Every year, in spring, Istanbul is covered with millions of tulips of all varieties, types, and colors. The Istanbul Tulip Festival is not celebrated in a single park in the city, the flowers dress almost all urban gardens that, together, contain more than 20 million bulbs. The most popular is Emirgan Park (Emirgan Korusu), where last season almost three million tulips of 190 different types were exhibited.
Although we usually associate the tulip flower with the Netherlands, the reality is that the first tulips grew wild in the Asian steppes. Their commercial cultivation began with the Ottoman Empire and it was the Turks, in the 16th century, who introduced them to the Netherlands.
The Istanbul Tulip Festival has over 400 years of tradition
Throughout history, the tulip has been a traditional symbol in Turkish arts and culture. Ottoman society worshiped tulips and made this flower an object of worship. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in ancient Constantinople, they became very popular. So significant were that the period of time between 1718 and 1730 is known as the Tulip Age. For the Ottoman Empire, there were 12 years of relative peace in which they began to move towards Europe. The ” tulip fever ” spread westward, captivating the Netherlands on its way.
When is the Tulip Festival celebrated in Istanbul?
The festival is held every spring between the months of April and May, but the peak of flowering depends on the weather.
The city’s gardener teams plant millions of tulips in parks and public spaces in autumn. The next spring, the flowers cover the entire city, and the temptation to walk among them becomes irresistible. The authorities celebrate it with shows, concerts, and exhibitions everywhere.
Where the Istanbul Tulip Festival is celebrated
Although Ankara is the current capital of Turkey, Istanbul is the historical capital. This large city is divided by the Bosphorus (also known as the Istanbul Strait), where Europe meets Asia and meets the Muslim and the Western. There are many parks to visit, both on one side and the other, and since access is free, you can improvise and take a garden-to-garden tour to admire the flowers.
It is located on the European side and is the main center of the Istanbul Tulip Festival. This large garden has views of the Bosphorus and beautiful views of the coast. Throughout the venue, there are stages with musical performances that liven up the visitors’ stay, and demonstrations of traditional crafts are held in the Köşk mansion, located next to the park.
Sultan Ahmet Square
Also on the European side was, at times, and Along with the Blue Mosque the Hippodrome of Constantinople. Traditionally a large floral tapestry is planted that in 2017 achieved the record of being the largest tulip carpet in the world.
Another garden on the European side that runs alongside the old lower walls of Topkapi Palace. They say that the charm of this park resides in touring it under the shade of its ancient grove and sitting, from time to time, to quietly enjoy the floral displays.
It is the favorite park for Turkish families who come here to meet with children and adults. They emphasize its beautiful and old pavilions and the gardens that go down to the Bosphorus. During the festival, it is a beautiful backdrop for the floral exhibition. It is also found on the European side.
This park is located on the Asian side of the city. It is the least frequented and little tourist: a little out of the ordinary and rarely tourist. From Çamlıca Grove, the highest area of the park, there are spectacular views of the Old City. You have to climb a good slope to the top, but on the way you walk along with thousands of tulips and the panoramic, when you reach the top, make it worth the walk.
Tulips in Istanbul
The tulip motif was used in Ottoman culture for hundreds of years and continues to be very present in the decoration: from the tiles in mosques and palaces throughout the city to ceramic and textile designs exhibited in museums. In the Topkapi Palace, an administrative center in times of empire, you can discover a fabulous treasure of Ottoman works of art where tulips are always present.
In contemporary culture, these flowers are also often used, from corporate logos to street furniture or popular graffiti.
Other tulip festivals
At present, it is the Netherlands that has the most popularity in terms of tulip worship. Quite more than Turkey. In Keukenhof, a big party is celebrated around these flowers and every year they receive hundreds of thousands of visits.
Less known is the Indira Gandhi Memorial in Asia, which is the largest tulip park in Asia. It is located in the Kashmir Valley, in Srinagar, surrounded by enormous natural beauty. In spring, the place shines with more than one million bulbs of some 70 different varieties that open towards the month of April.
Also in Seatle, there is an impressive celebration dedicated to tulips: The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival that is celebrated between April 1 and 30 with the flowering of millions of bulbs and with events and tourist activities.
It is possible that there are more, but we have no record. Tell us if you know others.
If you are thinking of visiting Istanbul, do not hesitate to do it in spring, when the days are longer, it starts to make good weather and you can enjoy the Tulip Festival. Many say that this is the most beautiful city on earth. What do you think?