Massive displays of spring blooms have an irresistible appeal, drawing millions of people to parks and gardens around the world. In Tokyo, several hundred thousand people pass through Ueno Park every day during cherry blossom time, which lasts barely two weeks. And in Holland, Keukenhof Park attracts more than a million visitors during its two-month tulip season.
If you’re also finding yourself drawn to colorful bouquets and floral aromas now that spring is approaching, check out this short list of top flower festivals around the world. The cherry blossoms, tulips, and other spring blooms are all worth traveling for.
Keukenhof Tulip Festival, Holland (March 23–May 16)
Claim to fame: Billed as “the most famous and largest flower park in the world” Keukenhof, near Amsterdam, plants seven million tulip bulbs each year, as well as hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lilies and other flowers.
Good to know: The park is accessible by public transportation from Amsterdam. You can order your tickets online and receive them by email. On Saturday, April 23, Holland’s annual parade of flower-bedecked floats and automobiles travels a 42-kilometer route from Noordwijk to Haarlem, passing Keukenhof at around 3:30 p.m. The floats remain on view in Haarlem through Sunday.
Flevoland Tulip Route, Holland (April 15–May 8)
Claim to fame: Central Holland’s 100-kilometer-long “Tulip Route” passes through nearly 2,500 acres of flowering fields in East and South Flevoland, the country’s biggest flower-growing region.
Good to know: You can explore a 19-kilometer portion known as the “Garden Route” by bicycle, stopping at gardens along the way.
Istanbul Tulip Festival (mid-April to late May)
Claim to fame: Begun in 2006, Istanbul’s annual festival boasts more than 14.4 million tulips of 270 different varieties planted along the city’s avenues and throughout parks, squares, and roundabouts.
Good to know: Emirgan Groves, Göztepe Park, and Sultanahmet Square host activities such as live music, glass-blowing demonstrations, and art exhibitions. From the top of Büyük Çamlıca Korusu, you have a great view of the city, surrounded by 500,000 tulips.
Ueno Sakura Matsuri, Tokyo (late March to late April)
Claim to fame: Japan’s most popular cherry-blossom-viewing spot has more than 1,000 cherry trees lining the street that leads toward the National Museum and around Shinobazu Pond, as well as 1,000 lanterns that light up the park at night during cherry-blossom time.
Good to know: Ueno Park is a five-minute walk from JR Ueno Station (Yamanote Line). The Japanese Tourism Office’s countrywide bloom-forecast chart predicts the first blossoms will appear in Tokyo on March 26.
Shinjuku Gyoen Garden, Tokyo (late March to late April)
Claim to fame: Shinjuku Gyoen Garden, once the samurai residence of the Naito family, has been famous for its cherry trees since the Meiji Era (1868–1912).
Good to know: The garden is a ten-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station (Yamanote Line), or exit at Shinjuku-gyoen-mae Station (Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line).
National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C. (March 20–April 17)
Claim to fame: The annual festival, which commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo, welcomes more than 1.5 million people per year. First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.
Good to know: Photographer David Coleman, a D.C. resident, keeps a Facebook page called Cherry Blossom Watch, where you can follow the progress of this season’s buds. The National Park Services defines the “Peak Bloom Date” as the day on which 70 percent of the blossoms of the Yoshino cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin are open. And a tip from the official festival website: “Hop aboard a water taxi to the Tidal Basin from Georgetown (or from the Tidal basin to Georgetown–DC’s shopping and dining hot-spot), and enjoy viewing the blossoms from the water along the way. Tickets are $15 round trip or $10 one way, and must be purchased online in advance from www.DC-Watertaxi.com.”
RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London (May 24–28)
Claim to fame: Organized by the Royal Horticultural Society, Britain’s most prestigious flower show has been held on the grounds of London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea since 1913. The RHS website advertises the show as “the place to see cutting-edge garden design, new plants and find ideas to take home.” The number of visitors has been capped at 157,000 since 1988.
Good to know: The show sells out quickly and you must purchase tickets in advance; do so via the RHS website. This year’s highlights will include a floral arch to celebrate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen, as well as horticultural inspiration from Jordan, the Netherlands, Cambodia, Japan, Chile, Australia, and other countries.