The Istanbul Tulip Festival (a.k.a. Why You Should Visit Istanbul Next April)
Oh look, now’s the perfect time for you to start planning a trip to Istanbul next spring!
It was almost one year ago that I first contracted another bout of serious wanderlust, and began daydreaming about my next big adventure. I had been toying with the idea of visiting Istanbul already, and when I found out about the annual Istanbul Tulip Festival that takes place throughout the month of April every year, I just knew right there and then that I had to be there for it 😀
Fun fact: did you know that tulips first originated in Turkey? Yeah, the Netherlands’ most famous icon is an import 😉 Tulips were originally wild flowers found in Central Asia, and were cultivated by the Turks from as early as 1,000 A.D. That’s where they got their name – ‘tulip’ comes from the Turkish word for ‘turban’! The flowers only ‘officially’ bloomed in the Netherlands in 1594, after botanist Carolus Clusius got some tulip bulbs from the ambassador of Constantinople, Oghier Ghislain de Busbecq, and planted them in the Hortus Botanicus of Leiden, the oldest botanical garden of Europe.
Although the Netherlands have officially taken over the title of ‘ultimate tulip guys’ now, but Istanbul is definitely giving them a run for their money with the Istanbul Tulip Festival. Every year, millions of tulip bulbs are planted all throughout the city, and the result is just happiness. Happiness, everywhere you go, in April. The place that is considered THE best spot for tulip-viewing during the festival is Emirgan Park, because this:
OH MY GOD RIGHT SERIOUSLY.
Unfortunately, Emirgan Park is a little further from the tourist central of Sultanahmet, and therefore slightly harder to get to, so I didn’t quite have the time to squeeze in a visit to the park. However, all is not lost because the beauty of the Istanbul Tulip Festival is that you can see tulips just about everywhere. Like along the streets:
All around iconic Istanbul landmarks like the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque:
And throughout the grounds of the Topkapi Palace as well!
This part of the palace grounds was obscured from view, behind one of the buildings, so I wasn’t expecting to be suddenly presented with this view when I turned a corner! I literally stopped in my tracks and gasped when I saw it, because it was my first time seeing a whole gardenful of tulips, and it was just sooooo damn beautiful.
There are people everywhere gawking over the same things you are!
If you’re dead set on seeing tulips in a garden, but can’t make it all the way to Emirgan Park like me, don’t worry – the nearby Gulhane Park is great for an afternoon of tulip gazing as well!
Gulhane Park is literally just steps away from Topkapi Palace, because it was originally part of the palace’s grounds. It has since been separated into its own park though, and you can’t walk directly from the palace to the park, but it’s no big deal as it’s still really near anyway. If you’re coming from anywhere else, just take the tram running through Sultanahmet and stop at the Gulhane station!
Enter the park, and you’ll be welcomed by a wide, pedestrian-friendly pathway, with tulips along both sides for as far as the eye can see.
You can go crazy and start snapping 500 pictures per second all as you make your way down the pathway…
…or take a seat on one of the many benches by the side, and just take in the beauty that you’re surrounded by.
But you’ll wanna keep walking after a while, because there are just so many things to see. So many tulips of colours you never knew they had.
As you get further into the park, you can see where the walls of Topkapi Palace meet Gulhane Park!
Go a little further up, and you can get a glimpse of the Bosphorus beyond the park, and also this spot where it looks like someone spilled a whole bunch of tulip bulbs everywhere and left it just because they could:
AMAIGAT MULTICOLOUR TULIP CARPET
Psst: come in the evening, because tulips look really pretty in the evening light 😉
One last photo of sunset at Gulhane Park, because it would be gorgeous even without the tulips 🙂
I really hope I can make it back again someday for the tulips, and I’m not leaving until I see them in Emirgan Park the next time. If you do decide to go for the Istanbul Tulip Festival someday, try to time your visit to be in the first half of the month. Don’t wait until the last days of April to visit, because the tulips might all be wilted by then!
So that about sums up my tulip craze in Istanbul. It’s not the end of my adventures in Turkey yet, but up next, a break from Turkey for a few posts from my recent trip to Thailand!