Holland is world famous for its windmills and tulips, so much so that a ridiculous amount of people are unaware that Holland is actually a region of the Netherlands, rather than a country in its own right. Now the Netherlands are famous for all sorts of reasons, depending on what you’re interested in (Amsterdam generally speaks for itself, but lets not forget that the Dutch also amassed a bit of an empire, nor the influence of the Dutch East India Company). These are a story for another day, this trip is all about the Keukenhof flower gardens in Lisse.
Prior to the trip I found myself having a look around for a short city break to interrupt the tedium of working life. Initially, Amsterdam wasn’t a part of my plan, and I was actually looking at venturing further east towards Talinn or Riga. For some odd reason that I can’t remember, I had a quick look at Amsterdam. Not a whole lot of digging later and I found out my trip could potentially coincide with tulip season. Bonus!
Staying in Amsterdam worked out, and it was actually quite easy to pre-book a trip to Keukenhof that included pick up, drop off and travel to the gardens. By coach, it takes about 1 hour 30 minutes to get from Amsterdam to Keukenhof Gardens, and it can be quite a scenic drive south-west out of Amsterdam. I’d really advise that, if you do go by coach, you try to get on the upper deck – it’ll help you get a clear view over the fields, and a higher vantage point to see some of the disused windmills in the city as you drive by.
The trip to Keukenhof gardens only cost €29.00, and included the €16.00 entrance fee to the gardens. That also saved time buying tickets at the gate, and with the flowers beginning to bloom at this time of year (April), the entrance was packed out with people vying to get in and explore.
The hardest part of planning your trip to the gardens is deciding what time to go. The park is generally open from 8:00am until 19:30pm, and since a large number of people arrive with tour groups (myself included) that means that there are busy periods. A lot of tour providers arrive around 10:00am and leave at about 3:00 – 3:30pm so if you’re here before and after these guys, you’ll have a lot more quiet space to explore.
However, this will mean you’ll need to find your own way to the gardens, and that could require searching for accommodation a little more local – Lisse or Haarlem perhaps?
That said, the earlier you arrive or the later you leave means you’ll have the chance to experience a sunrise or sunset across the gardens and the ponds/lakes/bodies of water that can be found around the gardens. I found that arriving early-ish in the morning meant that there was still a little bit of mist and dew on the plants and trees and it gave Keukenhof a mystical sort of feeling.
Regardless of when you make it to the park, it’s actually quite a long walk. It’s not strenuous at all, just a fair distance. The trek around the park will see you pass a few places to stop and pick up a bite to eat or a coffee, or both. We stopped off at a cafe to take a quick break and cool off (some of us are just lucky with weather). The complete “loop” around Keukenhof, regardless of whether or not you follow the map, will lead you across a few bridges, around open bodies of water, through a maze and up a windmill, you might even go on a boat ride! There’s a lot going on and various buildings, greenhouses and other structures for you to explore. Just beware the steep steps; though if you’re staying in Amsterdam you’ll probably already be accustomed to them.
A number of buildings are named after the royal family, and are planted with different themes in mind. I suggest checking a few of them out, though each one is different to the next and when you’ve got a whole day to explore, there’s little reason to not go and see them all.
After all of this, I have to say my favourite part of Keukenhof was climbing the windmill looking out over the half-bloomed tulip fields. There are literally flowers as far as you can see and, although not all of the tulips had blossomed in the garden when we arrived (I think we were perhaps a week too early) it was still a spectacular view filled with a plethora of vibrant colours. Exactly the way you’d imagine it.
And that was Keukenhof 2016. Keukenhof gardens will be opening on the 23rd March 2017 for next years tulip season, and will remain open until the 21st May 2017. If you’re planning to go, I’d recommend booking early to make sure you can find and plan the perfect trip – and as a probably not so helpful tip, the tulips were blooming in mid April this year.
If you want to pre-book your tickets to Keukenhof, you can do so on their website. Alternatively, if you’re staying in Amsterdam and want to get a coach trip for the day, there are a few places you can look – tour companies such as lindbergh operate trips to Keukenhof.
You can save money by making your own way there using a combi ticket. There’s more information on this option on tripadvisor, and if you don’t mind planning it yourself you can save approx. €13.00 from Keukenhof’s alternative.