Amsterdam is the largest city in Holland, and the most popular with tourists. There are a lot of reasons to visit here, but we had just one- Tulips. The mother of all tulip gardens, Keukenhof, is about thirty minutes from Amsterdam in Lisse. It is said to be the largest garden in the world and is only open to the public for eight weeks per year from mid-March through mid-May.
The Dutch name Keukenhof literally means “kitchen garden.” It was bestowed its name in 1857 when it was designed for a Duchess who lived in the palace on the grounds of the estate. Far from a kitchen garden today, it boasts over seven million flower bulbs in numerous gardens throughout the 79 acre park. The bulbs are supplied by exhibitors for free and every bulb is planted by hand.
Bulbs are planted in Autumn, and the tulips begin to open around March. They are most beautiful from March through April, but depending on weather, will survive for much longer. We visited the first week of May and although many of the fields along the “flower strip” from Haarlem to Leiden, had already been cut, Keukenhof was quite beautiful. It was scheduled to close just one week after our visit.
Each year the garden has a different theme. The theme this season was Romance and Flowers. I’m pretty sure they nailed it.
When you tire (not possible) of looking at tulip displays, you can actually see them growing in nearby fields. Rent a bike, take a tour, or drive your car over to Leiden or Haarlem to see majestic fields of color. You can visit this site to learn more about biking through Holland.
While many fields had already been cut, an unfortunate, but necessary crime, there were still a few fields in full bloom. Some are accessible, but there are rules. Ask first, don’t pick, and stay on the perimeter.
We asked nicely and were allowed to enter the field. Overjoyed does not adequately describe the feeling of taking this photo, in Holland, in the middle of a tulip field, on a perfect Spring day, with my daughter. It was most definitely a “pinch me moment.”
Since picking tulips is a “no-no,” you can visit Annemieke’s Picking Garden in Hillegom. They are open for picking consistent with the season. Visit their website and plan your visit.
Fun Fact: The reason most fields are cut at this time of year is so that the flowers will not steal nourishment that the bulbs need to thrive. Bulbs, you see are the major commodity. I did not know that and had always assumed that the flowers themselves were the export item. Tulips are, of course, exported all over the world from the Netherlands, but the bulbs themselves represent over 70% of the world’s bulb trade. You can visit the Tulip Museum in Amsterdam to learn more fun facts about tulip bulb production, including the infamous “Tulip Mania” of the 1600’s. Think Bitcoin!
For more about Keukenhof visit their website or, just hop a plane to Amsterdam next Spring and see it for yourself.
We suggest: If you are looking for night life and lots of excitement, stay in Amsterdam. But, if like us, you prefer quiet, understated elegance, take a look at Den Hague for accommodations. We stayed at the Residenz, a small boutique hotel on a quiet street in Den Hague, and were very pleased.
Everything you will want to see is within thirty minutes to 2 hours of Amsterdam and there are trains, tours, local buses and plenty of rental cars to provide transportation. Bikes are the preferred option by the locals so be prepared to yield or go splat!
Arrive around the third week in April if you want to see the fields. Weather conditions will change everything and just like chasing Fall foliage or Texas Bluebonnets, there is no guarantee that you will hit peak season, but you will still see amazing beauty.
When you visit Keukenhof, arrive early. The park will get very crowded by noon, so if you want pictures that don’t include uninvited guests, be there when it opens.
Don’t you just love how a photo takes you right back to the moment? I will relive this memory for a very long time.