Close up view of runis at Ephesus, Turkey

Ancient ruins in Ephesus, Turkey. (ThinkStock)

What to do in Ephesus

Ephesus, founded around 3000 B.C., rates as Turkey's most visited and best preserved archeological site. Typically the highlight of any trip to Turkey, Ephesus offers the visitor a sense of what life was like in ancient Rome. Even kids lukewarm to ruins find Ephesus' many structures and storied past fascinating, especially if touring with a knowledgeable guide.

The Lydians, Lycians, Ionians, Greeks, and Romans all passed through Ephesus. In its heyday, Ephesus, the second largest city in the Roman Empire, ranked as a prosperous port bustling with traders. Many of the important buildings that remain date to sixth-century Roman rule.

Is there a singer in your family? If so, test the amazing acoustics at the Great Theatre, built into the slopes of Mount Pion. Climb to the upper rows—stadium seating for 25,000—while your soloist remains at ground level. Your performer's notes will come across loud and clear. Check the schedule, as the Great Theater still hosts concerts.

Bring binoculars so your kids can get an up-close view of some of the famous buildings' details. The cover shot of Ephesus, the one you see on most brochures, is the Library of Celsus, a two-tiered building with pillars. Built as a tomb between 110 and 135 A.D., the structure originally had three levels, and its niches held papyrus rolls. The Temple of Hadrian, known for its decorations, features Corinthian columns, a bust of the city's protector, and statues of Apollo, Hercules, and other mythical figures.

Kids like the Baths of Scholastica because the many-roomed facility, built in the first century and enlarged in the fourth, makes the complicated Roman bathing ritual a reality. Bathers undressed in the apodyterium (dressing room), then soaked in the frigidarium (cold room) as well as the tepidarium (warm room), and then sweated in the caldarium (hot room). The public latrine with its row of side by side stone "toilets" always gets a giggle.

Walking along Curettes Way, lined with the remains of a colonnade that shaded pedestrians, it's easy to picture busy shoppers and along the Marble Road imagine chariots carrying the well-born.

Ephesus is located just outside Selçuk, which has the Ephesus Museum, a collection of statues, busts, and ceramics from the site. In Selçuk, as well as in Ku┼čadasi, about 14 miles away, you can book tours to Ephesus.

Tip: Enter at the Magnesia Gate, the Upper Gate, so that your walk is downhill. Leave through the lower gate. Especially in summer, arrive early as the noon-day sun can be unbearable.

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