Belgrad forest Istanbul featuring a dam with blue sky and white clouds

Belgrad Forest Istanbul [Belgrad Ormani]

Belgrad Forest in Istanbul is a magnificent hidden gem, and one that is often overlooked by tourists visiting the city.

Istanbul is obviously very well known for its rich history, gorgeous architecture, and diverse culture. But sometimes, you just need to get away from the hustle and bustle don’t you?

Well that’s where the beauty of Belgrad Forest comes in.

Belgrad provides an incredible connection to the city itself through its historical ties, diverse wild & plant life, and the ample recreational opportunities that abound within.

In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through Belgrad Forest and show you all that this beautiful place has to offer so hopefully, you’ll decide to visit yourself.

So let dive in, and discover Belgrad together!

The History of Belgrad Forest

Belgrad Forest has a more than interesting history dating way back to the Ottoman Empire and beyond. In fact archaeological excavations in Yenikapı have confirmed that the Forest dates back probably some 8500 years.

During the rule of the Ottomans, the forest was used as a hunting ground for the sultans as they stalked deer, bears, boars and other wildlife. Many sultans built their own personal hunting lodges within the forest, a few of which still stand to this day,

It was an imperial order in 1907 from the “Minister of the Private Treasury of the Ottoman Sultan” where it was first suggested that Belgrad be protected.

However it wasn’t actually until a City Decree on November 2, 1953, that designated Belgrad a “Protection Forest” thanks to the then Istanbul Council of Ministers. Since then, the forest has been managed by the Turkish government, with the goal of preserving its natural beauty and ecological diversity.

Over time, the forest has become a popular destination for Istanbul’s residents, who would come to the forest to escape the heat of the city and enjoy the cool, refreshing air.

Belgrad Forest Istanbul featuring trees and an ancient stone aqueduct

Belgrad Forest Activities | What Can You Do in Belgrad?

Belgrad Forest offers a range of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy, including hiking, picnicking, horseback riding, and camping.

There are several trails within the forest that offer stunning views and the opportunity to explore the diverse flora and fauna.

There are also picnic areas and campsites for those who want to spend a night or more in the forest.

So aside from the obvious, here is our suggested list of some of most Unusual Things To Do In Belgrad Forest:

  • Quad Bike Safari – Companies such as Joymahal Tours offer this exciting pastime. Experience the thrill of Istanbul ATV & QUAD Safari tours in the magnificent Belgrad Forest. These automatic Quad Motors are easy to operate and after a short training course you’ll be ready to hit the road and start exploring. Kids can join in on the fun too, as they can ride behind their parents.
  • Horseback Riding – Experience the beauty of Belgrad Forest on horseback. Choose from beginner-friendly or adventurous options and explore the hidden gems of the Black Sea including agricultural lands, beaches, and greenery. With options for beach, lake, and forest riding you won’t be disappointed. Contact for details.
  • Birdwatching – This is actually a very popular pursuit and there are plenty of bird species to spot in Belgrad, ensuring excitement for any avid ornithologist. Hawfinch, Nuthatch, and Woodpecker nest on Belgrad and towards the end of April each year the semi-collared flycatcher arrive and can be seen around their nest holes in the tallest oak trees. In summer nightingale are common with warblers less-common. Don’t forget your binoculars!
  • Mushroom Hunting – Expert Mushroomologist (is that a word?) Jilber Barutcuyan offers mushroom hunt tours through Istanbul Tour Studio. These are mostly held in the spring when conditions are favourable and you can be sure that Jilbers explanations will be informative and interesting. He does, after all. hold a Diploma of Mushroom Studies from the Switzerland Ministry of Health.
  • Amateur Archaeology – The Kırkçeşme water-supply system supplied Istanbul with water for over 400 years and there are many ancient aqueducts and dams throughout the forest to explore and wonder at the incredible engineering feats of the past. Originally built for drinking and to supply the city’s 330+ fountains, the various water works with Belgrad are a sight to behold and well worthy of an Instagram moment.
  • Ataturk Arboretum – Embark on a botanical journey at Belgrad Forest’s Ataturk Arboretum, spanning 731 acres (296 hectares) and home to over 2,000 plant species, both foreign and native. The arboretum offers a unique showcase of flora, including rare finds like birds of paradise, Bieberstein’s crocuses, and towering giant sequoia trees. A one-of-a-kind experience here in Istanbul.
Belgrad Forest in Istanbul scenic road with curved trees

Why Is It Called Belgrad Forest & What is the Connection to Serbia?

Despite its location in Istanbul, the forest was obviously named after the Serbian city of Belgrade.

This connection dates back to the Ottoman Empire when the then sultan Suleiman the Magnificent was victorious over the defenders of the Serbian city of Belgrade.

Suleiman noted that the water supply to Belgrade was a source of pride for the local Serbs and so the forest is said to be named after a Serbian village that was moved to the forest to manage the city’s water supply system.

The villagers, who were captives from Suleiman the Magnificent’s campaign in Serbia, were known for their expertise in water management, which led to their selection for the important task of maintaining the city’s aqueducts and dams.

The water from the forest’s dams was distributed throughout the city, reaching all the way to Taksim Square, which is where it actually gets its name as it translates to “distribution” in Turkish.

The remnants of the aqueducts can still be seen in Bahcekoy today, showcasing the important role Belgrade Forest played in Istanbul’s water system

Where Is Belgrad Forest and How Do I Get There?

Belgrade Forest is located on the European side of Istanbul and is easily accessible by car or public transportation.

Visitors can take the bus or take a taxi from the city center to reach the forest, and there is ample parking available for those who choose to drive.

By Car

Visitors can drive to Belgrade Forest from the city center, with the journey taking approximately 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic. The forest can be reached by taking the E80/TEM highway and following the signs to the forest.

By Bus

Public transportation is also an option, with several bus routes available from central Istanbul to Belgrade Forest. The bus journey takes approximately 1 hour and the bus stop is located near the entrance of the forest. Bus 42T from Taksim is your best bet.

By Train (Metro)

Get to Belgrad Forest from Istanbul by either taking the Metro to Darussafaka and then a taxi, or the Metro to Haciosman and then a taxi. No direct public transport connection exists between the two locations, so this is the best option for those who prefer to not drive and are keen on Metro (train) travel.

By Taxi

For those who prefer a more comfortable and convenient mode of transportation, taking a taxi from the city center is a good option. Taxis are readily available in Istanbul and the journey to Belgrade Forest takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour.

Belgrad Forest in Istanbul ancient dam built by the Serbs

Belgrad Forest | Will You Take The Time To Visit?

We love visiting Belgrad Ormani for it’s sensational scenery, secret trials, and wide open spaces, the fact that the forest is laced and intertwined with the city’s history is just a bonus!

With its miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, and outdoor activities, this forest is a must-visit destination for both locals and tourists who love nature and crave outdoor adventure.

This unique and beautiful destination that provides visitors with an educational blend of nature, history, and outdoor recreation, and is something quite rare for any large metropolitan area.

But this place has all that, and more!

But don’t just take our word for it, pack a picnic basket, grab your hiking shoes, and head to Belgrad Forest for an unforgettable experience in the heart of Istanbul.

Thanks for reading!

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