WHY VISIT BURSA?
For many people who visit Turkey, making a stop in Bursa isn’t much of a consideration. Nearby Īstanbul not only serves as the gateway to the country, but it ends up being a primary destination. Most people do not make the easy, couple-hour trek south to Bursa, and those who do usually only make it a quick one- or two-day excursion. Even some popular travel guides tell you that Bursa is only worth a quick day trip.
I would strongly suggest otherwise.
Though Īstanbul is certainly an enchanting city and there are a few essential things that all tourists should see and do there, I propose that Bursa actually makes a better destination to plant yourself for a few days and really explore and experience genuine Turkish culture. So, once you’ve spent a day or so in Īstanbul gaping in amazement at Hagia Sophia, strolling across Galata Bridge, and eating fresh fish in a café overlooking the Bosphorus, get yourself straightaway on a fast ferry to Bursa and stay for a few days.
In a nutshell, here’s why…
- Bursa is simply beautiful. With mountains to the south and the sea to the north, Bursa is famous for its natural features. It’s for good reason Bursa is known as the Green City.
- Bursa, first as an ancient Greek settlement, later as a major Byzantine city, and eventually as the first capital of the Ottoman Empire, has great cultural and historical significance. Because of its rich history, Bursa has some fantastic historical and cultural sites to discover and explore.
- Bursa is smaller and less crowded than Īstanbul, making it more manageable and far easier to navigate. Many of the main attractions are located in the very walkable city center and you can easily get from one end of the city to the other in about a half an hour by public transportation. Yet with a population of more than 2 million, Bursa is large enough to have all the amenities of a modern big city.
- Bursa is less touristy and less cosmopolitan than Īstanbul, offering a more laid-back and authentic atmosphere. Shopkeepers and restaurateurs generally won’t hound or harass you in the bazaars and marketplaces (to me, a breath of fresh air!), and for the most part people here seem less interested in your money and more interested in you.
- Fewer tourists in Bursa means there are shorter queues at attractions, fewer tour buses clogging the streets, fewer tour “guides” clamoring for your attention and money, and fewer tourist traps to avoid. Consequently, it is easier to get up-close and personal with the history, culture, and people. In bazaars, restaurants, and streets, you’re often rubbing shoulders with real local people, not just another busload of foreign tourists or hawking tour operators.
- A glimpse of traditional Turkish village life is easily accessible from Bursa. With villages such as Misi, Gölyazı, Tirilye, and Cumalıkızık nearby, it’s easy to experience the charm and quaintness of centuries-old villages.
- For the most part, people here are generally quite pleasant—hospitable, genuine, warm, and ready to accommodate.
There are some possible downsides to Bursa being less touristy than Īstanbul. Perhaps the most notable is that English is not readily spoken everywhere in Bursa. Also, the tourist infrastructure (signage, etc.) in some locations is not as well developed. However, in my opinion, these simply add to the authenticity of the atmosphere and give you a chance to experience the culture in a more genuine way.
So, please enjoy your time in Īstanbul, and then get yourself on a Bursa-bound ferry to experience a few days in this important and authentic Turkish city.