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Witness Bursa’s ancient sites & the natural splendors of the Uludag mountains on an unforgettable journey of the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. The small city sits in the northwestern region of the country, 91 km from Istanbul. It is accessible by taking a ferry across the Marmara from Istanbul and then an hour-long drive across the country to the foothills of Mount Uludag.
Visiting the city of Bursa may be primarily a historical tour, but this itinerary far supersedes that- it’s an opportunity to appreciate nature’s beauty as much as it is to learn the region’s history. So, as you explore this magical location for a full day and enjoy stunning displays of old relics, take your time to appreciate the serene atmosphere and the breathtaking scenery imposed by the neighboring Udulag Mountain.
The former capital and silk trade hub of the Ottoman Empire…
After breakfast in your hotel in Istanbul, proceed to the designated meeting point, after which we take a ferry across the Sea of Marmara. Although not listed as an attraction, the ferry ride provides a remarkable sightseeing experience of Istanbul from the sea. Finally, we disembark at Yalova and take an hour-long drive from Yalova to Bursa.
Human settlements in the area date back to around 5200 BCE, but the first major city was the Greek city of Cius. In 202 BCE, Cius was gifted to Prusias I, who rebuilt and renamed Prusa. In 74 BCE, Nicodemus IV handed the city and the kingdom of Bithynia to the Romans.
Until the Ottomans captured it in 1326, not much is known about Bursa under Byzantine rule. After its capture, it became Brusa- the first capital city of the Ottoman Empire. Then, in 1363, the Ottomans conquered Edirne (Adrianople) in east Thrace and made it their new capital.
Bursa, however, retained its commercial importance to the Ottoman Empire and continued to enjoy rapid urban growth. In the 15th century, internal repressions that saw the defeat of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I left the city burnt and pillaged. Surprisingly, the town recovered without losing its prime position in the Ottoman Empire. It remained the most important city in the empire until 1453 when Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople.
Throughout the Ottoman era, Bursa was known as the source of the finest silk products. Using locally produced silk and some imported from Iran and China, the city supplied Ottoman palaces with silk pillows, embroidery, and kaftans.
After Turkey became a republic in 1923, Bursa continued to enjoy economic development as an industrial center. This development attracted more Turks to settle in Bursa, making it Turkey’s 4th largest city by population.
The Green Mosque is one of the most iconic structures in the city. Built in 1422 by Sultan Mehmed I, the structure is an Ottoman architectural design and incorporates elaborate tile work to decorate the interior.
The mosque is part of a complex consisting of a tomb, kitchen, school (madrasa), and bath. Known as the Green Tomb and houses Sultan Mehmed I’s tomb. It is well decorated with tiles on its exterior and interior.
Another fantastic work of Ottoman architecture that never fails to steal the show in Bursa is the Grand Mosque. This magnificent structure sits at the city’s main market area, and its roof is the most recognizable feature of Bursa’s skyline; it has 20 domes.
Legend has it that Sultan Beyazit I had vowed to build 20 mosques before commissioning the mosque. However, when he realized that this was too ambitious, he decided to construct one with 20 domes instead.
All in all, the Grand Mosque makes for an awe-inspiring visit. The finely carved pulpit and integrated interior decorations in the vast prayer hall will impress you. The mosque was commissioned in the early years of the Ottoman Empire when their architecture was greatly influenced by the Seljuk style.
This feature is pretty evident in the Grand Mosque, so keep your eyes open if you’re into ancient architectural designs.
The Central Bazaar is home to restored buildings from Bursa’s Golden Era, the most famous being the Koza Han. Constructed in the late 15th century, the structure hosts stores selling silk products that make excellent souvenirs. At the market’s central courtyard are various cafes serving delicious cuisines, including the region’s delightful kebab specialty- the Bursa Iskender Kebab.
Being at the foothills of the Uludag mountains, Bursa is surrounded by lots of centuries-old trees. The most famous of these is a chenar tree known as the Inkaya (Grand) Plane tree. It is not only the oldest at 600 years old but also the largest in Turkey. Enjoy some tea in the serene shadow of the tree as you take in the breathtaking natural scenery of the surroundings.
Speaking of natural scenery, you can only enjoy the best aesthetics on a cable car up Uludag mountain. The ride goes 8.2 km up the mountain slope and reaches a maximum altitude of 1810 meters. During the 30-minute ride, enjoy scenic views of the lush green forest and Bursa city below and the jagged mountain peak ahead of you.
Yes. Mt. Uludag has a ski resort, and during winter, it makes for one of the best places to ski in the region.