Bursa was the first capital (late 1200s-early 1300s) of the Ottoman Empire and it remains a significant city today, the total area of Bursa is 1,035 square kilometres (400 square miles) which is home to around 2 million residents, this large sprawling city in North-western Anatolia is close to the Sea of Marmara, south of Istanbul and it is the fourth most populous city in Turkey after Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. It lies in the foothills of Mount Uludağ meaning “Great Mountain” which rises 2543 m (8343 feet) to the south of the historic centre of Bursa, it is mostly known for its historical sites dating back to the early Ottoman Empire around 1299 and its beautiful ornately decorated mosques.
The production of silk became one of the most important products made in Bursa right through the 17th century, providing luxury for the Ottoman palaces, now you can find many silk bazaars where you can purchase the most exquisite pieces imaginable. The hot springs are wonderfully relaxing thermal spa baths found west of the centre of Bursa in Çekirge’s. Bursa is commonly referred to as “Yesil Bursa” meaning Green Bursa as it has many stunning parks and trees which add to the dramatic beauty of the mountain backdrop. The wonderful and ancient 14th century Ulu Camii which means Great Mosque has an impressive 20 domes and Seljuk style arches its Bursa’s most dominant mosque and was built by Sultan Beyazıt, it’s grand in design with two huge minarets and the pulpit has intricate wood carvings and the walls feature beautiful calligraphy.
Today Bursa is a modern city but retains the historical buildings all around it including mosques and mausoleums celebrating the city as it was once the first Ottoman capital.
As a city, you would expect it to be vastly built up but with numerous parks and greenery, they make for wonderful areas to escape too. During the summer months you can ride the cable car which takes you to the summit of Mount Uludağ for hiking or to take in the fresh cool air and in the winter months you can ski as it’s Turkey’s premier ski resort, as you can imagine the views from the summit are magnificent.
This, in turn, means that it’s not only a great destination to visit in the summer but the winter months too.
Bursa is an ideal location as it’s close to Istanbul and the recently opened Osmangazi Bridge dramatically cuts the travel time between Istanbul and Bursa from two and half hours to just over an hour making Bursa on everyone’s radar now especially for tourists, city workers and property buyers. International flights are frequent to Bursa and some foreigners prefer to fly to Istanbul and then onto Bursa by ferry or car. It’s a great location for sightseeing as the average temperature in January is 10°C / 50°F and in July its 30°C / 86°F.
There are so many outstanding buildings and sightseeing attractions in Bursa to visit, here is a list of just a few of the attractions that you must see on your visit, it’s impossible to list all of the sites. In 2014 Bursa was awarded the prestigious Unesco World Heritage status for being the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire and there are wonderful historic religious buildings to remind you of its rich and important history. Throughout the city, there are many beautiful mosques that dominate the skyline from different eras and styles. A must on your to see list is the Yesil Camii which means Green Mosque which was built between 1412 and 1419 its has beautifully carved marble and its name derives from the interior walls being decorated with greenish blue tiles, it’s a wonderful example of an Ottoman-style mosque and is found in the farming town of İznik once known as Ancient Nicaea.
The mausoleum of 5th Ottoman Sultan Mehmed I is described as a sublime example of 15th Century décor. The tombs of Sultans Osman and Orhan who were the founders of the Ottoman Empire can be found on the summit in a park where the castle is in Bursa and the city museum depicts Bursas rich and colourful history and makes it easy to understand the culture and how local life was like.
The fabulous Karagöz Museum includes Turkish, Uzbek, Russian and Romanian puppets and here on certain days you can see performances. Visit traditional and restored Ottoman houses with a collection of traditional ottoman musical instruments and other artefacts and sprawling markets with just about everything you could possibly want to buy.
In Bursa’s old citadel there is an imposing six-storey clock tower it was one of four that was once the city’s fire alarms, there is now just one standing. If you love folk costumes and jewellery then visit the Ulumay Museum of Ottoman Folk Costumes and Jewellery here you can view around 70 exhibits. Bursa City Museum is also popular and a great place to learn about the tradition of hand-weaving Turkish rugs and carpets which is as popular today as it has always been.
The lush leafy Kultur Park is stunning and in the grounds, you will find flora and fauna, restaurants, tea gardens, children’s playgrounds and a lovely lake where you can hire a pedal boat and enjoy a lazy afternoon on the water. In the grounds, there is also a very interesting Archaeology museum and it’s a great day out. Last but not least you can visit Ataturk House which is filled with original furnishings from when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk stayed there in the 1920s and 1930s, set in beautiful landscaped gardens this is a very popular attraction especially for Turkish nationals due to their admiration and respect for this great leader who founded modern day Turkey, with all this and more it’s easy to understand why Bursa is now becoming a truly lovely city to visit in its own right.
Once you have finished sightseeing it’s time to relax and unwind at one of the many picturesque natural broad beaches along the Marmara Sea. In particular Karacabey, Mudanya and Gemlik are delightful and there is a very long beach from Yeniköy around Bayramdere (Malkara) to Zeytinbağ near Mudanya. Beautiful beaches with pristine soft sand include Kurşunlu, Bayramdere and at Mesudiye, Eğerce and Esence and on Lake Iznik and Lake Uluabat (Apolyont), excellent beaches can be found.
Do you want to know about food in Bursa? There are restaurants galore serving everything from fine dining, to fast foods, traditional Turkish cuisine and international favourites just about every taste is catered for. There are cafes serving snacks, seafood restaurants, barbeque restaurants, steak houses, Italian, Mediterranean, Chinese, Indian and umpteen traditional Turkish tea and coffee houses serving piping hot beverages with delicious baklava and Turkish delight. The traditional Iskender Kebap originates from Bursa its lamb with thyme served on pide with a savoury tomato sauce, browned butter and topped with yoghurt and parsley it’s delicious! Travel to Bursa and discover for yourself you will love this city and all that it has to offer apart from all the trappings of a city with many historical attractions and buildings it has pretty beaches and lush gardens it’s quite amazing!