Priene, Aristotle’s ideal city and a wonderful day out!

Priene is an ancient city located between Lake Bafa or Didim and the Dilek Peninsula. It’s a beautiful place to visit, and usually not too crowded — a perfect place to combine with a stop at Eski Doğanbey.

Priene Temple of Athena

Priene Temple of Athena

A little bit of history

The ruins at Priene may not be on top of many Turkey traveler’s lists; they are a fascinating source of information for anyone interested in city planning. Priene’s ruins have been studied all over the world, as they provide an unparalleled insight into what Hellenistic model city planning looked like. This city has been rebuilt from scratch in its current location at around 350BC. It was previously a harbor city that was no longer connected to the sea, due to the silting of the Büyük Menderes River Delta. The city plan follows the principle of the planning used by Hippodamus of Miletus. It is said that Aristotle himself thought of this system as being the ultimate plan for the ideal city. So, what if your primary interest isn’t city planning? Not to worry, Priene remains a fascinating place to visit for us humans who merely like to enjoy the peaceful setting and the spectacular ruins.

A Different Perspective

A Different Perspective

Inside The Episcopal Church

Inside The Episcopal Church

The Priene ruins consist of four terraces with an orderly grid plan facing the river valley, located on a slope of Mykale Mountain. These must be the densest ruins we’ve ever visited, probably because the enormous amount of buildings, public houses, and temples were built on relatively small and challenging terrain. To give you a good idea of what this revolutionary city planning looked like, we’ve embedded a virtual walk-through of Priene, courtesy of the Foundation of the Hellenic World ©.

Priene today

If you visit Priene, you’ll see that most of the remaining ruins are visible on the second and third terrace of the city. And while plenty of buildings may have fallen to pieces, the original layout of the town is still evident. The ruins that are still standing are fascinating, and in between, it’s serenity at its best! The second terrace used the be the city center, with a marvelous square Bouleuterion, and the Agora as the main landmarks. While the Bouleuterion may look rather small, it had a seating capacity of 640 people. It is one of the best-preserved structures in Priene today. Past the Agora the West Street is fully preserved and features a substantial central drain.

Square Shaped Bouleuterion

Square Shaped Bouleuterion

West Street With Central Drain

West Street With Central Drain

You’ll find the most photographed ruins of Priene on the third terrace where the temple of Athena Polias is located, as well as the upper gymnasium, the Episcopal Church and the Theater. Alexander the Great paid for the Athena Temple, and during restoration works in the past century, five of the 66 columns were reconstructed, providing an impressive sight.

Temple Of Athena With Mykale Mountain As A Backdrop

Temple Of Athena With Mykale Mountain As A Backdrop

Pillars At The Athena Temple And The Büyük Menderes Valley Below

Pillars At The Athena Temple And The Büyük Menderes Valley Below

The Theater at Priene looks very well-preserved, although research indicates that there used to be 50 seating rows for up to 5.000 people. Nowadays, only the lower rows are still visible. Still, the Theater is a beautiful example of Hellenistic architecture and also showcases some individual seats with backrests for prominent citizens.

Priene Theater

Priene Theater

Detail Of The Honorary Guest Seats At The Theater

Detail Of The Honorary Guest Seats At The Theater

Practical information for your Priene visit

Priene lies close to the village of Güllübahçe, which is a small and pretty Turkish village where you’ll also find restaurants and even a bed for the night. Priene can be visited daily after paying a small entrance fee. The ruins are accessible from 8:30 am all year, closing at 7:30 pm from April to October and at 5:00 pm the rest of the year. The paths are well way-marked, and you’ll find information boards near most of the ruins. As the ruins are located on a rather steep hill, it is wise to wear good walking shoes and bring protection against the sun, as well as food and plenty of drinking water.

You reach Priene by car following direction Söke after leaving the İzmir-Aydın main road. Then drive on to Güllübahçe by following the brown signs to Priene. If you’re relying on public transport, check public transport to Priene options here. This is a perfect day trip from Kuşadası, Didim, or Bodrum. Combine it with lovely Eski Doğanbey and a visit to the Aziz Nikolaos Church in Güllübahçe.

Woud you like to visit the area with a local guide? It’s great way to have a guided tour while enjoying a more personal aproach. Check out local guides for tours to Priene and surroundings here.

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