The spring air has awoken the residents of Istanbul out of the drudgery of rainy winter cold. With great gusto, the masses emerge from their apartments and offices to parade up and down the waterways and find a patch of green in one of the city’s many parks.
On a large hill after the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge is Emirgan Korusu (Emirgan Park). Facing the Bosphorus, this green expanse, filled with tree groves and flowers and crisscrossed by many rambling pathways, is one of the most popular outdoor spring destinations on the European side of the city. Come see why so many visitors visit the park each weekend and enjoy one of these 12 activities.
1. Consider the art of the tulips. Emirgan is worth a visit in all seasons, but in April during the citywide Tulip Festival the pathways and sloping fields boast some of the best tulip artwork on offer. The landscapers have planted pictures in multicolored patterns, especially attractive on sunny days when the colors appear lit by the sun.
2. Stroll along the red track. Alternatively, run, rollerblade, or dog-walk. Emirgan’s springy red-top running path is ideal for a jog or other bipedal activities.
3. Set up a spring-worthy picnic spread. Istanbullular are the masters of the picnic, so take a clue from the best and carry your lunchtime meal to Emirgan. It is not unusual to see a family sitting around a camping stove brewing glasses of tea and eating a host of home cooked foods packed neatly in plastic boxes. Get to the park early on a weekend to reserve one of the many picnic tables.
4. Visit one of the restored Köşkler (mansions). The three mansions named for their colors, yellow, pink and white, show off the architectural style of the late Ottoman era. At the Beyaz Köşk visitors can enjoy a long Turkish brunch or a glass of tea while admiring their surroundings and people-watching.
5. Play spot the bride. Especially on the weekend, the park is prime bride (and groom) stalking territory. Even in the crowd of weekend park-goers the layers of tulle, lace, wispy curls atop the head, and wedding party entourage give away the location of the Emirgan brides. Admire or critique her choice of dress and enjoy the reactions of others in the park to the wedding party.
6. Brush up on those photography skills. Keen amateur photographers will find any number of subjects to improve their hobby among the many people, pathways, and natural surroundings.
7. Lay in the grass. Find a quiet corner of the 117 acres to have a nap, read, or name the clouds in the sky. Although much easier to do on weekdays, it’s still possible to find a semi-peaceful patch of grass all for yourself on the weekend. If you’re feeling particularly childlike in the new beginnings of spring, find a slope to roll down.
8. Have a go on the swings or exercise equipment. The park has modern playgrounds popular among families with small children. For the adults, try out the exercise equipment along the running path. Although everyone knows these calisthenics’ workout stations are used more for entertainment than for serious calorie-burning.
9. Partake of the traditional park snacks. Just outside the entrances, visitors will find sellers of cotton candy, dried nuts and fruits, and kağıt helva (a sweet, round wafer treat) to snack on while wandering around the park.
10. Love the animals. Similar to many of the green urban parks around the city, many cats and dogs have made their homes in this more natural habitat. Most of the furry creatures love a cuddle or pet from passing visitors.
11. Play ball. Soccer, volleyball, or Frisbee. The open areas make an impromptu playing field for any kind of outdoor game.
12. Find the perfect ending to your day at the park. After traipsing around and up and down the many ways of Emirgan, exit at the bottom of the hill and walk along the Bosphorus to Istinye or Yeniköy for a fish dinner or ice cream against the back drop of the sunset.
Emirgan Park is accessible by Metro from the ITU Ayağaza stop and a 15 minute walk or 5 minute minibus ride down the hill toward Istinye. Many buses also pass the Emirgan bus stop from different points in the city.