Bursa, located in the northwest of Türkiye, is the second most populous city in the Marmara Region. One of the industrial centers of the country, it was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire between 1335 and 1363. It has the nickname “Green Bursa,” referring to the parks and gardens throughout its urban fabric, as well as the vast and richly diverse forests of the surrounding region.
Famous for being the largest center of the silk trade in the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, the city is still an important textile center in Türkiye. At the same time, one of Türkiye’s most popular ski resorts is located on Mount Uludağ, right next to the city. The 8.8-kilometer (5.4-mile) long cable car connects Bursa to the ski resort area in Uludağ, which stands at an altitude of 1,870 meters (6,135 feet).
Many structures built during the Ottoman period and tombs of many Ottoman sultans can be found in Bursa. The city is also home to hot springs, old Ottoman mansions, palaces and various museums.
I recently was lucky enough to travel to Bursa, so let’s talk about the historical texture of Bursa, the places to see and the flavors that must be tasted.
Plane of history
The historical Inkaya plane tree gets its name from the Inkaya Village, one of the first villages of the Ottoman Empire established in the area, where it is located. The 600-year-old plane tree is world-famous for its magnificent appearance. Its diameter is 3 meters and its height is 35 meters. This monumental tree has 13 main branches. The tree, whose branches reach 3 to 4 meters in thickness, is one of the oldest trees in Türkiye with a circumference of 9.2 meters. The Inkaya Plane is an important symbol that local and foreign tourists who come to Bursa always stop by and have tea underneath.
The foundation of Cumalıkızık coincides with the 1300s. The historical texture of the village has been preserved very well and examples of rural civil architecture of the early Ottoman period have survived to the present day. Due to this feature, it has become a very interesting and most visited settlement. It also often hosts as a setting for historical films.
The Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque of Bursa was built in the city between 1396 and 1400 by Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I. The minbar – a pulpit where the imam stands to deliver sermons – of the mosque, which is one of the historical symbols of Bursa, made with the kündekari technique and stands today as a valuable work of art, and is considered one of the most important examples of the transition from the Seljuk carving art to the Ottoman wood carving art. Some mysteries have been attributed to the Ulu Mosque’s minbar. In 1980, it was put forward that the geometric composition of the minbar’s eastern side symbolized the sun and the planets around it with the distances between them being actually proportional to their true scales, and the composition on its west symbolized the galaxy.
Some 192 calligraphy plates and graffiti written by different calligraphers in the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century adorn the walls of the mosque and are among some of the most original examples of Ottoman calligraphy.
The fountain – which helps worshipers in performing their ritual ablutions – located under an open dome in the interior of the mosque, is one of the remarkable features of the Grand Mosque.
The Irgandı Bridge was built in the period of Ottoman Sultan Murad II in 1442. It is known that within the scope of developmental activities, which played a role in Bursa becoming an important trade center in the 15th century, traders also built structures for commercial purposes. The Irgandı Bridge is one of them, which was built with its arasta – an Ottoman bazaar – situated on top of it alongside the barns and warehouses inside the bridge’s main structure.
It is one of the four bridges with bazaars on top in the world, together with the Vecchio and Rialto Bridges in Italy and the Osma Bridge in Bulgaria.
The Oylat Cave is a touristic cave in the Inegöl district of Bursa. The cave has a length of 665 meters and a height of 95 meters. It is a fossil cave that has completed its formation, and stands almost suspended on the slope of the canyon, on the western side of the Oylat Stream, with a horizontal stance. Bats, millipedes, earthworms, butterflies and guanobi live in the cave. It is claimed that the cave with 90% humidity, is good for asthma and bronchitis patients.
The Koza Han was built by the architect Abdul Ula Bin Pulad Shah at the end of the 15th century, its construction being ordered by Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II. The han – or caravanserai, a roadside inn – served as a foundation for the sultan’s other works and buildings in Istanbul.
The inn consists of a two-story main block located around a rectangular courtyard close to a square and a second courtyard section with barns and warehouses on the east. There are 95 rooms, 45 of which are on the ground floor and 50 rooms on the lower floor. Each room has two windows that open to the outside.
The masjid in the courtyard of Koza Han is an eight-sided structure with a fountain and a pool underneath and the structure is covered with a lead-covered dome. The building is entered through a round-arched door in the north, which is animated with relief twists made of stone and decorated with blue tiles.
“Soğanlı Botanical Park” was put into service in 1998 in order to provide plenty of oxygen, new recreation and healthy sports areas to the city within the green belt in Bursa. The park, located on an area of 400,000 square meters (4,305,565 square feet), hosts herbal research and scientific studies while protecting the Bursa Plain, with 8,000 trees from 150 species, 100,000 shrubs from 76 species, 50,000 groundcovers from 20 species and 6,000 roses from 27 species.
Also in the park, there are the Japanese garden, the English garden, the French garden, the rose garden, the azalea and rhododendron garden, the fragrant herbs garden, the rock garden, the color gardens, and the shaped plants garden.
Soğanlı Botanical Park offers its visitors the opportunity to rest and observe the leaves and flowers of blooming plants at different times, as well as do sports for a healthy life. In the park, there are 12,000 square meters of natural walking paths, natural jogging tracks, 1,000 meters of cold asphalt-covered bicycle paths and ponds. The replicas of some famous old Bursa houses from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, also add a different beauty to the park.
The Inegöl district, only 47 kilometers away from Bursa’s center, is in itself almost the site of a city and is home to Inegöl meatballs, one of Bursa’s most popular local delicacies, alongside Türkiye’s most developed furniture industry, magnificent forests spread over an area of 10 hectares and healing thermal springs.
Inegol, which is one of the largest districts in Türkiye with a population of more than 250,000, has a highly developed culinary culture due to the Caucasus, Balkan and Anatolian immigrants it has hosted over the years. You can see many quality restaurants serving Caucasus and Balkan dishes as well as delicious Inegöl meatballs in the district, which should be visited by those looking out for new tastes.
Gölyazı is the most popular destination for nature trips in Bursa, with its postcard-like scenery on the shores of Lake Uluabat. The history of Gölyazı, which is actually a peninsula connected to the land by a bridge, dates back to the sixth century B.C., and the town is home to important historical treasures, especially from the Roman period.
Gölyazı, the scene of many movies and TV series with its untouched nature and fascinating lake views, is a place you should definitely visit to take wonderful photos with the colorful fishing boats lined up by the lake surrounded by city walls thousands of years old and the Ottoman houses with stone and wooden architecture adorning its cute cobbled streets.
Tirilye – also known as Zeytinbağı, or olive yard – which has always attracted attention from ancient Rome to the Ottoman period due to its beautiful location, is also one of the most important addresses of Bursa in terms of photography and historical tours with its beautiful streets that preserve its historical atmosphere and resemble an open-air museum. The tea gardens of Tirilye, which are always cool with the sea breezes in the summer months, are also the best places to relieve the tiredness of the year in the hot summer months.
The Byzantine Haghios Stefanos Church, which dates from the Roman period and was transformed into a mosque in the 14th century and renamed Fatih Mosque, the Tirilye Turkish Bath, which was built in the 16th century and is still in service today, the Taş Mektep – or the New Stone School – a striking architectural work from 1909, and Kemerli Church are among the most important places to see in Tirilye. In fact, the list of places to see is so long that it is almost impossible to write them all.
There are many must-see places such as Gemlik, Uzun bazaar, Misi village, Kestel waterfall, Sansarak canyon, Çamlı coffee – or the Historical Pine Coffee – Tophane, Muradiye complex, Green tomb, Emir Sultan tomb and the Old Mirrored Bazaar.
I suggest that if you go to Bursa, don’t come back without eating the wonderful delicacies such as cantık, chestnut candy, pita with tahan, the local breads, fresh fruits – especially peaches – iskender, meatballs with pita, milk halva and damat’s trotter.