At the end of March and the beginning of April a delightful thing happens in Istanbul: millions of tulips appear in every available space: parks, roadsides, traffic roundabouts and plant pots. April is synonymous with tulips, a flower which many associate with the Netherlands but is actually a symbol of the city.
Each year, somewhere in the region of 13 million tulips are planted to celebrate the beginning of Spring. This year it’s been unseasonably warm, and officials have resorted to tipping icy-cold water onto the blooms trying to push their way up through the soil before the allotted time.
Tulips were brought to Turkey from the wilderness of the Asian steppes in the sixteenth century, and Turks fell hard and fast for the bright, inverted bell-shaped flowers. During the Tulip Period, the most wealthy of Ottoman history, certain tulip varieties were bought and sold for staggering sums and there were more than 1800 tulip species in circulation.
From Istanbul, tulips made their way overground to the Netherlands. Tulip madness caught hold there, too, and the bright flowers quickly became a major industry.
Istanbul’s Tulip Festival
If you’re visiting Istanbul in April you can’t miss the International Istanbul Tulip Festival. Parks compete for the biggest, brightest displays, and crowds of city dwellers tour the city’s green spaces each weekend, admiring the vast carpets of flowers.
During the festival visitors will also be able to enjoy events like live music and arts demonstrations such as calligraphy, marbling, painting and glass blowing.
Here are the best places to see the festival’s tulips:
One of the largest public parks in the city, Emirgan has several tulip gardens, as well as three large manor houses and two ponds. During the festival over two million tulips carpet the park.
Where and when: Emirgan is open each day from 7am to 1030pm. It’s by the Bosphorus in Sariyer, a little past the second Bosphorus Bridge.
Boasting 1.3 million tulips, which include 68 varieties, strolling through Gulhane Park during the tulip festival is a riot of colour. You can visit the park at Nobethane Caddesi No 1, Fatih.
More than 800,000 tulips of 50 different varieties blanket Yildiz Park, which is also home to the vast Yildiz Palace complex. Yildiz Mahallesi, Besiktas.
Soganli Bitkiler Park
In Soganli Park 500,000 tulips are arranged in a grand circle. You can sit on park benches and admire the spectacle, as well as enjoy other seasonal flowers like hyacinths and daffodils. Yedikule Mahallesi, Fatih.
This pretty park is flanked by the Bosphorus on one side, and thick trees on the other. It’s the ideal place for a picnic, especially this time of year when you can view the park’s 250,000 tulips.
Goztepe Gul Bahcesi
Almost two million tulips and 150 varieties are planted at this park on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Camil Topuzlu Caddesi, Kadikoy.
Buyuk Camilica Korusu
It’s a bit of a climb but once you reach the top you can see not only 500,000 tulips at this pretty park but you’ll enjoy striking views all over the city. Buyuk Camlica Uskudar.
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