Japanese cherry (sakura) blossoms are perhaps the most celebrated flower in the world. In Japan — as early as the Heian Period (794 – 1185) — hanami, or “flower watching” parties for nobility, were almost exclusively reserved for cherry blossoms.
Delicate, fragile, and stunningly beautiful in their pink-and-white-petal hues, these ornamental cherry blossoms are not to be confused with the cherry trees that produce fruit for eating. Considered the national flower of Japan, these exquisite blooms appear only in spring, symbolizing a time of renewal, and celebrating the fleeting nature of existence and impermanence of beauty. Their beauty peaks around two weeks. As famed Japanese author Murasaki Shikibu once noted, “It is true, as they say, that the blossoms of spring are all the more precious because they bloom so briefly.”
Flower watching parties are still part of the ritual in Japan. Hanami literally means “watching blossoms,” and for the weeks the flowers are in bloom, families and friends meet under the gorgeous pink-and-white blossoms for picnics and sake. At night, couples rendezvous under the blooms — romantically illuminated with paper lanterns hanging from the branches — in a beautiful tradition of night flower watching known as “yozakura.”
Celebration of the cherry blossoms is not exclusive to Japan — festivals are now held worldwide — and it is not just about viewing. The edible blossoms are sipped in teas; pickled and used in mochi cakes and sweets. The preserved blossoms are blended into cocktails and beauty products, and images of the favorite flower are showcased in art, clothing, and home decor. If cherry blossoms are on your to-do (and-see) list this spring, enjoy our curated hanami (flower watching) guide. From Japan to Washington DC, Paris to Amsterdam, and a number of unexpected flower gems in between, these are the best places in the world to view the super bloom of cherry blossoms.
Japan takes its cherry blossom season so seriously that the country’s meteorological office has a service dedicated to forecasting the first blooms, and reporting on them daily. There are more than 1000 places to see Japan’s legendary sakura. The first blooms typically appear in Okinawa in January; the last in the northernmost island of Hokkaido in early May. A viewing highlight comes in Yoshino, home to over 30,000 sakura trees, and where a giant cherry tree on Mount Yoshino is illuminated at night (its predicted bloom this year is April 7). But the easiest place to start your Japan hanami experience is in the heart of Tokyo, with a visit to Shinjuku Gyoen Park to view the blooms (from late March to late April).
Where to Stay in Tokyo: Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo
Manhattan meets Tokyo at this 151-room hotel set on a buzzy intersection of dynamic Shinjuku. With design interiors led by the famed Rockwell Group, the hotel’s style fuses artisanal influences and traditions — clean lines, Japanese woodworks, Japanese yukata and fan designed by Hiroko Takahashi, famous for her abstract-designed kimonos, and metal floral inlays on charred headboard (a modern twist on Ikebana).
Bring it Home:
Relive cherry blossom season in this dreamy charmeuse kimono.
Washington DC is perhaps the most well known city for cherry blossom viewing in the US. The trees, lining the Tidal Basin and framing the capital’s iconic monuments, were gifted to the city by Tokyo’s mayor in 1912 as a token of friendship. The National Cherry Blossom Festival began in 1934 to celebrate the stunning trees, and the now three-week event has been held every year since (this year’s celebration begins March 25). But DC is not the cherry blossom capital of the US; that honor goes to Macon Georgia, home to 350,000 Yoshino cherry blossom trees. The story goes that a local realtor, William A. Fickling Sr., discovered a cherry blossom tree in his own backyard in the late 1940s, and following a business trip to DC where he learned more about the history of the tree, decided to bring even more to his hometown.
Other places to see the famed pink petals in the US include Boston (by the Charles River), New York City (Roosevelt Island, Central Park, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden), New Jersey (Branch Brook Park), Philadelphia (Fairmount Park), San Francisco (Japanese Tea Garden), Seattle (University of Washington), and increasingly, Nashville (Cherry Blossom Walk).
Where to Stay in DC: The Jefferson
Just steps from DC’s famous blossoms, this five-star hotel makes the viewing experience even more spectacular with its exclusive ‘Blossoms by Boat’ offering. The stay includes a 1.5-hour private boat tour on the Potomac River for up-close views of the blossoms (including the Jefferson Memorial and Hains Point), a picnic for two, and cherry blossom cocktails in the hotel’s Quill, one of the city’s best cocktail bars.
Bring it Home:
Cherry Blossoms: The Official Book of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, by Ann McClellan, writer, and Ron Blunt, photographer. We also love these comfy sneakers, perfect for exploring the blossoms by foot, Blush Cherry Blossom Trainor (Women’s).
If there is a more exquisite Paris photo than the Eiffel Tower framed in cherry pink blossoms, we are hard-pressed to find it. The Champ de Mars is filled with cherry blossom trees, making for a perfect picnic (hanami) spot near the iconic Parisian landmark, while the wide walkways of Trocadéro offer a prime Eiffel Tower cherry blossom view. Blossoms typically debut in mid March. Another stunning location is by the Shakespeare & Co bookstore, home to the oldest trees in Paris; and in the Jardin des Plantes, keep watch for the “pink whale” — a massive tree and late bloomer, which typically flowers in late April.
Where to stay in Paris: Intercontinental Paris Le Grand
Combine the timeless beauty of the cherry blossoms with the timeless elegance (and beauty) of Paris’ most iconic hotel. Spanning an entire city block in Paris’ stylish 9th arrondissement, this opulent landmark hotel – facing the legendary Opera Garnier and just steps from The Place Vendôme – is beyond grand. It is show-stopping. Since its inception in 1862, the hotel has been a magnet for the well-heeled including tsars, kings, queens and icons like Marlene Dietrich, Ernest Hemingway, Victor Hugo and Oscar Wilde. Following a major renovation by renowned interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, the hotel’s dreamy and spacious rooms, designed to resemble ultra-chic Parisian apartments, are even more magnifique – many come with iconic views of the opera house and Eiffel tower.
Bring it Home:
Recapture the scent of springtime in Paris and sweet cherry blossoms with this Christian Dior classic, Sakura.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Spring in the Pacific Northwest arrives with the blooming of Vancouver’s 40,000 cherry trees, spread across the city. The first 500 trees were gifted by two Japanese cities: Kobe and Yokohama in the 1930s, in honor of the Japanese Canadians who fought in World War I. As in DC, Vancouver hosts an annual cherry blossom festival, featuring live performances by taiko drummers and sake tastings.
Where to stay in Vancouver:
Fairmont Pacific Rim. This stunning property — with its views of Vancouver Harbor and the snow-capped Rockies — made our Travel Curator ‘Very Best Hotel Bathtubs and Bathrooms’ 2023 list. The hotel’s Signature Ofuro Room features a romantic deep-soaking, marble Ofuro tub — the perfect relax after a long day of cherry blossom viewing.
Bring it Home:
Enjoy the afternoon tea tradition at home with this ten-pack Cherry blossom tea sampler.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tulips aren’t the only flowers in town (although they are pretty spectacular). Amsterdam is also home to 400 cherry trees — each one of them named. The trees, found in Amsterdam’s Amsterdamse Bos (Bloesempark in Amsterdam Forest), were gifted to the city by Japan in 2000; half have a Japanese female name, the remaining trees have a Dutch female name.
Where to Stay in Amsterdam: Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
Showcasing design touches by Daniel Marot (who assisted Louis XIV’s designer Jean Bérain), this historic property on Amsterdam’s Canal Ring, is a blissful mix of Dutch modern and classic French. Staff uniforms bring out the Dutch in their design by local couturier Jan Taminiau; while the Guerlain Spa is all about French treatments. Enjoy the tranquil rooms, with neutral palette, and vibey speakeasy cocktail bar, The Vault, housed in the original vault of the MeesPierson bank.
Bring it Home:
Add your own whimsical design and memory of the cherry blossom with this jade Art Deco Bed.