Spring and Netherlands in the same sentence can only mean one thing – Tulips!
Since the moment the first tulip was planted in the Netherlands in 1953, they have turned their low-lying fields into something quite magical. From blooming and dominant floral economy to Europe’s scenic drive in spring. Anyone who wants to see tulips in its full glory, Netherlands is the de facto place to be.
There is no perfect way to see and enjoy Tulips in Holland. Picking free tulips on National Tulip day In January or driving by the scenic routes of never-ending tulip fields, visiting Europe’s biggest spring gardens where the scent of the fresh blooms fills the entire park or cycling past the traditional routes – you can enjoy it all, each one unique, in its own way, providing the opportunity to understand that apart from being aesthetically beautiful they also help boost the country’s floral economy.
Here are 7 ways in which we explored the tulip paradise.
National Tulips Day – picking up free Tulips.
The Dutch tulip season is officially launched on the third Saturday of January, every year, celebrated across Holland as ‘National Tulip Day’, or ‘Nationale Tulpendag’.
At Dam Square in Amsterdam, Dutch tulip growers create a huge garden with thousands of tulips. Thousands of people flock the square to enjoy the mesmerizing sight. Post noon, after admiring the display for a while, you are also allowed to wander along to pick up a bunch of tulips and take them home, for free, to adorn your window sills.
Our first encounter with tulips was on “National Tulips Day, January 2016. The celebrations and euphoria around tulip picking got us thinking how important and special tulips are in the country. Looking at the blooming flowers in every color of the rainbow made sure it had a special place in our hearts forever. We happily roamed around the variety of flowers trying to pick one in each color. With so many options in colors to choose from, believe me, the hardest decision is not the count but which color to pick.
Good to know:
- The Tulips come with the blub still attached. We naively thought the blubs could be replanted, but a kind Dutch farmer told us that won’t be possible. Once you take the flowers home, cut the blubs off and put them in a vase (filled with water). The flowers bloom and open up some more and stay for about a week.
- To Plant tulips at home, you need to buy blubs from the local flower market and sow them in Autumn (Oct- Nov) since the blubs need at-least 15 days or more of frost
- On the National Tulip Day, farmers arrange the tulips early morning. This can be viewed from a raised platform until 1 pm. At 1 PM visitors are allowed to go in and enjoy them up close or pick some to take home.
- It does get crowded, and the queues to go inside the perimeter start growing large post noon, so it is advised to come early if you want to pick some tulips.
Even if you are not a Tulip person, this whole atmosphere is worth the experience and will make you admire the beauty of the flower for sure!
Keukenhof – one of the largest spring gardens in the world.
We visited ‘Keukenhof Gardens’, also known as the Garden of Europe, in Lisse, in spring 2016. It a place to behold, millions of flower bulbs bloom over several hectares of the park, scent of the blooming flowers covering the entire park. We saw more than a hundred variety of tulip in various gardens, arts, and events. The garden does various formations of colors and shapes. Walking around the garden admiring the flowers is a must do activity in spring.
To visit the gardens, we took a bus from Haarlem, about an hours ride. The gardens have a theme associated each year. When we visited in 2016, the theme was “The Golden Age – era in which the Netherlands went through a flourishing period in the field of trade, arts, and sciences”. For 2018, its “Romance in Flowers”.
Once in, we visited several gardens, like, the historical garden which highlights several hundred years of tulip cultivation along with some old tulip varieties and Delft Blue garden with the backdrop of beautiful windmills. The park also had spectacular flower shows where hundreds of bloomers give their prized tulips to leading flower arrangers, to arts and events. Along with tulips, the multi-colored Rose garden and the Orchid gardens were also worth the visit. With more than hundred variety of tulips in the park, it was quite a unique and unforgettable experience.
We were definitely inspired to plant a few and have a garden of our own 😉
Good to know:
- The gardens have an entry fee. It was 16 EUR per person the year we visited. It is best to check their website for the current prices. The gardens could also have an online discount, so worth having a look.
- The gardens open for about 2 months each year between the end of March to mid-May. It is advisable to check the opening times before heading to the gardens.
- Keukenhof is so designed, that some part of the garden is always in bloom. So there is no perfect time to visit the garden. Ideally, mid-April is said to be the best time, but anytime in April or first week of May should be good as per our observation.
- Keukenhof does attract a lot of crowds, so going early or going on a weekday helps.
If you are averse to the crowds, read on and we have a few other ways to enjoy the tulips with fewer crowds!
Official website: https://keukenhof.nl/en/
Bike around tulip fields around Keukenhof
If visiting Keukenhof doesn’t satisfy the Tulip mania inside you, there is more – you can cycle around the fields of Lisse – around Keukenhof. At the parking lot of Keukenhof, bike rentals offer bikes and a map of the cycling routes around the garden. We rented our bikes for 10 euro a day, to explore tulip fields around the area. The bike routes are nicely signposted and the map showed us four different length routes that we could take. On a typically Dutch orange bike, we saw several tulip fields stretched to the horizon. Personally, we enjoyed this much more than the gardens, since this is what we grew up seeing in tons of Bollywood movies! Go ahead, get some cheeky photos, you won’t be the only ones!
Driving around tulip fields
Along with biking routes, driving routes are also published each year. You can cover more distance and also explore the lesser known areas by car to be mesmerized even more! Well, you guessed it that we can’t get enough of these beauties!
Come April and the lust to explore more tulip fields in bloom grew on us all over again :). So, in spring 2017 we rented a car and drove around 80 km from our hometown Haarlem to Hillegom, Noordwijk, and Lisse. The route takes you to not only dense tulip fields but also charming Dutch countryside and scenic villages bordering the flower fields.
On another such weekend, we also drove around north-eastern part of Holland – Flevoland which is less crowded than the Lisse route has splendid views has a vast number of endless tulip fields and squared agricultural fields separated by trees and windmills.
We enjoyed this drive the most.
Good to know:
- It’s difficult to predict exact date but generally mid-April to late April is the best time to visit tulip fields. If you go too early, then chances are you would only see green not yet bloomed tulip and if you go late, chances are you will not see any flower at all.
- There are several official websites in the Netherlands which list various routes both bike and car. Do remember to check the various routes being available.
- If possible, find the contact number on the official website and call them to check if the fields are in bloom. Most of them will be very kind to help you out with the information.
Enjoy the whole experience in A drive around tulip fields of Holland
Tulip fields spread out as far as the eyes could see.
Bulb flower parade
Bloemencorso, as it’s called in Dutch, is a one of its kind flower parade that starts from Noordwijk and passes through bulb growing areas especially Keukenhof and finally ends in Haarlem. Beautifully decorated and colorful floats with hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils are a sight to watch. On Sunday the float stays in Haarlem till 5 pm, giving visitors ample time to enjoy and admire the flowers as well the work done by the people for the parade. This is on our wish-list for this year!
Check their website for more details: https://www.bloemencorso-bollenstreek.nl/en/
This is also something that is up on our list for this spring. One of the largest flower auction in the world happens in Aalsmeer Netherlands. It’s not a typical touristy place, but if you want to see the auction hustle with the traders rushing against the clock to bid and getting thrilled by the sheer quantity of beautiful flowers that are traded between so many countries, then it is the place to be. Placing a bid anyone?
At home – Planting tulip bulbs in Autumn
Last but not the least, what’s more, beautiful than seeing these gorgeous beauties in your own backyard?
We bought some nice tulip bulbs from the local flower market in Amsterdam in Autumn around October and planted them in our backyard. Tulip needs a good winter temperature. In spring they bloom and you can enjoy the ‘flower of your labor’. We are no experts but planting tulips is not an easy task. Right from choosing the correct bulbs, timing, size, how deep you plant and how good the winter is that year, everything counts. Out of several bulbs, we planted only a couple of them blossomed. But we are happy with our efforts and try to improve our methods next time around. For next time we would definitely try mixing some tulips with Hyacinths and daffodils to add more colors to our backyard.
Ξ Word of caution Ξ
Even though tulips are extremely beautiful, always remember that they are someone else’s property. Some farmers might be ok with visitors entering the fields, while some will expect you to respect their fields. Don’t pluck or crush the flower. Don’t cross the fields if it’s fenced. Try to be little sensitive and leave the fields as well as flowers for others to enjoy as well. Be a mindful, considerate and happy traveler.
Ξ Fun Fact Ξ
it is actually possible to buy flowers in New York which were freshly cut in the Netherlands that morning!
Have you explored the tulips yet? Let us know what is your favorite way to go around Holland hunting these gorgeous beauties.