When you travel as a family, you often want to visit all the historical beauty, and the rest of the family just want to run and play. But in the greenery and beauty of Istanbul, there are plenty of places where you can enjoy a good picnic (or even more!), and your children can play in the local Playground or run around for fun. Here is a list of 5 amazing parks, all close to each other in Istanbul, so you can pick and choose, or go to more than one of them in one day!
Yildiz Park is the largest Park in the city, located between Besiktas and Ortakoy. It covers an area of 25 acres and is located right in the city center, and has recently been completely renovated to become one of the most beautiful urban parks in Europe.
The Park is essentially located on one massive hill, forming what is now a set of hilly parks with a river flowing right through its middle leading to several streams and waterfalls descending from it. There are wooden bridges over the river and streams, perfect for children to run and swing (and perfectly safe and high enough for them!).
Originally it was a complex of the Sultan's hunting Palace, and before that the Palace was a forest. Throughout the Park there are four keshk, each of which serves tea and snacks. In addition, dozens of playgrounds are scattered throughout the Park, built for different ages and abilities.
The Park is huge – it's quite easy to get lost in it – but it means it's very easy to find a small corner and just relax among the greenery when squirrels, hedgehogs and other wild animals come up and ask for offerings from your picnic basket!
Pavilion Of Ihlamur
Not far from Besiktas, not far from Yildiz is the undiscovered pearl of Istanbul. Another former hunting Palace, this Park doesn't have a Playground, but it makes up for it with peacocks, ducks and rabbits running around for free. The Park is carefully maintained, so it is forbidden to bring food here (except for small sandwiches for yourself or your children), and children are not recommended to chase animals. The on-site keshkas are stunningly beautiful, and you can wander around the main one, which is used as a dining area during the winter months. At the back of the Park, there is a pond with turtles and frogs jumping around, and there is a Wilder garden leading up that children can explore, perhaps spotting a resting peacock trying to escape from visitors! This Park is less well-known and almost never crowded, so it's a great place to take your family and see the history of the city, as well as let the little ones have fun in the sun. This is the only Park on this list with an entrance fee, but it is negligible (2.5 Turkish Lira) and the content is extensive, so you can certainly see where the money is going.
Emirgan is another huge Park located a little further along the Bosphorus than the other two. It is known in particular for the beautiful flowers that are planted, and this is a must-see in spring because of the variety of Tulip flowers that are planted everywhere in various incredible compositions. There are squirrels running around, lots of different playgrounds (including excellent climbing walls for older children), and the Park goes down to the top of keshka, where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Bosphorus and a great place to drink a Cup of Turkish tea and relax while admiring the most beautiful flower arrangements you have ever seen.
The Maeve Bahcesi (Orchard)
Another hidden treasure, this huge Park is located right under the bridge in Ortakoy, and as its name suggests, it is an orchard with endless trees where children can come and pick their own mulberries, apples, pears and pomegranates (when it is the season). There is only one Playground located at the bottom of the Park, but it is well closed and almost never crowded. Then the fruit trees line up a 20-minute walk from the top of the Park, where there is a lovely cafe offering a surprisingly wide selection of food and drinks to keep cool in the summer months after walking up (there is a main road just above the Park, for those who prefer to go down than up).
This may be a bit of a Scam, but the Palace gardens in Dolmabahce are free and immaculately maintained. They are quite large and there are cafes along the waterfront serving snacks and drinks with the best views you will find anywhere in Istanbul right along the waterfront. Look in one direction and you will see the Topkapi Palace towering in front of you, in the other-the bridge crossing the Asian part of the city. And of course, the stunning Palace itself appears before you in all its glory. Children can run around and enjoy the beautiful gardens, and during the summer months you can also enjoy the beautiful flower arrangements.