Ephesus Open-Air Museum

A day trip to Ephesus from Istanbul will bring ancient Greek & Ionian History to the forefront. Our tourist map and things-to-do list can help you plan your trip and to fully explore the open-air museum of Ephesus.

How to Get There

Ephesus is located in the greater area of Izmir in Turkey. It’s only 4 km from Selcuk and a 40-minute ride from the third biggest airport in the country called Izmir.

Ephesus Tourist Map

We’ve included all the places to visit in and around Ephesus on our tourist map below, including open-air historical sites and nearby attractions. Furthermore, we’ve added food, shopping and parking options for easy reference.

Brief Ephesus History 

Ephesus is a Greek word originating from the Hittite word Apasa which means the bee. Settlements have been found nearby that suggest the area was already inhabited during the Neolithic Age, around 6000 BC.

Excavations at Ephesus have also produced artifacts from the Bronze Age  (3000 to 2000 BC) and The Ionian

Attic and Ionian Greek colonists founded the city around 1000 BC and built it upon Ayasuluk Hill. Around 650 BC the Cimmerians raided the town and afterward, a seemingly endless number of conquerors followed. 

The Lydians,  The PersiansAlexander the GreatThe RomansThe Byzantines, and The Ottomans‘ all ruled and left their mark here. 

A Moving Settlement

Ephesus has intrigued archaeologists because there is no definite location for the settlement during the Archaic Period. Numerous theories suggest Ephesus moved between the Bronze Age and the Roman Period

he silting up of the natural harbors, as well as the movement of the Kayster River, meant that the location would have been underwater if not moved.

What to See and Do at Ephesus

Ephesus nowadays works as a museum open to the public. It covers a wide area of 2.5 km, though some parts are closed due to excavations. 

Guided tours usually start from the upper gate and end at the lower gate where the big parking lot is located. The biggest percentage of the ruins is original while a small part has been reconstructed.

Odeon Bouleterion Senate House

It is shaped like a small theater with a center stage, orchestra and a capacity of 1500 spectators. It used to serve as a city council chambers and concert hall. It was the place where politicians were giving their speeches.

In addition, it hosted events such as classical music concerts, poetry readings, and court cases. Only the wealthiest could attend those events. A beauty contest was also held there twice a year. 

Temple of Vesta

Otherwise known as the temple of Artemis. It was Attached to the senate-house where 12 virgins had to keep an eye on the holy fire which was brought by Parthenon to Ephesus as the city was established. 

Today only the ruins of the foundation of this stunning temple remain in Ephesus. Most of the marvelous parts of this marble masterpiece are now exhibited in the London British Museum while the statue of Goddess Artemis can be visited at the Ephesus museum

Temple of Domitian

A wide two-story building with its stairs still visible today. It was the persecution center for Christianity believers. It was named after Emperor Domitian who exiled John the evangelist to Patmos island. He declared himself Zeus and ordered a temple to be in his name.

Due to the emperor’s unpopularity, soon after his murder but his servant, his name was erased by many inscriptions of the city.

Nike Relief

Ephesus Open-Air Museum

Nike in Greek means victory. She was the Goddess of Victory with wings in her back. The statue was decorating Hercules gate but now is placed in the center of the Domitian Temple. In the relief, Nike is depicted as a young woman holding a branch in her right hand.

All the tourist groups stop to take pictures there. Guides usually make a playful joke about Nike trainers when talking about the statue.

Trajan Fountain

It is a monumental fountain that was built in 2AD and later restored in the 1970s. It is dedicated to Emperor Trajan and provided free water to the people.

The pool of the fountain is surrounded by statues of Greek Gods Dionysus, Satyr, Aphrodite and the family of the Emperor. The statue of the Emperor is placed in the center of the façade overlooking the pool.

Temple of Hadrian

Ephesus Open-Air Museum

Hadrian was one of the most beloved emperors, the successor of Trajan. He was one of the Five GoodEmperors of Rome. His temple is small but well preserved. Four Corinthian columns support its façade.

The temple features a statue of Medusa the mythological creature with snakes as hair that was freezing everything and everyone who would make eye contact with her.

Celsus Library

Ephesus Open-Air Museum

It was the second-largest library of its era and a very important university for Romans. It is a two-story building with Corinthian columns decorated with statues of the Greek Goddesses of wisdom science intelligence and vault.

Beneath its ground floor lies the tomb of Celsus governor of Asia. The front wall has four main statues with written inscriptions in Greek. It was also restored in the 1970s and shelves with books made of papyrus can still be seen today.

Commercial Agora Forum

It was the business center and the meeting point for governmental discussions in Ephesus. Excavations revealed that part of the agora was used as the necropolis of the city.

Large stores selling a variety of goods were open there ever morning until late afternoon. A temple dedicated to Isis was standing in the middle of Agora. It collapsed during the reign of Augustus and was not re-built again, as Emperor Augustus disliked anything Egyptian.

At the corner of Agora, there was a water reservoir which brought water to the city through the Pollio Aqueduct.

Grand Amphitheatre

Ephesus Open-Air Museum

A Hellenistic theatre that was remodeled many times by the Romans. It leans on a hill and has a capacity of 25000 spectators. The seats were divided into two parts. The lower for the wealthy and prestigious and the upper for the poorer.

All major events were taking place there from elections and important speeches to gladiator fights and Greek tragedies. Today it is under the preservation so some of its parts are closed.

Church of Mary

After years of exhalation in Patmos, John the evangelist returned a free man to Ephesus. During his last days, he also visited another six major cities to preach the gospel.

In the first chapter of Revelation, a letter to Ephesus is written and the church is warned not to lose its love to Christ and always follow its promises.

East Gymnasium

It was the place Ephesians used for exercise and bathing. There were three big baths placed in the center and surrounded by halls for physical exercise, games and strolling after the baths.

The statues that were found during excavations were dedicated to Gods like Asclepius, Hygeia, and Pan and are now Izmir Archaeology Museum

Basilica of St. John

It is very wide-reaching up to 160 meters in length. It was constructed in the typical Roman style with Ionic columns decorated with bulls heads on their top. The basilica can be found in the north part of the agora.

It served as a place for stock exchange even though some court cases were held there as well. It is also immediately connected to them through a stoa.

The statues which were part of the basilica are now displayed at the Ephesus Museum, located in Selcuk town, not very far from Ephesus.

Hydreon

It was installed at the intersection of Curetesstreet and Terrace house street. It served not only decorative purposes but for practical too since it’s water could be used to clean the streets and protect their marble from the heat.

Due to its shape, it is also believed that the Hydreon served as a nymphaeum, a temple dedicated to the Goddesses of. The fountain consists of four-column which supported statues of Ceasars of the city. T. Flavius Meander was the founder according to an inscription on the monument

Fountain of Pollio

The fountain was built by rich Ephesians and is located close to the agora and the odeon.water in all the fountain of the city was free of charge for people, while on summertime cool refreshments were offered as well. 

There were three sources distributing water for the Pollio Fountain. It is decorated with statues and an arch facing the temple of Domitian. All of the statues that were part of the fountain are now displayed in Ephesus Museum.

Terrace Houses

These were the house of rich Ephesians. There are six residential units on three terraces two of which are open to the public. All of these houses have a protective rooftop and an interior courtyard with an open ceiling.

The two-story houses also featured living room dining room bedrooms and bathrooms. Clay carried hot air through the houses to provide them with heat and hot water. There were no windows so the only light coming in the houses was from the open ceiling in the hall.

Hercules Gate

It is located onCuretes street and was named after the depiction of Hercules’ relief on its columns. Hercules was a greek semi God who wrestled and killed Nemea’s lion showcasing the strength of a real god. 

The gate blocked the entrance to vehicles since the street became pedestrianized in the fourth century and separated the upper part of the city from the lower.

Curetes Street

Ephesus Open-Air Museum

One of the three main streets in Ephesus. It was the road that led to the temple of Artemis and it took its name after the priest, who would walk the street to get to the temple.

This street many fountains and monuments. Some houses can also be found there which belonged to the rich in the area. Below that house, there were colonnaded galleries and shops.

Marble Road

Also known as the Sacred road of Ephesus. If was the main road of the city, therefore heavily trafficked. Its western part was enclosed by the commercial agora and its side was paved. Along the way, you would come across famous statues and craved messages from the Ceasar to the people to read.

One of tee most interesting carvings on the road is the first-ever advertisement. It depicts a woman a purse of money a left footprint library. It was an advertisement for Brothel and it can be translating as following: nearby you can find beautiful women who will give you affection as long as you don’t have money and you are not underage. Otherwise, you can always visit the library.