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Edirne
city in Turkey
Asia > Middle East > Turkey > Marmara (region) > Eastern Thrace > Edirne
Edirne (pronounced eh-deer-neh) is the chief city of Eastern Thrace, in the Marmara Region of northwest Turkey. It lies on the gently rolling Thracian plains at the confluence of three rivers, close to the borders with Greece and Bulgaria. Most visitors crossing those borders drive straight on east, or stay on the bus or train, to reach Istanbul. Yet Edirne was for a time the capital of the Ottoman Empire, and continued to be an imperial retreat, adorned with magnificent mosques. It's definitely among the top sights of Turkey.
Understand
Selimiye Mosque
History
The Thracian settlement of Uskadama was rebuilt from 125 AD by Roman Emperor Hadrian, who (lacking false modesty) named it Hadrianopolis. It was astride a major trade and transport route, and set in a fertile region, so it was frequently fought over, with 16 major battles and sieges during its 1900-year history. Its longest spells of control were as part of the Byzantine Empire, then under the Ottomans. When Sultan Murad I captured Thrace, he turned the city of Adrianople (which he and his people pronounced as "Edirne") into his capital in 1369. Once Byzantium / Constantinople / Istanbul was captured in 1453 the capital moved there, to become the centre of the vast Ottoman Empire. Edirne remained important as a summer palace and imperial retreat, and between 1700 and 1750 it was the fourth-largest city in Europe, with an estimated population of 35,000.
But by 1700 that empire was in decline. Austria-Hungary drove the Ottomans out of central Europe; Russia gained control of the Black Sea and sought to seize the Bosphorus and Dardanelles. Edirne's population fled before Russian invasions in 1829 and 1878, which reached the western outskirts of Istanbul. The Balkans were literally "balkanised" - broken up by nationalist movements and wars, and one of those conflicts escalated into World War I, which Turkey joined on the side of Germany. That continued after 1918 with a war with Greece, which became the War of Turkish Independence.
The Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 redrew Turkey's borders. Alas for Edirne, these were just west of the city, so much of its hinterlands (even some suburbs) were lost, and trade was stifled across a not-very-friendly border. (See below for the convolutions this caused the railway.) Turkey was neutral in World War II, but just across the river, Nazi flags fluttered over Axis Bulgaria and occupied Greece. Much of the city was then evacuated, and those who couldn't flee suffered cold and famine. Nor was there much reason to return after that war, as industrial regeneration favoured other cities. So Edirne grew slowly, reaching a population of 185,408 in 2019.
Orientation
Edirne
Climate chart (explanation)
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Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation+Snow totals in mm
Imperial conversion
JFMAMJJASOND
 
 
 
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Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches
The River Tundzha or Tunca flows south, and makes a loop around the west edge of the city before joining the River Maritsa. At the core of the city are the three imperial mosques of Selimiye, Üç Şerefeli and Old Mosque. Highways radiate from here: Talat Paşa Bulvarı heads east, becoming D100 to Istanbul, while Londra Asfaltı heads west as D100 to the Bulgarian border at Kapıkule. A series of Ottoman bridges and causeways cross the two rivers and their islands and flood-plains: the main routes are Gazi Mihal Bridge west, Hükümet Cd north towards the former palace at Sarayiçi, and Lozan Cd south to Karaağaç.
The main sights are therefore in a compact area and can be seen on a day-trip. If you don't have time for the outlying districts, at least stroll as far as the historic bridges: those closest to the centre are the south-side bridges to Karaağaç.
Late spring and early autumn are the best times to visit. Edirne is well inland and has more of a continental climate than the Marmara coast. It has hot dry summers, 26-35°C daytime, hotter but less humid than Istanbul, nevertheless with occasional thundery downpours. Winters are chilly, with both rain and snow, and bitterly cold nights.
The TIC is on Talat Paşa Cd next to the Old Mosque. It's open daily 08:30-17:30.
Get in
By plane
Istanbul Airport (IST IATA) has a wide range of direct flights to Europe, Asia and beyond. Istanbul Seyahat bus runs from IST airport to Edirne every two hours for 110 TL single.
Otherwise by public transport you have to head into Istanbul city centre then travel out again, but with a hired car you're quickly on the road to Thrace. If you fly into the city's other airport Sabiha Gökçen (SAW IATA), that's Asia-side and you face a congested cross-city journey.
By bus
Buses run from Istanbul Esenler station at least hourly, taking 2 to 4 hours non-stop, for a fare of 75 TL. Metro Turizm is the main operator. In normal times buses run round the clock but in early 2021 they cease between midnight and 05:00.
Buses also run to Edirne from Canakkale via the Gallipoli peninsula, Keşan and Uzunköprü. In early 2021 they only run once a day, operated by Isparta.
The
1
bus station in Edirne is 5 km southeast of the centre, junction of D100 and the city bypass. Town buses will take you to city centre.
There are no direct buses to Bulgaria. You could take a taxi to Kapikule on the Bulgarian border, where you might be lucky and wave over a bus towards Plovdiv and Sofia. Or walk across the border and take a bus or train from Kapitan Andreevo in Bulgaria.
By train
Hadrian: "Mmm, so what should I call this new city?"
A single regional train per day leaves Kapikule at the Bulgarian border at 07:00, stopping at both stations in Edirne around 07:30, and reaching Istanbul Halkali by 11:30. The return train leaves Halkali at 18:00, reaching Edirne around 22:00 and Kapikule by 22:30. Halkali is 15 km west of Istanbul city centre but is connected by the frequent Marmaray metro train.
The overnight train from Bucharest and Sofia runs nightly year-round, operated by TCDD. It arrives at Edirne around 03:00, while the westbound service is around 01:30; you're not destined to get much sleep because everyone has to get off at the border for passport and customs checks.
Optima Express is a car-train from Villach in Austria to Edirne twice a week April-November, taking 33 hours. Departure days vary. This train enables motorists to avoid the tricky, tiring roads through the Balkans, and it's also open for passengers without cars. Optima don't offer tickets from intermediate stations such as Zagreb.
In June 2019, another train ran daytime between Plovdiv in Bulgaria and Edirne. It was meant to be a permanent service, but lasted for just one weekend then was cancelled! It's not known if it will ever resume - it created a useful extra route between Bulgaria and Turkey, avoiding arrival / departure in the small hours.
The railway between Edirne and Istanbul is being upgraded to create a better conventional line and a YHT line, cutting the journey to 80 min. The forecast completion date of 2024 looks highly optimistic.
2
Edirne Gar is the main station, 4 km east of downtown, close to the main highway east to Istanbul. International and regional trains stop here.
3
Edirne Şehir is 1 km SW of the centre, on the edge of the old quarter near the riverbank. The regional trains stop here but not the international trains.
4
Kastaniés (Καστανιές), just across the border into Greece and 4 km southwest of Edirne, has trains from Alexandroupolis on the line to Dikaia, operated by TrainOSE and taking just over two hours. In Feb 2021 there's only a single train M-F, leaving Alexandroupolis before 09:00 and heading back from Kastaniés around noon.
By car
The city is on the main highways between Turkey and Europe, the toll-free D100 and toll-motorway O-3 / E80. Istanbul is 224 km east, say two hours.
All border crossings are open 24 hours. The main border post is Kapikule (Turkey) / Kapitan Andreevo (Bulgaria), 15 km west of Edirne. Svilengrad 8 km further is the first Bulgarian town you reach.
The minor nearby crossing is Pazarkule (Turkey) / Kastaniés (Greece) 4 km southwest of the city.
The other crossing, which you're unlikely to use, is 40 km north on D535 at Hamzabeyli (Turkey) / Lesovo (Bulgaria).
Get around
Map of Edirne
The centre is compact, fairly flat and walkable. The outlying districts are within a long walk, but you might prefer to take a taxi or dolmuş at least one way.
See
Downtown
Selimiye Mosque
Grand Synagogue
Northwest
Ottoman bridge to Karaağaç
Medieval bridges cross the River Tundzha to Sarayiçi and Yeniimaret. These were once important city districts, but depopulation left them lying at a distance across the fields. Another factor is the flood-prone river: even the most reckless property developer couldn't get away with urbanising its banks. The bridges have a modern flagstone surface and may be used by light vehicles.
Bayazid II health complex
Southwest
Old railway station in Karaağaç
Karaağaç (say kaa raa aa ach), 4 km southwest of downtown, is the only part of Turkey to lie west of Maritsa River, which otherwise forms the border with Greece.
Further out
You need a car to reach outlying sights.
Do
Young oil wrestlers
Buy
Eat
Lots of cafes on Saraçlar Cd
- along Saraçlar Cd, the pedestrian mall a block east of the old quarter.
- south end of Maritsa Bridge, especially when sunset bathes the old town in lemon and olive oil.
- Sera Cafe at Mimar Sinar Cd 8 behind Selimiye Mosque.
Almond paste (badem ezmesi) is a local, soft cookie-like dessert of bitter almond. Keçecizade is a chain store selling this and other desserts. Their main outlet is at Hükümet Cd 5 opposite Üç Şerefeli.
Drink
Sleep
Edirne's accommodation is mostly around Old Quarter and east of centre. Many places are tatty: those listed appear to have been cleaned at least once during 2021.
Stay safe
Floods are a hazard after heavy rain especially in winter. Districts such as Karaağaç may be cut off as the medieval bridges become inundated. Never try to cross a flooded bridge, see local advice on work-around safe routes.
Connect
As of Dec 2020, Edirne has a good 4G signal from all Turkish carriers, which extends along the main highways up to the Greek and Bulgarian borders. 5G has not reached this area.
Cope
Consulates
Go next
Routes through Edirne
SofiaPlovdiv
Turkish-Bulgarian border ←
 W  E → Junction (N/S) → ÇorluIstanbul



This city travel guide to Edirne is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.
Last edited on 10 August 2021, at 20:32
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