Where The Wild Flowers Grow

Nick Nomi

Senior Contributor

Spring is a time of renewal, the colourful flowery embodiment of change and acceptance. And throughout Europe, cities, forests, and islands are pulled from their drab winter hibernation and painted in palettes of pinks, red, purples and blues — as the spring blooms take hold. As such, there is no better time than spring to participate in what the Japanese call Hanami (the ritual practice of simply looking at and admiring flowers), and yes, we’ll cover where to see the ethereal pinks of Sakura here in Europe, as well as Bluebells in England, Tulips in the Netherlands and Bougainvillea in Greece.

Greece wrapped in Bougainvillea

Rarely does a travel writer grace the blue seas and whitewashed houses of the Greek islands and not enter into the trappings of “…and streets lined with bougainvillaea” to describe those stunning islands and their whitewashed houses all wrapped up in purple, fuchsia, orange, and pink bougainvillaea…. Ah, but it is so true. And, with that luscious Mediterranean climate, one can see them almost anywhere, and, as it happens, at any time, as the climate is ideal and tends to lead to year-round blooms, leaving pretty white houses forever shaded by vines full of large colourful bracts (those iconic leaves surround the tiny white flower in the middle, but not a part of it). But the near-constant blue skies and comparatively moderate temperatures of an Aegean spring do have a way of making the Bougainvillea appear that much prettier, particularly in the Cyclades, which are often far too crowded to properly appreciate the vines when summer arrives. But visit Hora on Mykonos, the backstreets of Kos, or the monasteries of Corfu, and you’re sure to find stunning Bougainvillea aplenty.

Bluebells in English Woodlands

Pretty bluebells ring out from seas of blue come April (lasting until Mid-May), and while there are several species, the native English variant is a striking deeper blue, most often (but not always) found in old atmospheric woodlands. Londoners and those London-bound are in particular luck, as the Highgate Woods bluebell season is exceptionally graceful, with thick mantles of bluebells sweeping across the woodland floor, some choked by ivy on its way to encircle old oak, gifting the woods a charming folksy atmosphere, as though plucked from the pages of Beatrix Potter. Yorkshire’s distinctive Roseberry Topping is another spot, and Bluebell Wood in Nottinghamshire’s Clumber Park is home to millions of old bulbs, while Kent’s Emmetts Garden is a designated area of interest thanks to its lush springtime layers of deepest purply blue English Bluebells. 

Tulip Fields in the Netherlands

Is there a more iconic European bloom than Dutch tulips? Doubtful. And while you can see them from Australia to Canada, the absolute best spot for Tulip viewing is in the Netherlands. Rarely do those flat, hill-deprived landscapes of the windmill-punctuated Dutch countryside lend themselves to something so magnificently as they do the unbroken Noordoostpolder in Flevoland. Each spring, a 100 km Tulip Route comes to life with millions of tulips striping the landscapes like vast immovable rainbow flags, and for cyclists, the shorter bicycle route cuts an immersive shortcut elevated by the light floral scents of the fields. But from Amsterdam, it’s arguably easier to visit the enormous Keukenhof Tulip Gardens (open from March until mid-May), where 7 million hand-planted bulbs await, with colourful tulip blooms posed next to idyllic ponds within lush forests and along winsome walking routes.

Cherry Blossoms (Sakura) in Paris (and more)

Cherry blossoms are beautiful, loved (almost) unanimously throughout the world, and cherished by the Japanese for their symbolism of renewal and transience. And while there’s arguably no place better than Japan to see these stunning blossoms colour the countryside and city streets, northern Europe does come quite close. One can promenade along the phenomenal Langelinie Park in Copenhagen to see the Angel of Peace statue held up above fluffy clouds of cherry, through a tunnel of Sakura in London’s Greenwich Park, or along a vast avenue of blossoms in Bonn’s Heerstrasse. But a firm favourite surely must be Paris. There are plenty of spots to view them, including the Hôtel de Ville and Luxembourg Gardens, but a favourite is along the Champs de Mars. For in spring, when the Eiffel Tower shakes off the last of its steely winter coat, the spring blooms lend those somewhat severe-looking gardens a stunning new layer of colour, bringing Parisiennes back into the shadow of the tour Eiffel if only for a week or two.

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