You want to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city for a while and get away from the tourist crowds?
Then you should definitely visit one of the green oases in Istanbul. On this page, we have compiled the top 10 parks, gardens and forests in Istanbul.
Some of them are located on the slopes on both sides of the Bosphorus, offering breathtaking views of the strait and the city. Other oases are nestled in the city and provide a moment of relaxation amidst the hustle and bustle.
Yet others can be found outside the city and offer great opportunities for hiking. Some green spaces feature gastronomic options where you can enjoy your Turkish tea, eat and relax.
Let's discover the most beautiful 10 parks, gardens and forests in and around Istanbul...
1. Gülhane Park
If you are looking for an escape of city life in the middle of the city, then Gülhane Park is the ideal destination. It is located in the Historical Peninsula, within the outer palace walls of Topkapı Palace. In fact, it was once the garden of the legendary Ottoman palace.
Today, the 13-hectare Gülhane Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the city and beloved by locals and visitors alike. It is a great spot to spend some time with your children or to have a quick bite in one of the numerous cafés offering stunning Bosphorus views. You will find here some of the most beautiful flower gardens as well as many fountains, greenhouses, terraces and even a museum. Don’t miss the historic Column of the Goths, located at the very edge of Gülhane Park. While walking among the paths, you will surely understand why Gülhane Park is subject to many poems…
- Read more in our dedicated article about Gülhane Park.
2. Belgrad Forest
Belgrad Forest north of Istanbul is one of the most popular getaways to take a breather from the concrete jungle of Istanbul. Located 15 km outside the city, it is the largest woodland around the city and is known as the lungs of Istanbul. Covering an area of more than 5000 hectares, the forest is a great place to go for walks, bike rides or picnics with loved ones.
Belgrad Forest is home to over 2,000 species of native and exotic plants, as well many birds, reptiles and mammals. There are historical reservoirs, picnic areas and running trails for joggers, which is why it is very popular with runners. The locals come here mostly on weekends, so you might prefer to come on weekdays. Those who do not have a car need not despair. There are buses from Taksim Square that go to Belgrad Forest.
- For more information, see our article on Belgrad Forest.
3. Emirgan Park
While it is one of the city's most beautiful parks year-round, Emirgan Park comes to life in the spring when its famous tulips are in bloom. Located on a hillside on the European Bosphorus shore in the Emirgan district, the colorful park is one of the most famous and beautiful spots during the annual Istanbul Tulips Festival.
Overlooking the mighty Bosphorus, Emirgan Park offers spectacular views. It has more than 120 species of rare trees and plants, including pine, cypress, fir, willow and lime trees. Other highlights of the park are the three historical Ottoman mansions, which now serve as food service areas. There are also picnic areas, a small lake, a grotto and many playgrounds where children can have fun. Couples will appreciate the romantic atmosphere of the enchanting park and the walking paths that invite you to take a romantic stroll among the beautifully landscaped gardens.
- Find out more in our dedicated article about Emirgan Park.
4. Yildiz Park
Originally the hunting ground of the Ottoman rulers and part of the Yıldız Palace, Yıldız Park is now one of the largest parks in Istanbul. With lakes, waterfalls, beautifully landscaped gardens, pools and a great variety of trees and plants, Yıldız Park is one of the most treasured oases in the city. The 160-hectare park consists of almost three quarters trees and shrubs, including magnolias, horse chestnuts, oaks, cypresses, pines, and ash trees. Some of them are more than 400 years old.
In spring and summer, you can take a stroll along the colorful tulips gardens or have a picnic. You will find several historical mansions and pavilions from the 19th and 20th centuries. Two of them, the Malta and Çadır Pavilions, have been converted into restaurants and cafés and offer great Bosphorus views. With its location in the Beşiktaş district, Yıldız Park is within easy reach.
- Read more in our article about Yıldız Park.
5. Polonezköy Nature Park
Polonezköy is one of the favorite weekend destinations of the Istanbulites. Located in Beykoz district, 28 km from Istanbul, the nature park is the ideal spot for anyone who craves a quiet and peaceful haven. Polonezköy, which means Polish village, was founded by Polish immigrants in 1842. You can still find here some Central European-style wooden houses built by the Polish settlers, as well as a historic church and a memorial house.
The nature park covers an area of around 3000 hectares with wooden bridges and streams surrounding it. It is home to a multitude of tree species such as lemon trees, hornbeam, chestnut and alders, as well as lots of birds, especially birds of prey and storks. Take a walk along the trekking and biking trails among lush trees and let the fresh air revitalize you. There are very high quality cafés & restaurants, perfect for a Turkish breakfast.
- See here, for more information about Polonezköy Nature Park.
6. Macka Park
This park near Dolmabahce Palace is close to the posh Nişantaşi neighborhood, just a 20-minute walk from Taksim Square. With playgrounds, running tracks, a dog park, tea gardens and outdoor sports equipment, it's a hub of activity for residents taking a peaceful break outdoors in the heart of the city. There is also an open-air venue for concerts, festivals and other events. Macka Park is especially popular with young people and dog owners.
Pick a bench or a sprawl out a blanket on the grass and spend the afternoon enjoying the relaxing environment and watching locals go for a run or play with their dogs. You can also explore the northern edge with the busts of famous rulers of the country. If you want to enjoy great views, it's worth taking the cable car that runs between the park and the Taksim district.
7. Atatürk Arboretum
Atatürk Arboretum is a hidden gem for nature lovers. It stretches over an area of almost 300 hectares and is located within the Belgrade Forest in Istanbul’s Sariyer district. This green paradise, home to 2000 plant species from all over the world, has been delighting its visitors since 1949. Descriptive signs in front of each species tell you exactly which plant it is you are looking at. It is especially beautiful in autumn, when the autumn colors begin to peak.
Enjoy a quiet walk around the lush trees or the lake. While exploring this oasis, you can meet ducks, turtles and geese that roam around. Keep your camera ready, because you will have many opportunities to capture beautiful images. The Atatürk Arboretum is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:00 to 17:00. There is a small entrance fee to enter, but it is definitely worth it.
For further information, please see our dedicated article on the Atatürk Arboretum.
8. Camlica Hill
When it comes to fantastic panoramic views, Çamlıca Hill is the place to be. The hill is located in the seaside district of Üsküdar on the Asian side of Istanbul and is very popular with locals. At 288 meters above sea level, it is the highest hill of the city and boasts stunning 360-degree views of the Bosphorus and the mouth of the Golden Horn. The viewpoint also features a lovely public park that is packed with flower gardens, huge trees and fountains, offering a natural retreat from the big city rush.
You can wonderfully rest here, spend time with your family or take a walk in the colorful gardens, which are especially beautiful in spring. The park also offers recreational facilities, such as Ottoman-style tea gardens, cafés and restaurants run by the Metropolitan Municipality. Grab a simit and a glass of Turkish tea and sit down to enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets over the Istanbul skyline.
9. Otagtepe Fatih Grove
Perched on a hill, this insider spot surrounded by nature offers a breathtaking view of the Bosphorus. Although the Fatih Grove is one of Istanbul's lesser-known green spaces, it is worth a visit. Fatih Grove, formerly known as Otağtepe Park, is situated in Beykoz district in the Asian side of the city. Today, it is a cultural center run by the TEMA/Vehbi Koç Foundation, which aims to preserve nature and protect natural habitats.
Take your time to stroll along the walking trails and stop to admire the beautiful flower gardens, the greenhouse, bonsai plants and of course the stunning views. No matter which direction you look, you will enjoy a sweeping view of the Bosphorus with the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. Against this great backdrop, it will be easy to take impressive and unique photos of the city on two continents.
10. Baltalimanı Japanese Garden
Nestled in the Baltalimanı Park in the Sariyer district, this secret garden is still an insider tip among tourists. The Baltalimanı Japanese Garden was created to celebrate Japan's friendship with Turkey in 2007. Visitors can enter it free of charge.
The Japanese Garden is an enchanting place to just walk around and take in the fantastic surroundings. Immerse yourself in the nature of this beautiful garden, which includes waterfalls, gullets, a tea garden and many native plants. The highlight of the park is the Sakura cherry trees. Come in the spring to marvel at these pretty pink blossoms in full bloom. There are also Japanese maples and pink camellias. You can reach the Japanese Garden from Taksim Square by taking Metro Line 2 to 4.Levent Station, and then bus line EL2 to Baltalimanı Station.
Locations on a map
Now you are ready to explore Istanbul’s most beautiful green spaces. If you love the outdoors, check out our articles about scenic Bosphorus Cruises and the idyllic Princes’ Islands off the Asian coast of Istanbul.