Where to Visit in Edirne
Edirne, formerly known as Adrianople or Hadrianopolis, is a city in Turkey, in the northwestern part of the province of Edirne in Eastern Thrace. Situated 7 km (4.3 mi) from the Greek and 20 km (12 mi) from the Bulgarian borders, Edirne was the second capital city of the Ottoman Empire from 1369 to 1453, before Constantinople became its capital. The city is a commercial centre for woven textiles, silks, carpets and agricultural products and has a growing tourism industry. In 2019 its estimated population was 185,408. Edirne has an attractive location on the rivers Meriç and Tunca and has managed to withstand some of the unattractive development that mars the outskirts of many Turkish cities. The town is famous in Turkey for its liver. Ciğer tava (breaded and deep-fried liver) is often served with a side of cacık, a dish of diluted strained yogurt with chopped cucumber.
The city was founded and named after the Roman emperor Hadrian as Hadrianopolis on the site of an earlier Thracian settlement named Uskudama. The Ottoman name Edrine is derived from the Greek name. The name Adrianople was used in English until the Turkish adoption of the Latin alphabet in 1928, after which Edirne became the internationally recognised name.
Edirne is famed for its many mosques, medreses and other Ottoman monuments.
The Selimiye Mosque, built in 1575 and designed by Turkey’s greatest architect, Mimar Sinan (c. 1489/1490–1588), is the most important monument in the city and became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2011. It has the highest minarets in Turkey, at 70.90 m (232.6 ft). Sinan himself believed the dome to be higher than that of Hagia Sophia, the former Byzantine Orthodox Cathedral in Istanbul, but modern measuring methods seem to suggest otherwise. Named after Sultan Selim II (r. 1566–1574) who commissioned it but did not live to see its completion, the mosque is decorated with Turkish marble and magnificent İznik tiles. It is the centre of a considerable complex of contemporary buildings.
Work started on the Eski Cami (Old Mosque) in1403 but was not completed until 1422. It was designed is what is usually thought of as the Bursa style. Even finer is the Üç Şerefli Mosque (Three-Balconied Mosque) which was built between 1437 and 1447 for Sultan Murad II. It was the largest mosque built in the Ottoman provinces before the conquest of Constantinople. Both these mosques are in the centre of Edirne.
Further away from the centre, the complex of Sultan Beyazid II, built between 184 and 1488, and has a lovely semi-rural location. It is the most complete surviving mosque complex in Edirne, consisting of an imaret (soup kitchen), darüşşifa (hospital), timarhane (asylum), hospice, tıp medrese (medical school), tabhane (accommodation for dervishes) bakery and assorted depots. Some parts of the complex now house a museum to the history of Islamic medicine.
Edirne Palace in the Sarayiçi quarter, was built in the reign of Murad II (r. 1421–1444) but was destroyed in 1877, during the Russo-Turkish War. The palace gate and kitchen have since been restored. The Kasr-ı Adalet (“Justice Castle”), originally built as part of the palace complex, stands intact next to the small Fatih Bridge over the Tunca river. The splendid appearance of the palace in the late 1460s when it glistened with gold, silver and marble was described by Kritovoulos of İmbros in his History of Mehmed the Conqueror.
Other religious monuments
Dating back to 1909, the Grand Synagogue of Edirne was restored and re-opened in March 2015. A Roman Catholic and two Bulgarian Orthodox churches are also to be found in the city.
Other historic monuments
Edirne has three historic covered bazaars: the Kavaflar Arastası (Cobblers Arcade), next to the Selimiye Mosque and constructed to bring in an income to support the külliye; the Bedesten next to the Eski Cami which was supported by the income from the shops; and the Semiz Ali Paşa Çarşısı (Ali Pasha Bazaar, AKA Kapalı Çarşı), another work of Sinan dating back to 1568. The Kavaflar Arastası is the place to come to buy miniature versions of the handmade brooms with mirrors set into them that used to play a part in marriage ceremonies as well as to buy soap in the shape of fruits.
Of the original Roman Hadrianopolis only slight remains of the fortifications survive near the so-called Macedonian Tower, itself probably a part of the defences although much patched-up and altered over the ensuing centuries.
Edirne Museum (Edirne Müzesi) contains collections of local archaeology and ethnography. In the grounds outside can be seen an example of the sort of dolmen to be seen at nearby Lalapaşa.
In the town centre stand the Rüstem Pasha (1560-61) and Ekmekcioğlu Ahmed Pasha caravanserais, designed to accommodate travellers – in the case of the Rüstem Pasha by Mimar Sinan – in the 16th century. The Rüstem Pasha Caravanerai now serves as the Kervansaray Hotel.
The Balkan Wars Memorial Cemetery is located close to the ruins of the Edirne Palace, with an Unknown Soldier monument featuring an Ottoman soldier in front of its entrance.
The Meriç and Tunca rivers, which flow around west and south of the city, are crossed by elegant arched bridges dating back to early Ottoman times.
The historic Karaağaç railway station has been restored to house Trakya University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. The Treaty of Lausanne Monument and Museum are in the surrounding park.