gorgeous. I’m amazed the archway is still holding up.
I am amazed that any of it is still holding up.
What great shots of a fun place to visit. What a history too. Loved the brothel part. Going to the library. Right.
Have a fabulous day. ☺
And outside the brothel on the street was “male parts” carved into the stone.
Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
yes, I’ve visited it too:) stunning place!
Glad that you liked it too.
I’ve not been to Ephesus but I have a friend who chose this as her excursion also and it was one of her favorite ports. Thanks for the Rick Steve’s heads up – I didn’t know he even had such a guide. Beautiful photos!
It was a great excursion, but I wish I had been there longer and had time to visit Mary’s house, St. Johns tomb, and the Temple of Artemis remaining column.
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Now that is old. Amazing what they could build back then. Shame fire burned all the scrolls, although they would be just dust now anyway.
Can you imagine what that entire structure would have looked before the fire and earthquake?
This brings back memories. Ephesus is such an incredible spot. Love the water “temple” too, and just seeing how they used gravity for the bath houses and toilets. Also fascinating how huge of a city that once was. All the hills around were covered in houses.
Yes, I was amazed at how large it was, or that the stadium held 25,000 spectators. And the details, and creativity.
Amazing place to visit though I feel it is over run with gawking people who don’t appreciate what is there
Very true, but I simply ignore those people. I look through or around them, and I listen to our guide.
Hi Rhonda – it’s difficult to think what these magnificent places would have looked like – extraordinary photos … and to see the throngs … without thongs! But amazing history and I’d love to visit … as you say more of the sites too … but fabulous you had the opportunity to visit … cheers Hilary
I do try to imagine the full buildings, but even the ruins are magnificent.
Vé Vinpearl land
Favorable weather for tourism?
Wow! It must have been such a great experience while walking through these ancient stones! If they could tell stories…
Fab photos Rhonda looks like your all enjoying your trip of a lifetime 🙂