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Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex

By Marya

What is Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex?

Selimiye Mosque, also known as Selimiye Camii in Turkish, is an Ottoman imperial mosque located in Edirne, Türkiye. 

Mimar Sinan designed the mosque; he was the chief architect of the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Sultan Selim II. Selimiye Mosque also means the Mosque of Selim, as this masterpiece was commissioned by the reigning sultan at the time.

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With four tall minarets of 70 meters (230 feet) each, Selimiye Mosque currently holds the status as the mosque with the fourth tallest minarets in Türkiye. It is also considered one of the most important buildings in the history of Ottoman architecture.  

Text: Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex, Turkiye. Images: above, the ceiling inside the mosque; below, the exterior.
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The UNESCO designation also includes other buildings in the complex: madrasas (Islamic schools), a market, a library and a courtyard.

Why is Selimiye Mosque a UNESCO World Heritage site?

Built by Mimar Sinan between 1568 and 1575, Selimiye Mosque represents a pivotal period in the history of the Ottoman Empire with remarkable architectural achievements that feature its striking dome and intricate spatial layout. 

The mosque social complex serves as a prime example of the Ottoman külliye, with the mosque as the center along with madrasas, a Turkish bath, and what’s currently known as Edirne Grand Bazaar in its surroundings. 

According to UNESCO’s website, Selimiye Mosque stands as a harmonious expression of this architectural concept which makes it deserve the status as a significant historical landmark in Turkiye. 

The exterior of Selimiye Mosque with two very tall minarets.

What can you expect on a visit to this mosque?

If you have visited some popular mosques in Istanbul, such as the Blue Mosque or Suleymaniye Mosque, you may see some similarities in terms of the architectural style and interior with Selimiye Mosque. 

However, for those who love off-the-beaten-path destinations, visiting Selimiye Mosque may be more rewarding since you can expect less crowds than those in Istanbul. 

In addition, an old madrasa building currently serves as the Selimiye Foundation Museum, where you can see some Islamic artifacts that include calligraphy, Koran books, and art pieces like tiles and silks. Entrance to the museum is free, so you can explore the museum if you come to the mosque during prayer time. 

Some chambers also showcase dioramas that portray some activities at the former Dar’ül Kurra Medrese to give you more context about the educational system during that period. 

Looking up at the inside of the mosque's dome: very ornately decorated.

Is Selimiye Mosque worth visiting?

While the interior and exterior design at Selimiye Mosque are stunning with its intricate calligraphy, ornate tiles, and decorative elements, I can’t tell the significant difference that makes Selimiye Mosque more unique than other Ottoman Empire mosques like the Blue Mosque or Selimiye Museum. 

Unless you have a particular passion about or knowledge of Ottoman architecture or history in general, you may find Selimiye Mosque slightly underwhelming compared to the more popular mosques in Istanbul. 

Interior view of the mosque with many windows and arches.

Tips for visiting the mosque and complex

Since the building still serves as a mosque and so many people go there to pray, be mindful to be respectful when visiting Selimiye Mosque. Visitors are not allowed during the prayer time, so you can schedule your visit accordingly. Selimiye Mosque doesn’t have designated visiting hours for tourists. 

Before entering the mosque, you must take off your shoes and put them in the provided shoe racks near the entrance. They also provide a roll of plastic bags, so you can use it to keep the shoe racks clean. 

Men and women should wear clothing that covers their shoulders, arms, and legs. No shorts are allowed, and women should also cover their heads with a scarf. You can grab one near the entrance, and it’s free to use. 

While you may take photos inside Selimiye Mosque outside the prayer time, it is important to avoid using a flash. Remember, it is a place of worship, so people come and go to pray, even outside the designated prayer times. 

Book accommodations in Edirne or Istanbul here.

Selimiye Mosque is located near some of the best places to visit in Edirne. It’s directly connected to Edirne Grand Bazaar, so you can go shopping before or after visiting the mosque. Most products here are much cheaper than those in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar! 

View down a long arched hall lined with shop stalls.

Across from the Selimiye Mosque complex, you can also stop at the Edirne Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum and explore the extensive collection of artifacts from historical periods in the city, including items from ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman civilizations. 

Türkiye has many other UNESCO World Heritage sites you might want to plan into your itinerary when you visit the country.

Where is Selimiye Mosque?

Edirne is in the European part of Türkiye, quite near the Bulgarian and Greek borders. Situated in downtown Edirne, the mosque is often visited as a day trip from Istanbul. Selimiye Otopark is nearby, where you can pay for a parking spot. Keep in mind that it can be challenging to find one during peak hours! 

From Istanbul, you can rent a car, take a group tour, or hire a private guide and driver. You can expect a 3-hour drive from and to Edirne each way. It makes a perfect day trip to visit other popular sites in the city, including the famous Grand Synagogue of Edirne and Sultan Bayezid II Health Museum.

Alternatively, you can go by bus from Istanbul to Edirne. However, intercity bus travel in Türkiye may take much longer than driving your own car, as it may take up to 4-5 hours one way between these cities. 

There is only one stop at Edirne bus station (known as otogar), and you can grab a taxi to Selimiye Mosque. The journey will take around 20 minutes from the main bus station to the mosque complex, and you can use cab-hailing apps like Uber or BiTaksi around the city.

Marya is a blogger at The BeauTraveler. She spent 4 years working in the aviation industry, but ironically got to travel more right after quitting the industry in 2015. Born and raised in Indonesia, she’s been working remotely since 2017. While she stays mostly at home, she also regularly spends 2-3 months traveling to a new place every year.

Have you been to Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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