Spring in Istanbul is like an elixir, healing both people and nature. One of the best ways to enjoy it and to share the season’s rejuvenating energy is to visit the city’s parks in April and May. Pleasant days are ahead of us. Whether a visitor or a local, I suggest you designate some weekends to visit Istanbul’s colorful parks these months.
If you wish to spend a peaceful day away from the city center and in the bosom of nature, Atatürk Arboretum in the Bahçeköy district of Sarıyer is one of the best alternatives. In addition to being a park, it resembles a museum of nature with more than 1,500 plant species. Don’t be surprised if you exchange glances with a squirrel among pine, beech, magnolia, and ashen trees while walking around the area designed as a five-pointed star -the squirrels here are very familiar with having visitors. Birds nest on magnificent trees, and every plant has a tag with its Latin name and place of origin. The arboretum is home to two ponds, one big and one small, where you can experience the pure beauty of nature, mesmerized by the scenery of gliding ducks and swans. Plants brought from far corners of the world have enriched the arboretum’s flora. This diversity is a product of the arboretum’s collaboration with a number of botanical gardens to procure seeds and saplings. With shades of green stretching into a blue background and its elegant swans, Atatürk Arboretum is one of the loveliest places to welcome spring.
Istanbul is home to large parks which have the fresh air of the Bosphorus and the forest, but Emirgan Grove has a special place among them! It deserves an entire day’s visit and rewards every guest for it. Before you arrive at the grove, you will be welcomed by a joyous crowd of people on the coast. It’s delightful to watch people fishing, grandchildren running along holding their grandparents’ hands, and the young chatting on benches -yet the real celebration is hidden inside the grove. Tulips, the trademarks of Istanbul, similarly to previous years, cover Emirgan Grove like a shawl. Make sure to attend the tulip festivals held at a few groves around Istanbul to learn more about this flower, which has been the city's cultural symbol since the 16th century. Symbolizing love, fire, and dawn in Diwan literature, tulips resemble the lines of a perfect poem with colors ranging from purple to yellow. However, every season, Emirgan Grove is always adorned with an array of flowers and trees besides tulips. Strolling around the ponds among flower beds, you can take pictures of swimming ducks or have a lovely time with your family at the playgrounds beloved by kids. The Pink, White, and Yellow Pavilions inside the grove offer scenes from a fairy tale. These mansions were built by Khedive Ismail Pasha in the late 19th century. If you feel hungry, you can have a delicious break at the Yellow Pavilion.
Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanical Garden
Sitting like a mirage by the TEM highway in the district of Ataşehir on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanical Garden takes you to another realm. You leave the traffic-jammed highway behind and enter a magical door into the infiniteness of nature. It feels like stepping into a fantasy where bees buzzing from flower to flower to collect pollen, water lilies fill ponds, and hyacinths fill the air with their scent. This meticulously preserved botanical garden comprises eight separate islands, among which Ertuğrul Island bears a special place both for its story and for bringing the joy of sakura blooms to Istanbul. This garden is designed in memory of the sailors who lost their lives aboard the Ottoman frigate Ertuğrul which in 1890 was caught in a storm and sunk on its way back from Japan. There is also a monument built for the deceased sailors. It’s hard not to get emotional walking around the saplings of sakura (Japanese cherry blossom trees) donated by the Japanese Sakura Foundation in honor of each sailor. In addition to symbolizing love and passion in Japanese culture, sakura trees also signify the arrival of spring and new beginnings. The days when sakuras bloom and nature starts to awaken are celebrated with “Welcoming Spring” festivals at Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanical Garden. In addition, the lovely wooden huts here host workshops on botanical illustration and horticulture for those interested in nature. Aiming to share any and all botanical experiences and horticultural knowledge, Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanical Garden organizes many fun activities for kids and adults. Besides activities such as bird-watching tours, experiments in nature, and paper workshops, the garden stands out with its project “Gardener Kids.” Designed for children who cannot spend much time in nature due to urban life, the Discovery Garden offers a direct and fun introduction into the world of plants with facilities such as a sandbox, a fountain, an open-air theater, a tree house, and a tunnel. Operating with the mission to share the experience and knowledge gained in nature, Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanical Garden also has activities for adults such as courses, workshops, conferences, exhibitions, and documentary screenings. What's more, you can take a break from the fast tempo of the city and relax with nature photography and phytotherapy workshops.
Fenerbahçe Park near Kalamış Marina on the Anatolian side is one of the most preferred summer resorts in spring. Always stylish and well-maintained, Fenerbahçe is a district that keeps the memories of old Istanbul alive. The Fenerbahçe lighthouse on the cape, which lends its name to the district, was built in 1857 during the time of the Ottoman Empire. It’s a true Istanbulite offering peacefulness, something believed to be a state of mind in the past, with its old houses, marina, and restaurants along the coast. The park welcomes spring with daisies, blooming Judas trees, and centuries-old trees scattered around the green grass. The monumentally magnificent gumwood tree is one of the park's most popular residents. You can rest and enjoy a hot drink at the café Romantika inside the park. Together with people cycling, reading a book, and enjoying the evening after sunset, the park offers many beauties at different parts of the day away from the crowd. The lines of the poem "Fenerbahçe" by Turkish poet Yahya Kemal Beyatlı bid farewell to the park's guests with a nice sound. “I saw it yesterday in Fenerbahçe / Spring was cocooned inside a big emerald.”