If you’ve ever been to Istanbul, chances are you have visited Topkapi Palace. But what lies there is another diamond waiting to be seen and polished. High up above the point where Marmara Sea meets Bosphorus, lies Gulhane park, the most beautiful flower park in Europe. Albeit its small size, Gulhane offers magnificent and breathtaking views of nature, but also of the Bospohorus. Tea enthusiasts can enjoy drinking their beverage on samovars on tables lined up in a way they catch up the view that was once preserved and reserved for Sultans. That is the top terrace tea garden, part of the Gulhame park that is remarkably unvisited expect by the locals. The park is a great place for walks any time during the season, thanks to the extremely high white trees that are marching besides you as you walk through the main pathway.
The name of the park Gulhane, actually means Rosehouse, and is fit for the grounds on which the park is located. In 1839, Edict of Gulhane was proclaimed on these grounds. The edict of Gulhane was the one that launched the Tanzimat reforms, modernizing the Ottoman Empire. Some of the changes included equalization of all citizens before the law, regardless of their religion.
At the beginning, Gulhane Park was actually part of the outer garden of the Topkapi palace, before turning into a single landmark. One section of the outer garden was planned to be a park. It was first opened to the public in 1912. Before opening, the park contained several coffee houses, playgrounds and recreation areas. A small zoo was opened few years later, and in 1926, a statue of Attaturk, the first one in Turkey was placed in the park.
In the past several years, the park underwent a renovation as the zoo, fun fair and picnic grounds were removed to open more space. With no more concrete structures to block the trees and flowers, the park regained its natural landscape. Trees in the park date back to the 1800s.
In the past two years, much has been said about the lack of green space in Turkey’s capitol. And despite the fact that Gulhane park is one of the greenest spaces in the city, it rarely makes it into news and reports.
The truth is, the park is relatively anonymous, as few people check it out. With high walls shielding it from pedestrians, the park is often seen as the outer garden of Topkapi palace. Many visitors rush past the park without thinking to glance behind the walls and enjoy the beauty of the natural landscape.
Gulhane is a park for all seasons, no matter if it is spring when the tulips bloom, or winter. The best season to visit the park, of course is spring, or more precisely April when the annual Tulip festival is held. However, in the autumn, the park takes a melancholic appearance thanks to the leaves falling.
The park can be seen both as a family and relaxing space. There are imaginative play areas for children, but there are also places where you can let your mind fly away and enjoy the nature and the sound from parakeets stretching across the sky.
Aside from visiting Topkapi palace, there are numerous things you can do to enjoy the park.
- Drink tea at the Setustu Tea Garden as you overlook the old city walls and the Bosphorus. The tea garden is a frequent gathering for locals in Istanbul and tourists. You can enjoy the magical drink in a traditional double pot. Just be warned, this is strong, real black tea
- Visit the Column of Roman Victory over the Goths. This random, unmarked column which tourists encounter on their way down to the main pathway is from the 3rd century and it the oldest monument from the Roman era that still stands in Istanbul.
- Visit the museums. There are two museums in the Gulhene park, the Istanbul Archeology Museum and the Museum of History of Science and Technology in Islam.
- Last, but not least, you can play with the adorable cats in the park. They are friendly, healthy and you can be safe from any illnesses even if you poke them.