Edirne Travel Guide
Sitting within spitting distance of the Greek border, Edirne is the first destination for many visitors to Turkey. With an abundance of mosques, this former Ottoman city has more than its share of cultural attractions.
Come check out our Edirne travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Edirne, Turkey.
Edirne is well-known in Turkey for having many significant Ottoman-era mosques. Start your visit with a visit to the Selimiye Mosque. Sultan Selim II ordered its construction in the mid-16th century to serve as a defined centre for Edirne.
Upon its completion in 1575, it served as lead architect Mimar Sinan’s masterpiece. To this day, many historians consider this particular mosque to one of the best achievements in Islamic architecture. For centuries, it served as a centre of prayer without incident.
However, in 1913, while Bulgarian forces were besieging Edirne, an artillery shell hit the mosque’s dome. Amazingly, it largely shrugged off the blast, suffering only superficial damage. This occurrence shows the care that went into the construction of this Islamic hall of worship.
Take your time during your visit. Doing so will allow you to enjoy the exquisite tile work that adorns the pillars and the interior of its dome.
Next, move on to Eski Cami. The name of this religious highlight translates simply from Turkish to “Old Mosque.” This mosque dates from the 15th century, giving it its name. Emir Süleyman commissioned its building but did not survive to witness its completion. Builders finished this beautiful hall of worship during the rule of Sultan Mehmet I.
Within this complex, you’ll find patterned tile work and striped arches. But, perhaps this mosque’s biggest highlight is its calligraphy. From Quran passages to Allah’s name, these beautiful stylized Arabic words will even impress those who don’t understand. As with any mosque, dress respectfully, or officials may deny you entry.
During the Ottoman Empire, its scientists made many advances. In particular, they had an impressive network of hospitals throughout their reign. Bear witness to a period hospital by visiting the Complex of Sultan Bayezid II Health Museum.
The building where the museum is today began its life as a hospital in 1488. While it addressed all manner of conditions, it was noteworthy for its treatment of mental disorders. These regimens involved stratagems like aquatherapy, aromatherapy, and music therapy.
After local authorities converted this structure into a museum in 1997, it began to attract accolades. It won the European Council Museum Award in 2004. In 2016, UNESCO added it to its list of tentative World Heritage Sites.
When you tour this facility, you’ll see more than just the history of medicine in the Ottoman Empire. It also chronicles advancements in medicine from around the world over the ages. As such, if you are interested in this field, make sure this place is on your list.
There’s more than just mosques to check out in Edirne. Until modern times, this Turkish city had a sizable community of Orthodox Jews. As such, do include a stop to the Grand Synagogue of Edirne on your travel itinerary.
In 1905, community leaders built this Moorish Revival synagogue to replace the one lost in a massive fire. Upon its completion, it was the third-largest in Europe. By 1983, though, the temple held its last service. Most of the town’s Jews had moved on to places like Israel, Western Europe, or America.
Not long after, the building fell into ruin. In recent years, though, fundraising by private interests led to its rejuvenation. Today, you wouldn’t believe it was in such a sorry state a few years back. Its painted interior, chandelier, and tiles have made it into a proud representation of the Jewish history of Edirne.
Can’t get enough of the mosques of Edirne? Make time to check out the Üç Şerefeli Mosque. Sultan Murad II ordered its construction in the 15th century. It underwent major repairs after a massive earthquake in the 18th century but has remained intact since.
In particular, its minarets stand out, as the architect designed each one differently. The dome is also among the biggest in town, so don’t miss it.
Get some shopping done at The Grand Bazaar of Edirne. It draws comparisons to its much bigger cousin in Istanbul. However, thanks to its smaller size and off-the-beaten-track location, Edirne’s is much more pleasant. The merchants, however, are no less wily. Haggle hard to get the best price possible!
Want to witness a truly unique Turkish sport? Try to time your visit to Edirne during late June. At this time, organizers hold the Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival. Since the 14th century, Turkish wrestlers compete against each other for dominance, while completely oiled-up.
To win, wrestlers must pin their opponent, or lift them above their shoulders. Needless to say, doing this while coated in olive oil proves to be quite the challenge!