Spring has sprung in the Netherlands and the tulip fields are blooming! Despite my many trips to the Netherlands before moving here, I had never actually seen the tulips fields in bloom. So I recently took the opportunity to visit the Keukenhof to enjoy the tulips up close. It’s worth noting that the Keukenhof is only open two months of the year – this year the dates are March 22 to May 20.
The Keukenhof is the world’s largest flower garden – 32 hectares (79 acres) and is located in Lisse, between Leiden and the Hague. In Dutch, “Keukenhof” means “kitchen garden,” and it was so named because the garden originally provided herbs to the kitchen of the Keukenhof Castle
. What a change from those times – now there are approximately 7 million flower bulbs planted every year in the Keukenhof, and 4.5 million of those are tulips – over 100 varieties! Tulips are my favorite flower, so I was dazzled by the varieties from nearly black tulips called “Blackjack” and “Cuban Nights” to the unusual-shaped “Yellow Crown” and sweet pink and white striped “All that Jazz.” Loved all those creative and clever names for the same reason I like to see the names of boats and racehorses
Like most places in the Netherlands, it’s an easy day trip from Amsterdam. I think it’s easiest to drive, but you can also take a train to Schiphol and then take a special bus from the airport to the Keukenhof. If the weather’s nice, you can take a train part of the way and then rent bikes for the rest of the way. The weather was cold and chilly the day I went, so luckily I was able to travel by car. However, the gray skies didn’t dampen my excitement of seeing field after field of tulips in all colors as I drove into the town of Lisse and made my way to the Keukenhof.
Inside the Keukenhof, there are acres upon acres of formal flower gardens, charming little paths and bridges over water features, gazebos and pergolas and arches. There are also several large pavilions, each dedicated to a special type of flower. The largest pavilion, Willem-Alexander had a huge display of tulips in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Other pavilions are smaller and have displays of orchids, roses, and other flowers. The prettiest displays are outside, of course, but the pavilions are nice for seeing many different varieties of flowers, as well as getting out of the cold for a few minutes.
The small historic walled garden was charming and I can only imagine how beautiful it must be later in the spring when everything is in bloom. The Keukenhof is surrounded by fields of tulips which you can also see by standing at the edge of the garden and looking across a small canal.
The Keukenhof is dog-friendly and very child-friendly, with several playgrounds and jungle gyms, even a petting zoo. You can get your fill of all the Dutch stereotypes in one place: besides the ubiquitous tulips, the Keukenhof has a windmill and canals and lots of little stands selling hot drinks and sweets and dubious-looking meat products, and the requisite souvenir shops selling wooden shoes made (both the authentic wooden kind as well as the furry slipper version). It was a bit commercial, but I must admit I really appreciated having a cup of tea to warm me on my walk through the garden!
And if like me, you prefer a quieter garden experience, this is also easy to find away from the vendors and playgrounds. I had such a lovely time wandering among the flowers and planning my own dream garden. I am already planning to return towards the middle of May (before the closing on May 20) to see the different flowers in bloom.