Bursa is situated on the foothills of Mount Uludag, a large ski resort, and has a wealth of surrounding woodlands. The city is situated about 25km from the Marmara Sea, where many Turks have summer houses.
The city itself is a sprawling mix of quaint Ottoman architecture and functional concrete structures. Dubbed the ‘Green City’, Bursa has many gardens, forests and parks and its fertile soil lends itself to fruit growing. Other significant industries in Bursa include car manufacturing, steel, textiles and food and drink production. Bursa is also home to Uludag University, one of the top tertiary institutions in Turkey.
Settlement in Bursa is thought to go back to around 200BC. Over time the city grew to become a city of political and economic importance due to its strategic position on the Silk Route. Following the Ottoman capture of the city in 1326 from the Byzantines, Bursa developed greatly. Many examples of this splendid architecture- in the form of houses, mosques, tombs, bazaars and hamams- can be enjoyed in the city.
What to See & Do
Due to the relatively compact size of the city centre, Bursa’s main sites are easily manageable by foot.
Perhaps the most visited site in Bursa is the Yesil Cami (Green Mosque). Commissioned by Sultan Mehmed I Çelebi and completed in 1421, the Green Mosque is an outstanding example of the new Turkish style of architecture (or ‘Bursa Style’). The Mosque’s intricately carved marble entrance and mass of blue-green coloured tiles which cover the interior walls make for an impressive sight.
Also within the Green Mosque complex is the hexagonally shaped Yesil Türbe (Green Tomb) which was built as a mausoleum to hold the body of Sultan Mehmed I. Both the Green Mosque and the Green Tomb were designed by Ottoman architect Haci Ivaz Pasha.
The Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque) is the largest mosque in Bursa and was constructed between 1396 and 1400 in the Seljuk Ottoman architectural style. Situated in the town centre next to the Covered Bazaar, this mosque lives up to its name. The Grand Mosque is a pillared style mosque, holding 20 domes on 12 square pillars. There is a large glass opening and a fountain pool underneath in its centre.
Uphill from the Grand Mosque and Covered Bazaar is the Bursa Citadel. With its large stone walls and preserved Ottoman houses, it is one of the oldest parts of the city. Wander to the top where there are a couple of restaurants and tea gardens which enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains. Walk a little further and you’ll come across the elaborately decorated tombs of Osman and Orhan Gazi, founders of the Ottoman Empire.
If you have time, it’s worth going a little further afield to the sites outside of Bursa city centre. Mt. Uludag, which is situated about 23km from Bursa City Centre, is a popular hiking, skiing and snowboarding centre and can get very crowded during the winter months. There are frequent cable cars running from the ‘Teleferik’ (Cable Car) station just outside the city centre to the summit of Uludag; to get there take a taxi, bus or dolmus from Bursa. One of the best kept examples is the baths of Kervanseray Termal Otel (Thermal Hotel). With its classic hamam style one has all the time that they need to relax the day away. We would recommend getting a full scrub and massage for a perfectly relaxing afternoon. The whole hamam process takes around 1 – 1.5 hours.
Çekirge, situated to the west of the city centre, boasts a number of thermal baths, most of which are located inside the suburb’s swanky hotels. Take a taxi, bus or dolmus from Bursa city centre.
If you have some spare time, stop by Cumalikizik, one of the best preserved Ottoman villages in Turkey. Built to provide logistical support to the conquering Ottoman armies, this breathtakingly pretty village on the outskirts of Bursa is packed with 700 year old houses and shops which are still in use today. There are 270 houses in all, and some have opened as cafes. The village produces some of the freshest homemade preserves and juices in the area and is a delightful place to enjoy a traditional Turkish breakfast while taking in the history of this town.
To get to Cumalikizik, take a dolmus from Bursa City Centre. The Dolmuses are located right next to Kent Merkezi (the local Kent Mall). If you are taking the Metro, ride it till the ‘Osmangazi’ stop. When you take the dolmus make sure that you take one that says ‘Cumalikizik’ on the top; Bursa’s dolmus drivers are exceptionally friendly and will direct you to the right one. Get off at the last stop. There are also many dolmus making the return trip.
What to Eat
Bursa Iskender is without a doubt one of the city’s most famous exports. This delicious kebab is made from thinly sliced lamb döner laid on a bed of bread cubes and slathered in a tomato-garlic sauce with hot butter poured over it. It is served with green peppers and yogurt. There are many Iskender restaurants in Bursa, but the original Iskender shop is located in the area of Heykel (which literally means statue). This leads to the original restaurant where Iskender was developed and from which Iskender gets its actual name. The restaurant is in a big blue building. Though at times it may be cramped the building itself provides a charming atmosphere and a very exclusive Iskender experience.
Another popular delicacy from Bursa is its ‘Kestane Sekeri’ (candied chestnuts), which can be found all over the city. Tender chestnuts are steeped in a sugary syrup and can be eaten alone or with clotted cream or ice cream. One of the more well known chains of Bursa is ‘Kafkas’, which is famous for its candied chestnuts. As Bursa is a major fruit growing region, it’s worth tasting some of the city’s healthy treats, especially its peaches, which are world renowned.
Bursa is famous for its shopping, particularly its silk, textile products and towels, which are of an exceptionally high quality. Head to the Covered Bazaar and the ancient caravanserais which adjoin it for an authentic shopping experience. Directly next to Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque) is the silk market known as Koza (Silkwork Cocoon) Han. Established in 1491, this market has a variety of silk shops which sell many precious silks. Bursa was famous for being the last stop on the Silk Road. They have everything from headscarves to wonderful silk ties which can all be purchased at a very good price. Nearby are also many outdoor cafes and nargile cafes where one can simply waste away a nice spring or summer afternoon. The Ipek (Silk) Han overlooks a pretty courtyard which houses a small cafe.
How to Get There
Frequent buses depart from both the Buyuk Otogar and Harem to Bursa; major bus companies also have offices in central Istanbul locations such as Taksim, Besiktas, Uskudar and Kadikoy, and run free service buses to the closest departure point.
The buses are modern, comfortable and air-conditioned and usually hand out free snacks and water to travellers. Popular and reliable bus companies include Metro Turizm; Kamil Koc; Uludag Turizm; Nilufer Turizm and Varan.
Buses arrive in Bursa at the Bursa Otogar (Main Bus Station) which is located a fair distance from the city centre (around 40 minutes, depending on traffic). Some bus companies offer a free shuttle service to the city centre; alternatively, there are frequent and cheap city buses (around 2TL) and minibuses. Make sure to buy a ticket at the marked booth before getting on the bus. Bus number 38 goes to the centre.
Ferries travel 2-3 times daily between Yenikapi ferry dock in Istanbul to the ferry dock at Güzelyali , a 24km distance from Bursa city centre. Güzelyali is referred to as ‘Bursa’ in ferry timetables. There are also ferries running about once per day between Kabatas – Kadikoy – Bursa.
From Güzelyali/Bursa there are frequent local buses, minibuses, dolmus and taxis which travel to ‘Organize Sanayi ‘- ‘the terminal stop of Bursa’s metro (‘Bursaray’) system. If you decide to take a local bus to the metro, make sure to buy your ticket (TL 2) before boarding.
Check the Istanbul IDO (public regular and fast ferry) website for up to date information.
Eyup Mosque ©Helen Simpson
New Mosque © Yildirim Incealem...
Sultanahmet © Yildirim Inceale...
Topkapi Palace © Aydin Sertbas
"Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world" - Gustave Flaubert