7 best destinations to experience a cherry blossom festival

04.08.24 by Travelex Insurance
Image credit: Getty Images
Japan isn’t your only option for a stunning spring getaway. Learn where and when you can experience the magic of cherry blossoms in full bloom — at home and overseas.

If you’ve ever experienced the beauty of cherry blossom season up close, you’ll know the flower’s appeal isn’t only its soft, subtle pink or white petals; it’s also because there’s a limited chance to catch them in bloom. Yes, cherry blossoms are here one moment and gone the next, which makes the opportunity to see them even more special.

Want to experience the magic of a cherry blossom festival for yourself? Here’s how to figure out when and where you can go to catch them in bloom — whether you want to stay closer to home or fly to the other side of the world.

Discover the best places to see cherry blossoms:

1. Kyoto, Japan.

2. Seoul, South Korea.

3. Paris, France.

4. Stockholm, Sweden.

5. Vancouver, Canada.

6. Washington, D.C., USA.

7. Sydney, Australia.

1. Kyoto, Japan

Everyone knows Japan is the country to experience the wonder of cherry blossom season in person — and that includes our Travelex travelers. Between 2017 and 2023, over 11,000 of our travelers visited Japan during cherry blossom season.

So, when’s the best time to see cherry blossoms in Japan? The prime time for cherry blossom season in Japan is between March and May.

You can spot sakura (the Japanese term for cherry blossoms) in bloom all over Japan, but the historic city of Kyoto is one of the best places to visit if you only have time for one stop during cherry blossom season in Japan. Why? The former capital of Japan offers the ultimate pilgrimage for cherry blossom enthusiasts.

Kyoto boasts a mind-boggling 1,600 temples and shrines, many surrounded by cherry trees, making it a paradise for nature lovers and photographers. Kyoto's entire calendar revolves around its cherry blossom festival, known locally as Hanami.

Cherry blossom festival in Kyoto

  • When is cherry blossom season in Kyoto? The best time to see cherry blossoms in Japan is from late March to early April to catch traditional geisha and maiko in their embroidered black kimonos against the pink petals. The exact dates for cherry blossom season in Japan change slightly each year, so don’t forget to do some research before you book your trip.
  • What can I expect to see? Rather than one main festival, Kyoto celebrates through a series of Hanami parties in parks and pavilions and along rivers.
  • What local traditions can I experience? Hanami picnics where families and friends gather under the blossoms.

Where to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto

  • Maruyama Park is one of Kyoto's most popular spots for cherry blossom viewing, with weeping cherry trees and a bustling vibe.
  • Philosopher's Path offers a tranquil canal walkway lined with hundreds of cherry trees, where you can unwind in a sea of pink.
  • Arashiyama’s Togetsukyo Bridge provides a dramatic view during cherry blossom season in Japan, with the white Katsura River flowing beneath.

Kyoto's sakura season is also a great time to try various seasonal treats. You can sample traditional wagashi (Japanese sweets) and cherry blossom-flavored mochi at tea ceremonies and street vendors.

2. Seoul, South Korea

Korea's capital is full of ancient tradition while pulsing with a modern beat. Its cherry blossom season is a joyful time, and Seoul’s residents and visitors take full advantage of this natural spectacle.

Cherry blossom festival in Seoul

  • When is cherry blossom season in Seoul? Spend early to mid-April roaming around Seoul's historic palaces when cherry blossoms are in full bloom and temperatures are typically mild.
  • What can I expect to see? Concerts, parades, and lively markets in various locations across the city.
  • What local traditions can I experience? Yebisu Market’s special cherry blossom festival is a foodie's paradise, with an array of street vendors and traditional Korean stalls crafting delicacies.

Where to see cherry blossoms in Seoul

  • Yeouido Park has one of the largest concentrations of cherry trees in the city and is home to the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival.
  • The Han River provides a unique perspective, with cherry blossoms framing the city's skyline.
  • Namsan Mountain is a simply beautiful, elevated spot to view the city and cherry blossoms.

3. Paris, France

Lately, Paris has ignited its love affair with the sakura, and tourists flock to the French capital to experience cherry blossom season in Europe.

Cherry blossom festival in Paris

  • When is cherry blossom season in Paris? Arrive between the last week of March and the first week of April to enjoy the blooms in Paris and the city’s pleasant spring weather.
  • What can I expect to see? An undercurrent of the traditional French spring cherry blossom festivals celebrated in local parks.
  • What local traditions can I experience? Luxembourg Gardens' annual spring festivities include music and dance performances that add a French touch to the cherry blossom experience.

Where to see cherry blossoms in Paris

  • The Parc de Sceaux, a short train ride from central Paris, offers a pastoral setting with cherry tree-lined paths.
  • The Jardin des Plantes, especially its rose garden, is a local favorite for cherry blossom viewing away from tourists.
  • Martigues, a charming Provencal town, hosts a unique Japanese garden interlaced with French elements, creating a serene setting for Hanami.

While in Paris, don’t forget to indulge in the local pastime of flânerie — the act of strolling leisurely, taking in the beauty of the city (and its blossoms) without a strict agenda.

4. Stockholm, Sweden

The cherry blossom festival in Stockholm offers an off-the-beaten-path experience with a unique European twist — making it the perfect stop for a Europe vacation planned during blooming season.

Cherry blossom festival in Stockholm

  • When is cherry blossom season in Stockholm? Plan your visit for the second week of April to the first week of May to catch the best of the blooms and the accompanying festivities.
  • What can I expect to see? Graduation ceremonies, concerts, and traditional dance performances held under blossoming trees
  • What local traditions can I experience? Special Swedish-Japan cultural exchange events offer insight into how two distant cultures have intertwined.

Where to see cherry blossoms in Stockholm

  • Kungsträdgården is Stockholm's most famous spot for cherry blossom viewing, bustling with life and adjacent to the Royal Palace.
  • Rosendal's Garden on Djurgården Island provides a more peaceful setting, perfect for a relaxing afternoon among blossoms.

True to the Swedish spirit, don't miss the chance to combine cherry blossom viewing with a fika — a coffee break that's all about taking a pause and enjoying the moment.

5. Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver is extra special during its cherry blossom festival, as the city celebrates the intermingling of cultures. The cherry blossoms in Vancouver are a sight to behold, and the blooming trees frame the city's skyline.

Cherry blossom festival in Vancouver

  • When is cherry blossom season in Vancouver? Early April is your best bet to coincide with the festival and catch the cherry blossoms at their prime.
  • What can I expect to see? A variety of arts, music, and culinary events bringing the community together to celebrate the blossoms.
  • What local traditions can I experience? The trees are planted throughout communities in Vancouver, making it a decentralized and community-oriented festival.

Where to see cherry blossoms in Vancouver

  • Stanley Park features one of the best cherry blossom displays, with the famous Seawall offering stunning views.
  • Queen Elizabeth Park's Cherry Blossom Plaza features a serene garden with a vast array of cherry trees.
  • VanDusen Botanical Garden offers a curated experience with species from around the world, including the delicate Japanese cherry blossoms.

In addition to the floral beauty, the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival also includes bike rides, lectures, and haiku writing competitions.

6. Washington, D.C., USA

Want to stay closer to home for cherry blossom season? The cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. were a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo in 1912, and they have since become a symbol of spring in the American capital. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, celebrated for nearly a century, is now a significant cultural event that’s well worth checking out if you want to experience cherry blossom season in the U.S.

Cherry blossom festival in Washington, D.C.

  • When is cherry blossom season in Washington, D.C.? Timing your visit is crucial as the blooming period can be brief. Mid to late April offers the best chance to see the trees in their characteristic full bloom.
  • What can I expect to see? Various cultural events, from a kite festival to art exhibits, and the famous Blossom Kite Festival.
  • What local traditions can I experience? The Tidal Basin becomes a hub of activity as people flock to the water's edge to enjoy the blooms and participate in festival offerings.

Where to see cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.

  • The Tidal Basin gives iconic views with the Jefferson Memorial in the background.
  • The United States National Arboretum has a more tranquil environment with a pagoda viewpoint offering excellent photo opportunities.
  • Visit the Kenwood neighborhood for a less crowded but equally picturesque display of cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.

7. Sydney, Australia

While you’ll find cherry blossoms in most cities across Australia, Sydney is the place to be if you want to experience a cherry blossom festival.

The Auburn Botanic Gardens is the star attraction during Sydney's cherry blossom season. It boasts the largest cherry blossom garden in the Southern Hemisphere, with over 250 trees of various species.

Cherry blossom festival in Sydney

  • When is cherry blossom season in Sydney? The best time to catch the cherry blossoms in their full splendor is around the first weekend in October. However, mid-September may provide beautiful early blooms and a quieter experience.
  • What can I expect to see? Traditional music and dance with a contemporary twist at the festival, and stunning photo opportunities among scenic gardens.
  • What local traditions can I experience? Sydney’s Hanami, or flower-viewing parties, where friends and family gather under blossoming trees in Auburn Botanic Gardens. The festival is a blend of tradition, with Japanese music and dance performances, and modern culture, featuring cosplay and anime showcases.

Where to see cherry blossoms in Sydney

  • Auburn Botanic Gardens is unrivaled for its sheer quantity of cherry trees.
  • The Royal Botanic Gardens is a serene alternative, with fewer crowds and a beautiful backdrop of Sydney Harbour.
  • Leura, a small town around 100 km outside of Sydney, is well worth the drive for a more laid-back cherry blossom viewing experience.

Start planning your visit to a cherry blossom festival

Whether you visit the time-honored cherry blossoms of Kyoto and Seoul or the more recent additions in Sydney and Paris, you’re bound to have a spectacular time immersing yourself in cherry blossom festivities.

Want to help protect your trip to soak in cherry blossom season?

Discover which Travelex travel insurance plan is right for your dream getaway.


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