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What to See in Ephesus in One Day: Best Sights

Wondering what to see in Ephesus, Turkey?

We knew we couldn’t miss exploring it. We’d heard so much about it!

It’s the ancient city in Turkey where breezes carry the imagined laughter and chatter of Romans bartering with shopkeepers among centuries-old marble stalls.

Where the façade of the famous Celsus Library – which once housed up to 15,000 scrolls – is more magnificent and grander in scale than surmised from pictures.

Where blood-red poppies bloom among the ancient ruins…

And so we make plans for an Ephesus day tour to take in the best Ephesus sights.

Ephesus tour
The ancient city of Ephesus dates back to the 10th century BC

Ephesus day tour

For pick-up from Kusadasi, Selcuk or the cruise port, you might like this top-rated small group tour of Ephesus. It includes a visit to the House of the Virgin Mary.

We take a day trip from Bodrum to tour the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site today.

Why, you might ask, do we drive from Bodrum to visit Ephesus?


Gazing at the Library of Celsus, Ephesus
Gazing at the magnificent Library of Celsus on our Ephesus tour

On this trip to Turkey, we want to limit our bases to three – Istanbul (and its mosques and palaces), Cappadocia (and its underground cave cities and rock-cut churches) and the seaside resort of Bodrum.

But Ephesus is a must-see place in Turkey as well.

Visiting the well-preserved ruins of Ephesus is one of the best things to do in Turkey
Visiting the well-preserved ruins of Ephesus is one of the best things to do in Turkey

And it turns out that Ephesus is quite easy to visit on a day trip from Bodrum.

It helps that we’re on a private tour booked with Vanguard Travel Services, one of Turkey’s top travel agencies. Throughout our trip, they seamlessly arrange our airport/hotel transfers and tours.

The beautiful ancient city of Ephesus is a major Turkey tourist attraction
The beautiful ancient city of Ephesus is a major Turkey tourist attraction

The two-hour scenic drive from Bodrum to Ephesus winds past mountains and rolling hills, blanketed with forests of pine and wild olive trees.

What to see in Ephesus

Upon arriving in Ephesus, we meander down the all-marble Curetes Street.

Terrace houses:

We detour off at the terrace houses, where wealthy Roman families once lived.

And they lived well!

Frescoes on a terrace house at Ephesus

The two-story houses had interior courtyards, mosaic tile floors and beautifully painted wall frescoes.

Clay pipes beneath the floors carried hot air for heating.

We pause to watch archaeologists piece together the largest jigsaw puzzle in the world – recreating the rooms from marble pieces of floors and walls.

Restoring the terrace houses is painstaking work

Other must-see Ephesus ruins:

Moving on, our guide Suzanne points out the prostitute’s footprint embedded in a street slab, which pointed the way to her house.

She also shows us the public marble toilets.

Ephesus toilets
Doing business in public! People had to pay in ancient times to use these public toilets

Library of Celsus:

But the most striking structure in Ephesus is the ornate Celsus Library façade.

The library was built between 110 and 135 AD in memory of a book-loving Roman senator.

Today, tourists clamber up the steps to have their photos taken beneath copies of the original four statues representing wisdom, knowledge, intelligence and virtue.

The Library of Celsus is the most famous of the Ephesus ruins
The Library of Celsus is the most famous of the Ephesus ruins

Where to eat in Ephesus

Hot and hungry after exploring Ephesus, Suzanne suggests we eat lunch at Bizim Ev Hanimeli.

From its humble start in 1992 as a simple tea garden, this wonderful restaurant has grown in scale as “Mama’s” reputation in the kitchen has spread – earning rave reviews as one of the best restaurants in Selcuk (a nearby town).

Treat yourself to lunch at Bizim Ev Hanimeli – the Turkish food is amazing!

Cansu Tucker, the daughter of the owner, has since created a cookbook for guests to recreate Turkish dishes back home.

We help ourselves to a buffet spread of some 30 different dishes – from yogurt-and-cucumber spreads, to stuffed zucchini blossoms, dolmades and meatballs, to Mama’s famous creamy grated carrot dish.

All dishes were made fresh, earlier in the day, under Mama’s supervision.

Stuffed peppers – just one of the culinary treats at Bizim Ev Hanimeli

Seated outside in the tree-shaded garden by a tinkling fountain, we eat in companionable silence – and reflect on the marvel that is Ephesus.

Where to stay in Ephesus?

In Selcuck, very close to the Ephesus ruins, the top-rated boutique Akanthus Hotel Ephesus boasts a welcome pool and garden.

Experience more of Turkey!

Turkey trip planning | Check out the perfect 2-week Turkey itinerary (for a luxury trip).

Istanbul | See the top hammams in Istanbul (for luxury lovers) and the best boutique hotels in Istanbul (from hip to historic).

Bodrum | The best luxury hotels in Bodrum include the glam Macakizi and the art-filled Casa Dell’Arte.

Cappadocia | You must go hot air ballooning in Cappadocia. Stay at the fairytale Esbelli Evi cave hotel.

Our top travel tips and resources

Here are our favorite travel resources:

Hotels: is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out GetYourGuide and Viator.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, with coverage for more than 150 activities, as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.

Vaccines and meds: We follow CDC travel guidelines to see what medications and vaccines are needed for trips. You can get vaccines at your pharmacy, travel medical clinic or doctor’s office.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

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What to see in Ephesus, Turkey? Well, exploring the ancient city is one of the best things to do in Turkey. Don't miss the terrace houses, the Library of Celsus and the public toilets.
Things to see in Ephesus

Photo credits: © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase (except 11 and 12, courtesy Bizim Ev Hanimeli).

We toured Ephesus as guests of Vanguard Travel Services – but all views and words here our own.

About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!


Wednesday 9th of April 2014

I love Hatice's food too!

Janice and George

Wednesday 9th of April 2014

We're getting hungry remembering the spread she puts on! The restaurant really is a gem...