Established as a port on the mouth of the River Cayster, the city was founded between 1,500 and 1000 BC. It went on to become the second largest city in the Roman Empire, a strategic trade route in Anatolia, and one of the greatest seaports in the ancient world. Once the most important commercial center of Western Anatolia and a religious center of early Christianity, today Ephesus is a unique tourist attraction located next to Selçuk, a small town 30 km from Kuşadası. The site hosts thousands of visitors each year.

The city was conquered by the Ancient Greeks after the Trojan War in the 11th –12th century BC. After occupying it and engaging with the natives, the Greeks established a city government and changed the name of the city to Ephesus. After the period of Alexander the Great, the city was moved from its place around a castle to the valley between the Bulbul and Panayir mountains. That city was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 17, and then rebuilt on the same site and enlarged by Roman Emperor Tiberius.

The extensive ruins include the Temple of Artemis, the Library of Celsus, the Gymnasium, the Agora, and the terrace houses.

Dedicated to the Goddess Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, the Temple of Artemis was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Alas, only the foundations and one column remain from the temple which once measured 425 feet long, 220 feet wide, and 60 feet high.

Originally built in 115–25 AD, the Library of Celsus was dedicated to Celsus, the proconsul of Asia. This restored facade is a highlight of the ruins today. The architectural structure reflects traditional Roman library architecture. The interior measures 70 by 80 feet and held approximately 15,000 scrolls.

Known as the “State Agora,” the market area measures 360 feet square. In the Hellenistic period, it was surrounded on all sides by arched shops. It was located next to the harbor and was the city’s main commercial center.

The huge theater, originally holding 25,000 spectators, was built in the Hellenistic period and later renovated by several Roman emperors. It was designed for theatrical performances and later, gladiatorial contests.

The terrace houses of wealthy Ephesians had luxury bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and a triclinium. Their frescoes and mosaics are certainly worth seeing. The houses were inhabited until the 7th century AD. Built against the mountain on the south side of Ephesus, the roof of each house forms the terrace for the house above it.

Ephesus is also a sacred site for Christians due to its association with several biblical figures, including St. Paul, St. John the Evangelist, and the Virgin Mary. The 3rd Ecumenical Council was held there in 431 AD.