It’s not officially spring in Turkey until the tulips start to bloom… and of course, in Istanbul, this means the beginning of the annual Tulip Festival. Many people associate tulips with the Dutch, but they were actually exported there from Turkey during the time of the Ottoman Empire. You can see tulips on pottery and textile design going back centuries and you may even recognize the shape from the many tulip-shaped glasses of cay (tea) you’ll consume when you visit Turkey. Each year in Istanbul, millions of bulbs in over 160 varieties of tulips are planted in parks around the city to celebrate the beginning of spring. The most famous of these is in Emirgan Park, up the Bosphorus:
Istanbul Tulip Festival
April 1-30, annually
To get to Emirgan Park, you can easily catch a bus along the sea road from Besiktas or Taksim, or take the metro to 4. Levent and catch a bus from there. There’s also a ferry to and from Istinye, within walking distance of the park. If the ferry times fit with your schedule, you can use this to avoid getting stuck in Istanbul traffic and to get a mini Bosphorus cruise at the same time!
The event is free and open to the public. I’d recommend packing along a little snack or purchasing one from vendors near the park and enjoying a picnic with a view of the grounds and the Bosphorus. If you’re there at sunset, there are also beautiful views of the bridges lit up near the water.
If Emirgan is too far (though it’s worth the trip!) you can also check out the tulips in parks like Gulhane Park just outside of Topkapi Palace or Goztepe Park in Kadikoy on the Asian side of the city. For the past few years, they’ve also put up the world’s largest carpet of tulips in Sultanahmet just outside the entrance to the Hagia Sofia. There’s a viewing platform for getting your best photos and admiring the beautiful design: