Edirne (pronounced eh-deer-neh) is a city in Eastern Thrace, in northwest Turkey. It lies on the gently rolling Thracian plains (much of the city is fairly flat, though) and just east of confluence of Maritsa, Tundzha, and Arda Rivers, known in Turkish as Meriç, Tunca, and Arda, respectively.
This city can be your first or last destination in Turkey, depending on the direction of your itinerary, as it stands near a triple border with Bulgaria and Greece. Visiting this city is also feasible as a long day trip from Istanbul.
With the completion of the motorway from Kapıkule, the main border post of highways from Europe into Turkey, in early 1990s, the city lost much of its trade evolving around land-based travellers heading east and members of Turkish diaspora in Europe heading for their ancestral hometowns in their annual visits. Today most of tourism in the city takes place around daytrippers, Turkish and foreigner alike, from Istanbul and visitors from Balkan countries looking for cheap goods in the market.
The imperial past is what makes Edirne interesting, from huge Ottoman imperial complexes to neo-classical architecture of downtown shops, although at first sight, all you’ll see will be concrete apartment blocks when entering the city (and Selimiye Mosque right in front of you).
Local Tourism Department of Governmentphone: +90 284 225-30-29address: Talatpaşa Asfaltı 76
Tourism Information Officephone: +90 284 213-92-08address: Hürriyet Meydanı 17
HistoryEdirne’s former name is Adrianople (Hadrianopolis), i.e. “City of Hadrian”, named after the Roman emperor who founded the city on the site of Thracian village of Uskudama.
This area, thanks to its strategic position on the major routes towards Istanbul, the Bosphorus, and onward to Asia, has been heavily fought for, since the days of Ancient Greece—there were no fewer than 16 major battles and sieges "of Hadrianopolis" throughout history.
Then in 14th century, Ottomans captured the city and made it their capital, a situation which lasted until the Fall of Constantinople. Even after the dynasty moved to Constantinople in the mid-15th century, Edirne was one of, if not the most, important centres of the European part of the Ottoman Empire, which once extended all the way well into Hungary, and still was a semi-capital of the empire, with some sultans even favouring the city over Istanbul and mumbling (to no avail) about returning the throne back to the city. Between 1700 and 1750, Edirne was the fourth-biggest city in Europe, with an estimated population of about 350,000 people.
However, things dramatically changed with the beginning of 19th century, and the city suffered heavy depopulation in the context of Russo-Turkish wars of 1829 and 1878, when Russians occupied all the way to western suburbs of Istanbul; the Balkan Wars of late 19th/early 20th century; the loss of much of the hinterland and even outer suburbs to the north and west when international borders non-existent before (when all was part of Ottoman Empire) were created close to the city in 1910s and 20s; and the Second World War, when Nazi armies were only miles away from the city, just on the opposite banks of the rivers, and most of the population was evacuated into interior Turkey. Some of those who could not flee died of famine during this period. This depopulation trend slowed but continued until very recently, and the city is now home to barely 140,000 people. Although it is quite a lively city, especially compared to other Turkish cities of this size, all you see today is just a fraction of its former glory.
OrientationThe major streets of the city all fan out of the main square, which is surrounded by the three imperial mosques of Selimiye, Üç Şerefeli and Old Mosques — Talat Paşa Bulvarı lies towards the east, eventually turning into the highway to Istanbul, while Londra Asfaltı leads to the Bulgarian border at Kapıkule in the west, via the Gazi Mihal Bridge across the Tundzha. To the north, Hükümet Caddesi connects the city centre with the former palace neighbourhood in Sarayiçi and to the south lies the pedestrianized Saraçlar Caddesi, its extension lies on the edge of the old city and is open to vehicular traffic which eventually leads to Karaağaç across the Tundzha and Maritsa.
ClimateTemperate continental — hot and occasionally rainy (as showers which tend to last for 15–20 minutes) summers (expect up to 40ºC); cold and rainy, occasionally snowy winters (expect down to -10ºC). Spring and autumn months tend to be warmer than the locations on the sea coast (such as Istanbul)—so if day-tripping from a coastal place during those months, especially in May, drink plenty of water to avoid headaches due to dehydration—but winter arrives earlier (in November). Because Edirne lies in a geography that is the entering point of many weather systems from Balkans (Southeastern Europe) into Turkey, a good way of forecasting the weather conditions for the next few days is to follow what other Balkan cities such as Plovdiv, Bulgaria, is experiencing, as quite the same conditions will be what Edirne is experiencing within a two or three days time.
Due to cold and dry winds of winters, packing along some kind of skin moisturizer in addition to warm clothing is essential to avoid badly dried skin (which can go as far as bleeding in coldest days).
By planeOf the nearby airports, the most convenient is the Istanbul New Airport, which has direct flights from all inhabited continents.
By busEasiest way to reach to Edirne is by bus from Istanbul. Departures are at any time with a fare of some €10 and a trip of two hours, although stiff competition between the bus companies may sometimes result in fares as low as 10 TL per person. in Edirne is located way out of the city but public buses will take you to the city center.
There are no direct buses to Bulgaria. It is, however, possible to take a taxi to Kapikule on the Bulgarian border. From there one can sometimes wave over a bus traveling on to Plovdiv and Sofia. Another approach could be to walk across the border and take a bus or train from Kapitan Andreevo on the Bulgarian side of the border.
A single regional train per day leaves Kapikule, 18 km west at the Bulgarian border, around 07:00, stopping at Edirne at 07:30, and reaching Istanbul Halkali around 11:30. The return train leaves Halkali at 18:00, reaching Edirne around 22:00 and Kapikule by 22:30. Use the frequent Marmaray train between Halkali and Istanbul city centre. It's also possible to travel on the overnight train from Bucharest and Sofia, but this arrives at Edirne around 03:00, while the westbound service is around 01:30. These trains are operated by TCDD.
Optima Express runs a car-train from Villach in Austria to Edirne about twice a week April-November, taking 33 hours. Departure days vary. This train enables motorists to avoid the tricky, tiring roads through the Balkans; however it's also open for passengers without cars. Optima don't offer tickets from intermediate stations such as Zagreb. In addition to its obvious benefits for those wishing to take their own wheels from Central Europe to Turkey, it is also one of the cheaper ways to retrace the old Orient Express by train.
In June 2019, another train ran daytime between Plovdiv in Bulgaria and Edirne. It was meant to be a permanent service, but lasted for just one weekend then was cancelled! It's not known if it will ever resume - it created a useful extra route between Bulgaria and Turkey, avoiding arrival / departure in the small hours.
The main station is 4 km east of downtown, close to the main highway eastwards to Istanbul where international trains call. The regional train also calls at 1 km SW of the centre, on the edge of the old quarter (Kaleiçi) close to the banks of the River Tundzha.
Nearby , across the border in Greek Thrace has daily trains from Alexandroupolis with connections from Thessaloniki operated by TrainOSE.
By carThe city is on the main highways linking Turkey and Europe (road numbers: toll-free D100 and toll-road/motorway O-3/E80). A drive takes no more than two hours from Istanbul (224 km away) to Edirne on the motorway, even less if you drive very fast. The main European-Turkish border post Kapikule/Kapitan Andreevo (between Turkey and Bulgaria, SE of Svilengrad) is about 15-20 km away from the city, while less significant Pazarkule border post (between Turkey and Greece, north of Orestiada) is even nearer.
Almost entirety of Edirne is in walking distance, which is made even easier by the mostly flat topography of the city. However for some relatively distant places you may take taxi which will cost only a few euros.
There are also lots of minibuses heading for outer neighborhoods of the city.
DowntownMain sights in downtown are quite close to the main square and to each other, and can be (hastily) done in half a day.
Selimiye MosqueThat mosque which dominates the skyline of the city, built on a slightly higher hill than its surroundings, although a play on dimensions makes the exterior sight of the building smaller as you get closer to it. A grandiose piece of art by Mimar Sinan, the Ottoman architect of 16th century, Selimiye is usually considered the zenith of Ottoman architecture and has been listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2011. Sinan himself considered this building as his best work. The dome of the building, which hangs high over main hall, encloses a huge space which gives the place an expansive atmosphere, had the largest diameter (31.28 m) of all domes in the world for several centuries. And its minarets (towers) are the second highest minarets (70.89 m) in the world, surpassed only by Qutb Minar (72.50 m) in Delhi, India. The mosque has 999 windows, which according to its architect, Sinan, symbolize the perfectness of God, through the imperfectness of the mosque he designed. The dome and interior walls are decorated with calligraphy and geometrical designs, most of which are painted in hues of pink and blue. If you have admired Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque) of Istanbul, you’ll adore this one, since Blue Mosque is quite a copy of Selimiye. The upside down tulips, which are some sort of symbol of Edirne have their origin in a tulip illustration engraved on a marble in the fountain right under the central dome of Selimiye. It is believed to symbolize the landlord of the tulip garden on which the mosque was built, who was said to be reluctant to give over his garden.
Old MosqueThe smallest—and the oldest—one of three nearby, imperial mosques in downtown Edirne is known for its calligraphic inscriptions on its interior walls with a small central dome atop.
Üç Şerefeli MosqueThis mosque is easily recognizable, having four distinctive minarets that all have very different designs, uncommon during the 15th century, one of which has three balconies, giving it its name which literally means "three balconied". Long undergoing restoration, interior of the mosque, which features a colourfully decorated central dome, smaller surrounding domes of varying sizes each featuring a different colour pattern, and very stately columns supporting them, has recently been re-opened to visits. Visiting this colourful mosque is a joyful experience.
Macedonian TowerThe sole still intact tower of Edirne's city walls, named as such perhaps because it roughly watches the direction of Macedonia, or because of the former definition of "Macedonia" which extends all the way to Edirne. A round and robust tower, not unlike Thessaloniki's White Tower except its colour, and next to it is the last visible section of city walls, now surrounded by a nicely landscaped park. It is possible to enter the tower itself, but impossible to climb upstairs. It is located in a back alley, so while you are near the Üç Şerefeli, look around on the top of buildings to see the flag on a tower made of red-brick if you can't exactly locate it. The tower also served as a clock tower until 1953, when the upper part of the tower was demolished because of the danger of collapse.
Sokullu Mehmet Paşa Hamamıaddress: ÇavuşbeyThis hammam is another masterpiece of Sinan, the Grand Architect. Built in 1568-69 the baths are still open to the public. There are separate parts for men and women.
phone: +90 284 225-11-20address: Alipaşa Mahallesi, Kadirpaşa Sokak 7An original prehistoric dolmen moved from its original setting and a reconstructed Thracian hut—typical of those used by the ancient folk of the region—is among the displayed in the garden of the museum.
Museum of Islamic ArtsA subsection of Museum of Archaeology (so the same contact info applies.)
Saraçlar CaddesiA pedestrianized shopping street lined with pleasant cafés. The old shop buildings on this street have a neoclassical architectural style.
Old quarterLocally named Kaleiçi, i.e. "walled city", this is the oldest part of the city although the city walls and gates vanished long ago. Built in a grid plan in the aftermath of a big fire in late 19th century, the main artery of this part is Maarif Caddesi, which lies two blocks west of Saraçlar Caddesi. Maarif and the nearby side-streets are lined with a number of elaborate wooden houses, the walls of which are with highly delicate handwork, though some are derelict. At one end of the street is the . As Edirne was one of the main destinations of Jewish settlement in the Ottoman Empire after the Spanish expulsion of 1492, the synagogue, built in 1907 after the great fire, is the largest in Turkey and all of the Balkans, and the third-largest in Europe. Having lacked a congregation since the 1980s as more and more of the local Jews left for larger cities in Turkey and for Israel, it remained in ruins until 2015 when it was restored with a colourful look inside out and re-opened with a service. In one of the side alleys of Kaleiçi lies a small stone church, where the Catholic community of the city held masses. It is part of a local primary school (İstiklal İlköğretim Okulu) nowadays. Numerous small Ottoman mosques are also scattered around Kaleiçi and elsewhere in downtown.
Şükrü Pasha Memorial and Balkan Wars MuseumThis is a monument dedicated to Rüştü Pasha, the commander of the defending forces of the city during the Balkan Wars. Next to it is a small museum with various weapons (such as a small cannon) used during the war. While the place is slightly away from the downtown and is off the usual trail between the main sights, it occupies the highest hill in the city and offers a wide panorama of the city and the forests surrounding the rivers behind.
Church of Sts. Constantine and Helen
St. George Church
NorthwestAcross the Tundzha from downtown, in the northwestern outskirts of the city lie Sarayiçi, literally “inside the palace” and Yeniimaret. Both are linked to city centre by their respective medieval bridges.
Most of the monuments around this section of the city were actually located in city’s suburbs, however the depopulation of the city resulted much of them now lying in the middle of open fields.
SarayiçiUpon crossing a long bridge over the Tundzha, you will arrive on an island surrounded by two branches of the Tundzha (though not immediately recognizable as such while you are actually on it). A modern stadium in which annual wrestling competitions take place, surrounded by some statues of past champions welcome you to the island. Just next to it is the Justice Tower (Adalet Kasrı), a sturdy square tower and the sole completely intact remnant of former imperial palace of Ottomans here. Next to the Tower, a smaller bridge on the narrower branch of the river surrounded by some centuries-old ash trees will take you back to the “mainland”. About 100m to the right, is the monument to the soldiers fallen at the Siege of Edirne in 1913 (Monument to the Martyrs of Balkan War/Balkan Savaşı Şehitliği). The monument itself, which is a recent construction with an older one hidden behind the bushes nearby, is of little interest, typical of many such Turkish monuments built to commemorate World War I and previous battles in, say, Gallipoli. However the site is actually mass grave of an estimated 30,000 soldiers, so appropriate respect should be shown. Further away from the river are the ruins of a number of buildings of the former palace scattered around the fields, which had the unfortunate service as an arsenal during the siege of 1913, and had been blown up in order not to fall in hands of Bulgarians, the foes in the battle. Although Edirne had lost the distinction of being a capital in 15th century, it was still the favourite summer retreat of Ottoman dynasty, featuring numerous hunting manors on the edges of the actual palace. Ruins are being restored (or perhaps reconstructed), with the imperial kitchen has returned to its pre-1913 appearance recently. An illustration in front of the gate of the palace building—the only part of the building that escaped the blast—may help you envisage what the palace looked like.
South of Sarayiçi is the neighbourhood of Yeniimaret, which, like Sarayiçi, is connected to the downtown by two bridges with an island on the Tundzha in between and is where the Medical Museum is located.
phone: +90 284 224-09-22address: Beyazıt Külliyesi, YeniimaretThis museum, which was awarded “European Museum of the Year” in early 2000s, was essentially a mental institution used during Ottoman times, part of Beyazıt Complex (Beyazıt Külliyesi). It was notable for its progressive or alternative approach towards its patients. Instead of locking them into cells with shackles, which was widespread during that time, methods such as meditative music or flower gardens were tried in this institution. Today, many Ottoman miniatures from medical schoolbooks and elsewhere and models of patients are among the displayed.
South of Yeniimaret, due west of city centre is (Gazi Mihal Köprüsü), a long arch bridge built during Byzantine period and then repaired in 1420 that spans the Tundzha and lies just next to the main highway to Kapıkule border post from city centre, and the adjacent Gazi Mihal Mosque (Gazi Mihal Camii), built by Gazi Mihal Pasha, an Ottoman commander of Bulgarian origin. These are better accessible from city centre rather than from Yeniimaret, though a stroll along the dykes along the Tundzha will bring you here too.
Hıdırlık TabyasıA redoubt and fortress west of the city center, which is being restored. Magnificent view of the Thrace plains. Take the bus 3A from the city center and ask for “Hıdır Baba”.
Southwest of downtown is the quarter of Karaağaç (pronounced kaa raa aa ach), the only Turkish territory west of Maritsa River, which forms most of Turkish-Greek land border.
Two Ottoman bridges connect Karaağaç to downtown, which are well worth a look—pick these if you don't have time to check out any other bridge around the city. The first and shorter one, just southwest of the edge of old quarter (Kaleiçi) and actually quite close to the Synagogue at the end of Maarif Caddesi, spans the Tundzha. About 250 m further, you'll arrive at the second, which spans the Maritsa and is gloriously longer than the first one, as the riverbed is much wider, not unlike that of the Danube. Right at the midpoint of the bridge, there is a lookout in typical Ottoman style.
A 2½-km-long cobbled road through a lush forest links the Maritsa Bridge with Karaağaç. On the way, there is an urban forest named Söğütlük (admission 2 TL pp), a favourite weekend picnic spot of locals which extends along the bank of river.
Karaağaç has an atmosphere more of a town rather than a city neighbourhood, with some charming mansions scattered around its grid plan. At the southwestern end of Karaağaç is the historical building in late Ottoman style of the (Trakya Üniversitesi Güzel Sanatlar Fakültesi), placed in a pleasant garden (free admission). The building, which dates back to the final years of 19th century, was built as the main train station of the city as the steam locomotive at the backyard still attests, and had that service for years until 1970s when it was abandoned after a new railway straight to the city was laid, due to the increasingly inconvenient operation of former railtracks crisscrossing Turkish-Greek border as the two nations' relations deteriorated. The university took over in 1998. At the side of the building is Lausanne Monument (Lozan Anıtı), a metallic structure of three columns symbolizing Turkey (the longest symbolizes Asian Turkey, the middle-sized symbolizes Eastern Thrace (European Turkey), while the shortest symbolizes Karaağaç, being the only Turkish soil west of Maritsa River, in other words west of Eastern Thrace) with a lady in the middle holding a sheet of paper, presumably symbolizing Treaty of Lausanne, in which major western powers recognized the newly founded Turkish Republic in 1923. Behind the monument, in the shades of a pine woods is an open-air sculpture exhibition (free admission) which contains marble statues chipped in situ by sculptors from neighbouring countries.
- Watch an oil-wrestling (yağlı güreş) competition, the national sport of Turks (although surpassed a little by soccer lately), which annually takes place in the , northwestern outskirts of the city, on the banks of Tundzha. (Although dates vary year to year, it always takes place in late spring or early summer, such months as May, June or July.) This is the most prestigious wrestling tournament in Turkey and the winner is titled başpehlivan (“chief of all wrestlers”) of the year.
Almond paste (badem ezmesi) is a local, soft cookie-like dessert which is made of bitter almond.
phone: +90 284 225-24-81address: Hükümet Cad. 5 (the central store; they also have stores at various other places throughout the city)Perhaps the most well-known producer of almond paste, which also offers a variety of other traditional and local desserts.
Brooms — While it may be a bit strange to buy brooms as a souvenir from a trip, Edirne has a long tradition of broommaking and ornamental brooms (traditionally given to brides as a gift) can be found at numerous stores (especially at those offering tourist souvenirs) around the city.
Edirne has numerous Ottoman covered bazaars.
ArastaThe smaller bazaar of the city where the offers of stores range from fruit shaped soaps (a basket of which start from 3 TL) to almond paste, cheap t-shirts and shoes, and Edirne-related (and especially Selimiye-related) souvenirs and trinkets.
AlipaşaA bigger bazaar lying long in parallel with Saraçlar Caddesi.
Liver (ciğer) is a definitely must-try for non-vegetarians. It is prepared in a unique local way (whole pieces, not puree, of liver, covered in flour, are deep fried inside a cauldron full of boiling vegetable oil) and served with an infernally hot dried and crunchy pepper. If you are one of those who don’t like liver because of its distinct smell, you can be pretty sure you won’t sense it in Edirne liver. Best to be eaten with ayran, a salty yogurt drink because it’s one of two things (the other is bread, which fortunately is served free of charge at liver restaurants) that can suppress the fire the dried pepper leaves on your palate.
There is a cluster of small sit-in eateries (ciğerci) in the park next to the Old Mosque (Eski Cami), all offering basically the same menu (i.e., the fried liver), and a really filling portion of liver costs 9 TL in any of them. They also order other meals from other nearby restaurants for those who are with you and do not want to eat liver. Yudum at one corner of the cluster is good, clean, and efficient.
phone: +90 284 213 64 75address: Alipaşa Orta Kapı Cad. no: 3Local fried liver restaurant.
Soylu Tava Ciğer Döner / Mehmet Soyluphone: +90 284 214 17 67address: Hasan Sezai Türbesi karşısı, Bostanpazarı
phone: +90 284 214-73-00address: Saraçlar Caddesi 73, ZindanaltıA local restaurant specialized in meatballs (köfte) that are not extraordinary but is quite tasty and okay. Quite clean restaurant with not so long waits, though could be more efficient in service. Overlooks the pedestrianized shopping street of the city, so it's good for people-watching.
- There is an open-air café (Sera Café) amidst a beautifully landscaped park in front of Selimiye where you can have a cup of tea or coffee and watch the city.
Protokol EviRun by city council, this is an open air cafe immediately on the banks of Maritsa with a pleasant building historically used as a checkpoint at the entrance of the city. Elegantly decorated with wrought iron chairs and tables, the cafe has a distant view of Selimiye above the trees on the opposite riverbank. Only hot and soft drinks are served (that means no snacks!)
phone: +90 284 213 03 13address: Çilingirler Cad. no: 928 standard rooms and 6 suites are available in the hotel with 74 beds in total. There are bathrooms with hair dryer and 24-hr hot water, 32” LED TV with satellite connection, air conditioner, free Wi-Fi and mini refrigerator in the rooms.
phone: +90 284 225-15-56address: Maarif Caddesi 6Clean hotel with great views of the mosques, housed in a charming old building dating back to early 1900s on a quiet side street. Rooms with air-con, satellite TV, wireless internet connection, and en suite. Friendly staff can speak little English and some German.
phone: +90 284 225-52-10address: Talatpaşa Bulvarı 97, AyşekadınRooms with air-con, satellite TV.
phone: +90 284 213 61 66address: Maarif Cad. no: 13Rooms with air conditioner, satellite TV, hot water, and free wireless internet access.
Tuna Hoteladdress: Maarif Cd.Nice and clean, but small rooms, which come with en suite bathrooms, air-con, satellite TV, and Wi-Fi.
ConsulatesNeighbouring countries of Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania, as well as France and Germany (which are represented by the same person), Austria, and Slovakia maintain consulates in the city.
- phone: +90 284 212-22-68address: Yetimler Çarşısı 9
Consulate General of Bulgariaphone: +90 284 214-06-17address: Talat Paşa Asfaltı 31
Honorary Consulate of France/Honorary Consulate of Germanyphone: +90 284 213-55-63address: Balıkpazarı Caddesi, Of Sitesi C Blok, D.2, Kaleiçi
Consulate of Greecephone: +90 284 235-58-04address: Kocasinan Mahallesi, 2 Sokak, No: 12, Binevler
Honorary Consulate of Romaniaphone: +90 284 225-56-90address: Londra Asfaltı 64, Kıray Apartmanı
phone: +90 284 212-01-74address: Hükümet Cad. Bankalar Aralığı 1/1, Uğur Apt.
- Prehistoric dolmens and menhirs are scattered around the landscape north of the city, around the town of Lalapaşa.
- Uzunköprü — literally "the long bridge", this town 66 km south of Edirne was named after a 15th century stone bridge of 174 arches, spanning a length of about 1500 m (4500 feet) across the River Ergene, a tributary of Maritsa, and the marshy meadows along its banks. Purportedly one of the longest medieval bridges in the world, the bridge just north of the town is still in use by the modern traffic, connecting the town to the highway D550/E87, linking Edirne with various locations south.
- Enez further to south on the shore of Aegean Sea is a popular town among the Edirneans to spend the summer, which features long sandy beaches and a Byzantine citadel.
- Istanbul to southeast, possibly with a detour via Tekirdağ on the coast of the Sea of Marmara is the obvious choice if you have just arrived in Turkey from Europe.
- Or taking a more southernly route across the Straits of Dardanelles towards Çanakkale via Gallipoli and from there on to Aegean Turkey.
- Kapıkule and Pazarkule borderposts, on the Turkish-Bulgaria and Turkish-Greek borders respectively, are just kilometres away from city.