Is Edirne Worth Visiting? – 11 Ultimate Things to Do in Edirne, Turkey

Edirne is a historical city in Turkey that is situated close to the Bulgarian and Greek borders. When I told my Turkish friends that I was planning to go to Edirne on my last trip to Turkey, some of them convinced me that the only benefit of going to the city is exactly the fact that it's the closest city in Turkey to the European Union. But other than that, is Edirne worth visiting? What are some ultimate things to do in Edirne?

In this post, I will try to share my firsthand experience of visiting Edirne. The pros and cons of going to the city that used to be the capital city of the Ottoman Empire before Constantinople took over in 1453.

So, here are some things you can do in Edirne, Turkey!

What You Need to Know About Edirne

Originally called Adrianople, the city is named after the Roman emperor Hadrian who rebuilt and enlarged the area in the second century. The current name Edirne has become recognized internationally since the Turkish adoption of the Latin alphabet in 1928.

The area has been the location of many battles since the Roman Empire era. Under the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Murad I moved the capital to Edirne after conquering the area in 1369. It remained that way until they captured the then-Constantinople area and moved the capital to what has now become Istanbul in 1453.

Nowadays, personally I found that the modern city of Edirne has quite different vibes compared to any other cities in Turkey. At least compared to some cities that I've been to in the country.

Mimar Sinan statue in Edirne, Turkey.
Mimar Sinan statue in Edirne, Turkey.

Probably because the location is close to the Greek and Bulgarian borders, I saw a lot of promotional banners and signs in the local businesses that are also written in the Greek alphabet and Cyrillics. When I wandered around the Edirne Old Town area, I heard many people who speak what sounds like Slavic language.

It seems like due to the inflation that hit Turkey recently, more and more Greek and Bulgarian visitors come to Edirne to do their errands as it's cheaper. I also passed some money exchange offices that got busy exchanging Turkish Lira to Euro and Bulgarian lev.

And now, not trying to be stereotypical, but I also noticed that it's the only city in Turkey where I've seen some men in black Adidas tracksuits. Thanks to the fact that I follow Slavorum on Facebook, I think it's fair to guess that those men were probably Bulgarian coming to Edirne at the time. LOL.

How to Get to Edirne in Turkey

Edirne is often chosen as a complementary travel destination from Istanbul. Apart from Bursa, I found many day trip tours available to Edirne from Istanbul. As for me, I got on Metro Bus from Izmir to Edirne, which took around 12 hours on the road with a 15-minute stop in Istanbul

I actually tried to find an alternative way to travel back to Izmir from Edirne by train, although unfortunately I couldn't find any direct train available within the route on E-Bilet app, the app built by TCDD or the Turkish State Railway corporation. 

Based on my experience traveling from and to Edirne otogar, one thing that I noticed is that Edirne is definitely an off-the-beaten-path destination in Turkey as I found they lacked the infrastructure for tourists. For example, when I arrived in Edirne otogar, I wasn't quite sure if I already got there until I approached the bus attendant and asked if we were already in Edirne. 

On top of that, it was almost challenging to find a taxi from otogar. In fact, it was so hard to find a taxi from the bus station, I ended up connecting with a doner seller at the otogar whose son offered me his service to take me to the hotel for 30 TL (around $2 USD).

11 Things to Do in Edirne

If there's anything I should highlight for those of you planning to visit Edirne, I would say… Don't expect too much!

Comparing Edirne to Istanbul is definitely a no-go, because while Istanbul is a quite busy city, at least the latter is quite friendly for travelers even if you don't speak Turkish at all. That isn't the case with Edirne, because the public transportation in the city is rarely seen despite the fact that it exists and you can check the activity through an app like Moovit.

And while you can find more people who speak English in a popular destination like Cappadocia, this isn't something you should expect when you stop by Edirne. I suppose it'll be easier for you to travel around if you speak either Bulgarian or Greek, given the idea the city has a lot of visitors from both countries.

But is it worth visiting? The answer depends on what kind of traveler you are. For me, I don't regret the fact that I spared some time to go to Edirne when I was in Turkey. If anything, I'd like to share why the city is still worth visiting although it may not be as lively as bigger cities like Istanbul or Izmir.

So, what are the recommended things to do in Edirne?

1. Selimiye Mosque and Selimiye Foundation Museum

If you've visited Istanbul before, chances are that you've been to Suleymaniye Mosque in Fatih before. So, why does it have anything to do with Selimiye Mosque in Edirne?

So, while Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul was commissioned by Suleyman the Magnificent in 1550, Selimiye Mosque in Edirne was inaugurated in 1578 for Sultan Selim II, who was also the son of the latter. Both mosques were designed by the Ottoman imperial architect Mimar Sinan.

And while Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul was the grandest project Mimar Sinan has ever done, it is believed that the architect has Selimiye Mosque as his own favorite. It came so far that he named it as his very own masterpiece.

Selimiye Mosque has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011. The mosque has the highest minarets at 70.9 meters in Turkey, which is notably higher than Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. If you're into Ottoman imperial architecture, I think you'll enjoy the mosque's beautiful interior with a huge chandelier and astonishing calligraphy and mural around the dome.

Since it's a mosque, don't forget to wear long skirts or trousers and a long-sleeved shirt or jacket before entering the building. You can also find a corner close to the entrance where you can wear a scarf or two to cover up. The entry is free, but be respectful since there's a chance that you may come during prayer time.

Apart from the mosque building, you can also head south of the mosque complex to stop by Selimiye Foundation Museum. Housed in the Dar'ül Kurra Medrese, the building used to be the higher Islamic education institution that is located at the southern corner of the mosque.

While it used to the place where highly specialized staff taught various areas of knowledge from the Koran, Arabic language, law and theology, the building is now the home of Islamic artifacts from the Ottoman empire, including the calligraphy artworks, the Koran books, to wooden furniture and clocks.

In a few chambers at the museum, you can also see the diorama of each activity in the Dar'ül Kurra Medrese, which was once the systematic education system during the Ottoman empire.

It's free of charge to visit the museum. If you happen to come to the complex of Selimiye Mosque during prayer time, you can go to the museum while waiting until they finish the prayer.

2. The Old Mosque of Edirne

Unlike Selimiye Mosque that was built in the 1500s, the Old Mosque of Edirne (Eski Ulu Camii in Turkish) was inaugurated when Edirne still served as the capital city of the Ottoman Empire in 1414.

Located in the city's historical center, you can stroll around the area and it's only walking distance from Selimiye Mosque.

Unlike Selimiye Mosque where I stopped by to enter the building, I didn't get a chance to enter Eski Ulu Camii. I only got to the entrance area, and then I was second guessing whether I was in the right spot and where to go to enter the mosque. As a result, I only managed to take a few pics from the entrance area.

The building isn't so big compared to Selimiye Mosque, but it's definitely worth visiting if you're intrigued to see the mosque from the early 15th century.

3. The Three Balconies Mosque

Üç Şerefeli Mosque, or the Mosque of the Three Balconies in Turkish, was inaugurated in 1447 during Sultan Murad II's reign when Edirne was still the capital city of the Ottoman Empire. The name of the mosque literally describes the architecture of the mosque, which unlike the regular mosques in Turkey, it has only three minarets.

The mosque is also located around the historical city center, around 30 minutes from Selimiye Museum and closer to Edirne City Square.

4. Macedonia Tower

When I was in Edirne and checked some historical landmarks in the city, I was quite surprised that I found Macedonia Tower there. But given the rich history behind the city, it only made sense since it used to be the site of a previous Thracian settlement back when it was Adrianopolis.

Well, the most visible trace of this period is a Roman fortress that is now situated at the Macedonian Tower. Located only 5 minutes walking from Uc Sefereli Mosque, I have to admit that I got a bit disappointed as I expected to see something more.

It looks more like a huge fortress surrounded by an abandoned park with random ruins. The entry to Macedonia Tower is free of charge, given the idea the site doesn't look quite preserved. But the good thing is that you can still find the sign that will give you information about the tower.

While you can see the Macedonian Tower standing tall and proud, there is no access to enter the tower. I literally only spent around 5 minutes to see around the ruins and the tower before I continued strolling around the city center.

5. Main Street of Edirne City Center

Not too far from Uc Sefereli Mosque and Macedonian Tower is the main street of Edirne city center. The vibes around the street remind me a bit of Taksim Square in Istanbul, but definitely more laidback and less crowded.

You can find some shops and restaurants around the street, and you can also find some statues and landmarks that may be Instagram-worthy for your feeds.

Head over to Maarif Caddesi to stroll around the street and see some houses with classic architecture. Edirne, along with Istanbul and Izmir, used to be the cities in Turkey with a significant amount of Jews population.

The house around Maarif Caddesi, according to the taxi driver who took me around the city, used to be where the wealthy Jews community lived in Edirne. Which explains why the Grand Synagogue was also built on the same street.

6. Grand Synagogue of Edirne

As mentioned earlier, Edirne used to have a significant Jews population in the past due to the Jews' exodus from Spain in 1492. As a result of the anti-semitic policy in Spain at the time, many Jews refugees fleed across Europe and Africa.

The Ottoman navy sailed the Mediterranean to evacuate the Jews and Muslim community from Spain, and Sultan Bayezid II of the Ottoman Empire resettled them in the area that is now Turkey and Greece.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, Edirne had a total population of 12,000 to 20,000 Jews, and there were at least 13 synagogues in the city until the Great Fire of Adrianopolis that took place in 1905. The fire destroyed a lot of buildings in Edirne, including the synagogues.

As a result, Sultan Abdul Hamid II allowed the new construction of the Grand Synagogue for the Jews community to replace the lost one in 1906. However, due to the political changes in the country, with the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1923 and the 1934 Thrace pogroms, the number of Jews population in Turkey has declined ever since.

As a result, what was once the third-largest synagogue in Europe was abandoned in 1983 when most of the Jewish community emigrated overseas. The Turkish Directorate General of Foundations took over the temple in 1995, and the renovation started in 2010.

In the span of 5 years, the Grand Synagogue of Edirne reopened to the public with a morning prayer led by Rabbi David Azuz, the same rabbi who led the last service at the synagogue in 1983.

Nowadays, the synagogue also serves as a touristic spot in Edirne, as well as a place of worship for the few local Jews in the area. You can enter the synagogue for free once you pass the security gate.

7. Ali Pasha Bazaar

If you're into shopping or you're looking for a place to find the best souvenirs in Edirne, then it's time to haggle around the bazaar in Edirne!

Another masterpiece of Mimar Sinan, Ali Pasha Bazaar is located under the Selimiye Mosque complex. In fact, I stopped by the bazaar right before visiting the mosque. There's a stair tunnel that will take you to the mosque.

Unlike the hassle that you might have to experience in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, Ali Pasha Bazaar was surprisingly tidy and clean. The sellers were quite friendly and helpful too, although the shop options weren't as many as the one they had in Istanbul.

Ali Pasha Bazaar in Edirne, Turkey.
Ali Pasha Bazaar in Edirne, Turkey.

8. Edirne Museum

Situated next to Selimiye Mosque, Edirne Museum was established in 1925 and it exhibits many archaeology and ethnography artifacts from the city.

The entrance fee for the museum is 12.5 TL (around $0.85 USD), although I wasn't aware if it was the same price for all regular visitors or the staff accidentally gave me a discount as I greeted them in Turkish. LOL.

Originally planned as an archaeology museum, the first display of the museum was started with the fossil of animals found around the area. But then it slowly transitioned to the artifacts from different eras, from Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Empire. In this area, you can see many statues of the Roman gods and goddesses.

And there's another section that focuses on ethnography, where they show many traditional items from carpets, clothings, and other special occasions for Turkish people in general.

Outside the museum building, you can also see some exhibits, including the sample of dolmen and sarcophagus.

And there's also a graveyard in between the Selimiye Mosque complex and the museum building. Although for this, I'm not sure whether it was more like a public cemetery or some historical cemetery where the staff from the former Ottoman Empire were buried.

9. Complex of Sultan Bayezid II Health Museum

Unlike the other touristic spots in Edirne, the complex of Sultan Bayezid II Health Museum is situated outside the city skirt so you may need to take a cab and get you there. 

When I went there the first time, I thought I'd just walk to see if I could find a taxi pool on my way to the complex from the historical city center. Joke's on me, because I couldn't find anything and I ended up walking around 10 km that day. On the bright side, I had a really nice stroll around the area although I arrived at the complex only to find out that it was closed. Such a bummer! LOL. 

But it was when I got connected to Sukre agabey, a taxi driver who I ended up exploring Edirne with. Since I learned the hard way that it could be quite challenging to find a taxi in Edirne, I decided to take his contact number and arranged a pick-up the next day. 

If you need a taxi service in Edirne, you can contact Sukre agabey here. The only downside is that he doesn't speak English, so it can be quite challenging to communicate. But other than that, he's super helpful! 

Another site on the list of UNESCO World Heritage in Edirne, the complex of Sultan Bayezid II Health Museum, is now a part of Trakya University since 1993. Converted into a hospital museum in 1997, it is the only museum in Turkey that provides health-related information throughout the history.

While the complex also consists of a mosque, a hospital, and a sanatorium, the museum was renovated based on its original building in the 15th century. The complex of Sultan Bayezid II Health Museum has become the most-visited site in Edirne, only second after Selimiye Museum.

Commisioned by Sultan Bayezid II, the complex was built in the late 1400s. The entrance fee costs 25 TL (around $1.70) for foreigners without Muze Kart, and I thought it's more worth visiting than Edirne Museum already.

In the first section of the building close to the entrance, you'll be able to see some dioramas that show the medical practice from the 15th century. Some were interesting, some others were quite terrifying given the idea of how advanced the medical procedure is these days.

Apart from medical procedures, you can also get some information about the medical and non-medical staff working around the complex under Sultan Bayezid II's reign. The information includes their roles, and even the salary paid for each position.

It was quite interesting to see a lot of dioramas related to the health industry, from the ancient tools they used for medical procedures to some medical knowledge that we still use until this very day.

It quite amazes me how some were found back in the 15th century, when most people literally beheaded each other just for some silly reasons. One of the intriguing section that I saw was the one related to mental health.

It was because I've been to a mental health museum at Lawang Mental Asylum in Malang, Indonesia and I remember that one of the therapy they have at the asylum was for the patients to gather and listen to some music and do some artworks like painting or even watching moving. It is also displayed in one of the dioramas at the Sultan Bayezid II Health Museum in Edirne.

After the health museum complex, I stopped by the mosque next to the museum building. In front of the mosque, there's also a park where you could see around and that's where I waited for Sukre agabey to pick me up.

10. Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival

I didn't get a chance to be in Edirne during Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival, but I just found out that Edirne is basically the home for one of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Held annually in June, thousands of people travel to Edirne to see the wrestlers fight for the Kirkpinar Golden Belt. The festival has been regularly held in Turkey since 1360. Gee, what do you know?!

Now, I don't know much about Kirkpinar or wrestling in general, but I think I know that it's popular based on some wrestling scenes I saw randomly on the Magnificent Century TV drama. LOL.

11. Bridges of Edirne

During my stay in Edirne, I've passed so many bridges to the point that I don't know which one is which, or what's the name of the bridge in particular. Apparently, bridges in Edirne have a strong historical value behind their development.

The bridges of Edirne were built during the Ottoman period as the city became the main transit route that linked Europe and Asia Minor when it was the capital city.

Now, I'm not too sure which bridges of these series that I've been to during my stay in Edirne, but nowadays you can pass the bridge both by walking or by car. Some bridges also offer some fancy restaurants around them that you can stop by to grab lunch or dinner.

Final Verdict: Is Edirne Worth Visiting?

Yes and no. My Turkish friends kept telling me that the only reason why Edirne is worth visiting is that it's the city closest to Bulgaria and Greece. While I see where they came from, I think there's also a silver lining to visiting Edirne during my last trip to Turkey.

Apart from the Sultan Bayezid II Health Museum, I personally found other touristic spots quite boring. I hope it won't be considered as a form of blasphemy, but either Selimiye or Uc Serefeli Mosque looks pretty much similar to some other grand mosques in Turkey. I suppose these would be interesting for Muslims who do some kind of religious travel through mosque-hopping to pray from one mosque to the other.

The view around Meric river in Edirne, Turkey.
The view around Meric river in Edirne, Turkey.

I stayed in Edirne for 4 days and 3 nights, and that was a lot! Honestly, I feel like 2 days and 1 night would sum up the adventure around the city. If anything, I could totally understand why Edirne is often listed as a complementary destination for a day trip from Istanbul.

However, I don't regret the idea of going to Edirne in general. I think it's quite nice to see how off-the-beaten-path destination beyond the big cities like Istanbul or Izmir is in Turkey.

If anything, I got to connect with the local more through Sukre agabey, the taxi driver that took me around the city. Not only that he invited me for an afternoon tea with his family and I got to meet his wife and daughter, I also got to meet some other locals who are his regular passengers. It was quite fun!

So, yes… That's it from me about Edirne! Have you been to Edirne? What's the highlight of your trip there? 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.

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