Each year I count down the days until the Keukenhof Gardens open, just like a small child would count the days until Christmas. And each year I get super excited for my annual trip to this second to none tulip garden in the Netherlands. If there’s one attraction in the world that I want to visit over and over again, this is for sure Keukenhof.
- 1 Reasons TO VISIT Keukenhof Gardens
- 2 Reasons NOT TO VISIT Keukenhof
- 3 Practicalities about your visit to Keukenhof Gardens
- 4 What to do in Keukenhof
Reasons TO VISIT Keukenhof Gardens
Here is why I keep visiting this place year after year:
Keukenhof is always different
Whether you will visit Keukenhof at the end of March, in April or in May, Keukenhof will be always different. Some of the tulips are blooming early in the season, some later. So, whenever you go, there will be different flowers in bloom. Is there a best time to visit Keukehof, then? My favourite time is when the trees are in blossom – somewhere in late April, but if it is an unusually warm spring it might happen that in early May most of the flowers are gone.There isn’t a best time to visit Keukenhof. Each stage of spring is beautiful on its own.Click To Tweet
The variety of tulips is amazing
I still remember my first time visiting Keukenhof. I looked as if I’ve been unleashed and I was unstoppable. I think I took at least 3 close-ups of each sort tulip, crocus or daffodil, plus a zillion pictures of the gardens. With the years I calmed down and now I can walk around in Keukenhof enjoying this amazing park for more than 60% of the time through my eyes rather than through the lenses of my camera. I stop to read the names of the tulips (all showcased flowers have a plate with the name of the tulip and the supplier), and I like to think about what might have inspired the tulip growers when naming them. I’ve seen a Pushkin tulip, a Danceline and a Caravaggio…
Rose, orange, purple, white or near-black, single, double or lily-flowered, fringed or parrot, you will find them all in Keukenhof. If you want to learn more about the various sorts of tulips, the history of the tulips, I would also recommend visiting the Tulip Museum in Amsterdam. Their website is also very educative.
Keukenhof has each year a new theme
Each year the park features a different theme and all exhibitions and activities revolve around it. There is a centerpiece – huge mosaic made of tens of thousands bulb flowers, depicting the theme. In 2017 the theme was Dutch Design, in 2016 – The Golden Age, in 2015 – Van Gogh, in 2014 – Holland, in 2013 – UK, in 2012 – Poland, in 2011 – Germany, and in 2010 – Russia.
In 2018 the theme of Keukenhof will be Romance in flowers.Click To Tweet I can’t wait to see this year’s creations!
Keukenhof is not only about the tulips
When you mention the name Keukenhof everybody makes the association – oh, the famous tulip gardens in the Netherlands, but Keukenhof is not only tulips. It’s a showcase of the Dutch bulb growers and there are other bulb flowers featured in the gardens: daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, lilies-of-the-valley, bluebells, snowdrops, irises. Did I miss naming something? Beside the park gardens, in the 3 of the 6 pavilions (Beatrix Pavilion, Oranje Nassau Pavilion and Willem-Alexander Pavilion) there will be different flower shows – orchids, gerbera daisies, callas, amaryllises, and many more, and of course as it is the year of Romance there will be an amazing rose show.
Keukenhof is also not only about flowers. Each year there are showcased some awesome art installations. Every time I am amazed how seamlessly they blend with the flowers!
Keukenhof is an ode to the Dutch historical heritage
Tulips originate from Asia and became popular in the Ottoman Empire (today’s Turkey) in the 16th century. The same century the tulip was also introduced in Europe and became a total hit. Things got really out of control in the beginning of the 17th century (the so-called Dutch Golden Age) when the prices of the precious bulbs skyrocketed after the introduction of a speculative futures market. A single bulb would cost more than a house! After the enormous peak in 1636 the market collapsed at once somewhere in February 1637 and overnight many people lost everything. (Just a subtle side note here – funny how history repeats itself, isn’t it?) This period of the Dutch history is known as Tulip Mania. Visit the exhibition in Juliana Pavilion to learn all about it.
Reasons NOT TO VISIT Keukenhof
Wait, why do I, despite being an advocate of visiting less touristy places, am recommending you and telling you that Keukenhof is worth the visit? Isn’t it just another tourist trap, with more than a million tourists visiting the gardens in 50 days, which makes like 20,000 visitors per day on the average. Do you want to be with some other 20,000 people at the same time on an area of 32 ha?
Well, there is only reason I can think of not to visit Keukenhof, and it is as simple at this:
If you DO NOT love flowers, better DO NOT visit Keukenhof, you would hate it!
Practicalities about your visit to Keukenhof Gardens
Are you already inspired to visit one of the most spectacular gardens in the world? Here are some tips to make your visit more enjoyable.
DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an activity via one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost for you. This is helping me to maintain the blog and pay for things like the hosting. Thank you for contributing to the existence of this blog! This is not a sponsored post. I pay my tickets each time I visit Keukenhof.
When not to visit Keukenhof?
Everybody is asking the question when is the best time to visit Keukenhof, but I will tell you when you should not visit it. When planning your visit to Keukenhof avoid at any cost the national holidays or the weekends. The best time is to go on a weekday. Try to be there early in the morning when the park opens, you will skip the crowds and as a bonus you will have the morning light which is great for taking pictures.
In 2018 do not go to Keukenhof on the dates below (some of them are public holidays). Most of the Dutch are free then and if it happens to be a sunny day there will be traffic jams and the park will be overcrowded:
- 30 March (Friday) – Good Friday
- 01 April (Sunday) – Easter Day
- 02 April (Monday) – 2nd Day of Easter
- 27 April (Friday) – King’s Day – Not many Dutch will be visiting Keukenhof on this day as they will be dressed in orange celebrating the King’s birthday but travelling by public transport on this day can be a nightmare.
- 10 May (Thursday) – Ascension Day – this is an official holiday in the Netherlands. Most of the companies are closing also on the 11th, so a lot of people are taking day trips to Keukenhof.
How to get to Keukenhof?
Keukenhof Gardens are located near Lisse, a small town in the Dutch province of South Holland. This region is also called Dune and Bulb Region (Duin- en Bollenstreek in Dutch). It’s very easy to get to Keukenhof either by public transport or by car. If you have a layover at Schiphol, there’s an express bus that will take you to Keukenhof and back. If you have luggage, there are also lockers at Keukenhof where you can leave it. Alternatively, you can book a tour where the entrance ticket is included in the price together with the transfer. There are also different combination tickets for transportation and entrance to the park. Detailed information about the combi tickets can be found on the official website of Keukenhof. My advice would be to use public transport, especially if you are visiting at the weekend, in order to avoid the traffic jams.
Are the tulip fields the same as Keukenhof?
No. The experience is totally different. Not that the fields aren’t beautiful or not worth seeing, but they are just simple coloured blocks of one and the same type of tulip all the way (reminding of Mondrian paintings), compared to Keukenhof where the tulips and other spring bulb flowers are arranged in gardens and designs, mixed to perfections, creating intricate forms and patterns. And all this beautifully landscaped with water features, rocks, trees, and small hills. There’re combined tours for Keukenhof and the fields, or you can rent a bike at Keukenhof and make the tour yourself.
Shall I buy bulbs at Keukenhof?
Nope. At least don’t buy spring flower bulbs as they won’t blossom. Spring flower bulbs are harvested in the summer and need to be planted in the autumn. So, if you buy tulip bulbs at Keukenhof (I know, it makes a great souvenir, but still…), it means they have been harvested the summer before and you will have to wait until October/November to plant them, so the chance is that by that time the bulbs will be already dead. However, you can order spring flower bulbs with some of the bulb growers in the neighbourhood and they will ship them to you in the autumn. If you come from a country where you don’t have four seasons, do not buy tulip bulbs. The bulbs need a winter and temperatures below 0°C (32°F). To learn everything about the tulips and the bulbs, you can sign up for a tour to a bulb farm.
How much time do I need in Keukenhof?
This is a tough one – it depends on how many pictures you will be taking and how many times you will be stopping at each tulip sort to enjoy it. The park is quite large (32 ha), so you should plan at least half a day for visiting Keukenhof. The best is to stay a whole day – thus you won’t rush and you will be able to see the exhibitions in the pavilions as well. For sure you won’t be bored in Keukenhof! If you have seen all of it, you can also take a boat tour through the fields near Keukenhof, which departs at the windmill in the park.
Why I don’t see the tulips from the old paintings in Keukenhof?
On most of the paintings of the Old Dutch Masters there are those beautiful tulips with intricate patterns and mixture of two or more colours. Well, these are the Rembrandt sort of tulips and they are actually infected with a virus that causes the solid colour to break and create those unusual effects. Most of those tulip sorts have already disappeared as after being infected with the virus they eventually die afterwards. Nowadays, there are broken tulips look-alikes that are actually due to hybridization rather than to the broken virus. If you want to learn more about the tulip breaking virus, you can read this article.
What to do in Keukenhof
Uhm, Keukenhof is a garden, or not? So, all you do in a garden is just walk around? Not only…
Here’s what you can do in Keukenhof beside walking:
Professional photographer or just an amateur, Keukenhof is perfect for taking great pictures, especially for macro photography. Think of all the colours and forms, and the bees that love the tulip petals!
If you are newly weds, you can also choose to take your wedding pictures there. At least a lot of Asians do this.
Take a boat trip
At Keukenhof you can also make a boat trip through the fields with one of the so-called ‘whisper’ boats – you will see the tulip fields from a different angle – as if you are moving through a forest of tulips. The ‘whisper’ boats depart at the windmill in the park.
Walk in the fields around Keukenhof
After you’ve learned that the tulip fields are different form the Keukenhof gardens, you can also take a walk in the fields. As they are accessible via the parking of Keukenhof, you’d better do this after your visit in the garden, as the tickets do not support multi entrance.
Rent a bike
At Keukenhof you can rent a bike and explore the surrounding areas with the tulip fields and even go to the sea and the dunes! You will get also a map with various biking routes – from 1 up to 25 km.
Learn to make flower arrangements
During the flower shows in the pavilions you can take part in workshops to learn to make beautiful flower arrangements.
Activities voor kids
If you are visiting Keukenhof with kids, they won’t be bored either. There’s a lovely small animal farm, where they can pet animals. They can do a treasure hunt in the park or venture into the maze. The maze is fun though not only for kids!
Are you staying longer in the Netherlands and are running out of ideas which places to visit beside Amsterdam? Perhaps you can consider The Biesbosch? It is a lovely natural reserve at the wetlands in North Brabant. If you love cities, then I will recommend you Den Bosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch), or if you are into small charming places, then you should not miss Heusden.
Do you want to receive in your mailbox more tips about the Netherlands: what to visit, where to stay, subscribe to my newsletter! No spam, I promise. I hate it as much as you do.
Have you been to Keukenhof? Or shall I ask how many times have you been to the gardens? Have you visited Keukenhof more than once or do you have other tips, help the readers by leaving a comment below!