Istanbul parks you can visit by public transport

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Have you been to FethipPasa Korusu?

I’ve been using public transport since forever. I have a driver’s licence but to be honest, the idea of driving in Istanbul scares the living daylights out of me. Besides, the traffic is so heavy I’d prefer to be on a bus, train or ferry, free to chat, read or look out the window, rather than concentrating on avoiding getting up close and repair personal with the cars around me.

Luckily Istanbul has a great public transport system that has expanded and improved every year I’ve lived here. Over that time I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the city’s green spaces and this post is about some of the largest Istanbul parks (so not every single tiny green space is included, no matter how cute) you can reach by public transport.

Asian Side of Istanbul

Validebağ Korusu

Did you know Nigogos Balyan built this wonderful house?

Approximately two hundred years ago Mihrişah Valide Sultan, the mother of Sultan Selim III, wanted to build a summer house on land in Çamlica. After her death the land transferred to Sultan Abdülmecid who gave it to his mother Bezmialem Valide Sultan, as a gift. She decided to create a botanic garden and had plants brought to it from Turkey and around the world. The grove contains various types of cedar tree including Atlas and Himalayan, as well as coastal pines, laurel, elm, oak and fruit trees. When Bezmialem Valide Sultan died the land passed into the hands of the Altunizade family. In 1853 Nigoğos Balyan an Ottoman court architect built a house here for his sister Adile Sultan. This grand structure is now used as an Öğretmenevi, or Teacher’s House. Check out page 108 of Istanbul 50 Unsung Places for the full back story of the grove. For Turks of every age, Validebağ Korusu is famous for being the place where the Hababam Sinifi movies were shot. They starred the loveable Kemal Sunal and if you don’t know who that is, you should. There’s a relaxing tea garden with tables and chairs scattered among a stand of mature trees. Follow the road off the carpark and you’ll discover ten hectares of forest, full of easy to follow trails. Even though you do come across other people, even on busy weekends it feels just like you’ve walked off the streets of Istanbul and straight into the countryside.

Catch the dolmus from Kadikoy that goes through Kosuyolu, Validebağ and Kapitol. Get off at the Validebağ entry gate. It’s open every day from 9am to 5pm.

Fethipaşa Korusu

I discovered one of my favourite Istanbul parks, Fethipaşa Korusu, a few years ago. It’s also home to one of Istanbul’s many council run sosyal tesisleri. Koru means wood or grove, and there are trees aplenty in this park sloping down the banks of the Bosphorus. Find out everything you need to enjoy your visit (including having a meal in a smoke free outdoor restaurant) on page 88 of my alternative guide Istanbul 50 Unsung Places.

Fenerbahçe Park

The lovely view from Fenerbacce Park.

Back in 1562 Süleyman the Magnificent ordered a lighthouse (fener in Turkish) be built on this promontory in order to warn ships of submerged rocks lying close to the shore. The lighthouse that gave the neighbourhood and the park (Fenerbahçe – lighthouse garden) has long been replaced by a more modern one, but the rocks and the garden are still there, including a 150-year-old mastic tree. Take a picnic and arrive early to grab one of the tables under the trees on the water’s edge, with a view out to the islands. Alternatively eat at Romantika Café, a larger than life size glass greenhouse. The interior comes complete with ferns and live greenery and feels like it belongs in an English country garden. Outside you can sit under shade cloths and sip tea, accompanied by the peaceful sound of the lapping waves. The park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The circular bus line FB1 from Kadikoy takes you to the entry of the park but check out the timetable before you go. The service is limited to one bus every hour or so.

Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanical Garden

Why not wander through the greenery at Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanical Gardens?

This 46 hectare park is a gardener’s dream with 450,000 trees and bushes sure to delight. It was established in 1995 by Ali Nihat Gökyiğit in memory of his wife Nezahat Gökyiğit and opened in Ataşehir in 2002. There are themed gardens named Istanbul, Anadolu, Trakya and so on, a herbarium, a picnic area with a wooden benches, a children’s garden and a pond. They offer certificate courses in gardening for adults, run gardening activities for school groups and individuals There are two different entrances (details here )and the opening hours are listed here .

Selamiçeşme Özgürlük Parkı

Enjoy the shady paths and pool in Ozgurluk Park

Last but not least on my list of Istanbul parks you can visit by public transport on the Asian side is my local park Selamiçeşme Freedom Park. It’s a short walk from Minibus Street or the Göztepe Marmaray station. In its 120 hectares you’ll find two kid’s playgrounds, a walking/running track, a bicycle path, football field, tennis and basketball courts. The picnic tables shaded by a grove of trees are in high demand on summer days and are a popular location to hold outdoor children’s birthday parties on the weekends. There’s also a pretty ornamental pond, a kid’s ride on train and a small amphitheatre that hosts open-air cinema, theatre and concerts in the warmer months. Every Monday a weekly market happens along the exterior fence, parallel to the railway line, while Wednesdays sees an organic market inside the park proper. The park is open until around midnight seven days a week.

European Side of Istanbul

Atatürk Arboretum

Ataturk is definitely one to add to the list.

Atatürk Arboretum covers 296 hectares of forest, southeast of Belgrad Forest in the district of Sarıyer, and was established as a research facility. It’s home to 1500 plant species, including an extensive maple and oak collection. The very first swan nursey was established here during the time of the Ottoman Empire in 1916, and now swans as well as turtles can be found in the numerous ponds in the grounds. The arboretum is open every day except Mondays, from 8.30am to 5pm. Food and drink are not allowed inside.

Entrance fees are as follow: Weekdays cost 0.10 TL for students and 7.50 TL for adults. On weekends students pay 7.5 TL for students and 20 TL for adults. Students enrolled in the Forestry Faculty get free admission. The 48D bus from Haciosman Metro takes 53 mins to get to the Atatürk Ağaç Park bus stop, the  stop at the entrance of the Arboretum.

Ataturk City Forest

Don't miss the banks of fresh lavender, sage and thyme in Ataturk Kent Ormani.

Ataturk Kent Ormani (City Forest) was declared open on 19 May 2020, in a carefully masked and social distancing visit by Istanbul’s mayor. Located in the district of Sariyer, the forest spreads over more than 1000 acres and contains three ponds, 12 kilometres of tree-lined walking paths and a picnic area.

On hot summer days it’s lovely to walk along wide dirt roads surrounded by greenery, past banks of fresh lavender, sage and thyme to three ponds ringed with wild fruit trees alive with bird calls. Should nature call you, there are public toilets as well as a cafe inside the park.

Ataturk Kent Ormani is open daily from 5am to 10pm and as of publishing this post, entry was free, although this might change in the future. Take the metro and get off at the Hacıosman stop and from there it’s a 10 minute walk along the main street to the northern entry of the park. Darüşşafaka metro stop is a short walk from the south west corner of the park.

Baltalimanı Japanese Garden

Have you found your inner zen at Baltalimanı Japanese Gardens?

These gardens were founded in 2003 to celebrate 2003 the Year of Turkey in Japan, when Istanbul made a sister city agreement with the city of Yamaguchi Shimonoseki. However Turkish-Japanese relations date back much further. In 1890, the Ertuğrul, a frigate in the Ottoman Navy was returning from a goodwill voyage to Japan when it sank in a typhoon off the coast of Wayayama Prefecture. It hit a reef and sank. 500 sailors and officers drowned, but the 69 who survived were returned to Turkey aboard two Japanese corvettes. In 2015, 125 years later, the Baltalimanı Japanese Garden was renovated in memory of this event. The garden includes a Japanese tea room (yogetsuan), waterfall, pond and gazebo and around 4850 trees and various plants.

It’s open every day of the week and free to enter. Summer visiting hours are 7am to 7.30pm and slightly shorter in winter, from 7am to 5pm. From Levent 4 catch a dolmuş to Baltalimanı and get off at the last stop. From Taksim you can take a 40, 40T or 42T and alight at Baltalimanı bus stop. From Kabataş take a 22, 22RE or a 25E and also get off at Baltalimanı bus stop. If you plan to go during the week and you enjoy walking, catch a ferry to the Emirgan wharf and walk south along the Bosphorus to the gardens.

Emirgan Park

Can you count all the tulips in bloom in Emirgan Park?

Emirgan Park is probably one of the most famous of all the parks due to the gorgeous floral displays here during the Istanbul Tulip Festival held every April. People come from all over the world to see them. I count myself as very luck to live in Istanbul full-time because I can visit this wonderful park and its marvellous köşk year round. Learn all about the history of Emirgan Park and how to get there in my post here.

Gülhane Park

Have you explored all of Gulhane Park yet? It's worth it.

Channel your inner Ottoman and make like a member of the harem as you glide through the majestic walnut and oak trees providing shade and ornament in Gulhane Park. Look out for the bird boxes attached high up the trunks and the nests in the boughs. Until 1912 this park was the outer garden of Topkapı Palace, and provided a sheltered and private area for members of the harem to take the air. It’s the oldest urban park in the city, and once housed a small zoo. That’s long gone but you can still find the Column of the Goths, an 18 metre high free standing column dating back to the time of the Romans in the 3rd century AD, on the eastern side of the park. This area of the park is less frequented so it’s popular with courting couples. Nonetheless it makes for a nice place to get away from the crowds, as does a visit to the Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar Library, located in a former köşk at the main entry of the park.

Gulhane Park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be reached by tram or a short walk up from Eminonu or down from Sultanahmet.

Bakırköy Botanik Park

Bakırköy Botanical Park was opened in 2013. It has 11 thematic gardens containing different plant groups, hundreds of trees, playgrounds, sculptures, natural and ornamental ponds, a wading areas for migratory birds, as well as picnic areas and social facilities. It has roughly 260,500 plants and trees in total, and gets its power from wind generators and solar panels. Entry is free and it’s open from 7am until 11pm. It can be reached via an easy walk from Bakırköy Metro station.

 Yıldız Park

Stretch your legs and imagine life as a sultan in Yildiz Park

Modern day Yıldız Park dates back to the 17th century when it was named for the Kazancioğlu family, who owned. Then it was bought by Sultan Murat IV as a present for his daughter Kaya Sultan. She was a very lucky girl. Over the years numerous mansions and pavilions have been built in the grounds, but only Şale, Cadir and Malta and remain. The latter two serve lavish Turkish breakfasts and the steeply sloped gardens are a popular backdrop for bridal couples. The park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It’s a short walk from Beşiktaş or from Taksim you can take any number of buses including the 40, 40T or 42T . Alight at the Yahya Efendi bus stop just across the road from the park.

Florya Atatürk Forest

This small forest was founded in 1937 and is set up for running walking and cycling. BBQs are forbidden. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Easy to reach via the Marmaray, alight at Florya station.

All at sea

There’s also the Princes Islands, a group of nine islands including Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kınılıada. All of them are accessible by public ferry and you’ll find the page listing all the different ferry services here.  Scroll down until you see the heading Adalar (Princes’ Islands) Lines. They’re very popular with locals and tourists alike so if you have the choice, on weekdays the islands are less crowded.


Here are my helpful tips for planning your trip to Turkey

For FLIGHTS I like to use

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

Read how the city sets my heart racing in Longing for Istanbul.

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. Good, I can’t wait, although I have to. I’m also having a moment of longing and wishing for change. Sigh. It will come. Eventually.

  1. I have only been to Gülhane Park. It was full of tulips and daffodils and we enjoyed it very much! Thank you for this interesting article. If our tour goes ahead in 2021 I will try to visit some of the other parks.

    1. Emirgan is very beautiful, especially when all the tulips are in bloom. When you come I hope you will visit some of the other parks I’ve mention. They are all lovely in different ways.

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