Istanbul's Gülhane Parkı was once the palace preserve of Topkapı Palace, open only to the sultan, his harem, and other VIPs.
Now it's a public park open to all.
Located just down the hill north of Sultanahmet along Alemdar Caddesi (map), the park adjoins the Archeological Museumscomplex and Topkapı Palace.
In April the storks arrive at their nests in the lofty plane trees, lay eggs, raise their young, and stay until August.
Enter through the stone archway on Alemdar Caddesi just uphill around the corner from the Gülhane tram stop (map), through the restaurant at the junction of Hüdavendigar Caddesi and Taya Hatun Caddesi, or through the gate near the northern end of Taya Hatun.
Once through the archway on Alemdar caddesi, if you bear right and walk up the hill you'll come to the entrance to the Archeological Museums compound and, beyond that, the Fourth Court of Topkapı Palace.
Bear left a bit and walk along the main avenue, shaded by lofty sycamores, to enjoy the park. The park holds several fountains and small museums.
In spring, the park is a riot of flowers: tulips, pansies, bluebonnets and more. An army of gardeners keeps the blossoms coming through the summer.
The great old plane trees provide ample shade for hot summer days, kiosks sell snacks, drinks and ice cream, and hundreds of Istanbullus turn out in Gülhane (GEWL-hah-neh, "Realm of Roses") for a stroll in pleasant weather—especially young couples.
At the far end of the main avenue are hillside tea garden-caféswith fine views of the Bosphorus.
The tables are sure to be crowded on any nice day (especially on weekends), so go early if you want one, or be prepared to wait.
Column of the Goths
Near the tea house is the Column of the Goths, a lofty 18.5-meter (60.6-foot) monolith of Proconnesian marble topped by a Corinthian capital. It is the oldest Roman-era monument in Istanbul still in its original location, believed to have been erected here in the late 3rd or early 4th centuries to celebrate Rome's victories over the Goths in the Balkans.
This area at the tip of Istanbul's historic peninsula, called Sarayburnu (Seraglio Point), is the very oldest part of the city, thought to be where Byzas founded his trading colony (667 BCE), and where Septimius Severus built Augusta Antonina in the 3rd century CE.
—by Tom Brosnahan