If you’re like most people who have visited Turkey, chances are pretty good you’ve wandered the streets and alleys of Istanbul. You may have spent time on the beaches of Kuşadası or Fethiye or Antalya. Maybe you’ve had the chance to explore Cappadocia or Pamukkale. You’ve probably heard about Gaziantep or Mardin, seen pictures of Ankara or the Black Sea coast, toured the ruins of Ephesus or Pergamon, and read reviews of Bodrum or Marmaris.
But you’ve probably not thought much about Bursa.
Why do I say this? Bursa is Turkey’s fourth largest city, is surprisingly beautiful, is authentically Turkish, and is historically significant, yet it remains disproportionately underrepresented in Turkey travel literature. It’s hard to find blogs or forums about Bursa, many travel websites barely mention Bursa, and some travel guides suggest that Bursa is only worth a day or so of your time, if any at all.
Despite the fact that Bursa isn’t on everyone’s list of top Turkish destinations, I think that there are some outstanding reasons travelers should now consider learning about and visiting Bursa. Three reasons, in particular, come to my mind:
1. The City is Beautiful
Bursa rests in the shadow of Uludağ, the tallest mountain in western Turkey. Hemmed in by the Marmara Sea on the north, Bursa’s beauty is evident in every direction. Visitors can capitalize on Bursa’s natural features, from hiking or skiing the mountain to swimming in the sea to strolling through fantastic city parks to finding rejuvenation in spring-fed spas. Nature lovers can find plenty to do in Bursa, and it’s for good reason that it has earned the nickname, “The Green City.”
2. The History is Significant
The history of Bursa stretches back millennia. Over the centuries, Bursa has been influenced by a variety of cultures including the Greeks, the Romans, the Goths, and the Byzantines. But Bursa’s relatively recent claim to fame is its status as the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire. In 1326, Orhan Gazi conquered Bursa and named it the founding capital of the Empire, a title that bestowed upon the city great political, cultural, and economic significance. The fingerprints of the first Ottoman sultans can be seen all over Bursa. Mosques, markets, baths, and inns date back to the 14th century, and the city is home to the külliyes (social and religious complexes) of the first five sultans. This fact propelled Bursa onto the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2014.
3. The Culture is Authentic
Bursa is a working town, not a tourist destination. This means that historical sites are generally not overrun by busloads of tourists and there usually aren’t long queues at attractions. When you’re out and about in Bursa, you’re more likely to rub shoulders with working locals than foreign tour groups or aggressive tour operators. This makes for a much more relaxed and authentic cultural experience. And because Bursa isn’t a massive city, it’s easy to get out of town and enjoy a taste of Turkish village life. Villages like Gölyazı, Tirilye, Cumalıkızık, and Misi are fantastic places to explore and experience.
An Added Bonus
If beauty, history, and culture aren’t enough to make you consider a stop in Bursa, just come for the food and shopping. Bursa’s signature dish is Īskender kebab, thinly sliced lamb roast layered on a bed of pita bread and served with tomatoes and peppers. Drizzled with hot tomato sauce and melted butter and sided with a dollop of yogurt, Īskender kebab is deliciously rich. After your meal, take a walk through Bursa’s quaint, centuries-old bazaars and hans, window shopping for silk scarves and Īznik pottery, both of which have been hand-made in this area for centuries.
Looking for a few more reasons to visit Bursa? See more thoughts here. Or, if you’re already convinced and ready to start planning your getaway, be sure visit The Best of Bursa for stories, photos, and trip advice. Now is a good time for people to start thinking about the great city of Bursa.
About the Author
Dennis joins us from The Best of Bursa, a site introducing travelers and “wanderlusters” to the neat places and people of Bursa, Turkey. As you browse his site, Dennis hopes that you will not only learn a bit about Bursa and its features, but that you will also be encouraged to visit this city and meet some of the wonderful people who make it great.
Dennis and his family came to Bursa a couple years ago in search of opportunities to meet great people, see neat places, and experience new things in the historic and hospitable city. They have certainly not been disappointed. And having been there for a little while now, Dennis thought it was time to begin chronicling some of their experiences, sharing insights, and introducing you to some of the places they go and people they meet. That’s what The Best of Bursa is all about.
The Best of Bursa is first and foremost a blog of personal experiences. As such, it likely won’t replace your favorite travel guide. The goal is just to pique your interest in such a way that the next time you’re traveling through this part of the world, you’ll make it a point to visit this city and share in some of the same experiences that make us happy to be here.
Thanks for the link, I’d missed this blog.
Always happy to share! Hey, you should be my next guest!!
I’m glad you found the link. I hope you enjoy!
good post Dennis. Bursa is a favourite of ours along with Cumalıkızık, although I suspect that with the growing popularity of the latter, mid-week might be the best time to visit this brilliant village. Incidentally, the bureacrat who drew up the idea and pushed the project to bring the place back to life is a great personal friend who now lives nearby. We also spend quite a bit of time passing (slowly) through Iznik whenever we have the chance.
I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Alan. I’m also glad you take your time passing through this neck of the woods. Thank your friend for helping to make Cumalıkızık what it is today!