Edirne is a short day trip away from Istanbul to the west of Turkey, close to the borders with Greece and Bulgaria. Edirne can be both a city break from Istanbul or a trip in and of itself. It's a fascinating city and well worth the time to explore!
Edirne was historically known as Adrianople, or ‘‘City of Hadrian’’, named after the Roman Emperor who founded the city on the site of Uskudama, a previous Thracian village. The city later became the capital of the Ottoman Empire, from 1369 until 1453.
Visitors will delight in the Ottoman style architecture, the abundance of art and culture, the local delicacies and the peace that comes from enjoying drinks on the banks of the Tunca and Meriç Rivers. There are two key festivals in the area in late spring - early summer: the Kakava, celebrating the coming of spring and good fortune is held in early May, while the Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival is held every year in late June-early July.
If you can’t be in Edirne for the festivals, don’t fear, there’s plenty to see and do! Edirne has some of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture in the region. The Selimiye Mosque might be considered the centre of town and is easily viewed from almost every part of the downtown area and is the perfect place to start your sightseeing adventure.
Built by the architect Mimar Sinan (and considered his best work by the man himself), the Selimiye Mosque is considered the pinnacle of Ottoman architecture and was listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2011. The mosque contains 999 windows, through which Sinan sought to symbolize the perfectness of God, through the imperfectness of the mosque he designed. The dome and interior are decorated with geometric designs, which are painted in pink and blue. Those who’ve been to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque might find a resemblance in the interior design.
Nearby there's the Old Mosque, which features stunning calligraphy on the interior walls and the the Üç Şerefeli Mosque with its 4 distinctively designed minarets (an uncommon sight, even today).
Edirne has a distinct old town, formerly encircled by city walls. Now, however, the streets in the old town are evidenced by their distinctive grid pattern and the elaborately decorated wooden houses lining them. The area is pleasant for strolling, enjoying local delicacies like liver sandwich with cacik or buttermilk or enjoying some Turkish Tea and almond paste.
Near the main street of Maarif you’ll find the Grand Synagogue. This synagogue dates back to 1907 and was one of the biggest in Eastern Europe. It was recently renovated in acknowledgement and appreciation of the contribution of the Jewish community to the area.
Another interesting museum of note is the Museum of Health, part of the Beyazıt Complex used by the Ottomans. This ancient hospital featured many pioneering treatments, details of which are illustrated throughout with interesting displays.
Edirne also features many parks, art galleries, museums and shopping areas - the city is waiting for you to explore. Also try the Sokullu Mehmet Paşa Hammam, built in 1568-69 by Mimar Sinan. The baths are still open to the public, with separate parts for men and women. A hammam experience is the best way to unwind after a long day touring around the city and what better way to hammam than in such a beautiful and historic building?