Each spring, cherry blossoms around the world dazzle us with their ephemeral pink and white colors. In Japan, an ancient tradition called hanami, meaning flower-viewing, is a custom meant to simply enjoy the short-lived beauty of the flowers, whether by having a picnic or sitting beneath the trees. But Japan isn’t the only place where people can witness these enchanting blooms. Cherry trees are planted throughout the world, and their arrival in March and April is one of the most joyful signifiers of spring.
The arrival of the cherry blossom (sakura) is so beloved in Japan that the country has its own meteorological forecast dedicated to the blooms. Sakura festivals are held throughout the country, especially in the capital of Tokyo, where many crowds gather at Ueno Park to witness some of the earliest blossoms. A popular spot for locals and tourists, the park has an estimated 800 trees and plenty of tranquil spots for practicing hanami under the pink blooms, which typically arrive in late March and early April.
There’s no place like Paris in the spring, especially when the cherry blossoms are in full effect from late March until the end of April. With around 450 parks and gardens throughout the city, Paris’s beauty is turned up a notch when these pink and white cherry blooms bathe the French capital. Popular spots to spend time beneath the blossoms include Tuileries Garden, Jardin des Plantes, and Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower, although blooming cherry trees can be found throughout the city.
America’s official capital also happens to be its unofficial capital of cherry blossoms, with nearly 4,000 trees planted throughout the city, many along the Potomac River and Tidal Basin. The first trees were planted in 1912, when Tokyo’s Mayor Yukio Ozaki gifted the capital 3,020 Japanese cherry blossoms as a symbol of friendship between Japan and the U.S. Today, their dazzling beauty attracts millions of visitors in the springtime, and D.C. marks the occasion with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, lasting for four weeks from mid-March to mid-April. Festival events include a Japanese street festival, a cherry blossom parade, and live jazz music underneath the trees.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Home to approximately 40,000 cherry trees, Vancouver, British Columbia, takes cherry blossom season seriously, with a detailed cherry blossom map that displays the various dates and locations of blooms throughout the city. With numerous varieties planted in parks and gardens, such as VanDusen Botanical Garden, visitors can expect cherry blossoms to bloom from early March until mid-April. The city’s Cherry Blossom Festival, however, begins on April 1 and lasts for three weeks, with events such as guided tree walks and a giant outdoor picnic.
With a mild, moist climate and a northern latitude, cherry blossom season arrives a little later in Ireland. Visitors can expect to see the blooming trees in full effect from late April to early May, with the flowers lasting for a few weeks. The capital, Dublin, is an excellent spot to admire the pink blossoms— parks like Herbert Park and Trinity College/St Stephen’s Green are home to a high concentration of cherry trees. The city’s impressive Phoenix Park — the largest enclosed park in any European capital — also hosts the city’s Hanami Festival, a cherry blossom festival held annually in late April.
Portland, Oregon, may be known for its gray, dreary winters, but the city more than makes up for it with the arrival of the cherry blossoms each spring. Blooming from mid- to late March until early April, the cherry blossoms brighten various picturesque spots throughout the city. Waterfront Park is packed with 100 cherry trees situated along the Willamette River, while the expertly cultivated cherry blossoms at the Japanese Gardens — considered one of the most authentic traditional Japanese gardens outside of Japan — are both stunning and serene. About a mile from the gardens, the Hoyt Arboretum is home to more than 200 varieties of cherry trees planted along the Wildwood Trail.
Busan, South Korea
With cherry blossoms peaking annually in early spring, it’s best to plan a trip to Busan in late March or early April. During this time, South Korea’s second-most populous city teems with the gorgeous pink blossoms. Busan’s aptly named Cherry Blossom Road features some of the most densely planted cherry trees. Other city locales to spot the blooms include Hwangnyeongsan Ring Road, home to stunning tunnels of blossoms, and Oncheonchon Stream Park, which is home to a “flower road” alongside the river.
The northern latitude of Denmark means that the ephemeral blooms of the cherry trees typically occur in late April. The Copenhagen Sakura Festival takes place annually in the third week of April in Langelinie Park, home to over 200 cherry trees. The festival brings people together to witness the beauty of the blossoms and also features a variety of Japanese cultural events. Elsewhere in the city, Bispebjerg Cemetery is a tranquil place to stroll beneath a canopy of flowers, while the University of Copenhagen Botanical Gardens features cherry trees planted near the Nørreport entrance.