No visit to Amsterdam in the springtime is complete without spending time at Keukenhof Holland, the most beautiful spring garden in the world – with millions of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and more filled the garden with avalanches of colors. I can’t remember ever exploring a garden that overwhelmed my senses like Keukenhof.
From the moment we entered Keukenhof gardens, we were awestruck by the vast beauty of the land and the myriad of tantalizing fragrances. The dreamworld of bright colors surrounded us as our noses led us from one display to the next.
An interesting feature of Keukenhof tulip gardens is that the bulbs are provided by almost 100 Royal Suppliers. There are signs near each bed listing the bulb suppliers information. If you like the product, you could place an order straight from the source. It’s probably a good thing I don’t live in the Netherlands or I would have left with a bill for a bag of bulbs (say that five times fast)! A garden designer works with the suppliers annually to create a special design for each company. It’s an intriguing partnership between the supplier and Keukenhof.
Keukenhof Holland History:
The name Keukenhof means “kitchen garden” and dates back to the 15th century. Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria would gather fruits and vegetables from the surrounding woods for the kitchen of Teylingen Castle. In 1641, Keukenhof Castle was built, with the estate expanding to over 200 hectares. Then in 1949, a group of flower bulb exporters and workers decided to make the estate a permanent exhibition to showcase the spring flowering bulbs. Keukenhof has since grown into a world famous attraction.
Visit Juliana Pavillon near the entrance to learn the tale of the tulip. The name “tulip” comes from the Persian word “tulipan” which means “turban.” You can see how the shape of a tulip bulb resembles the turban.
Tulips were once held in such high regard that one prized Semper Augustus tulip bulb was said to have sold forthe equivalent of $90,000 today! At the peak of tulip mania or tulipomania in 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman! The value plummeted when it was learned that the beloved striped tulips were actually the result of a virus. This marked the first “market crash” in the Netherlands.
Each year, the Keukenhof garden celebrates a new theme. The 2016 theme is “The Golden Age” to commemorate a time when trade, arts and science were flourishing in the Netherlands. It was also a the time when the tulip trade thrived.
Touring Keukenhof Garden:
We chose to bypass the Juliana Pavillon when we first arrived and instead headed toward the Historical Garden and Windmill before it got too crowded.
While the overflowing beds throughout the gardens are gorgeous, we were hoping to see the tulip fields in full bloom. Unfortunately, we were a week too early in our visit. We did see the rows of blooming hyacinths as we were driving back towards Amsterdam though. We still climbed to the top of the windmill to admire the views and snap some pictures.
The best time to visit Keukenhof to see the tulips in all their glory is late April to early May – depending on weather. However, you won’t be disappointed at anytime during the trip. Most beds have three layers of plantings, so blooms will be popping up throughout the Spring.
We missed seeing the flower bulb mosaic beside the Oranje Nassau Pavillon in full bloom as well. We saw a sign with an image of the design, so it was easy to get an idea of what it would look like once all the blooms were in. It’s fascinating to see the creativity that goes into the planning and planting the mosaic.
The Oranje Nassau Pavillon is home to a changing cut flower show. During our visit, the growers were showcasing roses. They were in the middle of changing these, so we only managed a glimpse of the beautiful rose displays. If you visit on a Wednesday, plan to explore the Oranje Nassau Pavillon later in the day once the displays have been changed over.
The Historical Garden resembles the gardens of Versailles. These straight pathed formal gardens are lovely and was where Derrick took a picture of kids and I.
One of my favorite stops was the Beatrix Pavilion, the location of the Orchid exhibition. I’ve always had a love for these gorgeous flowers and have even purchased a few – only to watch them die by my black thumb.
Visitors can enjoy the permanent orchid exhibition from as many as 500 growers. Derrick had to remind me there was only so much time in our day, as I wandered back and forth trying to examine and photograph each variety. Lucy was mesmerized by the beautiful dresses on display, each draped in Orchids. I think she was imagining herself gliding around the Pavillon in one of the gowns.
Orange, yellow, pink, purple and red – a rainbow of colors greeted us as we admired the tulips inside the Willem-Alexander Pavillon. Behind the Pavillon are meandering pathways just waiting to be explored. Many people stuck to the main path leading from the Beatrix Pavillon to the Wilhelmina Pavillon and missed a lot of spectacular beds in the process. Save time during your visit to follow the not so direct paths. Benches and bridges are located throughout the gardens for lovely family photo opps.
Getting it all ready:
Can you imagine all the work that goes into maintaining the 32 hectares? While we were visiting, gardeners were busy with general maintenance and pulling the first round of flowers to make room for the next wave of bulbs to fill in. Hyacinths must also be staked to keep the heavy blossoms from falling over during high winds.
The gardens may only be open for about 8 weeks in spring, but the work continues all year long. After the spring blossoms end and Keukenhof Gardens closes, all the bulbs are dug up and destroyed along with the grass. A team of 40 gardeners spend 3 months starting in mid-September planting 7 million flower bulbs. Then just before the season begins, new grass in sown providing a fresh green backdrop. Two grasses are planted, one type is planted around the walkways that can handle being trampled by visitors. While thin bladed grass is planted around the beds to help showcase the colorful flowers within.
What to do with kids at Keukenhof Gardens?
If your kids need a break from wandering amongst the flowers, let them run around the playground enjoying slides, climbing ropes, and a zipline. Afterwards head into the petting farm or get lost in the maze. There are also climbing logs near the Beatrix Pavilion, so a quick stop there will be a nice change of pace for the kids. A visit around the Miffy playground is also a must with fun wooden shoes and statues. As much as both kids raved about the flowers, they couldn’t stop begging for more time in the playground.
One of my kids favorite activities was jumping from disk to disk in the pond across from Wilhelmina Pavilion. Here they were able to “walk on water.” They would have stayed there for hours leaping back and forth if their bellies hadn’t been grumbling for lunch. Several restaurants are located throughout the garden, but the Mill has a nice spot for a picnic lunch.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize there was a treasure hunt available to guide children around the whole park. You can collect the treasure hunt from the information desk or the Juliana Pavilion free of charge. During the hunt, kids will learn about flowers and plants. Next time we visit we’ll let the kids lead us on a treasure hunt.
Located in Lisse, Netherlands you’re not too far from the Amsterdam airport and the city center. Getting from Amsterdam to Keukenhof can be accomplished in a few different ways. The drive from Amsterdam to Keukenhof tulip gardens takes about an hour. We took the Keukenhof Express, a bus transporting visitors to and from the gardens,from the Schiphol Airport with the ride taking approximately 30 minutes. Several local buses and the train can get you to Keukenhof as well. A combi ticket might be the best option to help save money, so make sure to plan ahead.
A Keukenhof ticket can be purchased at the garden or online. If you need Combi-tickets, purchase online before your visit.
Garden Ticket Prices:
Adults (incl. 65+) € 16
Children (aged 4 to 11) € 8
Children (aged 0 to 3) Free of charge
Parking cars € 6
A Keukenhof gardens map is available HERE. You can get an idea of the route you would like to explore the park before you leave the comfort of your home.
In 2017, Keukenhof Holland will be open from March 23 to May 21.
More Keukenhof Gardens Images:
The Keukenhof flower gardens are stunning. I’ve already told Derrick that we need to plan another trip next year. A visit to Keukenhof Tulip Gardens is the perfect activity for families. K and Lucy raved about the flowers (though I’m not sure K will admit it) and can’t wait to see more Holland tulips.
Disclosure: We received a complementary visit from Keukenhof Holland to help facilitate our review. As always, opinions are 100% my own and may differ from others.