Uzunköprü is a town in Eastern Thrace, the European part of Turkey. Its name means "long bridge", the 1.3 km span built in the 15th century. In 2012 the town population was 19,230, with another 42,255 across the rural district.
The route from Istanbul to Edirne and the west crosses a series of river valleys that are not deep, but wide and impassable when the rivers are in spate. Wooden bridges never lasted long, and there is a work-around route north through the hills, but Sultan Murad II (ruling 1421–1451) had a series of stone bridges and causeways built. The most impressive is here, across the Ergene: it took two attempts and 20 years to complete, and a service town grew up for the workers on the Long Bridge, the uzun köprü.
The town became a trade route and attracted a diverse mercantile population. It's always lain in a borderland and, as the Ottoman Empire crumbled in the 19th century, Uzunköprü had spells of occupation by Russia in 1829 and 1878 / 79, by Bulgaria in 1912 / 13 then by Greece in 1920 / 22. The 1923 peace treaty fixed the border along the nearby River Maritsa (which the Ergene joins further south) and mandated population exchanges, so the Greeks and others were deported.
The area around Uzunköprü is low-lying and fertile, so its industry is based on agriculture. Wheat and barley are grown and milled for flour, sunflower seed is crushed for oil, and there is paddy-rice and dairy cattle. Most produce is for the domestic market.
There are five buses a day from Istanbul, operated by Metro and İstanbul Seyahat and taking 6 hours, for a fare of 100-120TL. From IST airport take the bus to Lüleburgaz to pick up a local bus.
Dolmuses ply from Edirne, Keşan, Çorlu, Lüleburgaz and Babaeski.
The 1 bus station is in the main plaza at the start of the bridge.
Highway D550 / E87 runs from Edirne south through Uzunköprü to Keşan and down the Gallipoli peninsula.
The river Meriç forms the border with Greece and lies only 6 km west, but there is no crossing. Enter Turkey either via Ipsala to the south or via Edirne north.
A regional train runs daily from Istanbul Halkali around 08:30, taking 4 hours to Uzunköprü via Çerkezköy, Çorlu and Lüleburgaz. The return train leaves for Istanbul around 15:30; in 2022 a single fare is 52 TL. Halkali is 15 km west of Istanbul city centre but linked by the frequent Marmaray suburban train.
This railway was the historic route of the Orient Express, but when the borders were redrawn in 1923 it meant the line from Turkey looped twice into Greece before reaching Bulgaria. In 1971 the main line was re-routed north to enter Bulgaria near Svilengrad without transiting Greece. The line through Uzunköprü remained in use to reach Greece via Pithio on the border. This service was axed in 2011 and there's nowadays no border crossing at Pithio.
2 Uzunköprü railway station (Uzunköprü garı) is 5 km north of town in the village of Demirtaş, get there by dolmus or taxi.
The town sprawls but the sights of interest are in a small walkable area.
- Freedom Monument (Özgürlük Anıtı) is at the town entrance to the Long Bridge with traffic seething on both sides. Politically it's an oddity in celebrating an Ottoman rather than a Republican event: the 1908 end of absolute monarchy and beginning of constitutional rule. It originally had two fountains, one for livestock and one for people, but these were removed in 1938. Its four sides proclaim the Robespierresque ideals of Hürriyet (Freedom), Adalet (Justice), Müsavet (Equality), and Uhuvvet (Brotherhood). The script is Arabic, but might have been Tibetan for all the influence these ideals had on the last chaotic years of the Ottomans. The inscriptions are replicas - in 1964 the monument was shifted a metre when the bridge was refurbished, and the originals were lost in the move.
- 1 Long Bridge starts from Gazi Cd in town and crosses the Ergene valley, with 172 arches spanning 1239 m. It was built 1426-1443 at the second attempt at the behest of Murad II to carry the highway to Edirne. The main road now bypasses town to the east but vehicles (max 3 tonne) still use the bridge, which just about has room to pass. In 1971 it was widened by 1.5 m and lost 2 arches, 100 m length, much of its authenticity and any chance of a UNESCO listing. Even so, the pavements are too narrow for comfort, so walk facing the oncoming traffic. The first km from town is more like a walled causeway over floodprone fields. The three main arches over the river are near the northern end, where a factory doesn't improve the view, and the river is polluted. You get a better view from the track between factory and bridge, to see the carvings on the parapets.
- Atatürk Monument in town 100 m south of the bridge is where Gazi Cd divides into a one-way southbound, with Cumhuriyet Cd the northbound street. On its west flank, the handsome former library is early 20th century, one of the few old secular buildings in this non-descript modern town.
- Telli Fountain 100 m southeast adorns the small cobbled square between those two main streets. It's from the 1720s, but its inscriptions were erased by Greek occupying forces in 1920. The square is small, with traffic on all sides, so it's not the place for relaxing.
- 2 Muradiye Mosque was built in 1443 along with the bridge. Its associated religious complex and baths have been lost.
- 3 City Museum (Kent Müzesi), Tekel Sk 12, ☏ +90 284 513 1118. In an early 20th century mansion which became the local branch of Tekel, the state monopoly of tobacco and alcohol. Tekel was broken up in the 1990s and the building crumbled, before re-opening as a museum in 2013. Closed in 2021.
- 4 St John the Baptist Church (Aziz İoannis Kilisesi), Gazi Mahmut Sk 17. M-Sa 09:00-20:00. This was a Greek Orthodox basilica built in 1875 and dedicated to Άγιος Ιωάννης ο Βαπτιστής, Ágios Ioánnis o Vaptistís. The Greeks were deported after the Treaty of 1923 and took the more valuable fittings with them - the bell went to Xanthi. The church lay derelict until 2011 then was restored as a cultural centre. It's nominally open M-Sa but you're unlikely to find it so. Free.
- 5 Şehsuvar Bey Mosque is modern, but they preserved the 15th century minaret of its predecessor.
- 6 Halise Hatun Mosque off Eski Hükümet Cd was built around 1700. The tombs in the garden hold Hacı Ibrahim Ağa its builder, and his wife Halise Hatun. The fountain is still in use.
- 7 Gazi Turhan Bey Mosque and Tomb are in the village of Kırkkavak 8 km south of Uzunköprü. Turhan was a distinguished 15th century military commander. He was rewarded with a tract of land here and built a religious complex, and died in 1456. The mosque and his tomb are all that's left of the complex.
- Football: only if you're desperate. Uzunköprüspor languish down in the amateur soccer leagues around the 6th tier, or maybe it's the 26th. You might do better to hook up with the local supporters club for a big club like Galatasaray, with coach parties going to games in Istanbul.
- 18 November is celebrated as the town's independence day, as that's when the Turks recaptured it from the Greeks in 1922 - so 18 Nov 2022 marks the centennial.
- Migros opposite Shook Hotel is open daily 09:00-22:00.
- The market is held on Friday on the plaza at the south end of the bridge.
- Lots of banks with ATMs along the main street.
- Try the local meatballs Uzunköprü köftesi, and Ciğer which is ferociously peppery liver.
- Gazi Cd, which leads to the bridge, has Garaj Lokantası, Uzunköprü Köftecisi (so you know what they serve), Damla Tava Ciğer, Köfteci Sebo, Öz Seçkin Pide Kebap, Üçler Kebap Salonu and Cumaoğlu Kebap Pide Lahmacun.
- Towards Hayrabolu Cd the east bridge street are Ravalı Ekmek Fırını, Köfteci Savaş Uzunköprü, Köfteci Aydın, Kofteci Niyazi and Adıbar Restoran.
- Many cafes serve beer. There's a strip along Anabacı Cd towards the east bridge, but they were closed in 2021.
- Rakı is Turkey's national drink. It was traditionally made in Tekirdağ, but production has moved to Manisa near Izmir.
- 1 Shook Hotel (formerly Çakıcı), İnönü Cd 25 (on the riverfront street, 350 m west of bridge), ☏ +90 284 513 2121, fax: +90 284 513 34 35, firstname.lastname@example.org. Built in 2014, rooms have free wi-fi, satellite TV, air-con. Clean and comfy, secure parking. B&B double 500 TL.
- Gunes Otel is tatty and Ergene Otel has closed. Don't bother looking for Hasan Özdemir Orta Öğretim Erkek Öğrenci Yurdu, shown on the maps as a hostel, it's a private school dorm.
The town and its approach highways have a 4G signal from all Turkish carriers. As of Feb 2021, 5G has not reached this area.
- Edirne to the north is a beautiful historic city. On the way, take a look at Havsa, which has a small mosque and bazaar designed by Sinan in the 16th century.
- Keşan to the south is a major transport hub with links to resorts such as Enez along the Gulf of Saros, and highways down the Gallipoli peninsula to the World War I memorials and to Çanakkale on the Asian mainland across the Straits of Dardanelles.
- Greece is only 6 km west of Uzunköprü, but there's no local crossing point. Either go south via Keşan to Ipsala, or north via Edirne to Kastaneis. Edirne is also the route for Bulgaria, but for the Black Sea coast go through Kırklareli.
|Routes through Uzunköprü|
|Kırklareli ← Junction (W/E) ←||N S||→ Keşan → Çanakkale|