Bursa might not be as popular as Istanbul on the list of must-visit places to visit in Turkey (currently known as Türkiye). But after going to Bursa to celebrate my birthday last year, I realized that this is one of the most underrated destinations in Turkey, as there are so many fantastic things to do in Bursa, and the city offers so many good things, from top-notch hospitality to fascinating history!
I went to Bursa from Yalova last year, and I had a short stay there for two nights before realizing that I should've stayed a bit longer since I still have so many more places that I want to visit in Bursa!
In this post, I'm going to share my experience for a short stay in Bursa and list some of the fantastic things to do in the city if you have limited time to stroll around this historical city. So, what are the things you shouldn't miss in Bursa, Turkey?
How to Travel to Bursa from Istanbul, Turkey
Compared to Istanbul, Bursa might be smaller and less popular. But there are a lot of reasons why Bursa is worth visiting in Turkey. For a start, you can easily travel from Istanbul to Bursa. It's so easy that some travel agents literally provide a day trip to Bursa from Istanbul.
While I suppose it's doable to make a day trip to Bursa from Istanbul, I wouldn't recommend it as Bursa has plenty of things to cover that you won't regret if you decide to extend your trip and stay in the city for a few days. I'm not sure if there's a train service available from Istanbul to Bursa, but I think the best way to travel to Bursa from Istanbul is by either a bus or a ferry boat.
If you decide to commute from Istanbul to Bursa, there are a few options that you can take to make the best of your trip. The easiest way to do is to take the bus from Istanbul to Bursa, which will take around 3 hours in total with the price range of around 200 TL (around $10 USD) for a one-way ticket. I had stopped at Bursa otogar a few times before visiting the city, as the bus to Izmir from Istanbul usually stopped for a toilet break in Bursa. It's a great way to travel to Bursa, as the bus station there is probably one of the biggest (and the best!) in the country.
Alternatively, you can also take a ferry boat from Istanbul to Bursa. I've never done this before, but since I frequently traveled from Istanbul to Yalova by ferry boats, I know that IDO has a ferry boat service from Yenikapi to Bursa on a daily basis.
Also, when I checked Obilet, apparently you can also take a ferry boat from Kadikoy and Kabatas to Mudanya in Bursa. So depending on which part of Istanbul you are, you can definitely find a ferry boat from a station close to you. The journey takes slightly faster too for only around 2.5 hours one way.
Why You Should Visit Bursa, Turkey
If you're a traveler trying to visit the UNESCO Heritage Sites in Turkey, then Bursa should be on the list. Bursa and the nearby village Cumalıkızık have been listed as one of the UNESCO Heritage Sites in the Marmara region, as the region is known as the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire.
In case you didn't know yet, Bursa was the first capital city of the Ottoman Empire before Edirne and then later transferred to Istanbul after the empire took over Constantinople from Byzantium. If you can see the historical path of the Ottoman Empire in its glory in Istanbul, you can trace the beginning story of the empire here in Bursa.
If that isn't enough to convince you to visit Bursa, the city is also home to Mount Uludag, the highest mountain in the Marmara region. So whether you are into history or more of a nature lover, there's always something for everyone visiting Bursa in Turkey!
Best Things to Do in Bursa, Turkey
With my limited time in Bursa, I couldn't even cover some of the must-visit places around the city as I didn't even get a chance to visit the Cumalıkızık village when I got there. I'd strongly recommend you to stay at a hotel around the Old Town of Bursa like Kule Hotel, as the area is quite strategic and it's within walking distance to some of the must-visit places in Bursa, Turkey.
So, here are some of the best things you can do on a short trip to Bursa if you only have 2 days (or less) to travel around the city!
1. Visiting Tophane Park
Visiting Bursa isn't complete without paying respect to the founding father of the Ottoman Empire, Osman Gazi. Tophane Park is where you can visit the tomb of the first Ottoman sultan and his son who later became his successor after his death, Orhan Gazi.
It was believed that upon the early start of the empire, Osman I told his son to bury him beneath the silver dome of Bursa, a former Byzantine chapel in the city. Following his will after the Ottoman conquest of Bursa under Orhan, his body was transferred to the place that was once the silver dome: the current Tophane Park.
Tophane Park is a public place that you can visit for free around the Old Town of Bursa. You can visit the tomb of Osman and Orhan Gazi separately as they're located in two different buildings around the park with different entrances. The tomb of Osman Gazi is bigger for the obvious reason, and you can see the guards in Ottoman soldier costumes around the tombs.
At the entrance, women visitors will be asked to cover up so they can take the scarf to cover up when they pay respect to the founding fathers of the Ottoman empire in their mausoleum. You will hear some Koran recital in the area as well, and when I went there, the tomb was quite crowded with visitors.
What's interesting is that I found another tomb around Tophane park just outside the mausoleum of Osman and Orhan Gazi, and I'm not sure whose tomb that is. I asked a local nearby, but I'm not sure if I got lost in translation when I asked him.
From what I understood based on what he said, it was the tomb of a Pakistani Islamic scholar or something who died in Bursa. Again, I could be lost in translation since my Turkish isn't that fantastic, but then again I couldn't find any further information about this separate tomb outside Tophane Park for details.
Apart from the tomb, Tophane Park itself is worth visiting as it's a great spot to enjoy the city view of Bursa from above. You can also find some popular landmarks in the city, including the Bursa clock tower and the historical cannon lined up around the park.
Whether you want to go there for a picnic, or just stroll around immersing in the beautiful city view, Tophane Park is a place to go! 🙂
2. Learning about the History at Panorama 1326 Bursa Conquest Museum
A modern panorama museum in Bursa, Panorama 1326 Bursa Conquest Museum exhibits the history of the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century. It's a sweet spot that blends the past of Bursa with some futuristic touch.
I went to Panorama 1326 Bursa Conquest Museum with a friend I met through Couchsurfing, Yasin, and we only paid 5 TL (around $0.2 USD) per person for the entrance ticket. To be fair, I might have missed this museum if it wasn't because of Yasin so I'm really grateful for that.
Panorama 1326 Bursa Conquest Museum is a brand new museum that opened to the public in 2018. The building has a large dome, home to the 360° murals picturing the era when Ottomans seized the Roman city of Prusa in 1326. Outside the museum, you can see the statue of the first few sultans of the Ottoman Empire, from the founding father Osman Gazi to Mehmet Celebi (Mehmet I).
The museum is huge, and it's split into several sections, including the amphitheater, where you can watch the movie about the rise of the Ottoman Empire. Not so far from the amphitheater, you can see the exhibition hall that showcases the beginning of the Ottoman Empire in the form of paintings. If I have to put a summary of my visit to Panorama 1326 Bursa Conquest Museum, I think I will go with “the melting pot of the arts and history in Bursa.”
The pinnacle of the visit is absolutely the 360° murals of Bursa in the rise of the Ottomans. It's a majestic mural portraying the city and its culture when the Ottomans conquered it in 1326. You can also see the imitation of the pillars as well as the sarcophagus around the murals. Hands down, it's really a fun way to learn the history of Bursa as the first capital city of the Ottoman Empire!
After checking out the murals, there's also another exhibition hall that showcases the traditional clothes of the Ottomans, following the hall where they exhibit paintings about the early rise of the Ottoman Empire. It's almost like a 3D comic all about the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century!
3. Shopping at Bursa Grand Bazaar
Visiting Turkey isn't complete without shopping at the Grand Bazaar, and Bursa is a great place to be for this! Unlike the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Bursa Grand Bazaar is less intense, making it more relaxing to shop here than the more famous Istanbul Grand Bazaar.
On top of that, Bursa is also heaven for anything handmade. Whether you want to buy some pottery products or carpets, you will never run out of options in Bursa. And sometimes, they sell it more affordable than in Istanbul too!
I'm not usually into shopping, but when I was there my mom asked me to buy a lot of scarves for the whole family. Since I didn't have enough time to go back to Istanbul after visiting the Museum of Innocence, I decided to have a shopping spree at Bursa Grand Bazaar and Koza Han instead.
Another reason is that Bursa played an important role in the Silk Road, especially as the city was the center of silk production in Turkey to be imported to destinations like Persia to China.
4. Stopping by the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
Bursa Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art is located in the Green Mosque complex, and the first impression when I entered the museum was that it reminded me of the Sultan Bayezid II Health Museum complex in Edirne. The entrance fee was 12.5 TL (around $0.7 USD), it was located in the former Ottoman medrese (school) building.
Unlike Panorama 1326 Bursa Conquest Museum that is brand new, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Bursa is the oldest one in the city. Opened in 1902, the museum exhibits various ethnographic and archaeological artifacts notable in Turkish culture. From tiles and ceramics to some introduction about Turkish hamam, you can find the information about them here.
Apart from the exhibition halls around the museum complex, there's also a cemetery behind the museum. I'm not sure who got buried there, but the cemetery seems quite ancient. I could only assume that maybe some teachers or principals from back when it was a medrese, but I could be wrong.
5. Visiting the Green Mosque Complex
There are at least two prominent touristic attractions around the Green Mosque complex in Bursa: the Green Mosque itself and the Green Tomb in front of it. Designed by Haci Ivan Pasha, the Green Mosque complex is seen as the peak of the early Ottoman architecture style.
While the construction of the Green Mosque began in 1412 under Sultan Mehmet I, the Green Tomb was commissioned by his son and successor, Murad II, as he built the tomb as the resting place for his late father.
The current building of the Green Mosque is the restoration after the original construction was damaged after the Bursa earthquake in 1855.
I visited the Green Mosque complex on Friday, and due to the Friday prayers, I didn't get a chance to enter the mosque. Although I didn't really regret it, since I think I was quite satisfied with visiting various mosques in Edirne and Ankara before.
6. Buying souvenirs at Anadolu Treasures Bursa
This section is a little bit personal for me, because this is the place where I started believing in miracles.
Remember when I told you that I went to Bursa for my birthday last year? Well, I ended up buying souvenirs at Anadolu Treasures Bursa as I came across Yunus, the owner, when I had just finished strolling around the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Bursa. At first he asked whether the museum was opened, and then he ended up inviting me to come over to see his collections.
When he asked me why I visited Bursa, I told him that it was my birthday and it was how I treated myself on my birthday: a solo trip to Bursa. The next thing I knew, I suddenly had my birthday party as he bought some cake with candles to celebrate my birthday. It was really a pleasant surprise that I literally cried because of that!
Anyway, I've learned a lot from this short encounter. I don't know if Yunus is a psychic or something, but he could see through me in a way that no one did. I know it's supposed to be a little bit creepy when a total stranger asks you who hurt you to the point that you have some trust issues. Well, it happened when Yunus asked me the exact same question to me on my birthday after we had a chat for a little while.
But I think that's also the reason why my 33rd birthday was also the start of my healing process from whatever issues I had in the past. When a stranger could notice that on your first encounter, you know that you have to fix yourself.
Well, apart from that, Yunus has a quaint shop not too far from the Green Mosque. It's literally only around 5 minutes walking from the mosque and it's located between the mosque and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.
Anadolu Treasures Bursa has various collections of souvenirs, from affordable to premium ones. Yunus mentioned that he also supplies carpets for some museums in New York City, so his products are pretty much import quality, making it a perfect place to hunt souvenirs for your beloved ones!
7. Trying the famous İskender kebap at İskender Tarihi Ahşap Dükkan
First of all, I'm so sorry that I don't have a supporting image for this recommendation. I had dinner with my old friend, who suggested trying the famous İskender kebap at the tarihi restaurant in Bursa. Anyway, I got too busy catching up, I forgot to take some pictures there.
Here's some hack about traveling to Turkey… When you see a restaurant with the title “tarihi“, it means that it's a legendary restaurant that's worth exploring. İskender kebap to Bursa is like çömlek kebap (pottery kebab) to Cappadocia, it's a must-try when you visit the origin of the signature dish!
İskender Tarihi Ahşap Dükkan is a restaurant located in the heart of Bursa old town that serves fine dining with İskender kebap as their specialty. Despite the top-notch hospitality during your meals with an attentive waiter, the price isn't too expensive, so it's definitely worth visiting when you get a chance to travel to Bursa!
8. Enjoying the beauty of nature at Mount Uludag
Mount Uludag is a must-visit place in Bursa, as it offers so many things to do for nature lovers. The highest peak at the Marmara region, riding a cable car to the summit is one of the things you shouldn't miss when visiting Bursa in Turkey!
Bursa Teleferik connects the city to Uludag with a 9 kilometers cable car, making it the longest cable car in Turkey. While the mountain is well-known as one of the best ski resorts in Turkey during the winter, you can visit Uludag all year rounds to enjoy the beauty of nature surrounding Bursa.
Your journey with the cable car starts from the teleferik station in Bursa, where you can purchase the go-show ticket on the day. When I visited it last year, I paid 250 TL (around $13 USD) for a round ticket.
At first, I was a bit nervous about getting stuck with some strangers in the cable car for 20 minutes. But then I ended up having the cable car for myself on the way to the summit. It was sublime!
For the journey from Bursa to Uludag, there are 4 stations in total starting from the teleferik station in Bursa, and then we'll pass Kadiayla. The cable car didn't stop there, but I imagine it could be a transit place should there be any technical problems with the cars.
Next, we can stop by Sarialan. Most activities in Uludag start from here; the area is a campground during the summer and it's quite lively still with some winter sports in the winter. They also have all the public facilities like toilets, shops, and restaurants.
The last stop is Kurbagakaya, which seems to be the summit of the mountain. Compared to Sarialan, it gives a little bit of posh vibes with the restaurants and semi-mall at the station. And since I visited it in the winter, the area seems to be quiet compared to Sarialan. Apparently, this one is more popular for intermediate to advanced skiers.
It's also where most of the high-end hotels are located, so it's understandable that it's less crowded than Sarialan.
FAQ about Visiting Bursa in Turkey
Now that you know where to go in Bursa, Turkey, it's time to plan a trip to this historical city. So I've listed some frequently asked questions about traveling to Bursa to summarize some essential things you need to know before visiting Bursa in Turkey!
What is the best way to travel from Istanbul to Bursa?
As I already mentioned above, a bus or ferry boat is the best way to travel from Istanbul to Bursa. The journey takes around 2.5 to 3 hours, and you can also make the day trip if you have limited time to travel between the city.
Is Bursa worth visiting?
Yes! Bursa has a combination of history and beautiful nature that offers so many things for everyone. If you're into history, Bursa is worth visiting as it's the pivotal place for the rise of the Ottoman empire. The first Ottoman sultan, Osman Gazi, was buried there and his tomb at Tophane Park is one of the must-visit places in Bursa, Turkey.
If you're into outdoor activities, Bursa is the home of the highest mountain in the Marmara region, Mount Uludag. It's a great place to visit all year rounds, as you can go camping or hiking during the summer while it's a great place to go skiing or snowboarding in the winter as well.
How many days would be enough for Bursa?
While a day trip from Istanbul is quite popular, especially for travelers who book their trip through travel agents, I would recommend staying around 3-4 days for a better experience.
I only got a chance to stay in Bursa for 2 days, and I feel like there are still so many places I want to visit in Bursa. For instance, I didn't get a chance to go to Cumalıkızık as the village is quite far from the Old Town where I stayed.
One of the many reasons why I wanted to go to Bursa is also because I wanted to visit Mahidevran Hatun‘s tomb after I started watching the Magnificent Century a long time. Well, I didn't get a chance to go there since apparently Muradiye Complex, the place where she was buried, was far away from the Old Town as well.
While I'm quite happy with my 2-day trip to Bursa, I imagine 3-4 days in Bursa would be better as it would allow me to cover all the other places I want to visit in the city.
There are so many fantastic things to do in Bursa, Turkey. Even though I wrote this article for you, I can still make a longer list of more places I want to visit in Bursa.
Bursa offers a lot of activities to do, as it's a great place to travel if you love history and natural beauty. From tracing down the history of Ottoman Empire to skiing at Mount Uludag, you'll never run out of things to do in Bursa, Turkey!
Have you been to Bursa in Turkey? What's your favorite place in Bursa? Is there any other thing you'd recommend to do in Bursa? Share in the comment below, and cheerio! 🙂
Marya The BeauTraveler
I am the founder and main editor at The BeauTraveler. I spent 4 years working in the aviation industry but ironically got to travel more right after quitting the industry in 2015. Born and raised in Indonesia, I started working remotely in 2017, and while I stay at home most of the time, I also regularly spend 2-3 months living a semi-digital nomad life elsewhere every year.