İznik is a town in the Province of Bursa. It would have been known as Nicaea in Greek times. The town is situated on the eastern side of Lake Iznik, surrounded by hills and olive groves. Iznik is just 80km from Bursa, about an hours’s drive by car. The town was captured from the Byzantines by Sultan Orhan in 1331 and even became the capital of the expanding Ottoman Empire for a short time. Iznik Lake would have offered protection and the high walls which surrounded the town were 5km in length and approximately 10 metres in height. Over 100 lookout towers provided additional security. The walls, remains and history of this town make it a popular destination for tourists.
Iznik is famous for its pottery and tile making industry. Known as İznik Çini, the tiles are distinctive and have been used to decorate many of the mosques designed by the famous architect Mimar Sinan. Iznik tiles and pottery became well known throughout the Ottoman Empire and beyond. The kilns and the buildings are in ruins now but during the 16th century the industry did well. Unfortunately it was short lived and by the 17th century it had all but declined and the town was quite poor.
Once a very important city, Iznik became a shadow of its former glory. The citizens of the town, little more than a village, were predominantly farmers, and the town itself had little significance by this time. It continued to decline and travellers would comment on how poor and dilapidated the town appeared to be. During the Greek Turkish war in 1921 the town was severely damaged when many of its historical buildings were destroyed.
Visitors to Iznik will see that today this is still very much an agricultural town. Many of the houses are empty and the ancient structures lie in ruins. Despite this, Iznik was awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Centre’s Tentative site listing. Three of the original four gates of the town have survived but they have been rebuilt and restored many times. There is also a Roman Amphitheatre.
The Aysofya Orhan Mosque was constructed as a church in the 6th century and converted to a mosque in 1331 by Orhan Gazi. The mosque entered a restoration process in 2007 and opened again in 2011. There is a monument on southern edge of the town which illustrates the Asian ethnic groups that would have lived here under the Seljuk Dynasty. The Iznik Museum is housed in an Ottoman building that was built in 1388 by Sultand Murat I. Visitors to Iznik can browse the shops for traditional souvenirs and visit the renovated hamam cultural centre. The Süleyman Pasha Madrasahm, a religious school which was built in the 14th century by the Ottomans, also houses the Tile Bazaar and local tile workshops. Izinik’s Green Mosque ( Yeşil Cami ) from the Seljuk period is well worth a visit. An underwater museum and preservation effort are in progress on the remains of a 1600 year old Byzantine Basilica.
Spend some time here and imagine how it might have been in ancient times. Take a stroll by the lake and browse the craft shops. Here you can find some unique products that you will only see in Iznik.
Places to Stay
Iznik Ogretmen Evi, Beyler Mah. M.Davarcı Sokak Kat:2 İznik, Bursa
Tel: 0224 757 10 80