The Dutch are very keen on horticulture. After windmills, when people think of the Netherlands, they think of tulips. They are on every souvenir at every shop, there is a flower market in the center of Amsterdam selling bulbs all year round and the Hortus Botanicus runs a tulip exhibit. It is almost impossible to escape tulips here, and when you are here during bulb time (April and May) they are everywhere. Dutch history is steeped in tulip lore, and their economy suffered a setback when the tulip bubble burst in 1637. If you find yourself here in the spring, be sure to check out the mother lode at the Keukenhof Gardens.
Located about about 25 miles southwest of Amsterdam, the Keukenhof Gardens is easily accessible by public transportation. Take the train from Centraal to Leiden, then get on the well-marked bus right outside of the station to the Gardens. When you get here, pay your admission and get your camera ready. This 80 acre garden is the showcase for not just tulips, but other bulb flowers as well (naturally, it is the largest bulb park in the world). Start by walking through the unbelievably lush gardens. The trees (2500 of them) enclose the paths so that the park can seem empty, even on busy days.
The expert gardeners have done wonders. There are 7 million bulbs planted representing 1600 varieties, so you won’t get sick of tulips. But your kids might, so in addition to the gardens, there are also playgrounds, a petting zoo and a hedge maze (ok, this is fun for adults, too).
After all of the fresh air, you will be hungry. There is a waffle cart near the entrance that serves up a hot and delicious snack- just what you need to refuel. After seeing what is available outside, it is time to go inside to check out the exhibition halls. Here you will find rotating exhibits covering bulb-related topics from “Dazzling Daffodils” to the “Amazing Amaryllis,” as well as a gift shop, library and the exhibit explaining just where the bulbs come from. Be sure to buy a guide book here-it makes for a nice souvenir to look at on a cold, snowy day when all you can think about is spring and that first tulip poking out of the ground.
Tickets are 14.50 euros, but well worth it, as they have to collect a year’s worth of revenue in just 2 short months. The gardens are open in April and May, though check the website for exact dates. Hours are 8am to 7:30pm.
If trying to decide exactly when to take your trip to the Netherlands, let the tulips talk you into spring time.