Tekirdağ (pronounced TEH-keer-daa) is a city in Eastern Thrace, the European part of Turkey, 132 km west of Istanbul. It's on the Marmara coast and is a popular beach resort for the big city. In 2019 its population was 204,000.
There are signs of human settlement here right back to the dawn of the Stone Ages. The first recorded settlement of "Byzanthe" was founded by Thracians in what is now Barbaros, a village 9 km to the southwest. The seed of the modern city was a colony of Greeks from Samos in 550 BC, who called it "Rhaidestos". When the Roman Empire divided, Tekirdağ became part of the Byzantine portion, and equally Byzantine was the evolution of its name. In 14th century it was captured by the Ottomans, who called it "Rodosçuk". In the 19th century it became "Tekfurdağı" meaning "Byzantine lord" but by the 20th century this had mutated into Tekirdağ which means "tabby mountain" and refers to the range to the southwest. The old name persists in some other languages, eg "Rodostó" in Hungarian. The Hungarian connection was important in the 18th century, with exiles such as Francis II Rákóczi and Kelemen Mikes settling here, but that emigre community has long disappeared.
Tekirdağ has grown into a large industrial town, based on the agriculture of its hinterland, which has become dotted with industrial units as businesses move out of congested Istanbul. It's too far out (and public transport is insufficient) for it to be part of Istanbul's commuter belt, but it's certainly within the weekend-escape zone and gets busy in summer. It's the capital of Tekirdağ Province, with its other main towns described elsewhere (insofar as they have any interest to travelers): Çerkezköy, Çorlu, Ergene, Hayrabolu, Kapaklı, Malkara, Marmara Ereğlisi, Muratlı, Saray and Şarköy. Süleymanpaşa is the district containing Tekirdağ itself.
The climate is typical of the west Marmara region: Mediterranean but with colder winters - these are usually dry but with occasional downpours. Spring and autumn are ideal times to visit, and in autumn the sea is warm and usually calm. Midsummer breezes can stir up heavy surf.
The TIC is in the park near the ferry pier. It wasn't open in 2021.
Istanbul Seyahat bus runs direct from IST airport to Tekirdağ, every two hours 07:00-01:30 for 85 TL.
Otherwise by public transport you have to go into Istanbul city centre then travel out again to Tekirdağ. Çorlu airport only has military and private flights.
Several bus lines run from Istanbul to Tekirdağ, taking two hours for a fare in 2022 of around 100 TL. Some terminate here, but most are heading down the Gallipoli peninsula to Çanakkale. You should be able to stroll into Istanbul Esenler station any time of day or night and find a bus departing within the hour.
Other destinations with a less frequent service are Şarköy on the coast, and Keşan and Gelibolu down the peninsula - most buses nowadays bypass these on the new motorway and Dardanelles bridge. For nearby Çorlu take a dolmuş.
In normal times Flixbus also run via Sofia and Bucharest from western Europe, but these routes remain suspended in 2022.
1 Tekirdağ Otogarı is the bus station, 500 m east of city centre. Enter from the south on Şht. Yüzbaşı Mayadağlı, you can't get in from Karlık Cd on its north side.
From Istanbul city centre follow O-3 / E80 toll motorway and from IST airport follow O-7. These meet at Kınalı, where you take D110 / E84 west through Marmara Ereğlisi, reckon 90 min to two hours. If you're aiming for west end of the city or Kumbağ beach resort, stay on E84 bypass rather than dragging through the centre.
From Bulgaria you'll probably cross the border at Kapitan Andreevo / Kapıkule. Take E80 which bypasses Edirne and becomes O-3 / E80 toll motorway. (Or you can exit to follow D-100, but it's hardly worth it to avoid the tolls.) Follow O-3 to exit at signs for Lüleburgaz and Muratlı. Here you join D-100, signed eastbound for Çorlu and Istanbul. Some 10 km east turn onto D-565 which brings you through Muratlı to Tekirdağ. It's 160 km from Kapıkule so two hours should do it.
However from Burgas you enter Turkey at Tirnovo / Dereköy on D-555 / E87. Stay on it south through Kırklareli to Babaeski to join D-100 - you cross O-3 but it's not worth joining. Head east via Lüleburgaz to the D-565 turn-off then south as above. From Dereköy to Tekirdağ is about 155 km.
From Greece you enter at Peptos / İpsala on D110 / 84. Follow it past Keşan all the way to town, about 110 km so say just over an hour.
By thumb: Lots of trucks and private cars pass Tekirdağ on their way to Istanbul, Gallipoli and the border. The main highway bowls along the promenade, and the trick for the outbound hitcher is to be not too close in, clogged among local traffic, or too far out where traffic picks up speed and it becomes an expressway. Eastbound, try Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bulvarı at its beginning, a block south of the otogar. Westbound this highway becomes Atatürk Bulvarı towards Keşan: try the stretch west of the Archaeology Museum.
They also sail twice a day from Bandırma, docking at Ceyport pier.
The nearest station is Çorlu, which has trains twice a day from Istanbul, continuing west to Edirne or Uzunköprü. The branch line to Tekirdağ nowadays only handles freight.
Walk for anywhere downtown.
Dolmuş: public minibuses run by the city council are navy blue. They ply from the otogar to outlying residential areas - some via city centre, so this is the only occasion you might have to use them. Privately-run minibuses are in different colours according to their routes. You're most likely to use the light blue ones to Barbaros and Kumbağ, or the greeny-yellow ones to Değirmenaltı, which may be badged as Route 1.
All dolmuşes run on a fixed route, every 10 min daytime dropping to 30 min late evening, with the last around midnight. They mostly start from opposite Rüstem Paşa Mosque, but don't otherwise have fixed stops, holler to get off or wave to flag one down. The flat fare in town is 3 TL.
Taxis are available from many stands around the city.
- 1 Archaeology and Ethnography Museum (Arkeoloji ve Etnografya Müzesi), Vali Konağı Cd 1 (foot of Hüseyin Pehlivan Cd), ☏ , fax: . Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. Housed in the governor's mansion built 1928, this exhibits findings from Perinthos and numerous tumulii in the region. Admire the mummy of Thracian king Kersepleptes, found (along with his regalia) in a tumulus 12 km away. Upstairs is ethnography, with a "traditional Tekirdağ room". The garden of the museum has many ancient sarcophagi and gravestones of the city's once numerous Greeks, Armenians and Latins. 2 TL.
- 2 Rákóczi Museum, Vali Konağı Cd, ☏ . Tu-Sa 09:00-12:00, 13:00-17:00. Francis II Rákóczi (1676-1735) was a Hungarian nobleman who led a failed rebellion against the Hapsburg empire. He fled to Poland (where he was smart enough to decline the offer of the crown), then rattled around England and France before settling in Ottoman Turkey. He spent his last 18 years in this house in Tekirdağ and a colony of other Hungarian emigres settled around him - best known is Kelemen Mikes (1690–1761). The house has been restored, not to that period but to 1906 when drawings of the interior were made. The Szekely Gate in front of the house commemorates his fellow exiles, of whom few other traces remain in the city. Rákóczi is buried in Košice, Slovakia, where a copy of this house has been erected. 5 TL.
- Traditional Ottoman houses have been ruthlessly bulldozed from most of the city and replaced by drab concrete blocks. Several survive - some renovated, but many sadly tumbledown - in the streets between the Archaeology and Rakoczi museums, with another scattering on the hill by the otogar.
- 3 Rüstem Paşa Mosque was built by the renowned Sinan in 1553. Not one of his greatest (see Edirne and Istanbul), but he set the bar high.
- Ertuğrul Bazaar by the mosque is a 1980s reconstruction. The courtyard is a pleasant place to sit.
- Eski Mosque means "old mosque" but it's a rebuild of 1830 after the old-old mosque burned down. It's 200 m west along the street from Rüstem Paşa Mosque.
- 4 Namık Hikmet House (Namık Kemal Evi), Namık Kemal Cd 11, ☏ . M-Sa 09:00-12:00, 13:00-17:00. Namık Kemal (1840-1888) was a writer and political agitator, which got him exiled from Turkey three times: to Paris, then to Famagusta, finally to Chios where he died. The house museum is a replica of his birthplace. Free.
- Tekirdağ Photography Museum wasn't open in 2021.
- Barış ve Özgürlük Parkı means "Peace & Freedom Park" and it's populated by statues of those who wrote and did plenty but didn't enjoy much of those desiderata, such as Namık Kemal, Francis II Rakoczi and Kelemen Mikes - this last is a striking Hungarian wood carving. The park is by the marina, 300 m south of the otogar. There's a funfair, see below.
- 5 Kumbağ is the small town at the south end of the beach strip straggling out from the city. The beach is sandy and there's accommodation and eating places. Further south the road winds into the hills towards Uçmakdere and eventually Şarköy.
- Dal Lunapark is a funfair by the Barış & Özgürlük park at the east end of the promenade. Not the biggest or scariest rides, but it will amuse children with its ferris wheel, rollercoaster, gondola and the like. It's open daily in summer 11:00-00:00.
- Windsurfing: the local beaches are exposed to the onshore breeze in summer, so the waves get up and it's a good area to windsurf. Try Kumbağ beach strip to the south.
- Hiking in Mt Ganos south of Kumbağ has trails of all grades, including a 20 km trek to Uçmakdere.
- Paragliding on Mt Ganos generally launches from Nişantepe (600 m elevation) to land on the beach at Ayvasıl. You'll need to be self-sufficient with kit. Contact the Tekirdağ Paragliding Club (TEYAK) for the availability of tandem flights.
- ATMs are found outside several banks on Hükümet Cd, the downtown high street - this is also the place to find money exchange kiosks. In Kumbağ they're likewise on the main drag Belediye Cd.
- Tekira is the main city-centre mall at 304 Hükümet Cd. Carrefour is open daily 09:00-23:00.
- Maxi Alışveriş is the edge-of-town mall east at the junction with D110 bypass, so it's the better one for passing traffic. Migros is open daily 10:00-22:00.
- Rugs and carpets are handmade at Karacakılavuz (say "ka-ra-DJA-ka-lah-vooz") 20 km northwest of Tekirdağ. This village was settled by Yörük, nomadic people from Anatolia, after the Ottoman conquest of Thrace in the 14th century. The villagers still weave patterns handed down from nomadic times. Their outlet shop in the village is open M-Sa 08:00-18:00. See also Çorlu 40 km north for its outlet stores and factory sale shops.
- Alkolsüz posted outside a restaurant means "alcohol-free." Any restaurant without a sign usually does serve alcohol.
- Cezve Cafe, Eski Bedesten Sokak 32 (off Hüseyin Pehlivan Cd above Archaeology Museum), ☏ . Daily 10:00-02:00. Pleasant cafe in a renovated historical 3-storey wooden building.
- Deniz Aile Çay Bahçesi, Atatürk Blv 21 (By harbour). Relaxing place for coffee or grilled fish.
- Rumeli İskelesi, Limani (pier end). Cafe at the end of the ferry pier, you're paying for the view.
- Özcanlar Çarşı Şube (Bazaar branch), Hüseyin Pehlivan Cd 5 (on street above Archaeology Museum), ☏ , email@example.com. Daily 08:00-20:00. Long-established favourite restaurant for meatballs.
- Özcanlar Sahil Şube (Beach branch), Atatürk Blv (near Park), ☏ . Daily 07:00-01:00. Another branch of the meatball chain; they have outlets elsewhere in Turkey.
- Arda Cunda Meze ve Balik Evi, Atatürk Blv (facing ferry pier), ☏ . Daily 10:00-02:00. Good fish and meze. Visitors might want to go for the set menu, as prices mysteriously escalate for foreigners.
- 1 İlhan Restaurant, Atatürk Blv 55, ☏ . Tu-Su 15:00-23:30. Popular fish restaurant on the sea-front, but very limited menu.
- Local specialties: Tekirdağ köftesi is the local style of meat-balls, made of fatless meat and mildly spiced. It's shaped into a cylinder and grilled.
- Desserts: Höşmerim (or peynir helvası) is made of cereals with cheese dissolved into it - best served with ice-cream on top. Hayrabolu tatlısı (or Kemalpaşa tatlısı) is soft, cookie-like dough doused in syrup.
- Bars by the park and marina include Look Pub & Shot, Moon and Bermuda Club. On Şükran Sokuk in the centre are 44 Beydağı and Best Of The Kemal Babanın Yeri.
- Rakı, Turkey's national drink, was traditionally made in Tekirdağ. The factory (owned by Mey, part of Diageo) closed in 2017 and production moved to Alaşehir 140 km east of Izmir, but you won't go short of rakı here.
- Wine: the best-known vineyards are southwest in the hills of Şarköy District: Barbare and Umurbey are the closest. Barel, in Karaevli, is one of several nearby to the east.
You probably only need to book ahead in peak season July-Aug. For small apart-hotels or flats, look for kiralık signs, meaning "for rent". Many places close down in winter.
Hotels are clustered near the promenade and sea-front boulevard, with more a couple of blocks back. Traffic noise can be a problem.
- 1 Rodosto Hotel, İskele Caddesi 34, ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Comfy place near the shore in a building of 1881, usually clean. B&B double TL 300.
- 2 Des Otel, Yavuz, Şaraphane Cd 37, ☏ . It looks like an opulent government building and has a spa and breakfast buffet that you can enjoy from its expansive rooftop patio. B&B double TL 360.
- 3 Tekirdağ Yat Hotel, Ertuğrul, Yalı Sk 21, ☏ . Staying here might be interesting with the little clocktower and cat community out front and the sea views beyond. B&B double TL 300.
- 4 Goldhan Hotel, Gündoğdu-turgut, Soysal Sk 6, ☏ . No pool, but this glassy hotel has a big breakfast spread to appease hungry morning appetites. B&B double TL 290.
Kumbağ is the main resort 8 km south, and Değirmenaltı is the district 8 km east.
- 5 Csk Otel, İnönü Cd 70, Kumbağ, ☏ . This hotel has a pleasant rooftop terrace and is pet friendly. B&B double TL 220.
- 6 City59 Suit Otel, Eğitimciler Sk 21, Değirmenaltı, ☏ . Clean well-managed apartments east of centre. Room only double TL 220.
As of Sept 2021, the city has 4G from all Turkish carriers. 5G has not rolled out in Turkey.
Wifi is widely available in cafes and public places.
Like any big city there are rough, down-at-heel quarters, such as the northern district of Aydoğdu. These are well away from the coast and downtown, and visitors have no reason to go there.
Don't swim within 5 km of the commercial harbours west of the centre. Bilge water is the main problem, and marine waste has been another. In July 2021 the national government announced vigorous measures against what they referred to as deniz salyası but most call deniz sümük - "sea snot".
National emergency number to call the police is 155 and for ambulance is 112.
As a city which is slightly off-the-beaten path, you will encounter less English-speaking people. This is not to mean that nobody in Tekirdağ can speak English, but you may have to look for a little more than the usual in more tourism-oriented towns of western and southern Turkey. And you can also take it on the bright side: you will never come across with a tout in Tekirdağ.
- Honorary Consulate of Hungary (Macaristan Fahri Konsolosluğu), Orduevi Caddesi 21, Günaydın Apartmanı (off Anı Kıyı Cd), ☏ , fax: . M-F 09:00-17:00. This also serves Kırklareli and Edirne, but contact Istanbul consulate for visa / passport enquiries.
- Marmara Ereğlisi is a coastal town 40 km east of Tekirdağ, on the highway to Istanbul. This is the site of ancient Perinthos, with a few scrappy remnants.
- Şarköy District is the coastal strip and wine-growing area extending from Şarköy town through Mürefte to Uçmakdere. With your own transport you can follow the twisting hill road from Kumbağ to Uçmakdere, a well-preserved village from pre-1923 when this area had a majority Greek population.
- Marmara Island is visible out to sea and has a car ferry from Tekirdağ.
- Istanbul to Izmir is an itinerary that swings through town, to continue south by road down the Gallipoli peninsula or by ferry to Erdek.
|Routes through Tekirdağ|
|END ← Keşan ←||W E||→ Marmara Ereğlisi → Istanbul ()|
|Demirköy ← Lüleburgaz ←||N S||→ Sea of Marmara → Bandırma → Balıkesir|
|END ←||N S||→ Marmara Island → Erdek|