Edirne is an old city in the west of Turkiye, in the ‘European’ part of the country on the Balkan Peninsula. The region is also known as Eastern Thrace. Today, the region of Thrace is subdivided into Northern Thrace in Bulgaria and Western Thrace in Greece. Thrace is an area where many cultures come together, with Muslims and Orthodox Christians sharing this historical land. That’s what also makes the local culture so unique in Turkiye.
The old names of Edirne are Adrianople and Hadrianopolis. It was the capital of the Ottoman Empire before the Ottomans conquered Constantinople (Istanbul). There are two rivers that flow through the city: the Meriç (Maritza) and Tunca (Tundzha). Since the area has been inhabited for so long, there are many old bridges, buildings, and landmarks. Two of them have UNESCO World Heritage Site status: Selimiye Mosque and the social complex of Bayezid II.
Besides old stuff, Edirne is close to the borders of Greece (Schengen) and Bulgaria (not yet Schengen). Many people from those countries visit Edirne for shopping. There’s also a thriving university with many young people, which leads to nice affordable restaurants and even a hip craft beer scene.
How to Travel to Edirne?
I hitchhiked past Edirne twice to/from Bulgaria in 2014 but didn’t get out. Since the city is on a major route into Turkiye from Europe, it’s straightforward to hitchhike into Edirne. If you’re hitchhiking with a truck driver into Turkiye, the border crossing might take a while. In that case, it’s possible to part ways with your driver, cross the border on foot, and then hitchhike to Edirne with new people after the crossing.
To travel to Edirne from Istanbul in 2021, we took the bus. The bus is pretty affordable and doesn’t take that long. Note that the bus station in western Istanbul is located quite far from the city. That’s why we took many forms of public transit to get to the bus station.
There are also buses to Edirne from Bulgaria, Greece, and Istanbul Airport (IST).
Upon arrival at the bus station in Edirne, we took a taxi to get into the city. This wasn’t too expensive, though the Turkish Lira (₺) was going through some rough times during our visit.
Though Edirne has a train station, it seems like it’s not running any trains at the moment. I hope that in the future, Edirne will be connected with a nice international train service to Bulgaria and/or Greece. There’s an old and beautiful train station in nearby Karaağaç, but that one also has no service.
Go urban exploring in the Macedonian Tower (at your own risk)
Wander around the historic train station of Karaağaç
Spend a few hours learning about healthcare from centuries ago at the Complex of Sultan Bayezid II
Eat a çiğ köfte at one of the man places. It’s vegan!
Buy something at the Alipasha Bazaar
Imagine being a weary traveler sleeping at a caravanserai, such as the Rüstem Pasha Caravanserai
Drink (Velimeşe) Boza
Watch the oldest continuously-running sporting event in the world: the annual Edirne Kırkpınaroil wresting competition
Visit the Bulgarian Orthodox Church of Saints Constantine and Helen
Wander around the ruins of the Edirne Sarayı (Edirne Palace)
Visit the House of Bahá’u’lláh, which is where the founder of the Baháʼí Faith spent four years under house arrest
Learn more about Mimar Sinan at Selimiye Foundation Museum and then go shopping at the Selimiye Bazaar
Find out which hammams are historic (Edirne Beylerbeyi Hamamı) and which are still operating (Edirne Merkez Saray Hamamı) for a nice self-care session
Visit the Fatih Bridge and the Kasr-ı Adalet (Justice Pavilion)
Why stop there? Consider an itinerary that goes over all the magnificent Ottoman bridges in Edirne
When it reopens, ride the train in and out of Edirne across the Balkan borders or to the Bosphorus
Visit the Treaty of Lausanne monument and museum in Karaağaç
If you eat meat, try the local specialty Edirne ciğerior Edirne liver
Buy some sweet baklava or Turkish delight
Enjoy the walkable city center of Edirne
Map of Landmarks in Edirne and Karaağaç
Use the menu on the left side to make POIs and routes appear or disappear.
Our Edirne Itinerary
We stayed in the city for a week, which is a lot of time for most travelers. That’s because we also worked from the hotel. You can do all of the things in the list above in way less time if you’re on a tight schedule. We really enjoyed our time in Edirne.
Open to read our day-by-day itinerary
Arrival (24th of November)
During our relatively short stay of only six weeks in Turkiye, the Turkish Lira made quite the nosedive. This is undoubtedly good for our wallets, but bad for the locals. We noticed this at the bus terminal in Esenler (Esenler Otogari) when a man tried to sell us socks we don’t need for five whole minutes. In the end, he got almost upset that we couldn’t be persuaded to buy them and the experience left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
To get to Esenler Coach Terminal from Beyoğlu district on the western side of Istanbul, we took the metro from Şişhane to Yenikapi İstasyonu, followed by the metro to Otogar İstasyonu. This was all pretty straightforward, as we had navigated Istanbul by public transit the entire time. Finding the actual bus at the bus station wasn’t so simple though, and we ended up wandering around the area till some people pointed us in the right direction.
The bus ride itself was quite comfortable, with drinks and a snack provided. Why no hitchhiking? Well, firstly it’s difficult to hitchhike out of a vortex such as Istanbul. Secondly, we were on a time limit with a pre-booked hotel in Edirne. And thirdly, our previous hitchhiking experience trying to get into Istanbul had damaged our confidence. So bus it is.
We arrived on the outskirts of Edirne on time and hopped into a taxi immediately to cover the last 9 kilometers to town. We arrived at Trakya City Hotel, checked into the room, and went out for dinner at a place called Café M as part of our orientation of the city. Edirne has some nice pedestrianized areas next to the main Alipasha bazaar, where we met the first friendly local cats and kittens. The city feels very unsketchy—even after dark. Several places including a su böreği were still open, so we got a fat stack of that delicious Turkish lasagna for the late night munchies.
Selimiye Mosque (25th of November)
Trakya City Hotel has breakfast included and the breakfast room has a funny demographic of Turkish people, Bulgarian tourists, and other people who are passing through shortly. Signs are in Turkish, Bulgarian, and Greek mostly, with only some in English. I find the Bulgarian ones most easy to understand.
We’re staying at this hotel in Edirne for more than a week, which is probably absurdly long for both the city’s size and the season. Late November isn’t exactly the time to visit, but as long as we put on a warm jacket that only works in our favor. And the days won’t be wasted since we can work from the hotel.
After breakfast and a bit of work, we decided to go visit the Selimiye Mosque. That was my main reason to visit Edirne and today was a Thursday, so it’s not the main religious day. We timed it to go there in between prayer times, but we walked into a celebration on the way. It was a very big event with speeches, dances in traditional costumes, and music. It ended with a big parade in which all local organizations in Edirne were represented. Lots of Turkish flags. Presumably, it celebrates the liberation of Edirne (Edirne’nin kurtuluşu) on November 25th (25 Kasım) in 1922.
Edited to add: apparently, the municipality of Edirne made it a whole thing for the 100th anniversary of the liberation in 2022. See this text and also the website Edirne 2022:
Because 25 November 2022 is the 100th anniversary of Edirne’s liberation . For this reason, we declared 2022 as the Year of Edirne (2022 Edirne Yılı) with the decision of the city council. We are preparing to celebrate the year 2022, the 100th anniversary of the liberation of Edirne with great enthusiasm.
Our first visit to the Selimiye Mosque was really pleasant and in beautiful late autumn weather. Afterward, we ran into some kittens at the Ottoman gravestone exhibition. Jonas got himself a kebab sandwich on the way back and I bought some and çiğ köfte at Zarif Çiğköfte Salonu and some pistachio baklava from a shop on the same street. It’s still a little hard to believe that today’s çiğ köfte is actually vegan.
Craft Beer (26th of November)
We mostly worked this day, so we only went out into the city in the late afternoon to crawl into the Macedonian Tower and afterward find food. This little urbex session was a lot of fun. The area there is a bit sketchy with an archaeological excavation and some stray dogs that bark, but otherwise it’s fine to visit it in the daytime. The tower used to be much taller, with a clock tower part in a different baroque style added on top. In general, the Macedonian tower is made up of many layers from the past. Earthquakes have destroyed the tallest bits. Now it’s home to many pigeons, so I put on a hoodie just in case.
Craving hummus-like things, we ended up in a place called Antiochia Grill Kebap ve Meze. We got a bunch of different vegetarian dips, some salads, and warm bread. We had planned to leave some space for künefe, but we were satiated. It’s a very cute little place in an area with many competing restaurants.
We ended the day with a visit to the hip Trokya Craft Beer Taproom, which was a fantastic experience. They have a small beer tray you can buy and use as a sampler, so we tried four out of eight beers they had on the menu. This is also where local students go to unwind and socialize.
Karaağaç (27th of November)
After breakfast, we took a big drive to Karaağaç across the two rivers and old bridges. That village is, like, really close to Greece. We could have walked to the border and crossed to Kastanies on foot.
There was yet another event happening in Karaağaç. We eventually saw a banner that said this was the Kahve ve Çikolata Festivali. I don’t know Turkish, but I do know all those words. It’s the Coffee and Chocolate Festival, and it was the first edition. There was one stall preparing Dutch poffertjes, which I really craved, but they sold out very quickly.
We walked to the beautiful and historic Karaağaç train station, which is now part of the faculty of fine arts of Trakya University. The train station opened in 1873 and closed in 1971 because it was bypassed by the opening of another train station closer to Edirne and an alternate Greek rail line that avoided Turkish territory. The current building dates back to 1914 and really has the atmosphere of train travel in the olden days.
There was an old train on the tracks nearby that was popular with the Instagram crowd. We walked along the former tracks southeast to an area overtaken by nature. There were some nice abandoned structures nearby followed up by some military infrastructure, so we promptly turned around. We quickly visited the Treaty of Lausanne monument – which looks almost weirdly Soviet for the area – but that was the area of a stage for the festival. Jonas managed to get his hands on some chocolate things and a hot cup of coffee and then we decided to leave this crowded area.
We ended up walking back to Edirne, which is 4.5 kilometers. At a fancy restaurant called Lalezar, we made a break and ate some food while petting a cat or two with a welcoming blanket on my lap and a refilled cup of çay in my hand. It’s right at the Meriç river and has a view of one of the bridges.
We crossed both Ottoman bridges back into Edirne and returned to the hotel via the pleasant pedestrian zone. In the evening, we ordered a cheesy pide for me and a meaty lahmacunfor Jonas. Ordering food worked pretty well.
Complex of Bayezid II Health Museum (28th of November)
After work, we decided to speed things up by taking a local taxi to the Kanuni bridge upstream on the Tunca river. It crosses onto a river island and then there’s another bridge called Fatih. I wanted to walk over all the old bridges and visit a historic tower and something called Edirne Palace (Edirne Sarayı). But the Fatih bridge and tower were closed and perhaps under renovation. We tried to find a way through since the next part of this trip depended on us crossing the river, but there was simply no way. I hope it has reopened by now.
We walked around and passed some statues, including one dedicated to the annual oil wrestling (Edirne Kırkpınar) event. Some guy bothered us and we walked back over the Kanuni bridge to find the next bridge downstream called Saraçhane. That one was passable and in no time we walked over the embankment to the goal of today: visiting the Bayezid II Health Museum.
First, we went to the mosque next door of the same name. The health complex itself was 30₺ (€2.50) per person entrance at that time. Besides a nice exhibition of the madrasa and ancient hospital, there was also a section with the entire economy around the complex (külliyesi) with a soup kitchen and all sorts of employment. One corner felt warmer than the others, which was where a woman in old dress was frying up some tasty bread and handing out tea to the many visitors. We said our handful of niceties we can say in Turkish.
(Yes, the museum snack was free of charge)
Then the absolute best part of the museum experience happened at the darüşşifa (hospital) part. We met an adorable kitten in the main building who just wanted to snuggle. She didn’t mind us carrying her around the museum, which is exactly what I did.
From there, we walked back across the final two Ottoman bridges on this route called Bayezid II and Yalnızgöz to the center of Edirne. We ate at Café M and had another craft beer session at Trokya Craft Beer Taproom. What a perfect day.
Rüstem Pasha Caravanserai (29th of November)
Besides work, we tried to find out if the nearby Rüstempaşa Kervansarayı was still operating as a hotel as some websites claimed. We walked around the building, but couldn’t find the entrance or any evidence of an open hotel. I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did keep one, staying in a renovated historic caravanserai would definitely be on it.
Afterward, we went to eat some çiğ köfte and künefe—as those things probably won’t be available in Mauritius.
Great Synagogue of Edirne (30th of November)
After work, we walked to the part of town where the renovated and reopened for prayer Great Synagogue of Edirne (Edirne Büyük Sinagogu). But first, it started raining and I spotted a business that sold boza. It was some kind of men’s café or bar where young guys were playing darts and the old ones smoking and playing backgammon. Not exactly the spot to hang out for long, but they had what they advertised with a mandatory cup of tea. Boza is a fermented cereal drink. The server topped it off with some cinnamon and stuff. It was pretty good, though I probably wouldn’t search hard for it again.
The rain had slowed and we walked to our main goal. This was the first time in a synagogue for me and probably even for Jonas despite his previous visit to Israel / Palestine. Security was pretty tight there and we understand why.
After the synagogue visit, we found a place that sold affordable nar suyu (pomegranate juice). We walked across town to a place called Cafe Dervişan for some gözleme. That’s essentially the same as Azeri qutab, which is a savory-filled pancake-like thingy that I love as there are many vegetarian versions. We paired it with some special tea and coffee.
On the way back, we made a stop at a roasted chestnut man for our last favorite street food in Turkiye. We also encountered our favorite carwash kitten before returning to the hotel.
PCR Test in Edirne (1st of December)
Today was a bit special. We had to take a covid-19 PCR test in Edirne before our flight from Istanbul to Mauritius. We went to the Özel Trakya Hastanesi to take the test, though we walked around the entire building once before we found the right entrance. The two women managing the test center were highly efficient. They would develop the results while we ate an amazing full Turkish breakfast at Mola Kahvaltı Salonu. Turkish breakfast is probably the primary reason Jonas doesn’t want to leave.
The results came back negative and we spent the rest of the day feasting on Turkish delicacies. We returned to Antiochia Grill Kebap ve Meze and of course Trokya Craft Beer Taproom. It was very wholesome until we needed to pack our backpacks. We met the carwash kitten once again and I was heartbroken.
Departure (2nd of December)
One last hotel breakfast before going. Our hotel arranged a taxi to the bus terminal in Edirne. Jonas had booked us a bus ticket that would stop at the new Istanbul Airport (IST) so we wouldn’t have to enter the big city again. I was very sad to leave.
We hadn’t spent time at the bus station in Edirne upon entering, but now we had to wait a bit for the bus to leave. The food situation there was excellent as there was a place that still sold mega dürüm çiğ köfte—the travel-friendly version of çiğ köfte. Jonas got even more snacks right before we hopped on the bus to leave not only beautiful Edirne, but also the whole of Turkiye.