Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the great joys of spring in the Netherlands. After the snowdrops and bramble heralds the arrival of sunnier weather, the cherry trees are the first to show off, before the fields of tulips and other spring flowers. People eagerly await the time of flowering and pack their picnic bags for a day out.
This festival is borrowed from Japan, where it is a tradition practiced for centuries, a time of great significance in the unfolding of the seasons. In Japanese culture, Sakura, or cherry blossom, marks the end of winter and signifies the beginning of spring. Because of their rapid flowering season, cherry blossoms also symbolise the ephemerality of life, a major theme in Buddhism. A melancholy yet hopeful moment, very poetic, typical of Japan.
Cherry trees that are admired for their flowers and planted for the festival are not the same as cherry trees that produce fruit, they are a species of ornamental cherry. So don't expect to eat cherries in June from these trees you admire in spring!
Where to find cherry blossoms in the Netherlands
For many, visiting the Amstelveen cherry orchard in Amsterdamse Bos Park has become a springtime tradition. This is where the only Hanami Matsuri ('flower watching') festival in the Netherlands takes place. The Japanese orchard in Amsterdamse Bos has 400 Japanese cherry trees, which were a gift from the Japanese Women's Club (JWC) in 2000. The cherry orchard was planted to celebrate 400 years of cultural ties between Japan and the Netherlands. Amstelveen is home to the largest Japanese diaspora in Europe, so it was the ideal place to celebrate this beautiful Japanese tradition.
Each year, cherry trees are in bloom for about two weeks in March-April. People look forward to the flowering time. There's also a sakura bingo on the park's website so you can guess when the blossom starts. Throughout the flowering, people go, by small or large, to visit the cherry orchard. People organise picnics with family and friends, or just go to spend a few hours under the cherry trees admiring the beauty of the pink blossoms, for photo sessions etc.
For those who can't make it to this orchard, there are other places to admire the cherry blossoms.
In AmsterdamThere is a mini cherry orchard in Westerpark, where the atmosphere is special throughout the flowering season. Magnolias also bloom in Westerpark at the same time. There are several magnolias, of various types, which offer at least as beautiful a show as the cherry trees. More recently, cherry trees can also be seen in Museumplein, where cherry trees were planted a few years ago near the Van Gogh Museum. They are young and perhaps less spectacular, but offer a beautiful view.
In The Hague there are several areas where you can admire cherry blossoms or magnolias: Zuiderpark, Huijgenspark and Prins Hendrikpleinen.
In Rotterdam you can admire De Statensingel in Rotterdam-Blijdorp and the park next to Euromast.
In Alkmaar There are some beautiful cherry trees on the Nieuwlandersingel, by the water, near De Molen van Piet mill.
Surely there are cherry trees in your area that you admire every year or will discover this spring. We look forward to pictures when they bloom!
Article and photos by Dana Marin.
Dana is a blogger and photographer and has lived in the Netherlands for over ten years. She writes about Amsterdam, the Netherlands and her experience as a Romanian in the Netherlands. She enjoys helping people discover her adopted country and helping them integrate. She joined Rompro in 2023, coordinating the marketing team.