Don’t Miss the International Istanbul Tulip Festival

Tulips in Emirgan Park during the International Istanbul Tulip Festival, Turkey.

by Erlend Geerts

in Sightseeing

In April the annual International Istanbul Tulip Festival (Istanbul Lale Festivali) takes place. This shouldn’t be a surprise if you know that — unlike common belief — tulips originated more or less in Turkey. So, if you happen to be in Istanbul during this time of the year, you’re in luck. Millions of tulips have been planted in Istanbul’s parks, avenues, traffic roundabouts … basically anywhere where some open ground was available. But what is the best place to admire the Istanbul tulips?

Tulips Originated in Turkey, Not Holland

Tulips originally grew wild on the Asian steppes. Although tulips are associated with Holland, commercial cultivation of the tulip or lale (from the Persian word lâhle) began in the Ottoman Empire. For an elaborated tulip history, you can consult Wikipedia’s page on tulips.

But the most widely accepted story is that of Oghier Ghislain de Busbecq, Ambassador of Ferdinand I to Suleyman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire in 1554. He remarked in a letter that he saw “an abundance of flowers everywhere: narcissus, hyacinths and those in Turkish called Lale.” It’s no coincidence that this period — the wealthiest of the Ottoman era — is called the Tulip era (Lale Devri).

So how come we associate the tulips these days with Holland? In the 16th century they were brought to Holland from the Ottoman Empire, and quickly became widely popular. Charles de L’Ecluse, author of the first major work on tulips (1592) is largely responsible for the spread of tulip bulbs in the final years of the sixteenth century. He occupied a chair in the medical faculty of the University of Leiden (Holland), and planted both a teaching garden and his own private one, from which between 1596 and 1598 hundreds of bulbs got stolen.

An evil eye made of tulips in Emirgan Park in Istanbul, Turkey.

An evil eye made of tulips in Emirgan Park.

Admire Istanbul Tulips in Emirgan Park

During the month of April, you can spot these glorious spring flowers everywhere in Istanbul. But for a real tulip treat and the International Istanbul Tulip Festival, you have to head to Emirgan Park. It is one of the largest public parks in Istanbul and has several tulip gardens. Emirgan Park is located by the Bosphorus in Sariyer, which is a little bit past the second Bosphorus Bridge. The park is open daily from 07:00 until 22:30. You can reach Emirgan Park by bus 25E from Kabataş.

Photo Sources (1) (2)

What's Next

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

ms. shaheen rashid February 10, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Thank you for the good information on tulips. Recently, I visited Istanbul for the first time and soon noticed the tulip design motif most everywhere, whether on old and new tiles, textiles, within architecture…. then I started to ask around and found some interesting information from people and got interested to write a small article on the tulip flower, which happens to me one of my favorite flowers, living in north america. always did associated tulip with Holland, but now I am so excited to know about the origins and the legends about it. And also that i only found out there was an annual tulip festival in istanbul in April. I am writing the article for a local paper in Dhaka Bangladesh. And in meantime doing a bit more research on the the subject. Thank you, Shaheen Rashid


Jim Reynolds March 28, 2011 at 11:12 am

Thank you for the information. The tulips in Istanbul are absolutely beautiful!


JAMSHED KHAN December 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I am a banker working in Istanbul for last 5 years. I love tulips. Some other places in Istanbul where you can find beautiful tulips are Gulhane park and yedikule Hisar.


SYED December 18, 2014 at 3:09 am

How to make best use of a Christmas Day in Istanbul?


Erlend Geerts December 18, 2014 at 8:09 pm


Christmas is business as usual in Istanbul. So, plan whatever your heart desires.

Kind regards,


Adrienne December 28, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Erlend – Merry Christmas!
Have you any idea when 2015’s Intl Istanbul Tulip Festival will be from? Where can I check / follow-up on this?


Erlend Geerts December 29, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Hi Adrienne,

It’s too early for a definite date, but it normally starts at the very beginning of April.

Kind regards,


Tom S. January 8, 2015 at 4:01 am

We are looking forward to seeing the beautiful Tulips of Istanbul soon. We will be arriving in late March. Thank-you for this wonderful information. Mr. Tom S.


Clifton Jimrevees March 27, 2015 at 7:49 pm

Dear Erlend,

I am planning a trip to Istanbul this august.
What i want to know is, if Emirgan Tulip garden (or any other tulip garden for that matter) will have tulips at that time of the year? These are flowers which i do not know if are blooming around the year. Please let me know so that i can accordingly plan to visit the garden.

Thanks in advance


Erlend Geerts March 28, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Hi Clifton,

I’m not an expert on the matter, but I would doubt that a lot. September is normally the time they plant them if I’m not mistaken.

Kind regards,


Clifton Jimrevees March 29, 2015 at 11:15 am

Thanks Erlend,

I better skip them from my plans then.

Thanks again.


Sarvesh March 30, 2015 at 7:59 am

We came to Istanbul on 27th March. Frankly speaking I did not know Tulip is national flower of Turkey before coming here. In fact I planned a trip to Amsterdam just to see Tulips. But yesterday when I went to Gulhane park I was amazed and delighted to see Tulips and other flowers. Probably it can be advertised a little more.I would strongly recommend to make a visit to Turkey in April-May and enjoy spring session here.


jaseena April 13, 2015 at 4:56 pm

Hi, Planning to visit Istanbul by May 2015. What are the prime locations there? especially the scenery and country side? how long the tulip season will last?


Erlend Geerts April 13, 2015 at 6:31 pm


The Tulip festival just started, so they should still be there by the time you arrive.

Kind regards,


meenaze patalwala August 5, 2015 at 9:19 am

We are a group of 16 friends visting turkey from 4th dec to 15th december 2015.. would we get to see the full bloom tulips in Gulhane park, and the other tulip gardens of istanbul turkey? please respond

thank you


Erlend Geerts August 5, 2015 at 6:16 pm

No, you only see them in April.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: