When April comes around, Istanbul looks magnificent. Nearly 15 million tulips of over 270 different kinds are planted all over the city, bringing an array of color and life into the urban jungle. Contrary to belief, tulips did not originate in Holland, but in Turkey. In the 16th century, they were brought to Holland from Turkey and soon thereafter a tulipmania all over the Netherlands was born. The Tulip Era (Lale Devri) during the reign of Sultan Ahmed III in the years 1718-1730 was significant in Ottoman Empire’s history for being the wealthiest period of the empire. During this period the shape of tulips were used everywhere from carpets, textiles, tiles and miniatures, and its importance in Turkish arts can still be seen today. Big tulip gardens, much like Emirgan Park today, around the Golden Horn were frequently visited as well.

Although you will see tulips planted literally all over the city (think traffic roundabouts, sidewalks, and every possible green patch in the city) three parks that stand out are Emirgan Korusu, Göztepe 60. Yıl Parkı and Gülhane Parkı. Emirgan Park leads the list with over 2.5 million tulips planted on its grounds. Located in the Sarıyer district, just above the Bosphorus, Emirgan is a truly hidden gem in the heart of the city. Enclosed by high walls, it offers visitors a slice of untouched nature hard to find in a busy metropolis. The park has three historical mansions, a man-made waterfall and two decorative ponds which are delightful. The mansions have been restored and are now operated by the municipality, allowing for guests to enjoy them as cafes on the weekends. You can expect to see newly married couples as this is a popular spot for wedding photo shoots. If you can, avoid Emirgan Park on the weekends as it can be very crowded.

On the Asian side, Göztepe Park is another large park with over 1.4 millions of tulips planted. A day spent walking along the waterfront stretch starting at Caddebostan, and strolling through Göztepe Parkı would be a good option to avoid the crowds at Emirgan.

Gülhane Park, once part of the outer garden of Topkapı Palace, is a popular spot in the historical district of Istanbul. Surrounded by tall trees dating from the 1800s, the park offers visitors a break from sightseeing and taking in the beauty of tulips and nature. On the western edge the park is the Museum of The History of Science and Technology in Islam, which showcases replicas of inventions from 8th to the 16th century.

The annual tulip festival isn’t just about enjoying the sight of the tulips; many activities like live music, glass blowing, paper marbling as well as photography contests are held throughout the month. Choose a quiet weekday morning, stroll through the unbelievable array of colors, smells and variety of tulips, and be grateful to be in Istanbul at this special time of the year. If you missed it this time around, don’t worry, it happens every year!