Bursa is famous for its Ottoman Empire history. It was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire and has many historical buildings that have UNESCO status. This article is a great summary of other positives of Bursa (and the website in general is very well-written and provides a lot of good information on Bursa and nearby side trips). This Lonely Planet article gives a decent summary of Bursa’s history if you’re interested in learning more.
Disclaimer: My knowledge of the Ottoman Empire is minimal and I am learning as we travel and as I write my blog posts! All my information comes from internet research and my DK Eyewitness Istanbul guide book.
But, essentially, Bursa dates back to at least 200 BC and was founded by Prusias, the King of Bithynia, before eventually being taken over by the Romans. Bursa is near Istanbul (then Constantinople) and around 1075 the Seljuks took over Bursa (then Prusa). But that didn’t last long and Bursa/Prusa got passed around for a while.
In the early 1300s, Bursa was attacked and Osman Gazi took over and made Bursa the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. Orhan Gazi succeeded him and expanded the empire. In 1402, the Ottoman Empire’s capital moved to Edirne. Osman and Orhan are both buried in Bursa.
Today, Bursa is an industrial centre, commercial city, and one of Turkey’s wealthiest cities. It is the 4th largest city in Turkey and is well-known for its silk and tourism.
We arrived in Bursa about 3:30 pm and checked into our AirBnb, which was in the historic area of Bursa. We unloaded and then walked over to the Muradiye Mosque Complex, just about 10 minutes from our lodging.
The mosque complex was built by Murad II (Murat II), the father of Mehmet the Conqueror. The mosque was built in the early 15th century. The complex also includes Murad II’s tomb (the last sultan buried there) and 11 other tombs (mostly princes and family members). There are gravestones and beautiful gardens and paths as well. It was very peaceful to walk around and did not have too many people. We did not go in the mosque itself, as I had forgotten to bring my head covering on the walk. However, we did go into all the tombs and were very impressed with all the beautiful tiles and paintings.
Some of the tombs have İznik tiles. The town of İznik began producing ceramic bowls, jars, and tiles from the late 15th century onward. Many of these tiles were used in palaces and mosques in Istanbul and elsewhere. İznik pottery starts with a hard, white surface similar to porcelain. It is covered with a white coating and a transparent glaze. Traditionally, it was white and blue. Later other colors, especially red, were added. The late 16th and early 17th century were the height of İznik pottery. You see a lot of flowers on the designs, especially carnations, tulips, and hyacinths.
Fun Facts: This style of pottery was invented in Egypt in the 12th century. Chinese porcelain influenced İznik paintings and designs.
So back to Murat II. His son, Sultan Mehmet II was known as “the Conqueror” and on My 29th, 1453 he succeeded in entering Constantinople (Istanbul now) after attacking it for 54 days! He had to rebuild the city, built many mosques, and repopulated the city with a mix of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. He and his successors greatly expanded the Ottoman Empire.
Fun Fact: One of his successors, Selim I (1512-1520) conquered Egypt, led the Ottomans to become a sea power, and killed all his male relatives except for one son so that there would be no rivals for succession! His son, Süleyman I (aka Suleiman or Süleyman the Magnificent) expanded the empire to its greatest reach. One of Süleyman the Magnificent’s sons, Mustafa, is buried at the Muradiye Complex after being killed so his younger brother, Selim II could gain power. His tomb has beautiful İznik tiles.
We started at the Muradiye Madrasah Museum. It was built by Murad II in 1425. It had a courtyard surrounded by various smaller rooms. In was repaired several times and was damaged by an earthquake in 1855. Most recently repairs were finished in January 2019 and is now “The Museum of the Quran and Manuscripts.”
It was free to enter and we wandered the rooms looking at the beautiful copies of the Quran and the various art and manuscripts displayed. It was very peaceful and pretty. All the signs (except the entry sign) were only in Turkish, so I don’t know everything we were seeing! But it was pretty and DD was thrilled to see some Ebru, her favorite type of art (see our post here on Ebru). The kids enjoyed seeing the art, but moved through the space pretty quickly. As it was mostly inside and a museum, we tried to keep them fairly quiet. It is stroller friendly.
Next door to the Madrasah was the entrance to the Muradiye Complex. (note on spelling. I more typically see it spelled as Madrassa, however the signs at the buildings and the locations on GoogleMaps show it as Madrasah, so I am spelling it that way for this post to make it easier to find on GoogleMaps) It looked like a very official entrance, with ticket turnstiles and a guard house. However, despite all that, there is no charge to enter and you just push through the turnstile. I imagine they have them there so they can lock down the area at night, as it does close.
The signs inside the complex were in both English and Turkish, which really helped! We wandered into all the tombs and were surprised by how many tombs were in each structure! Sometimes you could barely walk for all the tombs. Some of the buildings were lavishly decorated and some were very minimal. Many have been renovated and are not the original any more. Or some were covered in plaster and baroque decorations and during renovations the plaster was removed to show the original decorations (which were then touched up and repaired). Along with İznik tiles, you also have hand-drawn calligraphic drawings that are beautiful.
This was a great place to take kids, as it was mostly outside, buildings were spread out, and (at least in March), there were few people. I didn’t have to worry about them being overly quiet and a bit of running was fine. They were also impressed with the art and designs, especially DD6.
Next to the complex entrance is the entrance to the mosque. We did not go in as I had forgotten my head covering. All three entrances are along Sedat Street.
Behind the complex is a large playground and recreational area we visited after the tombs. Entrance was from Murat Street. Lots of grass, exercise equipment (which for some reason my kids love more than playground equipment), and various playground structures. Plus a large hard surface for scooters. There was also a cafe and a playground for younger kids. It had bathrooms.
We ended the day by stopping at Kiraz Dönercisi to get take out and walked home. The et döner was lamb, not beef and a bit tough. But the tavuk (chicken) döner was good. Et döner in a wrap was 12 tl (about $2) and tavuk döner in a wrap was 7 tl. (just over $1) You had a choice of several toppings and if you wanted sauce or not. No English from the worker, but he was very helpful and we did a lot of miming.
The Muradiye area has a lot of interesting buildings, cafes, and history and we could have explored more if we had had more time. Definitely worth a visit and meander 🙂
Cost: The Muradiye Complex is free (also true for the Madrasah Museum and Mosque). Playground was also free.
Entrance: The entrance to the Muradiye Complex is on Sedat Street at this location. The rest of it is walled in, so you have to enter from that side. The Madrasah Museum is on one side of the entrance and the Mosque on the other side of the entrance. All on Sedat Street. The entrance to the playground area is here or here.
Bathrooms: The park has bathrooms at the backside of the cafe. I did not see any at the Muradiye Complex.
Food and Drink: There is a cafe at the playground, though I didn’t look at the menu. There are a number of little cafes and bakeries and döner places on the streets nearby.
Strollers: The playground and Muradiye Complex are fairly stroller friendly for the most part if you’re ok with a few steps here and there. Streets are paved. Sidewalks are sometimes narrow, nonexistent, or bumpy. So I’d stick to the streets.