Several weeks ago, hubby and I were enjoying the last day of our Netherlands vacation at Keukenhof Gardens to see Holland’s famous spring tulip display.

Keukenhof is the world’s largest flower garden, and is also known as the “Garden of Europe”. Its name translates in English to “kitchen garden,” dating to the 15th century when it was an herb farm owned by one of Holland’s wealthiest women.

One of the world’s largest open-air flower expeditions, Keukenhof’s greenhouse complex and 79-acre park draws huge crowds during the eight weeks it is open. It’s hothouses and lakeside flower beds are planted with seven million flower bulbs, making for an incredible display! And, that doesn’t include the tulip fields that surround Keukenhof Gardens and the larger Lisse countryside.

For Mr. Buzz and I, it was a bucket list trip experience that exceeded our already high expectations. Come with me as we stroll the gardens along the pathways, meandering streams, pools, and pavilions. No wooden shoes required!

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Springtime Spectacular

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I’m skipping ahead to the last full day of our Netherlands vacation, and what a finale! Before an eight-day, Cruising the Dutch Waterways Tauck Tour, we spent several days in Amsterdam. Afterwards, were more times on our own, traveling to Utrecht (home to hubby’s Dutch ancestors) and then Keukenhof.

From our base in The Hague, we took a modern train to Leiden (pilgrim home before Mayflower sailing). Just outside the station, we then boarded a Keukenhof Express bus past the tulip fields and to the gardens.

Travel Trip: Nearly 1.5 million visitors come to Keukenhof Gardens each year, from late March to mid-May. Frequently, entire days sellout. Buying timed-entry tickets online ahead of time is an absolute must! We purchased a combo ticket for the roundtrip bus ride and garden entry. It’s a well-run operation, and roughly a 30-minute bus ride to Keukenhof from either Amsterdam, Haarlem, Schiphol Airport or Leiden. Even if you drive or ride a bike to Keukenhof, be sure to purchase the garden entry ticket in advance.

Colorful Rows of Tulip Fields

It’s rare that something so highly anticipated and pandemic-delayed could exceed our expectations. That’s even despite the early morning rain, clouds, damp and cold weather.

What did surprise us, were the extensive and fabulous gardens themselves. We envisioned “just” seeing colorful fields of tulips. A concentrated area of tulip fields in Holland are located around Lisse, which we passed on our bus ride to and from Keukenhof. At the gardens, a ring of canals separate Keukenhof from the tulip fields.

Idea Location for Tulips

The farmland of Lisse is a tulip growing region due to it’s ideal location near the sea, with sand-like soil. Due to the maritime climate and geographic location, Lisse experiences relatively mild winters and summers that are not too hot.

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Before they are cut, tulips in the fields are only left to bloom for about three days! That’s so that all the energy of the tulip goes into the development of the bulb, which is the actual product that is sold.

Later, the fields are cleared of all the green. A large machine drives over the land, scooping up both sand and bulbs. Afterwards, the bulbs are collected in big wooden boxes and driven back to the farm for sorting, cleaning and packaging.

Travel Tip: You can purchase timed-tickets for an hour-long whisper boat canal ride through the surrounding tulip fields (near the windmill). Many of our fellow Tauck tour passengers took organized trips to Keukenhof before the river cruise. Each said they would have preferred more time to spend exploring the gardens. Hubby and I were glad we were on our own to explore at our own pace, and skipped the boat ride. Besides, we had already had a lovely canal cruise in Amsterdam. Another option, if time allows, is to rent a bike or take an organized bike tour through the tulip fields.

Have you ever been to Keukenhof?

Exploring Keukenhof Gardens

When you visit Keukenhof Gardens grab the excellent free map at the entrance. It lays out the different gardens, points of interest (like the iconic windmill), and pavilions.

Keukenhof-Netherlands-pavilion

Keukenhof has several pavilions where indoor flower shows, restrooms, shops and restaurants are located. There are six pavilions situated across the gardens, each named for individual members of the Dutch royal family.

For orchid lovers, the Beatrix Pavilion is said to have one of the most beautiful orchid displays in all of Europe. Known as “tulip heaven” is the Willem-Alexander Pavilion. However, it’s also the place to see over 15,000 lilies in over 300 varieties during the last 10 days each season.

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Located in the heart of Keukenhof is the largest pavilion. It bears the name of the royal house, Oranje Nassau. This is where the best come to be judged and the type of flowers changes every week.

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The area surrounding the windmill is the place that gets the most crowded, as everyone jostles and stands in line for the perfect picture or selfie. Climbing the windmill also provides a good view of the adjacent tulip fields.

Tip-Toeing Through the Tulips & Raindrops

Flower gardens can be found everywhere in Keukenhof! Because they plant several different types of flowers and varieties of tulips in each section, the park is continually in bloom throughout the eight-week exhibition.

And, early, middle and late blooming tulip bulb and other types of flowers are carefully planted in layers at three different depths, Called the “lasagna” method of planting, it ensures the gardens are always full of color and variety.

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Rain was threatening as we entered the park. Undeterred, Mr. Buzz and I headed first to the formal gardens located over the water and across from the main entrance.

Immediately, we were both mesmerized by the stunning variety of gorgeous tulips organized in small plots — all individually labeled. Various bulb growers sponsor different patches or sections of gardens throughout Keukenhof.

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Realizing a downpour was imminent, we made a well-timed dash into the adjacent Irene Pavilion; grabbing two of the last remaining seats. By the time we finished our coffees, the worst of the weather was over. Anxious to carry on, we put up our umbrellas and continued a leisurely exploration of Keukenhof.

Travel Tip: It can be cold, windy, damp or raining during the spring tulip season in the Netherlands. Best to come prepared! As advised, we dressed in layers. Because of the cold, I wore in a long-sleeved thermal tee, light-weight sweater, fleece-lined zip-up, and down puffy jacket. In a common backpack, we also brought hooded, water-proof jackets (originally purchased to observe waterfalls in Iceland), two small umbrellas, and baseball-type caps. We ended up wearing or using everything at one point or another throughout the day.

Into the Woods

Within minutes of entering the enchanting woodland gardens, the raindrops had stopped falling and we took down our umbrellas.

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There are lots of winding, intersecting footpaths paths throughout the woodlands, along with meandering streams and other water features.

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Collaborating with 25 artists, Keukenhof’s garden also provides a nice setting for sculptures and other works of art displayed throughout the grounds.

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By early afternoon the sun came out. So, we decided to return to the woodlands (our favorite area) and finish our visit to Keukenhof there.

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It was nice not being on a tight time schedule. Keukenhof Express buses run continually throughout the day, as did trains from Leiden to The Hague.

Tulipomania

This spectacular showcase of seven million tulips, daffodil and hyacinths was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

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How wonderful it must be for the Dutch, who can visit several times throughout the spring season!

We basically explored Keukenhof by working from the left of the entrance gate around the outer edge; clockwise. By weaving in and out of the middle (so as not to miss a single garden, pond or pavilion), that route evidentially took us back to the main gate (and back to the woodlands).

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It’s a good route through the gardens, as you’ll definitely want to visit the Juliana Pavilion near the start of a visit to Keukenhof. Located right in the middle of the woodland section, the pavilion has an informative exhibition, called Tulipomania. There you learn everything about the Dutch tulip; including its origins, how new varieties are developed, and much more.

They also explain the tulip’s history in the Netherlands, from the earliest trading, to 17th Century tulip mania, and economic bubble. As well as the role of the tulip today, as an icon of Holland and spring.

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Today, there are over 3,000 registered varieties of tulips, divided into 15 groups or divisions, mostly based on the flower type, size and blooming period. Tulips are categorized in these divisions based on common characteristics that they share; including similarities in blossom shape and origin.

Do you have tulips in your garden or landscape?

Icon of Holland

In 1949, the Keukenhof Garden was officially established by the town’s mayor.

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At the time, the goal was to help the Dutch export industry by creating an exhibit where both local and European flower growers could display their hybrids.

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Today, tourists will find a wide range of different gardens and styles at Keukenhof.

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For instance, the English Garden features charming winding paths, while the Historical Garden is enclosed and features a variety of different bulbs.

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Many areas of the park also include water gardens, fountains, ponds and streams. Here a “floating” lily pad path crosses a large pond.

Back to Blogging

I hope you enjoyed tip-toeing through the tulips with me at Keukenhof. Over the next couple of months I plan to share more of our amazing Netherlands vacation and river cruise.

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Our two-week holiday, started the day after our nephew’s Easter weekend wedding in Charleston, S.C. Less than a week after our return home, I had the eye cataract surgery. Last week was the second eye.

Between being super busy and needing to limit screen time as my eyes heal, blogging wasn’t an option. Additionally, I have been happily preoccupied with our son’s September destination wedding — dress shopping, planning a welcome party for 80-90, crafting decor, etc.

So stay tuned ladies for much more to come!

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