Did you know that tulips actually originated from the Himalayas, and were brought over to the Netherlands from Turkey in the mid-1500s? Today Holland is one of the biggest producers of flowers and plants sold commercially. So when we were visiting Amsterdam a few weeks ago, we made a side trip to visit Keukenhof Garden, famous for its grand and extensive tulip displays.
Keukenhof is one of the world’s largest public flower gardens. It covers 79 acres (32 hectares) of land. In the 15th Century these were popular hunting grounds. Adriaen Maertensz Block, an administrator for the Dutch East India Company (VOC), built Keukenhof Castle on the grounds in 1641. (The castle is only open to guided tour groups). In the 1850s, a landscape architect named J.D. Zocher and his son designed the gardens.
Now, about 7 million bulbs are planted here each year!
Exploring Keukenhof Garden
While we didn’t anticipate the length of time it would take to get there, most of the hold-up was due to the sheer amount of traffic from all the other people trying to get to the garden as well. Once we arrived, sometime in the early afternoon, we realized that perhaps we would have been wiser to have tried to get there as soon as the garden opened. We were greeted with quite the line-up of people:
The entry gates were pretty efficient at getting people in quickly though. And despite the hoards of visitors, the number of tulips still vastly outnumbered them.
A Different Theme Each Year
Each year the garden has a theme. This year it was Van Gogh. This was evident in subtle ways, such as in the “selfie garden,” a small walled area complete with mirrors, which was painted a bright sunflower yellow with Van Gogh reproductions on the walls.
There was even a Van Gogh-style painting in front of a chair where you could sit and grab props such as a palate, paintbrushes and a straw hat so you could pretend to be painting your very own masterpiece in the middle of the garden.
But more than anything, the real draw here was just the beauty of the flowers and the overall landscape.
I didn’t realize there was such a variety of tulips, and one tulip colour in particular really caught our eyes. I didn’t really like it at first because it seemed so unusual, but the more I looked at it the more I could appreciate it, especially as the sunlight hit the petals. They look like they’re made of bronze, don’t they?
We ended up spending more time here than expected – close to four hours!
It’s often suggested to rent a bike and pedal along the actual tulip fields. But frankly, after so much time spent in the garden, we got a bit tulip-ed out.
Even on our way out of the garden, there were throngs of people still coming in, as well as going out. This is a hugely popular site, so I would recommend going as early in the day as possible. Also, try to go during the week instead of on the weekend, when the numbers of visitors would be at their peak.
Keukenhof Garden is near a quaint little town called Lisse, between Amsterdam and the Hague. It’s easy enough to get to from Amsterdam by public transit. Through the tourist information booth outside the central train station (Amsterdam Centraal), you can purchase what they call a combi-ticket. This ticket includes transportation to and from the gardens by bus, plus your entry ticket into the garden. Remember to hang onto your ticket for the bus ride back to Amsterdam.
First, we had to take the train to Schipol airport (not included in the combi-ticket). Then we took the 858 bus from Schipol to Keukenhof. This bus runs about every 15 minutes on week days and about every five minutes on weekends. Although the bus trip was expected to be around a half hour, it was closer to an hour. This was due to the number of other tour buses and individuals making their way to the garden, so factor that into your trip.
Keep in mind too, that they pack the buses to full capacity, which means standing room only. If you don’t want to stand, just wait for the next available bus. They run frequently enough that you have the option.
While the grounds of Castle Keukenhof are open year round, Keukenhof Garden is only open from mid-March to mid-May. So start planning your visit! http://www.keukenhof.nl/en/
(Post updated February 2018)