The parks of Istanbul are full of life all year-round. They have gardens, forests, and even arboretums packed inside these well-nested areas. Many of Istanbul’s parks offer gorgeous views of the Bosphorus, or of waterfalls, lakes. and ponds that are neatly tucked away from the concrete jungle.
In a city known for its skyscrapers and cobblestone streets, there is a surprising amount of green space to be found. From family picnics to locals getting exercise and lovers sharing quiet moments, weekends in the parks can get quite busy.
Top Parks of Istanbul
Belgrad Forest is a jogger’s paradise and a great place to escape the hustle and bustle. Inside the forest, you’ll also find the Ataturk Arborterum, a plant’iful delight. The parks in Ulus, Camlica, and Otagtepe offer wonderous views of the Bosphorus, as do some lesser-knowns like Mirhabad Grove.
Within Istanbul is a park famous for its scenic picnic grounds, jogging trails, and walking trails, which take people to a group of century-old trees and gaudy tulips – the Emirgan Park.
The area of Emirgan Park is beautifully landscaped with flowers, trees, fountains, and lawn grasses. However, in the past, at the time of the Byzantine Empire, Cypresses dominated the location where Emirgan Park now stands. As a result, the Byzantines called it Kyparades.
Later on, Kyparades became Feridun Buy Park , named after Nisanci Feridun Bey, a high seating court calligrapher of the Ottoman Empire who took possession of it. Nisanci Feridun Bey enjoyed his beautiful park until the reign of Sultan Murad IV. Sultan Murad IV waged war against the Safavids defeating many of its leaders who rarely surrendered.
Nevertheless, one Safavid leader, Emir Gune Han, submitted without any strife. Appreciating this gesture, Sultan Murad IV granted him the Feridun Bey Park, and its name changed to Emirgune. It’s not clear whether Sultan Murad IV forcefully took the park from Nisanci Feridun Bey or bought the park from him.
The last notable owner of the Park is Khedive Ismail Pasha. It was during his ownership when Emirgune reached the pinnacle of its beauty. Khedive Ismail Pasha built the Yellow Pavilion, the White Pavilion, and the Pink Pavilion; three beautiful mansions each bearing the designs of a chalet, a traditional Ottoman house, and neo-classical architecture.
At present, Emirgan Park is a famous destination due to the numerous trees found in it, the pines, cedars, spruces, willows, oaks, and spruces. Making it even more famous is the healthy growth of polychromatic tulip gardens. The best time to visit Emirgan Park is in April. because this is the time when the Tulip Festival is held within the premises.
You can find Gulhane Park adjacent to the majestic Topkapi Palace. This park isn’t expansive, and tourists can explore it within a few hours.
What Gulhane Park was in the past overshadows its present state. At the time of the Ottoman empire, Gulhane Park is one of the grounds of Topkapi Palace. Within in was a playground, a zoo, coffee houses, walking trails, running trails, and other recreation areas.
And since it’s part of the most politically and socially iconic building in Istanbul, Gulhane Park is where the 1839 Edict of Gulhane was proclaimed. Due to the beautification projects and the number of people visiting, Gulhane Park started to lose its natural beauty. As a result, a renovation project had to be carried out. The playground, the zoo, the coffee houses, and other recreation areas had to be removed or redesigned due to it.
At present, Gulhane park offers the quickest and the most scenic route for going to the Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam.
Belgrad Forest is home to a lot of trees and a healthy river. This natural landscaping, at present, goes back o the time of the Byzantine Empire. And long before the Ottoman Empire’s reign, Byzantines used the river in Belgrad forest as a permanent source of water for the nearby villages. To do this, they constructed aqueducts over a period of 150 years.
Nevertheless, the Byzantine aqueducts are non-existent within Belgrad today for they were renovated as Ottoman buildings. Suleiman the Magnificent instructed Mimir Sinan to upgrade all of the Byzantine aqueducts. These are what tourists presently see from the roads going to the nearby Kemerburgaz village.
In the 18th century, the Taksim System was added to the aqueducts that Mimir Sinan upgraded. It delivered water from the Belgrad Forest to the areas passing along the way to Taksim Square and Taksim Square itself.
Today, the Belgrad Forest not only acts as a watershed but also as a nature park. People come to walk, jog, or ride bikes along its trails.
Otagtepe Park is famous in Istanbul because it provides an expansive view of the Bosphorus in any direction. Tourists can also see the Faith Sultan Bridge beautifully from here. Inside Otagtepe Park there is a flower garden, an expansive lawn, bonsai plants, and walking trails.
In the past, the location where Otagtepe now exists has been used as a strategic point during Sultan Beyazid’s siege of Constantinople. He wanted to take control of the area because it allowed him to see everything that’s happening on the Bosporus, like the entrance of warships from the European side or the Asian side for example.
After taking control of the area, Sultan Beyazid built a military garrison over it. This is actually where the name of the park comes from. A rough translation of Otagtepe would be the hill of the camp of army forces.
The Ataturk Arboretum is a park built for research purposes that’s found inside Belgrad Forest. Istanbul’s Directorate of General Forestry commissioned its building. The building of the Ataturk Arboretum suffered drawbacks due to economic concerns. Nevertheless, the building was completed and it was opened on July 12, 1982.
Ataturk Arboretum was named after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who founded the Turkish Republic and became its first president. At present, the Ataturk Arboretum serves as a research center for students and researchers coming from the different state universities of Turkey.
Bebek Park was opened for public use in 1908 after the Proclamation of the Second Constitutional Era, which aimed to revive the Ottoman Parliament, the Ottoman Empire General Assembly, and the 1867 Ottoman constitution.
Though already quite good due to the trees covering its 16,000 square meter landscape, Bebek Park was renovated. Overseeing the renovation was Sabanci foundation who added playgrounds, walkways, open exercise areas, and newer trees.
After the renovation, Bebek Park was renamed Turka Sabanci Bebek Park. At present, many come to watch the waters of Bosporus and relax.
Mihrabat Grove was founded by Nevsehirli Damat Ibrahim Pasha III. Nevsehirli was a grand vizier of Sultan Ahmet III. In the past, Neveherli also got a pavilion built within the premises, which he gifted to Sultan Ahmet III. However, it was destroyed during the janissary rebellion that the Albanian Patrona Halil led.
The pavilion was then rebuilt during the reign of Abdulhamid. Commissioning the rebuilding was Rukiye Hanim. Rukiye’s pavilion is the one that tourists see within the Mirhabat grove today.
At present Mihrabat Grove is famous to tourists due to its natural beauty that highlights towering trees, colorful flowers, and captivating view of the Bosporus.
Taksim Gezi Park
Taksim Gezi Park is a famous location in Istanbul because it’s the only place where people can connect with nature in the heavily urbanized district in Istanbul. Since it’s the last of its kind in Beyoglu, the renovation and reconstruction of this park immediately spark political strife from the masses.
There was no Taksim Gezi Park in the past. On its location is the Halil Pasha Artillery Barracks instead. The northern portion of Taksim Gezi was once the Pangalti Armenian Cemetery which people used from 1519-1939.
Eventually, the Halil Pasha Barracks was reconstructed to make it bigger. However, it was damaged in the March 31 Incident and had to be transformed into a stadium. Eventually, the stadium, the remains of the barracks, and the Pangalti Armenian Cemetery had to be demolished to make way for the urbanization of Taksim Square.
Naile Sultan Grove
Owning the Naile Sultan Grove in the past, was Adbulhamit’s daughter of the same name, Naile Sultan Within the grove is a mansion, where she used to live. However, the abolition of the Ottoman Monarchy forced her to get away from her property and seek refuge in another country.
After the persecution of the Ottoman Monarchy stopped, Naile Sultan returned to Istanbul in 1952 and sold the grove to a wealthy merchant. It’s not clear whether the purpose of selling was for financial purposes or was for losing the intention of living at the grove anymore.
At present, Naile Sultan Grove isn’t open to the public as it’s still privately owned. Nevertheless, tourists may come to take a glimpse of the Naile Sultan Mansion and its attractive landscape consisting of trees such as pines, cypresses, magnolias, and buckthorns.