Edirne, the city old at the same time, has a community cultural wealth which is preserving an array and rich tradition of arts, architecture, heritage, rich history, and great food. Taking a trip to the must-visit attractions in Edirne from Istanbul allows travellers to see some of the Turkish Republic’s recent period.
Before we get into the must-visit attractions in Edirne to see, let us tell you about its history!
This fascinating city was historically known as Adrianople, or “City of Hadrian”, named after the Roman emperor who founded the city on the site of Uskudama, a lovely thricin village.
And later, the city became the capital Ottoman Empire from 1369 until 1453. The Ottoman Empire was one of the mightiest and long-lasting dynasties in world history.
Even after it served as a semi-capital city and was a favourite among many sultans.
The imperial past is what makes Edirne exciting and blessed, from huge Ottoman imperial building stock to neoclassical architecture of downtown shops, a unique culinary heritage to the much eye-witnessing sense of civic grandeur.
You will see a prosperous city with commerce centered around textiles, silk and agriculture.
It just takes a drive of two and a half hour to reach Edirne comprises a short-day trip away from Istanbul to the northwest of Turkey, on the brink of the borders of Greece and Bulgaria; Edirne offers a city break in the country of Turkey and feels like a trip to and of itself. It is an enthralling city that’s worth seeing.
A gateway to Asia with a pint of European flavour in it, you’ll get to discover and witness the extraordinary architecture and rich local cuisine.
You won’t believe it at once, but yes, Edirne is additionally referred to as “The City of Festivals”; it is a beguiling destination for one who wants to celebrate and engage in traditional festivals. Some of the most entertaining festivals that you won’t miss are Kirkpinar oil-wrestling festival, Band and liver festival, and welcoming spring festival, when locals party on the banks of the Tunca and Meriç Rivers.
You’ll find a diverse range of cultural diversity in this modern city where people who love to enjoy are living their life to the fullest. Check out the top recommendations for visitors about places and must-visit attractions in Edirne to see in this former capital of the Ottoman Empire.
8 Must-Visit Attractions In Edirne
As a gate of Anatolia to the Balkans and Europe, Edirne is also known as the City of Sultan, famous for its historical mosques, domes, and minarets. From a Turkish capital to a modern treasure, Edirne is full of rich history and cultural thrill. The city was the capital of the Ottoman Empire; it is decorated with historical monuments such as domes, mosques, bridges, and bazaars. In these works, you can see traces of the city's significant heritage that continues to exude its former glory.
It's hard to list the "must-see attractions in Edirne" in such an incredible city, so we'll just give you an overview of the 8 spectacular sights, and the rest is yours.
Visit the magnificent Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex (Muhteşem Selimiye Camii ve Külliyesini ziyaret edin)
The mosque that overlooks and dominates the city skyline was built between 1568 and 1574; the Selimiye Mosque is the greatest masterpiece of Ottoman-Turkish architecture and is one of the must-visit attractions in Edirne. A grandiose artwork by Sinan with the order of Sultan Selim II, the 16th-century Ottoman architect, Selimiye Mosque is generally regarded as the zenith of Ottoman architecture.
And it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. A masterpiece of Turkish art by Sinan and of world architectural history, Selimiye Mosque is visible from all over the city with its monument dome and four delicate minarets.
Sinan, the chief Ottoman architect himself, considered this mosque as the best of his works and claimed it as an architectural reference to another historical mosque in Edirne. To allow natural light to enter the mosque, there are 999 windows in total, and according to the architect, it also symbolizes the perfectness of God. The vanity of the mosque makes you wonder how they did it during these times.
While the mosque and the Sinan have many secrets and wonders, the “inverted tulip” pattern is certainly one of the most exciting and mysterious details of these two. According to myth, in the area where the mosque was to be built, a lone tulip farmer was going about his business. Because it was a direct order from the sultan, there was no possibility of refusing it, and the owner reluctantly accepted it and sold his garden. And this reverse tulip pattern symbolizes the landlord.
Old Mosque (Eski Cami)
The Eski Mosque (tr. Eski Camii) is one of the fascinating historical buildings in Edirne, which survives until today. It is the oldest of the Sultan’s three mosques in the city centre. The construction of this was a classic example of the multi-domed mosques that started in 1403 and completed in 1414.
Also, unlike most Ottoman imperial mosques that are usually covered by a huge dome, this mosque was built with nine smaller ones. It does not make such a grand impression as Selimiye Mosque but is known for its calligraphic inscriptions on the interior walls with a small central dome at the top.
Burmese Mosque: The Three Balconies (Üç Şerefeli Cami)
Most visitors come to Edirne with only one thought in mind: to see the famous Selimiye Mosque, built by Mimar Sinan and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, another magnificent example of Ottoman architecture in the city is the Üç Şerefeli mosque. The name of this building means “the mosque with three balconies”. It reflects one of the characteristic features of the mosque: one of its four minarets is decorated with three small balconies.
When you visit the Üç Şerefeli Mosque, it is worth remembering that after its construction, it was the most magnificent mosque in Edirne and at the same time the greatest architectural achievement of the Ottoman architects for the conquest of Constantinople. Both its size and unique construction solutions made the mosque an excellent predecessor to the great imperial mosque.
The Üç Şerefeli mosque, located in the four corners of the courtyard, has four minarets of different heights. The tallest of these minarets, in the southern corner, is 67 meters high. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest minaret in the Ottoman Empire. It is decorated with a pattern of white and red stones, arranged in a zigzag. This minaret has three balconies that gave name to the whole of the mosque. The north minaret has two balconies, and the other two minarets each have a balcony. They are decorated with spiral, diamond, and zigzag motifs.
The interior of the mosque is extensively renovated, with a central dome decorated in bright colours, each with a smaller surrounding dome of different sizes and a different colour pattern, supported by very majestic columns. Perhaps the overall experience of this colourful mosque is a “joyous” summary.
Museum of Archaeology
Atatürk opened the first museum in Edirne under the name Archaeological Museum in 1925. It was built together with the Selimiye Mosque between 1569 and 1575 in the courtyard of the Selimiye Mosque and is the work of Mimar Sinan. And the modern museum containing parts of archaeology and ethnography was opened in 1971. The Department of Archeology is classified as fossils, coins, stonework, metals, bones, and terracotta artefacts.
The knight represents a Thracian knight highly specialized in martial arts and horsemanship and who was a posthumous god after his death is displayed in showcases belonging to Thracian cultural collections. Tombstones found in the excavations of Hacılar Dolmen, Arpalık Dolmen, and Taşlıca Bayır Tumulus are shown in the display cases with their names. One of the most exciting parts of the museum is the exhibition, which features female boiled ground guns, interesting in terms of displaying female hairstyles from ancient times to the present day.
Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum
Founded in 1925 by Dr. Rifat Osman, it has a small Medrese Hadith school building on the northeast side of the Selimiye Mosque; the Edirne Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art offers many collections of Ottoman old artefacts. The collections include calligraphy, glassworks, woodworks, ceramics, weaponry, ornaments, and intricate costumes of the Ottoman era and period. Some of the rooms feature mannequins in ethnographic-style displays. The Tekke Works Room is equipped with Dervish Qurans, prayer rugs, and musical instruments.
Don’t forget to visit Saraçlar Caddesi on your trip to Edirne. It’s a pedestrianized shopping street with nice sidewalk cafes. The old commercial building on this street has a decidedly neoclassical architecture. You’ll always find this place alive and kicking to entertaining rhythmic Turkish music instruments. And each passing year, Turkey’s Edirne welcomes spring with colourful celebrations with the Edirne Band and Liver Festival, which takes place on Saraçlar Street. This will be a three-day festival in Edirne celebrating brass band music and the thinly sliced savoury fried liver dish the region is famous for.
Ottoman bridges of Edirne
It never happens that Ottoman Bridges don’t stick to a travellers’ mind while talking and planning about a trip to Edirne. The place near Istanbul has a small collection of historical ottoman bridges. Surrounded by the rivers of Arda, Tunca, Meriç, and Ergene, the city’s bridges are also the witnesses of a great historical heritage. Gazimihal (Hamidiye), Uzunköprü, Saraçhane, II. Bayezit, Fatih (Bönce), Yıldırım, Saray, Yalnızgöz (Tekgöz), Tunca and Meriç (Mecidiye) bridges must have been seen during a visit to Edirne.
Great Synagogue of Edirne
The Great Synagogue of Edirne (Jewish or Samaritan house of worship) reopened and restored in 2016 after 36 years of closure. It’s Europe’s third-largest temple and the largest in Turkey. It used to be the enclave for one of the most significant Sephardic Jews communities of more than 20,000 people of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1983, the Synagogue was abandoned after most of the Jewish community left the city, emigrating to Israel, Europe, or North America. The five-year restoration project of the Great Synagogue cost around US$2.5 million. The Synagogue was built in 1906 to restore 13 smaller Samaritan houses ruined in the Great Fire of Edirne in 1903, the elegant and graceful building highlights a skillfully hued arched roof and exquisitely tiled floors.
Also see in Edirne
- Ali Paşa Bazaar
- Üç Şerefeli Mosque
- Sokollu, Tahtakale, Mezit Bey, Beylerbeyi and Gazi Mihal hamams
- Ahmet Paşa Caravanserai
- The Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival
- Yıldırım Bayezit Mosque
- Muradiye Mosque
- Bayezit Complex
- Sweti Georgi Church
- Konstantin-Helena Church
- Edirne Synagogue
- Italian Catholic Church
- Enez Ancient City
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The city can be accessed from Istanbul (230 km) using Motorway 0-3 (E80), from Sofia/Plovdiv via Motorway A4 (E80) and from Greece via Road E83. It is not very touristy and you can experience a different side of Turkey which you won’t see in more touristy cities like Istanbul, Izmir and Antalya etc.