Edirne in 1 Day – Top Things to do and Top things to see

Edirne in 1 Day – Top Things to do and Top things to see

Edirne- Introduction

Finally, we are in Edirne. One of the major cities in Turkey, the capital of the Ottoman Empires once upon a time. This will be one of the posts outside of Istanbul and we are pretty excited.

We are sure that you are generally looking for things to do, but we will combine these spots with the best information. You know, it is always better to read something before going to somewhere and we hope you will learn a lot with this post.

Edirne- Fatih Sultan Mehmet
Sultan Mehmed- the Conqueror and Selimiye Mosque

Importance of Edirne

Edirne is also known as Adrianople in history was always important in the old times. It was always considered to be the opening gate to Europe and currently close to the boundaries between Greece and Bulgaria.

Moreover, empires such as Bulgaria, Russia, and the Ottomans always saw the city as a major one due to its geopolitical location.

Before capturing Constantinople, it served as the capital of the Ottomans.

One more clarification may be needed at this point. When Ottomans started expanding the empires’ boundaries, the empire was grown both in the Balkans to Europe and Anatolia in parallel. So, the conquest of Edirne or Adrianople and the Thrace region was one of the first steps before conquering Constantinople and it is easily seen that the city was almost trapped by these regions.

History

As will be seen, the city had a lot of important historical events, such as wars, which stopped Edirne’s improvement. In the meantime, the city has never totally lost its popularity and importance. [1, 2, 3, 4]

Different periods of Edirne

Edirne itself has been so important over the years. It is thought that the first settlements started with Thracian tribes. Before BC and first years of AC, the city was ruled by different authorities such as Macedonians and Thracians and then the Roman Empire took control.

Hadrian- Roman Emperor ordered to construct new buildings in the town (also known as Uscudama). In the 4th century, the Romans were beaten by the Goths and in the 6th century, the Avars besieged Edirne.

After so many years, the Bulgarians took control and there were battles between Bulgarians and Crusaders.

Between 1360 to 1370 (there are different years stated in different sources, so it is best to put a range here), the Ottomans captured the town and started to construct a garrison here. The Ottomans had an interregnum period after Ankara War, so the city was stable in this period. But after this period, during Sultan Mehmed I and Sultan Murad II periods, the city gained its importance back.

Till 1453, it served as the capital till Constantinople’s conquests. But, the city never lost the popularity and even some of the Ottoman emperors stayed in the town in the following centuries.

After the 19th century, the Ottomans lost the power and Russian troops ruled the town in 1829 and 1877-1878.

Bulgarians captured the city at the Balkan War in 1913, but Turks re-took control in the same year. After World War I, Greeks occupied the city for two years, but it was recaptured during the Independence War. After the Lausanne, it was decided as a Turkish city and it has been formed as the boundary between Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

What does Edirne mean?

Edirne in Turkish and modern name of the city has been driven by the Greek name Adrianople. Adrianople comes from Hadrianapolis- Hadrian’s city who was the Roman Emperor and the city was made more important.

Where is Edirne?

Edirne is in the Thrace region of Turkey. Check the map below to see the location. Please note that you can move to Greece and Bulgaria side by train and bus options.

How far from Istanbul?

Depending on your location and traffic jam in Istanbul, the distance and time will change but we can say that it is around 250 kilometers (~160 miles) and it will take approximately 2.5 to 3 hours to go to Edirne.

How to get to Edirne from Istanbul?

The best option is to have a private car since it allows us to be more flexible in the city. If you don’t want to rent a car, you can consider going to Edirne by bus. Unfortunately, the train option from Halkali looks not so good compared to the bus option because of train timings.

Is there an airport near Edirne?

There is no airport in Edirne. The nearest airport is Corlu Airport which is around 150 kilometers (~95 miles).  But, please note that this airport is domestic. You may have to use one of the airports in Istanbul and the one on the European side is closer to Edirne.

Top 10 things to do in Edirne

1 full day would be enough to cover top 10 things below.

1- Selimiye Mosque

Visiting Selimiye Mosque is the top thing to do in Edirne. Since we have a good background about the mosques in Istanbul and other cities, it was easy to compare with other mosques. But, Architect Sinan was not wrong saying that this was his masterpiece. This mosque is simply splendid and more complex than Sinan’s other design- Suleymaniye Mosque based in Istanbul. The period is the Ottoman’s peak of powerful years, so this mosque definitely represents power.

Dedicated to Sultan Selim II- the emperor couldn’t see the opening because of his death. The construction began in 1568 and it was opened for praying in 1575 even that was decided to be opened in 1574, however, this was postponed due to Sultan Selim II’s death.

There are some stories on many resources about Sultan Selim’s order for constructing a mosque in Edirne. These stories consist of Selim’s sympathy to Edirne, there was no need to make a big mosque in Istanbul however there was a need for Edirne and Selim’s dream about Cyprus conquest. But it is for sure this decision definitely made Edirne more civilized. Architect Sinan decided to make a mosque at the highest point of Edirne where it can be seen almost every spot and a big dome considering the diameter which is comparable to Hagia Sophia’s dome diameter with 31.3 meters.

There were some restorations in the old times due to lightning, earthquakes, sieges, etc.

The complex has been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.

References: [5,6,7,8]

Exterior

You can enter the complex from three different doors.

Like other imperial mosques, this mosque has been constructed as a complex. You know these mosques have been designed as a dynamic area consisting of a mosque for praying, madrasah, and school for educating people, bath, library, and Ottoman bazaar (arasta).

Four minarets are so thin and high, but with flutes, it is different than other great mosques. These minarets have three balconies (serefe).

In the courtyard, there is a marble ablution. The mosque has a rectangular plan.

Interior

When you enter the mosque, you may feel like this one is the best mosque in the world 🙂 The dome is too big and it is carried by eight pillars.

Edirne- Selimiye Mosque
The dome of the Selimiye Mosque

There are many windows in the mosque which provides a good ambiance in the mosque. Additionally, the tiles in the mosque are from Iznik- Turkey which is well-known about their tiles. You will see different tulip designs everywhere in the mosque. And, the pulpit (or minbar) and mihrab are too good.

Edirne Selimiye Mosque
Inside of the Selimiye Mosque

There is a rectangle platform in the center for the muezzin. And, the upside-down or reverse tulip was engraved on one of the pillars of this platform which tends to disappear day by day. On the other side, there is a Sultan’s lodge.

Reverse tulip
The upside-down tulip in the Selimiye Mosque

Last of all, the mosque is too clean and a great place for worship.

Note: Please do not confuse the location of the mosque. This one- Selimiye Mosque dedicated to Sultan Selim II is in Edirne, however, Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque dedicated to Sultan Selim I is located in Istanbul.

2- Eating liver

Edirne’s best and most popular local meal is fried liver also known as pan liver. Basically, it is cut too thin and being cooked in oil. We thought that it might be not so good due to this oil amount, however, we really feel good during the day. Additionally, the sides were also good. You can go to Aydin Tava Ciger which is in the center.

Best liver in Edirne
Liver- Aydin Tava Ciger

3- Visiting the mosques in the center

Before moving further, there is a phrase in Edirne. “Selimiye’s structure, the door of three balconied, old mosque’s writing”. This basically means.

  • Selimiye’s structure is fantastic.
  • The Three-balconied Mosque’s entrance door is fantastic.
  • And, the Old Mosque’s writings or calligraphies are fantastic.

After understanding this simple sentence, we believe it would be easier to understand the best features of these mosques 🙂

a. The Old Mosque

Another great mosque in Edirne… Please remember that “great mosque” refers to the oldest mosque in the city or the town that was conquered and it means “Ulu Camii” in Turkish.

The mosque construction could not be completed in a short period due to the interregnum period or age and it was started by Suleyman Celebi, resumed by Musa Celebi and completed by Mehmed Celebi. The sermon or khutbah on Fridays and eid still continue with old tradition- sermon with a sword.

Ulu Camii in Edirne
Inside of the Old Mosque

There are important things about this mosque such as Stone of Rukn-u Yemani which is a black stone from Q’aaba (let’s explore :)) and Haci Bayram Veli’s maqam.

There were many restorations back in the history and recent years.

b. The Three- balconied Mosque (Serefe in Turkish)

Also called Burman (burmali in Turkish) Mosque- three balconied mosque was commissioned by Sultan Murad II. It is worth mentioning that the mosques in Edirne are generally wider and more like a rectangle. So, this mosque represents this style a lot.

Three-balconied mosque
The Burmane Mosque

To move upper towards the balconies of the minaret having three serefes, there are different steps that were repeated by the Architect Sinan in the Selimiye Mosque. The door is pretty good and the dome has Turkish motifs and this mosque is also worth a visit.

4- Health museum (Sultan Bayezid II’s complex)

The health museum reflects the Ottoman’s health services. The complex contained darussifa served as a hospital and medicine madrasah served for education. Additionally, there were a soup-kitchen, a guest-house, and a mosque.

Around four centuries till the city was occupied by Russians in 1877-1878, it acted like healing all kinds of illnesses. But after taking the city back, it served only mentally ill people.

In the 1990s, the complex (except the mosque) has been transferred to the Trakya University and the complex has been transformed into a health museum.

Actually, the museum is very good with the added theatricality. This museum was awarded the European Council Museum Award in 2004, you can imagine its beauty.

Moreover, the courtyards are good where you can feel a fresh environment.

It is around 3 kilometers (2 miles) to the center, we would recommend you to catch a taxi.

5- Hanging around Meric River

Meric River is one of the biggest rivers in the Balkans and both parts of Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece. The river also has a big mission. It lines the big portions of the boundaries between Turkey and Greece.

The bridge in Edirne
Meric River and Bridge

After taking a look at the city center and other attractions, it is a good idea to relax around this river and Meric bridge. There are good cafes where you can drink Turkish coffee and Turkish tea. You may find Turkish delight if you are lucky enough as a side of Turkish coffee 🙂

6- Visiting old bazaars

We are not so impressed with the bazaars in Edirne after seeing Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar in Istanbul. But, you can take look to Ali Pasha Bazaar which is in the center. There are good handiworks that you can prefer to buy.

7- The Grand Synagogue

The Grand Synagogue is an important figure in Edirne. This synagogue has been renovated around five years and re-opened in 2015.

After the great fire in 1905, all synagogues were affected and this big synagogue has been constructed. This one is the biggest and one of the biggest synagogues in Europe.

The biggest synagogue in Turkey
The Grand Synagogue in Edirne

Going back to the story of the Jewish community in Edirne, the immigrants had been moved from different European countries such as Hungary, France, Portugal, and Italy. Edirne turned out to be one of the centers of the Jewish community. However, starting from Ottomans getting weaker in this region due to wars between Russia, Bulgaria, and Greece, so that the problems began for the community as well. They moved to Istanbul and different countries, right after these several wars including the Turkish Independence War.

Currently, there are almost no people over there from this community, but the synagogue looks very good and shiny after the restoration.

8- Macedonian (watch) tower

The tower is close to the three-balconied mosque. Over the years, it was named Macedonian tower, clock tower and fire tower. The walls had been constructed by Hadrian and you can see the ruins coming from Roman and Byzantine periods. Haci Izzet Pasha ordered to put wooden floors and clocks on it, thus people started calling the tower as a clock tower.

Macedonian tower

Unfortunately, this is not in good shape, but you can see the ruins over there without spending too much time.

9- Rustem Pasha’s caravanserai

Located in the center, this caravanserai has been commissioned by Rustem Pasha who was grand vizier of Sultan Suleyman- the Magnificient. Sinan was the architect of this structure. Designed as two sections and the building has two storey. Today, this caravanserai is being used as a hotel and some of the shops are looking to the street still active.

10- City Center

a. Edirne streets

Edirne streets look like generally crowded, but this is the best way to feel this city. So, don’t directly focus on the tourist attractions and take a look randomly to the shops.

b. Architect/Mimar Sinan’s monument, Edirne and Fatih’s monument

When you get closer to the Selimiye Mosque coming from the center, you will observe Edirne- as word, Sinan’s, and Fatih’s monuments right after it. This is a good place to take good photos. Don’t miss this one 🙂

Edirne as word and Selimiye Mosque in the background
Edirne and Selimiye Mosque

Bonus 1: Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival

Oil wrestling is very popular in Turkey and its capital is Edirne. It is held more than 650 years and listed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural  Heritage. This festival is around the end of June and the beginning of July, so you would consider when you arrange your trip to Edirne.

Bonus 2: Karaagac Train Station

This train station is around 5 kilometers (3 miles) to the center. It was constructed in the Ottomans period, but it could not be used by Turkey till the Treaty of Lausanne due to not finalizing boundaries.

It has been used till 1971, but after the new railway, the station became redundant. Nowadays, Trakya University uses the station as part of the university.

Other info worth mentioning about Edirne

Population of Edirne

Edirne’s population is around 415k and there is no major change recently if we compare with the old years [9, 10]. It can be said that a little bit static. There are some resources on the net talking about only center population (around 185k), this is the difference come from. Edirne has big districts such as Kesan and Uzunkopru.

Edirne or Bursa

It is a tough comparison. They are both historical and important cities in the Ottoman period and even before the Ottomans.

With good plans, you will not regret both of them. But, you may need more time for Bursa since it is slightly bigger and top locations are not compact enough like Edirne considering their locations.

Edirne- Religion

Edirne had a diverse structure back in the old times- especially during the Ottomans consisting of Greeks, Bulgarians, Turks and Armenians, and both Jewish, Christians, and Muslims. However, Balkan Wars, World War I, the collapse of the Ottomans, during and after the Independence War really changed this diverse population of the Thrace region. Many people moved to their countries or Istanbul after these major events.

Currently, there is no diverse distribution and mainly they are Muslims.

Beach near Edirne

There is no beach in the center of Edirne 🙂 So, you should drive or go to the Aegean side of the city. Erikli and Enez are good options. But, it will be at least around 150 kilometers (~95 miles) which means 1.5 to 2 hours.

Pronunciation of Edirne/ How to call Edirne?

While we were trying to find the best pronunciation, we saw that there were many wrong pronunciations on the net. But, this link looks like one of the best. Please check this one if you are looking for how to call Edirne? [11]

Best time to visit Edirne

Theoretically, Istanbul and Edirne are in the same region. However, Edirne has a more continental climate and slightly different weather compared to Istanbul. This means it has colder winters, hotter summers, less precipitation during the year, and a higher chance of snow.

But, the idea would be the same as we mentioned in our best time to visit Istanbul post. Please target spring and fall first like Istanbul. If you don’t have an option in these seasons, please see our month ranking in this post for Istanbul and keep in mind that for the best month.

Sports in Edirne

Unfortunately, the city does not have any major accomplishments recently considering football clubs and basketball clubs.

Nearby locations

The other districts except for the center, Kesan is a cool one. You can also go to Erikli or Enez and enjoy the sea. The Thrace region is also good, you will not regret Tekirdag or Kirklareli.

Things to be cautious in Edirne

We can’t say Edirne is not safe enough to be visited. But there are things we would recommend you to be cautious.

  • Some of the streets were too silent during night time.
  • Peddlers are trying to sell things with too much pressure.
    • We ended up buying two small things because of this behavior, somehow they don’t like to give up easily 🙂

Conclusion

It is a question mark whether visiting Edirne is a must-do activity in Turkey. People always think about going to the east of Istanbul is good, but it can also be good going to the west of Istanbul and Edirne may be a good option in the Thrace region.

So, our general consideration would be your timing in Turkey. If you only plan 3 days in Turkey and we would recommend you to spend all three days in Istanbul. But, for instance, if you have 15 days, we would recommend you to check Edirne with a single day trip. Since the city is compact, you can definitely cover all top things with a single day trip, but don’t be too late.

As a generic thing, Edirne as a city should definitely be improved. But, it looks like people in the Thrace region is happier with this cool life-style rather rushing for everything like Istanbul. The city is more-like Izmir, but we feel better with the dynamic style of Istanbul. Our personal opinion is that the city has the potential to be one of the greatest cities in Turkey due to its deep historical situation.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edirne
  2. https://www.britannica.com/place/Edirne
  3. https://islamansiklopedisi.org.tr/edirne
  4. https://ottomansouvenir.com/Capitals/Edirne.htm
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selimiye_Mosque,_Edirne
  6. https://islamansiklopedisi.org.tr/selimiye-camii-ve-kulliyesi–edirne
  7. https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1366/
  8. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/turkey/edirne/attractions/selimiye-mosque/a/poi-sig/1247707/360886
  9. https://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edirne_(il)
  10. https://www.nufusu.com/il/edirne-nufusu
  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd-lo9WFL98

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