The sky looks bluer, the sun shines brighter, and the world is greener. Het is Lente (it is Spring!), which only means one thing in the Netherlands, flower season! Here are a few ideas to help your family celebrate the blooming of the bulbs - tulips and more!
Like many things in the Netherlands, the bulb flower season's exact dates depend on the weather gods' moods. Still, as a general rule, it starts in mid-March with the crocus flowering, followed by narsissen (daffodils) and hyacinths. The star of the season, the tulip, flowers in all her abundant glory from about mid-April to mid-May.
Cycling for miles next to these fields of colour explosions has been on my bucket list since childhood when my dad gave me a box of Dutch cookies adorned with a picture of the tulip fields. As I now call Haarlem home, this has become the highlight of our family spring celebrations.
Mark 23 April in your calendar to enjoy the annual flower parade known as the Bloemencorso Bollenstreek. It is the most famous Dutch flower parade, and your best vantage point is on the Keukenhof Boulevard in Lisse in front of the main entrance of Keukenhof. The 2022 theme, incorporated into the designs, is 'Celebrating Memories.'
Areas and Routes
The three main areas of the Netherlands are the Bollenstreek in Noord Holland, Noordoostpolder in Flevoland, and (possibly less well known) the tulip fields along the beautiful coastline of Den Haag and Leiden up to Alkmaar. Typically, you can reach all the flower fields easily with public transport.
The aptly named Bollenstreek (bulb district) is the area of flower fields surrounded by the charming villages of Lisse, Hillegom, Noordwijkerhout, and Voorhout. Here, you will find one of the world's most extensive flower exhibitions, Keukenhof. The longest tulip route is in Noordoostpolder in Flevoland, with over 100 km snaking through 2500 acres of flower fields.
ANWB takes the guesswork out of planning your journey by suggesting both cycle and car routes, marked by numbers on the map. With Route.nl, you can find even more detailed cycle routes. Trails range from a breezy 5km to a huffier 35km, but as is the true beauty of cycling in the Netherlands, the road is flat and safe.
Places Worth a Visit
Keukenhof is the world's most extensive open-air flower exhibition and is only a 30-minute drive from Amsterdam. It is also easily reachable by train or by bus. With the promise of more than 7 million bulbs to bloom and 800 varieties of tulips alone, it is indeed something to behold. Children will have fun too. They can design their bulb mosaic, play sleuth during a speurtoch (treasure hunt), clamber across the playgrounds and cuddle furry animals at the petting zoo. Be warned that it can be hectic; the busiest times are over the weekend. So, aim for a midweek visit or arrive before 10:30 or after 16:30. It is open from 24 March to 15 May. You can only buy tickets online for a specific date.
This tulip paradise is about an hour's drive north of Amsterdam, between the colourful flower fields of North Holland. Here, you can learn more about how the tulip became a Dutch icon. Land van Fluwel will genuinely enchant your children with an avonturen speelparadijs (adventure playground), a verstoppertjesbos (hide and seek forest), a klimparcours (a climbing course), a sensory blote voetenpad (barefoot path), a strand (beach) and even a skelterbaan (go-karts track). An exciting new addition is the 11-meter high uitkijktoring ( lookout tower), where you can enjoy a panoramic view across the colourful fields. Land van Fluwel is also the collection point for the Bloemenbollenboemel. This is a unique experience riding on a tractor-pulled carriage through the flower bulb fields. It is wheelchair accessible.
Fancy taking some tulips home? Why not create unique hand-made bouquets from the tulips you hand-picked at Annemieke's Pluktuin (Picking Garden) near Hillegom? You can also rent a bicycle, and they will provide you with a map with different flower routes. In the Flevoland area, you can pop into Annemieke’s sister, Hanneke's Pluktuin.
Appreciating rows and rows of colourful flower fields can be thirsty work, especially on a bicycle. I have heard great things about Buitenplaats Plantage, an organic cafe with a lovely garden where the kids can run free while you soak up the sun. Just take note for the little ones that the ponds are not fenced.
This is a working tulip farm in Voorhout. You can enjoy a guided tour amongst the kleurrijk (colourful) flower fields, learning more about the process from bulb to tulip. Being amid these blooming fields also makes for great photo opportunities. And of course, you will be able to replenish with a hot beverage and appeltaart met slagroom (apple pie with cream) or indulge in a freshly made stroopwafel (syrup waffle). De Tulperij is the perfect place to buy bulbs to colourise your garden.
This 17th-century mansion is not strictly a place to appreciate tulips. However, it is certainly well worth a side trip while on a flower safari in the Bollenstreek. Guided tours inside the castle transport you back to the Golden Age era of the Netherlands. The Castle only opens its doors on a few selected days, such as Dag van het Kasteel (Day of the Castle) on 24 May and Open Monumentendag (Monument Day) on 11 and 12 September. Take a breather from all the cycling or hiking with a stroll through the magnificent gardens and forest. Let the kids cuddle a furry friend in the kinderboerderij (petting farm).
This local Lisse museum, translated as The Black Tulip Museum, is all about tulips. You can learn everything about the history of the bulb flower and how the Netherlands became one of the biggest exporters of tulips globally. All the art in the exhibition is tulip inspired, and they run both adult and children workshops throughout the year.
If you love being amongst the hustle and bustle of a trading floor, set your alarm early and visit this world-famous flower auction in Aalsmeer. Be awestruck by the sheer amount of flowers as you watch the exciting bidding from the gallery.
Alternative to Pedal Power: Car, Air, Water, and Foot
For the more adventurous with deeper pockets, enjoy a birdseye view of the rows and rows and then more rows of rainbow coloured fields of flowers by helicopter. This year, the flower-copter have a limited number of flights in April.
Once inside Keukenhof, you can opt for a 45-minute serene boat ride past the fields of flowers in an electrically-propelled boat known as fluitervaren (whisper boats).
Pack a backpack, lace up those boots and hike through the bulb flowers district following the Wandelnetwerk Bollenstreek (hiking network). It offers over a 100kms of hiking trails which are all marked en route. You can also pick up a map from any VVV offices in Lisse, Noordwijk, Warmond, Katwijk, and Leiden.
Veel plezier in de bloembollenvelden...have fun in the flower fields!
Magdalena Laas is a freelance visual and narrative storyteller. Born in South Africa, adopted by New Zealand, welcomed by the United Kingdom and now learning to cycle in the Netherlands with her husband, son and well-travelled cat. She loves to travel sustainably, with a camera in hand and a well-worn passport in her pocket, one she would very much like to dust off again! Find her on Instagram or LinkedIn.
Photo Credits: All in-text images and banner supplied and copyrighted by Magdalena Laas Photography.