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In search of the Dutch Tulip Fields

by Roberto
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The Dutch tulip fields are as synonymous with the country as much as canals. But when is the best time to visit the country to see it in bloom, and where is the best place to find them? Spring is clearly the season to see the tulips in full bloom, with a distinct high season. There are also three areas which are the centre of the Dutch tulip farms, and it’s here that the endless tulip fields can be found. For those looking for gardens, then look no further than Keukenhof, The Netherlands centre for tulip exhibitions. Hopefully my suggestions can help you plan the perfect trip.

The Origin of The Netherlands Tulip Fields

Tulips will always be associated with Holland but they were only introduced to the country in the 15th century. They find their origin in the mountains of central Asia, with the lowlands of the Karatau Mountains of Kazakhstan blanketed in their colours. Growing wild here, the flowers are a national symbol for the Kazakhs. Kazakhstan’s position on the spice route between East and West, saw tulips been taken to Europe as a result.

Tulips grew in popularity in the Netherlands aided by their appearance in famous paintings. This peaked in the mid seventeenth century with Tulipmania, as tulips value rose so high they became used as a substitute for currency. Inevitably the market crashed, and people realised that perhaps flowers, a perishable item, weren’t the greatest currency. As modern times were reached, Holland became the world market leader in the growing of tulips as well as other flowers. Tulips are a passionate subject with the Dutch, with flower festivals being held throughout the year.


When to visit The Netherlands to see the tulips

From spring on the Dutch landscape changes as different flowers bloom. With flowers being such big business, the season spans from the daffodils of February through with purple hyacinths, pink crocuses, and of course tulips being prominent in different months. Tulip season runs from late March, through to mid-May. Mid-to-late April is considered the perfect time to see tulips in full bloom, and this is when I visited. The annual flower forecast will give a good indicator when is the peak time for Dutch tulip season.

Where to Stay to see the Tulips

The Netherlands is a small country and easily travelled by car or using its public transport links. Using Amsterdam as a base gives the best access to these, and presents so many options in terms of restaurants, bars, and of course hotels.

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Tulips in Amsterdam

Many coming to the Netherlands to search for tulips, base themselves in Amsterdam. While it doesn’t quite provide the same experience as visiting those vast colourful fields, Amsterdam nonetheless satisfies some visitors whims with several tulip based attractions. The Amsterdam tulip festival celebrates the tulip season in Amsterdam and the whole country. It varies from year to year depending early spring arrives, which gives a flower forecast. This year the festival runs from 20th March to the 9th May. The festival is more a guide to all things tulip happening in The Netherlands, rather than a specific festival on a set day. It’s website, Tulip Festival Amsterdam, is a great resource for all that’s happening in the country, and the place to book tickets for the Flower Parade.

The Bloemenmarkt

Amsterdam’s floating flower market is found on a series of barges strung along the canal Singel canal. You are as likely to see locals as tourists here, looking for whatever flowers might be in season, including tulips in springtime. What you’ll mostly find here is a huge collection of seeds, which will allow you to create your own little version of a tulip field in your garden when the following year rolls around. Most of the barges currently are gift shops rather than florists, but that doesn’t detract from the visitor experience. The market has been here since 1862.

Amsterdam tulip museum

The Amsterdam Tulip Museum is found on Prinsengracht 116, quite close to the Anne Frank House, so its easily paired for visiting, The museum charts the history of the tulip, from its origins in the Himalayas, through Istanbul and then to The Netherlands. The museum is modern and large, and gives an opportunity at the end to pick up some tulip related memorabilia in its gift shop. If you missed the Bloemenmarkt, there is a huge amount of tulip varieties on sale here. Entry to the museum is €5 and its is open daily from 10-6, except on big national holidays.

Keukenhof Flower Parade

Though the flower parade is commonly called the Keukenhof Flower Parade, it can be seen in several towns and cities in the Netherlands. It’s an annual event which has been running since 1947, and growing bigger annually. The 2021 flower parade was due to have taken place on April 17th, but now cancelled due to ongoing restrictions. Each year, hundreds of flower covered floats travel the full route. The route spans a distance of around 40 km, and as well as the Keukenhof gardens, passes through Lisse, Sassenheim, Hillegom, Heemstede and Haarlem, on its route from the coastal town of Noordwijk. Over one million people annually watch the parade, which can be viewed for free, unless you purchase a seated ticket at one of the above towns or Keukenhof. Keukenhof’s Flower Parade is unique in that its floats are made solely from tulips and hyacinths.

Where to see the Dutch tulip fields?

There are three distinct areas of tulip farming in the Netherlands. The Noordoostpolder, the Noordwijkerhout, and Lisse are where your energies are best focused. Bear in mind that with each year, farmers rotate the fields where the flowers are grown, so its difficult to pinpoint the exact location of the fields. I guess for something so beautiful to grow, it takes a lot out of the soil.

Noordoostpolder

Noordoostpolder is an area located in the province of Flevoland. This is the main area for tulip growing in Holland, with many farms located here. Tours are often offered in this area by farmers, to see the fields. The world’s largest flower auction takes place at Aalsmeer in this region. This region is accessed in just under an hour by car from Amsterdam, but is the most difficult place to access by public transport, with a combined bus and train journey being two hours.

Noordwijkerhout

Noordwijkerhout is to the southwest of Amsterdam along with Lisse, and is far more accessible for those coming from Amsterdam on a day trip. The stretch of reclaimed land between The Hague to the south, and Alkmaar to the north is punctuated by the wonderful sight of tulip fields. Noordwijkerhout is an area of dunes and flowers, close to the city of Leiden.  Lisse produces many bulbs for the international market, and is the ideal place to find those long multi-coloured strips of land. Lisse is also the location of Keukenhof, the largest flower garden in the world.

Leiden, Lisse and Haarlem

With strong rail links the towns of the area such as Leiden, Lisse and Haarlem can be reached within 45 minutes or less. With Holland being such a bike friendly country, many bike trails lead through the countryside and this is an excellent way to see the tulip farms.

Take a private tour

Of course if that sounds a little too much like exercise, there is a wide selection of guided sightseeing tours available to see the tulip fields. It is recommend to book these in advance through Get Your Guide to avoid disappointment.




Our Dutch Tulip Field experiences

Ever the road tripper, I choose to travel by car and enjoyed as ever the liberties it gave me. We hired a car for two days while staying in Amsterdam, and combined a trip to prominent Dutch towns and sights with my desire to see those Netherlands tulip fields. It was my main motivation for those four days we spent there.

We rented a car from Schipol Airport, purely based on the convenience of returning to the airport, and because cars are generally much cheaper to hire from airports. We took the metro to Centraal station in Amsterdam, and the train from then on. Arriving in Schipol we followed the instructions calling for a pick up. After 15 minutes of waiting I realised I suffered a blonde moment, I wasn’t looking for a gold car, but a Goldcar Van. Which was white. With an unimpressed driver.

The car, as anyone who read my Adventures of Driving in Europe blog will know, was far from being the best, but she (a Ford Focus) got us where we needed. We began our day with a short drive to Leiden, an attractive and peaceful canalside town. It proved a little too peaceful as we found it difficult to find a badly needed cup of coffee, so we left the surroundings as quick as we had gotten there.

Keukenhof Gardens

Our first planned stop of the day was to the Keukenhof Gardens. Keukenhof is only fifteen minutes from Leiden and thirty from Amsterdam. These tulip gardens are one of the world’s largest flower gardens, with over 7 million flowers on show. Not sure who does the count, but an unenviable job. It only opens in spring for 8 weeks of each year.

We had bought the tickets online the day before for €16 each (entry is now €19) and €6 for parking. Not cheap but there is an amazing amount of work put into the maintenance here, and visiting Keukenhof is a must. The gardens are divided with structures in each corner each dedicated to different exhibits.

Map from Keukenhof brochure

Our pre-purchased tickets allowed us to skip the queue and we made a beeline to the restaurant located in the Beatrix area. Those cappuccinos tasted so good after a long wait and they helped wash down the unplanned pepperoni pizza slices.

The park is best strolled at a slow pace, admiring the varieties of flowers on show and the complex arrangements. There are so many amazing displays, its astounding at times. However we found the indoor sections not to our liking, it wasn’t what we came for. So we only visited the Willem-Alexander and Oranje Nassau ones. Peaceful small canals dissect the park, and are crisscrossed by quaint bridges.

Highlights of Keukenhof

-The romance gardens and delft blue garden.

-The beautiful mill which can be entered and gives good views over the tulip fields beyond from its balcony.

-Navigating the maze to climb the watch tower for more views. Sometimes we must get lost to find what we are looking for.

-There is an optional boat ride out into the tulip fields but the waiting time was over 2 hours. If you plan to take this (and I’m sure it’s worth it) head here early and book your place, with a view to returning later.

-The formal gardens surrounding Oranje Nassau, with fountains and beautifully tended shrubs.

-Water features from the above fountains, to small canals, bring so much peace among the crowds. Quaint little bridges criss-cross them.                                                   

-Being spring, it’s not just the flowers that are an attraction. Blossoms are all over the park and add an extra dimension.                                                                               

-Strolling and getting slightly lost among a cacophony of colourThe tulips inevitably are the star attraction and they don’t disappoint.                                              

Keukenhof Gallery

Netherlands Tulip Fields
Tulip Fields from the Windmill
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Workers toiling in the Keukenhof tulip fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
The boating option
Keukenhof
Oranje Nassau
Keukenhof
The Formal gardens near Oranje Nassau
Keukenhof
Keukenhof
Cherry blossoms bring even more colour
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Tulips and flowers of Keukenhof

In search of the Dutch tulip fields

While Keukenhof was undoubtedly stunning, the fields to its borders lacked colours. Leaving Keukenhof behind, now was finally the time to go in search of those Dutch bulb fields. I had used a rough non-scale map in an Eyewitness travel guide to pinpoint where they were on my google maps. The roads N206 and N444 were earmarked as good viewpoints so off we headed in that direction. They aren’t far from Keukenhof and we were glad of the freedom of the car.

Netherlands Tulip Fields
Excerpt from Eyewitness Travel Holland- tulip fields Netherlands map

Dutch Flower Fields Found

It didn’t take us long to find our goal on the N206. A large multi-coloured field loomed on our right and after a quick switch back over a canal on to a minor road we were there. The colours challenged those of a rainbow, with purple, yellow, pink, red, and white shades. We spent some time getting shots here and walking simply admiring the beauty. I tried to capture my idyllic photo but it wasn’t to be found here. Some of the tulips were still a little young, surprising for this late in April.

Netherlands Tulip Fields
Our first tulip field at a Dutch Tulip farm
Netherlands Tulip Fields
My vision of the Netherlands Tulips

We pushed on further and another large field presented itself on the left. This time the tulips were fuller, but the field was not as iridescent as before. Red was most certainly the farmers preferred choice of colour, surely a romantic at heart.

Netherlands Tulip Fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Wow
Netherlands Tulip Fields
The awe-inspiring sight of tulips stretching towards the horizon

We kept driving and admiring the fields and our route took us up the N444. This is all an idyllic part of the country, the canals clear and the houses well-tended. We stumbled upon the village of Voorhout, a town of perfect country houses whose back gardens opened to a canal and moored boats. The whole area was a joy to drive through from the continuing shifts of colour to the laid back way we of life we imagined. And yet despite covering much ground that field from my imagination was eluding me.

One Last Dutch Tulip Field

The following day we road-tripped north, to Alkmaar and its zany cheese market, Zaanse Schans and its wonderful windmills, and Haarlem with its amazing architecture. But that lingering thought of “that field”, the field from my mind, persisted. I couldn’t leave the country without finding it. As we left Haarlem we had time to burn before we were due to drop back the rental. I turned again to the main objective of our Dutch trip. To find the perfect tulip field.

Nature’s Perfection

So I following my gut and throwing my map and GPS aside, I went old school and simply drove. Well I drove south towards the region of Lisse at least. It took about 15 km and 3 times as many turns, but finally with little time left to return the car, I found the field that matched that in my mind’s eye. I was seemingly guided by the heavens, the suns rays filtered through the clouds, and I had one eye on it all the time while driving. Finally they settled above “that field”. Off to one side a row of trees sheltered the innumerable coloured flowers. I was elated. Mission complete. One less bucket list item to conquer.

Netherlands Tulip Fields
Guided by the heavens
Netherlands Tulip Fields
colourful Dutch tulip fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
pretty in pink
Netherlands Tulip Fields
Netherlands Tulip Fields
The perfect little Dutch tulip farm

It was to be the final act of our Dutch trip, but the curtains really came down on something memorable. Remember these are farms and the Dutch tulip fields locations will change with the years. Crop rotation is very much in effect. So explore the areas I’ve suggested and inevitably you will get your reward and leave the country as happy as I did.

Travel Insurance

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Dutch Tulip Fields
Dutch Tulip Fields

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