Istanbul’s Tulip Festival has ancient origins.
From as early as the 12th Century, migrating Turkic peoples brought wild varieties of treasured tulips with them from Central Asia to Anatolia. By the 16th Century the elegant blooms were adored by Ottoman society and Istanbul, then widely known as Constantinople, became very famous for them from the late 17th to the early 18th Century. Palace gardens were planted with new cultivars and European visitors to them were enchanted. ‘Tulip Fever’ began spreading steadily west, taking in the Netherlands along the way.
The 12 years leading up to the 1730s became known as The Tulip Era or Lale Devri in Turkish. It was a relatively peaceful time, during which the Ottoman Empire began to orient itself towards Europe.
When is the Istanbul Tulip Festival these days?
The contemporary festival’s events happen across Istanbul every spring for the month of April. Exactly when the flowers are at their best however, is climate dependent. In 2022 the festival is expected to be for the last 3 weeks of April, possibly into early May as there has been late snow this year.
Teams of gardeners will have planted millions of tulips citywide, throughout parks and public spaces. During the festival you’ll find them in full bloom, inviting you to wander. The park authorities will put on performances, concerts and exhibitions to accompany them.
The experience probably works best if you don’t plan too much, so our advice is to just explore and see what finds you.
Which parks are best for the Tulip Festival 2022?
Emirgan Park, European side
This large park is the main hub of the Istanbul Tulip Festival and overlooks the Bosphorus, so has stunning long distance views too. The köşk mansions within the park host traditional craft demonstrations such as paper marbling, calligraphy, glass blowing and painting. Musical performances are dotted around outside on pop-up stages.
How to get there from Galata? Jump on a ferry. Regular services usually run from Kabataş to Emirgan.
Sultanahmet Square, European side
This is the square alongside the Blue Mosque, historically the Hippodrome of Constantinople. In previous years it’s been planted up in a huge carpet design and has been the world-record-breaking largest ever ‘tulip carpet’, proving extremely popular.
How to get there from Galata? Walk down to Galata bridge, take the T1 tram only 4 stops to Sultanahmet and you’re there.
Gülhane Park, European side
This is the most relaxing park on the historical peninsula. It runs around the lower old walls of Topkapı Palace in Sultanahmet. Happily there are lots of benches under mature and ancient trees from which to quietly enjoy the floral displays.
How to get there from Galata? Walk down to Galata bridge and take the T1 tram only 3 stops to Gülhane station. The tram stop exit is just in front of Gülhane Park’s entrance.
Yıldız Park, European side
Complimented by its beautiful old pavilions and gardens running down to the Bosphorus, Yıldız Park makes a gorgeous backdrop to impressive tulip displays during the festival. Popular with families.
How to get there from Galata? Walk across Galata Bridge to Eminönü and take a ferry from there to Beşiktaş. It’s then about 10 minutes more walking to reach Yıldız Park.
Çamlıca Hill, Asian side
A bit off the beaten track and rarely touristy, Çamlıca Grove has views from the Asian side across to the Old City. If you don’t mind a bit of a climb, the thousands of tulips on the way up and the view from the top make it an enjoyable adventure.
How to get there from Galata? Take the metro to Taksim then funicular to Kabataş. A ferry from there runs to Uskudar, from where a No.11 bus can be taken to the Çamlıca stop. Then you can walk for 15 minutes or take a taxi.
What else is there in Istanbul about tulips?
The tulip motif was used in Ottoman culture for hundreds of years, so you can have some fun spotting it as you explore. You’ll find versions on tiles in mosques and palaces around the city and in ceramic and textile designs on display in museums. Topkapı Palace, a great destination if you have children with you, is a particular treasure trove for tulips in Ottoman artwork.
Tulips are often used in contemporary culture too, from corporate logos to council-designed street furniture and grafitti. Tag us in any interesting ones that you post on social media!
Are there other Tulip Festivals?
The Netherlands are more famous than Istanbul these days for tulips and we’ve recently heard that Seattle in the US also has a great tulip festival. Are there others? Do tell us if you know.
Where can I stay in Istanbul to visit the Tulip Festival?
We thought you’d never ask! Istanbul’s Galata neighbourhood, on the European side, makes a central, enjoyable and characterful base for getting to all the parks featured. You can see the geography of everywhere we’ve mentioned in this special map:
Most of our apartments are in Galata and any one of them would make a great base for your adventures. The boutique shops and cafes in the streets around have plenty of tempting discoveries for tulip-hunters too.
So if winter’s feeling a bit too long wherever you are now, come and discover what the 17th and 18th Century Tulip Fever fuss was all about!
Do you have questions?
We really love spring in Istanbul and throughout the rest of the year too.
Do ask us any questions you may have below, we’d be pleased to hear from you.
If you’d like to book an apartment with us for spring 2022 or later into the year, we may still have availability. Check here.