Sea of Marmara, Turkey

Last Updated on April 1, 2024

The Marmara Sea is bordered to the north by the peninsula of Thrace, to the south by the peninsula of Anatolia (Asia Minor), and to the west by the peninsula of Gallipoli. It was once rich in fish (and still yields some), and the lands surrounding it are rich agricultural areas that produce sunflowers, wine, table grapes, grains, and fruits in abundance. It gets its romantic name, “Marble Sea,” from ancient marble quarries on Marble Island (Marmara Adası).

The Sea of Marmara has always had strategic importance because it is the major waterway linking the Black Sea, the Aegean, and the Mediterranean via the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. In fact, all three capitals of the Ottoman EmpireBursa, Edirne, and Istanbul—have always been strategically placed near the Marble Sea.

Moreover, Odysseus (Ulysses) and his comrades, Jason and the Argonauts, British World War I submarines, and countless other adventurers have sailed across the Marmara on their quests.

Today, the Marmara is one of Turkey's many maritime highways. Fast catamaran ferryboats zoom cars and passengers across it, connecting Istanbul‘s Yenikapı Feribot Terminalı and Kabataş docks with the cities of Yalova (for İznikBursa), Bursa's docks at Güzelyalı and Mudanya, and Bandırma (for ÇanakkaleBalıkesir, and İzmir. (map)

Here's where to go and what to see in the region:


Istanbul has been the capital of some of the most important civilizations in the world, including the Eastern Roman Empire (also known as the Byzantine Empire, 330–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). Due to its strategic location connecting Europe and Asia, Istanbul has been a crucial location throughout history. The city is rich in culture and history, offering plenty of opportunities for exploration and adventure.

Top Sights

Istanbul, which was formerly known as Constantinople, is a city that is renowned for its iconic history and culture. Due to the many sights and attractions that the city has to offer, it would be quite challenging to list them all in this article. We suggest that you visit our Istanbul page for more information.

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque: The Ayasofya-i Kebir Cami-i Şerifi was the biggest church of the Eastern Roman Empire in İstanbul prior to the Ottomans' conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The building now represents a blend of Islam and Christianity, featuring a mix of Christian and Muslim symbols, and also serves as a museum.

Topkapı Palace and Harem: Topkapı Palace was the first palace in Istanbul where real sultans lived, and Harem served as a section where the Sultan's wives resided and a sanctuary of education and refinement, where young women were taught courtly etiquette and manners. Today, it serves as a museum and library.

Basilica Cistern: Yerebatan Sarnıç is only one of the hundred different Byzantine cisterns lying beneath Istanbul. People used these cisterns to get fresh drinking water. You will not be disappointed to visit this amazing structure.


The first capital of the Ottoman Empire, Bursa, is a historic city perched on the slopes of Uludağ (2543 meters, 8343 feet). It is known as the capital of mosques in Turkey. Today, Bursa is noted for its beautiful early Ottoman mosquesroast lamb kebap, silk weaving, delicious fruits, camel-skin shadow puppets, and automobile factories. Adjoining Bursa to the west is Çekirge, noted for its hot mineral-water baths since Roman times.

Top Sights

Bursa has such a wide range of sites that we need to dedicate a separate page for the many sights in the city. Check our main Bursa page for more details.

Great Mosque (Ulu Camii): The Grand Mosque of Bursa was built between 1396 and 1399 by architect Ali Neccar and commissioned by Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I to commemorate his great victory at the Battle of Nicopolis. However, after the Sultan's defeat at the Battle of Ankara in 1402, the mosque was destroyed to the ground by Timur. Over the years, the mosque was repaired, and today, it stands as the second-largest mosque in Bursa.

Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı): Just next to the Grand Mosque, you can also visit the Grand Bazaar of Bursa. It is an ancient roofed bazaar where you can find different souvenirs to relish your trip to Bursa.

Bursa City Museum (Bursa Kent Müzesi): A moderate museum where you can see through the timeline of the city's long and rich history.

Irgandı Bridge (Irgandı Köprüsü): Irgandı Bridge is one of the oldest bridge markets in the world and Turkey's Ponte Vecchio of Florence. It is another perfect location to purchase souvenirs.

Tofaş Anatolian Car Museum: A good museum dedicated to the evolution of cars from horse-drawn cars to modern-day vehicles.

İnkaya Historical Plane Tree: İnkaya Tarihi Çınar ağacı is an over 600-year-old tree and Turkey's largest tree with a height of 37 meters and 13 main thick branches. People come here to sit at the cafe under the tree and enjoy a refreshing cup of Turkish tea or Turkish coffee.


Mudanya, this historic port town where, on October 11, 1922, an armistice was signed between Turkey and France, Italy, and Great Britain, Turkey's adversaries in World War I and the Turkish War of Independence, is now a ferry port for Bursa.

Top Sights

Dereköy Kilisesi: Built as a Greek Orthodox Church in 1857, Dereköy Church's remains still stand proudly today.

Panagia Pontobasilissa Church: Built in the 13th century, Kemerli Klise is believed to hold some of the oldest and most important frescos in the region.


Yalova on the southeastern shore, serves as the port for ferries to and from Istanbul, serving Bursa and İznik (Nicaea). A few kilometers south of Yalova are the hot mineral water baths of Termal, famous since Roman times.

Top Sights

Yalova Termal Kaplıcaları:Yalova Termal is a popular thermal resort, especially visited during winter. Enjoying the hot waters, hammams, and pools is truly delightful during the colder months.


Famed for the cannons in its fortress, which once kept enemy warships from passing through the Dardanelles, Çanakkale is now famous for the car ferries that cross from the Gallipoli peninsula, making it a prime travel nexus. It's also the best base for visits to the Gallipoli battlefields and the ruins of ancient Troy.

Top Sights

Trojan Horse (Truva Atı): Everybody knows the Troy horse, partly because of the legend and the 2004 movie "Troy," which starred Brad Pitt. After the shooting of the movie ended, the film crew gifted the giant horse to the Çanakkale, where you can still spot it today.

Canakkale Naval Museum: Çanakkale Deniz Müzesi is an open-air museum where you can see various historic sailing vessels, cannons, artifacts, and exhibits.

Çanakkale Ceramics Museum: Çanakkale Seramik Müzesi is a small museum located on a historic Turkish bath, offering beautiful ceramics for sale as souvenirs.

Gallipoli (Gelibolu)

Always of strategic importance, Gallipoli is famous for the terrible World War I battles between Allied and Ottoman troops. Today, the battlefields in Gelibolu are a national park and a poignant memorial to the half-million casualties and fatalities of the campaign.

Top Sights

Gallipoli War Museum: A small museum where you can see the artifacts and possessions of the soldiers.

1915 Çanakkale Bridge: This new bridge is the world's longest suspension bridge

Piri Reis Museum: Piri Reis was a legendary sea captain and cartographer who produced detailed maps of the Mediterranean in the Ottoman area. He was born in Gelibolu.


Edirne is a historic city seldom visited by tourists, even though it's an easy day trip west of Istanbul. Edirne has a good bazaar and many historic mosques, including the Selimiye, the masterwork of the Ottomans' finest architect, Mimar Sinan. It borders Greece and Bulgaria and was the capital of the Ottoman Empire for a while!

Top Sights

Selimiye Mosque: Selimiye Mosque is a masterpiece of Mimar Sinan, built between 1569 and 1575. It has a single large dome supported by eight pillars and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mosque boasts stunning calligraphy and geometrical designs in pink, claret red, and blue, which add to the architectural beauty of its marvel.

Üç Şerefeli Mosque: Üç Şerefeli Cami is a 15th-century mosque named after its three balconies, with great details and unique architecture. It is known for its minaret with a spiral design.

Old Mosque: Eski Ulu Cami was built in the 15th century. Small but impressive.

Macedonian Tower: A Roman watch tower built in Hadrianopolis under the reign of Emperor Hadrian. It is one of the few structures left from the Roman period in the city.

İznik (Nicaea)

Every Christian knows Nicaea (İznik) because of the Nicene Creed and the two important ecumenical councils held here in the years 325 and 787, but you should come to see its impressive Roman walls, historic mosques, a good little museum, beautiful Byzantine tombs, and pretty lakeside setting.

Top Sights

Iznik Hagia Sophia: Iznik's Hagia Sophia is definitely a must-see when visiting Iznik. The site where the Church of Hagia Sophia stands today was built on a prior church in 4 B.C. In the year 325 A.D., it hosted the First Council of Nicaea. The church underwent reconstruction sometime in the mid-6th century after a commission from Emperor Justinian I. Later on, in 787, the Second Council of Nicaea was held there, officially ending the first period of Byzantine Iconoclasm. After the fall of Nicaea to the Ottoman Turks, it was transformed into a mosque.

Basilica of Saint Neophytos: The underwater Byzantine Basilica of Saint Neophytos was found in Lake Iznik in 2014. This basilica was built on the shore of the lake where Saint Neophytos was killed and then submerged after an earthquake in AD 740.

Iznik Castle: The exact history of this mysterious castle and its walls is not exactly known, as they are interwoven with stones left by many civilizations that lived near Nicaea. However, İznik İstanbul Gate and İznik Lefke Gate are among the most prominent structures left of this ancient fortress.


Bandırma is a railhead and ferry dock town midway along the south shore. While the city has a long and rich history, it was destroyed and rebuilt during World War I. It is also the last place where the Ottomans and Greeks fought before signing the peace treaty in Mudanya. While the city is important to the people who live there, you'll probably just be passing through on the car/passenger ferry.

Top Sights

Bird Paradise National Park: If you ever wind up near the city during March-July or Sept-Oct, you can visit the Bird Paradise National Park (Kuşcenneti National Park, or Kuş Cenneti Milli Parkı), where you can see migratory birds.

Thrace and Dardanelles

The eastern part of the Thracian peninsula is the European portion of Turkey, holding historic Edirne (Adrianople), the Gallipoli peninsula, the Dardanelles(Hellespont) Strait, and lots of sunflower fields.

—by Tom Brosnahan




Maps of Thrace & Marmara

Sea of Marmara Ferries

Aegean (Western) Turkey

Where to Go

Turkey's Top Sights

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