Edirne, 235 km (146 miles) west of Istanbul on the borders with Greece and Bulgaria (map), is a pleasant, historic city seldom visited by tourists even though it’s an easy day-trip west of Istanbul.
I guess it’s just in the wrong direction: from Istanbul, most of Turkey is east and south, so no one thinks of going west.
Edirne (eh-DEER-neh, pop. 130,000; formerly Adrianople) has wonderful mosques because it was the second capital of the Ottoman Empire (after Bursa, before Istanbul).
Spend the morning seeing the fine mosques in representing the great ages of Ottoman architecture: the Eski (1418), Muradiye(1436), Üçşerefeli (1447), Beyazıt II (1488) and the elegant Selimiye (1575).
It also boasts the Great Synagogue, dedicated in 1909 in the city’s Jewish quarter as the largest Jewish house of worship in the Balkans. Abandoned in 1983 for lack of worshippers, it was derelict until the 2010s when the Turkish government invested US$2.2 million in its restoration. It reopened for worship on March 26, 2015. (Here’s more on Jewish life and culture in Turkey.)
Wander through Edirne’s old Roman district admiring the picturesque wooden Edirnekâri (“Ottoman Victorian”) houses.
Walk down to the Meriç (Maritza) River to see the graceful Ottoman stone bridges. Have tea or a meal in a shady riverside restaurant.
Browse the bazaar and covered markets, then hop one of the very frequent buses back to Istanbul, and you’ll have enjoyed one of your most pleasant days in Turkey, with few other tourists around.
If you visit in June or July, check on the dates for the annual Kırkpınar Oiled Wrestling Tournament, a quintessential Edirne sporting event. More…
Edirne’s tourist office (turizm bürosu) is on Hürriyet Meydanı, the main square, near the town’s main intersection of Talat Paşa Caddesi and Saraçlar/Hükümet Caddesi.
Take a morning bus from Istanbul‘s Büyük Otogar (bus terminal)on the 3-1/2-hour run westward along the E-80 Otoyol(expressway) to Edirne. Buses depart for Edirne about every 15 or 20 minutes all day, from breakfast to dinner time.
—by Tom Brosnahan
Distances & Travel Times
Çanakkale: 230 km (143), 4 hours
Gallipoli: 220 km (137 miles) S, 3.5 hours
Istanbul: 235 km (146 miles), 2-1/2 hours
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