Parks of the World

Crowded cities with millions of people… lives trying to be lead in narrow places and generations that live far away from the soil. So do you think city parks could be a way for salvation?

Humanity is getting to a different phase from being a hunter, collector and an agricultural society; a market society…  They enjoy having blessings of the nature and fields in a packaged fashion while sitting in front of the computer without touching the earth, growing food in the field or grazing the animal in nature. However, benefiting from nature’s blessings without knowing and witnessing the production process brings the issue of alienation along with it. Now, every single individual is facing the threat of “Alienation” just like a worker of Marx’s industrial society. Although, humanity estranging from the nature is as big a problem as a child estranging from the mother, it brings similar psychological problems and urban psychological problems such as stress and depression, as immune systems that were not introduced to soil are getting weak and becoming open to threats. So what about the solution? Psychologists and doctors recommend city-dwellers who live in concrete houses, walk from stone pavements and tunnels, travel on iron horses like mice, go out to the noisy streets through escalators, enter plazas with magnetic cards, and go in front of their computers via electric elevators, to embrace mother earth and walk on the soil bare footed. So how are we going to reunite with the trees and earth at a time when they are this valuable, where each centimeter of the city means real estate value?

The solution that modern style living came up with for this problem is beautiful, wide, green parks built at the city centers… For parks are a natural result of urbanization and the burden delivered through democracy. Parks are not only anti-concrete piece of land in modern cities, but also are some multifunctional complex that people can have picnics in, walk around with their children, with some of its areas used as museums or concept gardens. One of its most important qualities is serving as sports track for walking, jogging and cycling for citizens who feel the need to do sports, yet are finding it difficult to find an empty area due to vehicles and pedestrians.

Have you ever wondered when these parks, the irreplaceable blessings for today’s citizens, first started to be built? All in all, our cities were not always this crowded; the world population that is now 8 billion used to be around 500 million as recent as the 16th century and an important part of these people were living in the countryside. For even city-dwellers did not separate themselves from the soil and were either interested in trade or farming if they were not soldiers or bureaucrats. For that reason, parks were invisible until the Middle Ages in world cities; the public used to gather around agoras and in squares adorned with ponds and fountains. The green fields of the city were either the gardens of emperors that reflected their wealth or the gardens of the aristocrat villas.

Archeologists that conducted excavations around the River Nile encountered drawings of gardens in some of the relics that probably date back to 2 or 3 thousand B.C. On the other hand, in Karnak Temple of Luxor, Egypt, where thousands of tourists come to visit every day, there is a pond dedicated to God, RA that is also used for festivals. However, when you speak of the history of gardens, the first one that comes to mind is without doubt the Babylonian Empire of Mesopotamia. The story of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon that King Nebukadnezar built for his wife Semiramis in 642 B.C. has reached today thanks to Greek historians. How much of it is myth how much is the truth still remains to be unknown, but Heredotus mentions magnificent green structures with terraces of gardens containing fruit trees and lion statues. Whereas in the Far East it is said that the Chinese garden culture dates back to the Yin Dynasty, 1200 B.C. As the hobby area of the Emperor’s family, the neat garden art of China has affected the gardening perception of Asia as well as Europe.

However, the most important garden forms that reached mainly Anatolia and also many different parts of Europe today are from the Roman period. The wealthy Roman Empire was highly developed in law, architecture and political system as well as the art of gardening. Consisting of soldiers, farmers and aristocrats, the Roman society’s high class rulers and emperors had gardens in the city centers. One of the most famous of all that reached today is Hadrian’s Villa near Tivoli, which was built in 2nd century B.C. Spread to a 10 km2 area, this complex contained gardens enriched with a library, hippodrome, saunas, statues and ponds. Evergreen pine trees and trees with wide leaves such as sycamore and cypress were present in the gardens that were built during the Roman period, as well as violets, irises, hyacinths, and anemones for their fine scent. Also, plants with forms, the art of landscape were first encountered during the Roman period. In time, the exclusive gardens of the Romans became widespread throughout different cities in Europe, as well as its political system. Built by Marie de Medici in 1612 and located at the center of Paris, Luxembourg Gardens is a park that attracts many tourists today. The artifacts that the Italian Medici family built on different parts of Europe had become the starters of change in art and trade along with many other areas in Europe. The garden style built as Cathedral or Palace gardens also helped shape the French garden art. Today, the park forms we witness while wandering around many European cities such as Paris, Munich, Milan and London that start from a palace yard and spread to a large area with different ponds and decorative plants are the results of this movement.

The first parks in England emerged as woods fenced by aristocrats, again for hunting. Later, these protected, green areas turned into pompous gardens that reflected wealth. In 1700s Lancelot Brown, an English architect also known as “Capability”, turned these aristocrat gardens into those famous English gardens with a magical touch. With the industrial revolution, as cities were getting crowded and urban sociology in the 18th century, the political, economic foundations and gardens went through change and as gardens became open to public which initiated formation of today’s parks. However, it did not happen easily; the concepts of democracy, public property and aristocrat lords’ properties caused different problems. In his book the History of Parks and Gardens, the famous scholar of Frankfurt School Theodore W. Adorno explained how a park warden chased him and his friend while they were reading books together in Loewenstein Park and yelled “These parks belong to the family members of his majesty”.

One of the biggest parks of England, Hyde Park, is among the best examples of this change. The 1536 park that was King Henry VIII.’s hunting area went public in 1637 and from that moment on, it has become a gathering and show place for many social events. The park that also witnessed many incidents such as a civil rebellion, fire and has a “speaker’s corner” for the people. In today’s London, Hyde Park is a wide living space with areas for jogging, walking, lying on the grass, and having a picnic as well as hosting shows and concerts. Other than Hyde Park, there are hundreds of parks in different sizes such as Green Park and Regent Park. Regarded as the finance capital of the world and even though a very crowded metropolitan city, London attracts attention with its 26.9 m2 green area per citizen. For better comparison, this ratio is 6.4 m2 in Istanbul. But of course, there are greener cities. For example while this ratio is 87.5 m2 in Stockholm, it is around 86 in Riga, the capital city of Latvia. The capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik, holds the record with 410.8 m2 per citizen.

The English are not alone on bringing the idea of livable, green cities to life with the help of parks; many famous European cities are popular with their huge parks. Known as one of the greenest cities of the world, one of Munich’s most popular parks is called the English Garden, also known as the Karl Theodor Park. As understood from its name, it is a park that was influenced by the English gardening culture and it occupies an important place in the city. (When you visit German cities you witness Germans surfing on rivers with the help of the advancing technology.) Of course, there are famous and beautiful parks in various cities of the world. De Waal Park in Cape Town, Sempione Park and Riga Kronvalda Park in Milan, Park Guell in Barcelona, Summer Garden in St Petersburg, Beihai Park in Beijing are just a few of these. In some of these parks, people are in such harmony with the nature that even wild animals have started turning the parks into their homes. For example, if you go to De Waal Park in Cape Town with a handful of nuts, squirrels will climb up your pants and try to eat the nuts in your hands.

Among these parks, a separate title might be necessary for the Central Park in New York. Because unlike the other parks, this one is the biggest park that was built later on with the idea that “New York is growing and we need a park” rather than going through a natural transformation. In a way, it is a green area born as an answer to needs of modern urbanization. Many African Americans and villagers were forced to leave their places during the construction of this park of 340 hectares. A set location for many movies, this park is also a start or end point to all kinds of events held in New York such as festivals, footraces, bicycle races etc. It also draws attention with its rectangular architecture surrounded by the city.

We mentioned American and European parks and what about the children of Babylon or the modern parks of the Far East? Today, the oldest parks among the popular parks of Asia had been shaped by the Chinese and Iranian influence. Having its own style, Japanese park and garden art was also influenced by China and shaped with Zen and Shinto designs. As for the most famous park of Japan, Ueno, it is famous with its cherry trees and festival. Although the myths of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon had long been buried, there are also famous parks in Iran too. Mesopotamian garden arts with thousands of years of past have also turned into parks that are influenced by heaven with the Islamic influence, and include madrasahs within. The Imam Square and Shake Minaret area in Esfahan, Iran are among the most beautiful examples of its kind. Furthermore Cihangir Park in Pakistan, Taj Mahal in India and Alhambra Palace in Spain are among beautiful examples of garden arrangements.

What about Istanbul… How was the development of the parks of Istanbul, a city with metropolitan pressure and green area problems just like any other global city in the world? It is known that, after the conquest of Istanbul Fatih Sultan Mehmet used Hasbahce as a picnic and resting area. Located right beneath the Topkapı Palace, Gulhane Park was used as an exterior garden during the Ottoman period. The Gulhane Park, the announcement place of the royal edict of reform, was made public garden in 1912 by Topuzlu Cemil Pasha. Other parks that are inside the city such as Yildiz Park, Macka Park and Emirgan Park were either woods or the summer resorts of state executives just a short time ago. They were turned into big parks inside the city with the fast population growth in Istanbul. So that’s how it is… It is the story of how the oasis of concrete, vehicle filled cities, the green parks, which we run to with our barbeques, and search for the shadow of a tree, take shelter from the exhaustion of the city and breathe a little became public resting areas after its journey that went on from the River Nile to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, to social incidents and the test of democracy, to being a gaming area of the aristocrats and the property of his majesty. And today if the mother of all humanity is earth, city parks will continue to be the only place where millions of city-dwellers, sons of earth will meet with their origins.


  • Barış ve Özgürlük Parkı  (Peace and Freedom Park) – TEKIRDAG
  • Halk Bahçesi (Halk Garden) – CANAKKALE
  • Şehitler Parkı (Park of Martyrs) – BALIKESIR
  • Botanik Parkı (Botanic Park) – BURSA
  • Merinos Kültür Parkı  (Merinos Cultural Park) – BURSA
  • 17 Ağustos Parkı  (17th August Park) – YALOVA
  • Kent Park (City Park) – SAKARYA
  • Seka Parkı (Seka Park) – KOCAELI
  • Nazmi Oğuz Parkı  (Nazmi Oguz Park) – KOCAELI
  • 75. Yıl Parkı (75th Year Park) – BILECIK


  • Ulus Park
  • Bebek Park
  • Naile Sultan Woods
  • Cubuklu Hidiv Ismail Pasha Woods
  • Mihrabad Woods
  • Beykoz Woods
  • Fenerbahce Park
  • Fethi Pasha Woods
  • Emirgan Park
  • Yildiz Park
  • Gezi Park
  • Gulhane Park
  • Florya Park


There are many parks in different cities of the world, but among the metropolitan cities which one do you think is the greenest? What about the most environmentalist and green cities? On the ratio of park per citizen, the capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik, is number one. The list is as follows:

  1. Reykjavik – 410.8, 2. Stockholm – 87.5 m2, 3. Riga – 86 m2, 4. London – 26.9 m2, 5. Istanbul – 6.4 m2


By-Photo: İlyas Yıldız

*This article was  published in the  July-August issue of Marmara Life. 

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