İznik (Nicaea), Turkey Guide

Last Updated on June 22, 2024

Ancient Nicaea, now called İznik, is a farming town surrounded by massive medieval walls set on the shore of a broad lake 63 km (39 miles) southeast of Yalova (map).

Two Christian ecumenical councils were held here, the 1st in 325, and the 7th in 787.

The Hagia Sophia Church right at the city center was the scene of the 7th council.

In 1331, Orhan Gazi had it converted to a mosque. In the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the sultan's great architect, Mimar Sinan, made some additions and modifications to improve its function as a house of worship.

Badly ruined sometime thereafter (perhaps by earthquakes), it was restored to its former shape beginning in 2007, and re-opened as a mosque in November 2011, which means you can now enter and get a good idea of the building's earlier Byzantine form.

İznik's Green Mosque (Yeşil Cami) is a fine Seljuk Turkish-influenced work. Across the street is an Ottoman imaret (soup kitchen) that now houses the city's good museum.

In 2014 the remains of a 1,600-year-old Byzantine basilica were discovered a short distance offshore in İznik Lake. Constructed in the 330s in honor of St. Neophytos, who was martyred on this spot by the Romans, the church was destroyed by an earthquake in 740 AD/CE. Preservation efforts now underway will lead to its preservation as an underwater museum.

On the outskirts of the town is a rare Byzantineunderground tomb (Yeraltı Mezar).Transport

The best way to see İznik is on the way from Istanbul to Bursa (map). Take a fast catamaran ferry in the morning from Istanbul's Yenikapı ferry terminal across the Sea of Marmara to Yalova, then a bus or minibus to İznik (they wait right at the ferry dock in Yalova), and after seeing the walls, mosques and churches of İznik, take a minibus to Bursa andstay overnight.

Distances & Travel Times

Bursa: 67 km (42 miles) SW, 1.5 hours

Istanbul: fast ferry to/from Yalova (1 hr); otherwise, 248 km (154 miles) NW, 4 hours, by road via Sakarya (Adapazarı) and Kocaeli (İzmit).

Söğüt: 72 km (45 miles) SE, 1.5 hours

Yalova: 60 km (37 miles) NW, 1 hour

—by Tom Brosnahan

Istanbul - Yalova Ferryboats

Sea of Marmara Ferryboats

About Bursa

Bursa Transport

Sea of Marmara Region

Maps of Thrace & Marmara

Where to Go

Seljuk Turkish Empire

Ottoman Empire

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