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Saray is a town in Eastern Thrace, in the foothills of the Istranca Mountains in the west of Turkey. In 2014 the town population was 24,960 while the whole district had 47,522. It's a transport hub and most visitors are passing through on their way to the Black Sea beach resorts.


Murad I conquered Thrace

Saray means palace and several towns have that name, so always specify "Saray, Tekirdağ" when organising travel. The main route between Istanbul and the west passes some way south, crossing rivers that may be impassable in spate. Eventually causeways were built to carry the road, but there was also a northern route along the higher ground through Saray and Vize. One who came this way was Murad I, who conquered Thrace and probably had a hunting lodge hereabouts that became known as "the palace". Another was Suleiman the Magnificent: he took Sarajevo, Belgrade and Buda but was repulsed at Vienna in 1529. It was the high-water mark of Ottoman advance in the west, and from there on the Hapsburgs pushed them back.

The other rising power was Russia, expanding south in the 18th century. In Crimea they ousted the Giray dynasty of khans in 1774, whose ruler Şahin Giray was briefly exiled here. Local legend ascribes the palace to him, but the Ottomans saw him as a rival and swiftly had put him to death.

In the 19th century Saray like other towns in Thrace had a substantial Greek population, and after Turkey was defeated in the First World War, Greece made a land-grab and held Saray from 1920 to 1922. The Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 drew the border in its present position and mandated population exchanges, so ethnic Greeks and Bulgarians were deported while ethnic Turks were re-settled from elsewhere. Istanbul grew and grew, and towns on its fringes also grew and became industrial. Saray is just far enough out to have escaped this, for the moment. Its residents commute to towns such as Çorlu and Çerkezköy rather than to the metropolis. Meanwhile Istanbul residents come this way to reach the Black Sea resorts of Kıyıköy and İğneada.

Get in[edit]

Kale Seyahat (which means "Castle Travel") run hourly from Istanbul Bayrampaşa to Saray, taking 2-3 hr for a fare of 40-70TL. Pamukkale Turizm and Istanbul Seyahat bus lines also serve this route. Most buses continue to Vize and Kırklareli. Buses across the hills to Demirköy and İğneada on the Black Sea coast are suspended in 2021. Buses and frequent dolmuses run from Çorlu, which has buses from Tekirdağ and Istanbul city and airport.

Saray 1 bus station is 100 m southeast of the main square, Bülent Ecevit Park.

Driving west from Istanbul, from the city take O-3 / E80 and from IST airport take O-7. When they merge, stay on O-3 to the turnoff onto D567, which heads northwest bypassing Çerkezköy to bring you into Saray. There's also a northern road D-020 through the hills, scenic once it escapes the industrial sprawl at the edge of the metropolis. Driving east from the border, stay on O-3 past Edirne and Lüleburgaz to the Ahımehmet turnoff.

The nearest railway station is Çerkezköy 20 km south, but in 2021 all trains are suspended while the Istanbul - Edirne - Europe line is rebuilt.

Get around[edit]

The town is compact and walkable. You want wheels to reach the caves.


  • 1 Ayas Paşa Mosque, main square. An attractive Ottoman mosque built in 1539 with a single minaret. Its mostly whitewashed interior has Islamic artwork with geometrical patterns and figures depicting the tree of life. Outside is the hamam, and in the courtyard are graves of members of the Crimean Giray dynasty. Free.
  • Bülent Ecevit Park is the small tree-shaded space with cafes opposite the mosque. You won't escape the hum of city traffic, but it's sufficiently relaxing that even Atatürk is sitting at a cafe table, in the statue at the northeast corner, as if about to open the box of dominoes. Bülent Ecevit (1925-2006) was four times Prime Minister of Turkey: he's seen as a left-wing, modernising figure who blended "Kemalism" with social democracy. He's best remembered for legalising cultivation of opium, invading Cyprus, and for capture of the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan.
  • 2 Güngörmez caves (mağaraları) line the canyon of the Ergene stream 5 km north of town, before you reach Güngörmez village. They're caverns in the rock face eroded by the stream, not dripstone caves; prehistoric remains have been found within. There's a campsite nearby.
  • 3 Güneşkaya caves are west of there in the gorge of the Ergene river, which the stream eventually joins below Saray.


Atatürk takes five in Saray
  • Sultan's Trail is a 2500 km long-distance cycling and hiking route, retracing the steps of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent during his march upon Vienna in 1529. Across Eastern Thrace there's choice of routes, and Saray is on the northern branch, with Vize the next major town west. Çatalca, the next east, is on the southern branch — from İhsaniye village, take the 3 km shortcut to Kabakça. You might do better with an organised group, with portages over dreary modern sections.


  • Migros is the main store, in the central square, open daily 09:00-22:00.
  • About a dozen banks with ATMs near the central square.
  • Market day is Wednesday, Çarşamba.


  • Town centre eating places include Saray Restoran, Bayraktar Köfte Salonu, Ayaspaşa Köftecisi, Şanliurfa Dürümcüsü, Saray Mutfaği, and Şanlıurfa İskender Kebapçısı.
  • 1 Paşa Dondurma, Atatürk Alanı 12 (at the southern end of Bülent Ecevit Park, the farther side from the Ayas Paşa Mosque). Ice cream parlour. 5 TL a scoop.
  • Water buffalo (manda) yoghurt and cheese is sold locally. It's from the milk of the Anatolian river buffalo; it has more fatty acid, protein and lactose than cow's milk.


Ayas Paşa Mosque
  • Central birahane - beerhouses - are Saray Teras Pub and Palaz Bira Salonu.
  • Bülent Ecevit Park is the place to sip a glass of tea.
  • 1 Antika Kafası, Vize Cd 17 (270 m northwest of Bülent Ecevit Park). A coffee shop with a retro decor and friendly staff.


  • 1 Elit Hotel Saray, Ayaspaşa, Mezarlık Cd 4, +90 282 768 23 78. Clean friendly place. Beware the other Elit Hotel northeast end of town, a place of ill repute. B&B double 150 TL.
  • Sezen Otel and Emek Pansiyon didn't open in 2021.
  • Saray Cezaevi southwest side of town got poor guest reviews and closed down in 2021. It was the prison.


Saray and its approach highways have 4G from all Turkish carriers. As of Nov 2021, 5G has not rolled out in Turkey.

Go next[edit]

  • Kıyıköy is a beach resort with a monastery caved out of the rock. This road also brings you to Kastro beach.
  • Vize has the Byzantine cathedral "Hagia Sophia" (contemporary with the better-known one in Istanbul) and castle ruins.
Routes through Saray
EdirneVize  W  E  Istanbul AirportIstanbul
Ends at  N  S  ÇerkezköyMarmara Ereğlisi

This city travel guide to Saray is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.