Emirgan Park Istanbul

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Nowadays Emirgan Park is known around the world for its famous tulip festival held in the grounds every April. Beds of these once priceless flowers cascade down the winding paths and slopes, blanketing the banks of the Bosphorus with a wealth of colour and vibrancy. Less well-known is the history of the park.

In the Byzantine era the whole area was covered in Cypress trees, earning it the name Kyparades or Cypress Forest. When it was given to Nişancı Feridun Bey, a Lord Chancellor of the Ottoman Empire in the mid-16th century, it became known as Feridun Bey Park. A little over a hundred years later the ruling sultan, Murad IV, bequeathed it to one Emir Gûne Han. This Safavid Persian commander had relinquished his castle to the sultan without a fight during the campaign of Yerevan in 1635. He then followed Sultan Murad back to Istanbul and Emirgûne was his reward. Over the years the name changed to the present day form of Emirgan.

The main display in Emirgan Park

The land changed hands many times over the next few centuries until it was bought by Khedive Ismail Pasha. He was born in Egypt and reigned as the Ottoman Governor of Egypt and the Sudan from 1863 to 1879. He was instrumental in negotiations concerning the building of the Suez Canal, and known for accumulating massive public debt, funded by European financiers. Ismail Pasha liked the good life, and Emirgan formed the backyard of a large wooden yalı he had built in the grounds, along with three wooden pavilions. When his heirs sold the estate to Salyet Lütfi Tozan in the 1930s, the latter three buildings were still standing.

Emirgan Park was opened to the public in 1943 and is now owned by the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul. It consists of 117 acres of parkland including two decorative ponds planted with more than 120 types of flora. Of the around 50 buildings of different configurations and designations known to have been built there over the years, only Sarı, Beyaz and Pembe Köşk, the Yellow, White and Pink Pavilions, still exist.

Sarı Köşk (Yellow Pavilion)

View in Emirgan Park

Sarı Köşk is a prime example of 19th century Ottoman woodworking and architecture. It was designed by the famous architect Sarkis Balyan in the style of a Swiss chalet. However careful detailing gives it a delicate appearance similar to that of a carved birdhouse, reflecting the Turkish love of birds. The original building suffered fire damage in 1954 and a new façade was rebuilt in concrete to the original design. The exterior walls are painted a pale yellow, and the entire building sits above a granite gravel retaining wall. This gives the idea of the köşk being contained in a nest. Inside there is a large hall on the ground floor, three rooms upstairs and another room in the basement. The public rooms feature high ceilings, tall windows and doors elaborately ornamented with floral and bird motifs, and the colour yellow is continued throughout. Baroque and Rococo styles inform the decorative features. The best materials of the day, such as walnut, apple, plane, linden, ebony, rose and oak woods, lacquer, gold leaf, ivory and pearl, were used in the original structure.

Sarı Köşk was built as a hunting pavilion and later used as a holiday home and guest house. It’s now open as a restaurant and café and is a great place to sit and daydream yourself back to Ottoman times.

Pembe Köşk (Pink Pavilion)

Pembe Köşk was also built for Khedive Ismail Pasha and is the oldest of the three pavilions in Emirgan Park. It is modelled on the form of a typical Ottoman townhouse and takes its name from the original colour used on the exterior, a shade known as crane’s bill flower pink. This small two storey building was built with three entry doors – a protocol door for official guests, a front door and another door for staff. Inside there is a large hall on the ground floor with two rooms leading off it. A wide staircase leads from the salon up to five large rooms and two small box rooms. It’s been restored several times, most recently in 1995. Now it’s a lovely place to eat breakfast or lunch on weekends and is a popular wedding venue too.

Beyaz Köşk (White Pavilion)

Beyaz Köşk, also believed to be the work of Sarkis Balyan, is a two storey neo-Classical style mansion built at the highest point in the park, and furthest from the Bosphorus. It is rectangular in shape and the rooms are lined with inlaid wooden floors, with white walls decorated using a technique known as Bagdad plastering, developed in the 19th century. Large windows look out onto a pond and the leafy vista beyond. Like the other pavilions it’s open as a cafeteria by day, and restaurant at night.

The white Pavilion in Emirgan Park

Emirgan Park is wonderful to visit year round but if you do plan to be in Istanbul in April it’s a must for the spectacular displays of tulips. Each year more than 20 million bulbs are planted in Emirgan alone, with more on display in other parts of the city. The park is open 24 hours, seven days a week.

How to get there

Emirgan Park is on the European side of the Bosphorus. You can get there by bus or ferry. During the week I recommend the latter because the traffic along the narrow coast road can be epic, although you do pass through a number of pretty Bosphorus neighbourhoods. The ferry service starts at Eminonu and takes around an hour to reach Emirgan. Alight at Emirgan wharf and walk to the park entry about 400m further along.

At other times you can catch bus numbers 22, 25E, 40, 40T, 42T from Kabataş, 40, 40T from Taksim, or 22RE, 40, 40T and 42T from Beşiktaş. These take you to the Emirgan bus stop at the bottom of the park. Here’s the link to the IETT website to check out the times for yourself.


Planning to come to Istanbul or Turkey? Here are my helpful tips for planning your trip.

For FLIGHTS I like to use Kiwi.com.

Don’t pay extra for an E-VISA. Here’s my post on everything to know before you take off.

However E-SIM are the way to go to stay connected with a local phone number and mobile data on the go. Airalo is easy to use and affordable.

Even if I never claim on it, I always take out TRAVEL INSURANCE. I recommend Visitors Coverage.

I’m a big advocate of public transport, but know it’s not suitable for everyone all the time. When I need to be picked up from or get to Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport, I use one of these GetYourGuide website AIRPORT TRANSFERS.

ACCOMMODATION: When I want to find a place to stay I use Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: Let me guide you around Kadikoy with my audio walking tour Stepping back through Chalcedon or venture further afield with my bespoke guidebook Istanbul 50 Unsung Places. I know you’ll love visiting the lesser-known sites I’ve included. It’s based on using public transport as much as possible so you won’t be adding too much to your carbon footprint. Then read about what you’ve seen and experienced in my three essay collections and memoir about moving to Istanbul permanently.

Browse the GetYourGuide website or Viator to find even more ways to experience Istanbul and Turkey with food tours, visits to the old city, evening Bosphorus cruises and more!

However you travel, stay safe and have fun! Iyi yolculuklar.

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  1. I enjoyed this description of Emirgan Park very much. It was my plan to visit this April to see the tulips, but the earthquake has affected the people I would have stayed with. So maybe next Spring.

  2. Great read! I hadn’t been aware of this park when I was last in Istanbul, and I’ll have to keep it in mind in case I go back. Of course, I was there in late August when it was hot enough that I don’t think anything was blooming anymore at that point… But finding a green space would have been great.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed my piece. Istanbul is pretty hot in August, isn’t it? However it’s the perfect time to sit by the water or under the trees in a park. I am sure your first visit to Istanbul won’t be your last.

  3. We loved Istanbul, a week long stay turned into a month long stay. Sadly this was in November so we missed these stunning flowers. The photo is priceless. Thanks for sharing. X

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