More than a million people, mostly tourists, come to see Keukenhof’s 7 million bulbs.
One of the Netherlands’ most popular attractions also has the shortest shelf life. Keukenhof, a park about 45 minutes southwest of Amsterdam, opens its doors annually from late March to mid-May (this year, March 21 to May 19). During those eight weeks, more than a million visitors pour through the front gates to ogle some 7 million spring-flowering bulbs, mostly tulips. That means the attraction gets — and stays — quite crowded.
The historic 79-acre park was established in the 15th century as the kitchen garden for a nearby castle (“keuken” is the Dutch word for kitchen); elements of its current design date to 1857. The annual tulip show started 70 years ago as a way for bulb companies to exhibit their products. Now, millions of bulbs — some 1,600 varieties, including hyacinths, daffodils, irises and lilies, from 100 exhibitors — are planted by hand every fall.
While it’s still an international showcase for Dutch floriculture, the self-proclaimed largest bulb flower garden in the world, which has nine miles of walking paths, has taken on a highly manicured, Disney-esque air with themed gardens, display pavilions and a multitude of cafes and souvenir shops. A century-old working windmill adds a historical touch, boat rides are offered on surrounding canals and bikes can be rented for touring flowering bulb fields in the vicinity. While you can’t avoid the crowds, fast-track tickets will allow you to bypass the entry lines.
Location: Stationsweg 166A, Lisse, Netherlands, 011-31-252-465-555; keukenhof.nl
Dutch families tend to head to the festivities around Noordoostpolder’s miles of tulip fields
For an experience more reminiscent of those iconic photographs of long, blooming fields, and one that will allow you to actually tiptoe through some tulips, head about an hour northeast of Amsterdam to the area of Noordoostpolder, in the province of Flevoland. There you’ll find more Dutch families than international tourists exploring the largest tulip-growing region of the Netherlands.
The country’s 12th and youngest province, Flevoland was added in 1986 and created from one of the world’s largest land reclamation projects. With around 12,000 acres of tulips and other bulb flowers, it boasts some of the country’s largest open tulip fields, though it only recently started promoting its bloom-related festivities.
Each year, two groups organize, publish and post routes for driving, cycling or walking around the fields. Farms not typically open to the public welcome guests, including a rare pick-your-own tulip farm, De Tulpenpluktuin, in Marknesse, which has more than 50 varieties. Other offerings include “selfie fields” for optimal photo snapping, farm tours, garden and flower shows, painting workshops, carriage tours children’s attractions and pop-up cafes. If you want to see tulip fields by air, helicopter and hot air balloon rides and paragliding are available in Flevoland. (You can find helicopter rides near Keukenhof as well.)
In case you’re wondering whether farmers sell tulips cut from the fields, the answer is no. These tulips are grown for their bulbs only. In April or May, big machines roll through the colorful acres to cut off the flowers, leaving a sea of green stems and leaves whose chlorophyll will help the bulbs become more robust. The bulbs are harvested in the summer; the large ones will be sold, and the small ones will be replanted in the fall to make the spring fields bloom anew.
Daniel is a writer based in the Netherlands. Her website is bydianedaniel.com .
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