Edirne is a rather small city (in Turkish standards) in Turkey which is surrounded by Tekirdağ and Kırklareli (Other Turkish cities) to the east and north, the Aegean Sea to the south and Greece and Bulgaria to its west. It is the north-western end of Turkey, which serves as a passage from the Middle East and Asia to the rest of Europe. The city is located in the European part of Turkey, called Thrace, or Eastern Thrace, more precisely.
Being once the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Edirne was a large city, if not huge. However, the population of the city today is only a half of what it was a hundred years ago. Nowadays, the city is not so crowded except for weekends. The weekend is an exception for the city of Edirne in terms of population because thousands of Greek and Bulgarian people rush into the city on weekends for shopping and for the local open market on Fridays. This is primarily because textile in Turkey is much more varied and cheaper than the neighboring countries, along with many other goods except for alcohol, cigarettes and nightlife. Those items can be more expensive than you can imagine within the country, when you compare them with Greece or Bulgaria.
This article is only the beginning of many others about Edirne, so I would strongly recommend you to check out the others as well, which you can find through the links within this article. However, if you’d also like to check out some tips and tricks related to the neighbor countries and cities of Edirne, which are Greece and Bulgaria, and Gokceada(Imbros) I would also like to direct you to the following three articles:
1. Greece Travel Tips – Survival Guide
2. Driving in Bulgaria – What you Need to Know
3. Imbros or Gokceada – How to Get There
Before we dive into the history of Edirne, there is one thing you should consider in mind. The remarks I made above about the convenient location of Edirne were not actually in vain. A miliatry historian, John Keegan, actually names the place “The Most Contested Spot on the Globe” due to its advantageous location.
Back to the history of Edirne, then…
Although there are several theories about the first settlers of Edirne, it is generally acknowledged that the Thracians were the first to arrive and establish a settlement in the region. Not much is known about this first Thracian settlement in Edirne, except for that it belonged to a Thracian trible called Odrysians or the Bessi.
What is Left of the Thracians in Edirne
Around 1400 – 1200 BC, the settlement was siezed by Achaeans, a Greek tribe, and turned into a “polis”, or a town. Belonging for a long time to the Achaeans, or Greeks, the city was then again siezed, this time by Darius I during his attacks on Scythians, making the city a Persian one around 510 BC. Approximately 50 years after, that is, in around 460 BC, Odryssians in the region once again claimed their independence but it lasted only for about 120 years, the city was taken over by Macedonians this time, under the rule of King Philip II. Having been controlled by the Celtic tribes for a short period, Edirne was taken by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 123-124 BC and made into a beautiful city with walls and 11 towers, once of which is still intact. At that time, Edirne was the capital of the Thrace province of the Roman Empire.
When the Roman Empire was divided into two, the city was left in the hands of the Eastern Roman Empire, or the Byzanthian Empire. However, in 813, Edirne was invaded by the armies of the Bulgarian Khan Krum, as a result of which the citizens of Edirne were forcefully moved to the north of Danube, but the city remained as a Byzanthian one.
Later on, the city was attacked by the Crusaders several times, but none of those attacks brought about any success due to severe resistence by Bulgarian Armies to the Crusaders. Later on, in 1205, Bulgarians attempted an attack over the city, owned by the Latin Empire, and took over the city following a decisive defeating of the Latin Armies. This battle in history is known as the Battle of Adrianople.
Meanwhile, the Ottoman Sultan, Murad I, was also strengthening in central-western Anatolia and starting to organize attacks around the Marmara Sea and Eastern Thrace. Although the exact date is not known, it is thought that Murad’s armies managed to sieze and take over Edirne between 1361 and 1371. Following the invasion, Murat I made Edirne the capital of the Ottomans.
Until the capital was moved to Istanbul, that is until 1453, the city remained as the capital of the Ottomans for about 90 years, from which period it still has a lot of historical artifacts like a palace, many bridges and several other buildings.
For about 400 years, the city wasn’t occupied or controlled by another country. However, Edirne was occupied for a short period in 1829 by the Russian Imperial Army as a part of the Greek War of Independence and then again by the Russian forces in the Russo-Turkish War in 1877-1878.
The city played a crucial role in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, especially for the purpose of defending Istanbul from being invaded. However, it couldn’t save itself from being invaded by Bulgarians, once again after hundreds of years. The First Balkan War ended with Edirne controlled by Bulgarian authorities. However, the Second Balkan War resulted in the city’s being handed over to the Turkish people once again owing to the efforts of Enver Pasha, who may also be referred to as “the second conqueror of Edirne”.
The final invasion Edirne in the history was performed by Greek forces around 1920, but the city was once again Turkish as a result of the Greko-Turkish War, which ended in 1922.
Since then, Edirne is a border city of Turkey, neigboring Greece and Bulgaria.
Old Names of Edirne
As you saw in the history of Edirne section, Edirne changed hands many times, as the “most contested spot on the globe”. As a natural outcome, it changed names many times, so many times that I refrained from stating them in the history section but started a new subtitle instead. So here are the old names of Edirne in the chronological order:
- Uskudama – The possible name of the first Thracian settlement in the region. Also referred to as Uskadama or Uskodama.
- Orestia – The name given by the Macedonian Emperor Philip II. The name Orestia(s) also has its roots in the Greek mythology. The myth says that the son of Agamemnon, Orestes, built the city.
- Hadrianopolis – The name given by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, meaning “The City of Hadrian”. Also referred to as Adrianopolis or Adrianople.
- Odrin – The name given by the Bulgarians. Bulgarian people still refer to Edirne as Odrin.
- Edirne – The name given by the Ottomans, which is still used as the official name of the city. You can see that Edirne is phonetically similar to (or a combination of) Hadrian and Odrin.
It is also worth mentioning that the city is referred to as Edrene in Macedonia and Jedrene in Serbia, Montenegro and other Post-Yugoslavian countries.
As the whole Province of Edirne, nowadays the population is approximately 410.000, but the city of Edirne by an 2016 count based on address data has a population of 158.400.
According to the governorship of Edirne, the city takes up 5,3 / 1000 of entire Turkey. 70,1% of the province population live in city and district centres while 29,9% live in villages. The city centre takes up 55% of the province population. The largest district is Keşan with a population of 80.500, including the centre and rural areas.
The population density of Edirne is 66 people per kilometer square in the province and 191 people per kilometer square in the city center.
In general, the population of Edirne follow a decreasing trend, if not a slightly increasing one. The city is the 80th out of 81 in Turkey in terms of the number of children, which is slightly above 63.000. This means the population is generally old in the city of Edirne.
The population increase rate is about 0,4% which is really a small number in comparison to the general population increase rate of Turkey, which happens to be 13,3%.
Historically speaking, it is thought that the city had a population of 70.000 in 1400’s and 35.000 in 1700’s. Apparently, the population gradually decreased by half after the Ottoman conquest of Edirne. The moving of the capital of the Ottoman Empire from Edirne to Istanbul may also be accounting for the decrease. Only after 1900’s, which we may call the republican period, the population increased to 68.000 and kept on increasing gradually till 2000’s.
Since ethnical data is not sought for, nor recorded by the Turkish Government, it is not exactly possible to know which ethnicities reside in Edirne. However, it is known that Turkish, Roma and Pomak people are predominant in terms of the city’s population. Apart from that, some Bulgarian, Greek and Kurdish people also reside in the city. Moreover, a Serbian friend of mine found 2 Serbian guys who run a shop in the city. 🙂
I won’t write here about tomorrow’s weather forecast in Edirne, of course. But in general, the climate of Edirne can be identified as “continental”, having cold winters and hot summers. In winters, the weather is generally too cold and the winter is generally quite long in Edirne. It is not surprising to have a temperature of -15 during the day in February or +45 in August.
The coldest months can be said to be January and February, and the hottest ones are July and August, since the city is in the northern hemisphere.
The annual precipitation average is 452,95 kilograms per square meter.
River Meriç and Meriç Bridge
Border Checkpoints in Edirne
As a city which borders two different countries, Edirne has four border checkpoints, two of which connect Turkey to Greece (İpsala and Pazarkule), and the other two connecting the country to Bulgaria (Kapıkule and Hamzabeyli).
Hamzabeyli Border Checkpoint
Originally meant for the trucks going to Eastern or Northern Europe, Hamzabeyli Border Checkpoint is about 20 kilometers from Edirne city center to the north. The checkpoint recorded 115.000 entries from Bulgaria and 104.000 exits to Bulgaria in 2015.
Pazarkule Border Checkpoint
Pazarkule Border Checkpoint is the closest one to the city center of Edirne and it is used by passengers, cars and tour buses only to go to / come from Greece. Heavy trucks are not allowed in this border checkpoint. According to the statistics, Pazarkule checkpoint recorded 106.000 entries from Greece and 117.000 exits to Greece in 2015.
İpsala Border Checkpoint
İpsala Border Checkpoint is the main one to Greece. Heavy and commercial trucks are also allowed along with passengers, cars and tour buses. Therefore, it is the busiest border checkpoint between Turkey and Greece. İpsala recorded 209.000 entries from Greece and 205.000 exits to Greece in the year of 2015.
Kapıkule Border Checkpoint
Kapikule Border Checkpoint
Kapıkule Border Checkpoint is by the far the busiest one in Edirne and in whole Turkey. It opens to Bulgaria, having the nearest Bulgarian city as Svilengrad, but the importance of Kapıkule Border Checkpoint is that this is the one that you take if you want to go to Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, even London. Therefore, Kapıkule recorded 555.000 entries from Bulgaria and 536.000 exits to Bulgaria in 2015.
Education in Edirne
Edirne is known to be a highly educated city with a literacy rate above 99%. According to the municipality data, the city has 180 primary schools, 20 high schools, 15 vocational high schools, 3 private schools, 2 private and 94 public pre-schools.
The education indicators of the city are also quite positive, having 14-15 students per teacher by 2014, which is below 18-19 or the average of Turkey.
Moreover, the city has a public university, namely Trakya University, which has approximately 40.000 Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral students.
Healthcare in Edirne
According to the Governorship of Edirne, the city is among the cities with best healthcare conditions in Turkey. The quality of life indicators put the city in the 11th place in Turkey, limited to the healthcare services.
There are 7 hospitals in Edirne, 3 of which are directly connected to the Turkish Ministry of Health, 1 of which belongs to the university as a training&research hospital, and 3 of which are private.
The number of beds per 10.000 of population is 47,4 and this is almost twice the average of Turkey, which is 26,4.
There are 51 family healthcare centers in the city, along with 115 family practice centers. In addition to those, there are 3 mother and child care and family planning centers, 1 tuberculosis control dispensary and 1 oral and dental health center.
17 Emergency Healthcare Centers also operate within the premises of the city.
The economy of Edirne is largely composed of agriculture, having slightly over 70% of its workforce as agricultural workers. Corn, sunflowers, watermelons, rice and eggplants are produced in large amounts within the borders of Edirne province.
Edirne Sunflower Fields
In terms of economic indicators, the governorship of Edirne identifies the city as semi-developed. A 2011 study suggests that Edirne is the 11th most developed city of Turkey socio-economically. Moreover, 2014 data related to the Gross National Product Per Capita statistics show that Edirne has a GDP of 11.760 US Dollars per capita, exceeding the country average by approximately 1.200 US Dollars.
Apart from agriculture, tourism is also an important source of financial income for the city of Edirne. According to the governorship, there are 23 accommodation facilities with a bed capacity of 1.872. And it is quite well known that this capacity does not meet the demands of the Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival, held for over 600 years every summer. Moreover, day-tourists visit the city for shopping or history especially on weekend.
Edirne Food – What to Eat in Edirne
Naturally, there are many local dishes related to Edirne, and every village is a new treasure when it comes to food. However, a regular traveler or a tourist, again naturally, won’t have the chance to experience the city village by village, so here are the ones you will come across with in the center.
Edirne Fried Livers
This a type of dish you can find only in Edirne, thus it’s special. I tried some in Tekirdağ and İstanbul, but I can assure you that the real thing is different, and it’s in Edirne.
The dish typically consists of very thinly sliced and fried cow’s liver, accompanied by fresh tomatoes, onions and fried chili peppers. It is served in a standard portion, but it is also possible to order 1.5 portions in a single plate. If you’re in a good restaurant, tomatoes, onions and peppers are renewed when they are finished, and that’s free of charge.
Those are typical meatballs, but their size is a big larger than the average meatball in Turkey, In one portion, one normally has 6 meatballs, and depending on the place, the meatballs may be served with tomatoes, onions and rice. The meat is of beef, and in the mixture of minced meat, bread and spices are added. All the restaurants that sell meatball in Edirne serve it with a special chili sauce, which makes it special for Edirne.
Things to See in Edirne
Above I told you about the fact that Edirne was the capital of the Ottoman Empire and that it is the most contested spot in the world, so it is only natural to expect a lot of history. In this sections, I will give only brief information about the things to see in Edirne, and you can get the details through the links I provide for each historical artifact / tourist attraction (which is an ongoing process, thank you for your patience).
Selimiye Mosque by Night
Selimiye Mosque is not only important for Edirne, but it is also important for the entire country since it is, in his own words, “The Magnum Opus” of the greatest architect of Ottoman History, that is, Sinan The Architect. Built in 1575, the mosque is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To read more about that significant Ottoman masterpiece in Turkey, please click on Selimiye Mosque.
Selimiye Arastası (Selimiye Covered Bazaar)
The covered bazaar of Selimiye was built just below the mosque in order to cover for the expenses related to the mosque. It has 124 shops inside, which are still open. Please click to get more information about the Selimiye Arasta (Covered Bazaar).
The construction of the palace started in 1450 and ended in 1475, since the process halted due to the death of Sultan Murad II. During the Russo-Turkish War, the palace was blown up by an Ottoman Pasha to avoid a potential capture of the palace. Nowadays, the palace is being renovated, but there is still much work to do. The details about the structure can be found in our Edirne Palace article.
Complex of Sultan Bayezid II – Health Museum
An Ottoman Experimental Medicine Illustration Inside
Built in 1488, the complex once had a medical school, a hospital, a mosque and an almshouse for the poor. According to some sources, it is the first mental hospital in the world. Nowadays, it’s a great museum where you can experience the education of doctors or the treatment of psychiatric patients with the sound of music and water. Click to read more about The Complex of Sultan Bayezid II Health Museum, Edirne.
Eski Cami (The Old Mosque)
Having been constructed in 1414, the Old Mosque definitely deserves its name with its age over 600 years. The mosque is right in the center of the city and is in good condition. The calligraphy inside is also worth seeing. For more information, please read that detailed article about Eski Cami (The Old Mosque) in Edirne.
Sveti Georgi Bulgarian Church
A 15 minute walk from the city center to the north will get you to an old neighborhood of Edirne, named Kıyık, and in one of the alleys you’ll come across with a brown little church, which was built in 1880. The interior of the church is decorated with many icons and the priest is happy to give you information about the church. Feel free to check out our article on Sveti Georgi Bulgarian Orthodox Church for more information.
Grand Synagogue of Edirne
The Grand Synagogue of Edirne is a jewish temple which was first opened in 1907 and for a second time in 2015. In the Late Ottoman Period, the Synagogue was built in order to unite the Edirne synagogues which were burnt down in the Great Fire of Edirne in 1905. The fire is thought to have affected 1687 buildings in the city center.
Üç Şerefeli Mosque
Üç Şerefeli Mosque is the third of the important mosques in the city center of Edirne, built in 1447. The mosque is marked by the unusual design of the minarets which have 3 balconies each. Some sources state that the architect of the mosque was Müslihiddin Ağa, who is known to be the master of Sinan The Architect.
Just another work of Sinan The Architect, Rüstempaşa Caravansarai was built in 1554 by the order of Damat Rüstem Pasha, who was married with one of the daughters of Kanuni Sultan Süleyman (Suleyman the Magnificent). Renovated in 1970, the building is still used as a hotel.
About a 10-minute walk to Rüstempaşa Caravansarai, Ekmekçizade Caravansarai was built in 1610 by the chief architect of the period, Sedefkar Mehmet Ağa. Also referred to as the Ayşe Kadın Caravansarai due to its location called Ayşekadın, the caravansarai was built by the order of the chief provincial treasurer Ekmekçizade Ahmed Pasha.
Bedesten (Covered Bazaar)
The Bedesten in Edirne was built in 1418 by the order of Sultan Mehmed I in order to provide financial income to the Old Mosque. The architect of the market is Hacı Alaeddin. Being a very active shopping center in the past, the building is still intact and used as a market with 54 shops inside.
Karaağaç Train Station
Karaağaç Train Station (formerly Edirne Railway Station) was built and opened in 1873 by a French company, as the Edirne station of the line which used to terminate in Vienna, Austria. The station, along with the line, was closed in 1971 and the building was used as the Rectorate of Trakya University for some years. Nowadays, Karaağaç Train Station is still a well-preserved buildings thanks to the efforts of Trakya University, and it serves as the Faculty of Fine Arts.
Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival (Event)
A Kırkpınar Wrestling Day
Kırkpınar is among the most consistent traditions to Turkish people, having been held for over 650 years. Wrestlers, covered in olive oil for more difficult gripping, wrestle for 3 days and on the last day, the final match is held to determine the winner of the contest, or the chief wrestler (başpehlivan). One of the best preserved traditions of Turkish people, Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival is a UNESCO Intangible World Heritage.
The Macedonian Tower
Located right in the city center (you just can’t miss it), The Macedonian Tower is actually the only tower among the 11 which has survived till today. Originally built by the Romans, the tower served as the fire tower and the clock tower of Edirne in different periods. Nowadays, it’s an open air museum.
Tens of Old Mosques and Bridges (Up to 500+ Years Old)
Apart from all what I have counted, it is possible to come across with a 500-year-old mosque (such as Beylerbeyi or Gazimihal Mosques, both built before 1500 AD) or a 500-year-old-bridge (such as Fatih Bridge). According to official sources, there are over 600 historical artifacts in Edirne, dating back to Romans!
You have something to add about Edirne? Please comment!!!
Edirne, Turkey - The Only Travel Guide You Need
A travel guide and informative article about Edirne, Turkey...