Located in Lisse, the tulip capital of the Netherlands, is Keukenhof – the most beautiful spring garden in the world. 79 acres of gardens filled with 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Keukenhof (translation kitchen garden) is the loveliest place to get lost amongst the flowers. There are 800 different varieties of tulips to appreciate, pavilions filled with orchids, special floristry exhibitions, and bouquet arrangement classes. There are special activities for children, including a hedge maze, animal petting zoo, and a treasure hunt. Keukenhof is like Disneyland for flower lovers!
Despite torrential rain in the morning, we were blessed with an afternoon of sunshine. Beds of flowers as far as the eye could see, colourful stripes of tulips, cherry blossoms in bloom, windmills, giant clogs, and every Dutch stereotype you can possibly imagine. I am not sure what special magic tricks they are using at Keukenhof to make all of the flowers bloom in unison, but it’s an absolute colour explosion! Tulips are perennials and usually only bloom for 3 – 7 days, but there was not a wilted tulip in sight. Maybe there are flower fairies who magically maintain everything at night.
Tulips have played an interesting role in Dutch history. The Netherlands are the world’s main commercial producer of tulips, with over 3 billion bulbs being sold and exported every year. I had assumed that tulips were native to the Netherlands since they have become such a synonymous symbol of the country, but tulips were actually not introduced in Europe until the 16th Century when they made their way from Turkey (the tulip is the national flower of Turkey). Tulips rose to fame in the Ottoman Empire and were developed for the pleasure of the Sultan and his entourage.
Tulipmania or tulip fever are terms used to describe the economic frenzy that saw the price of tulip bulbs soar almost overnight during the Dutch Golden Age (17th Century). Tulips were in demand, particularly as a status symbol of prestige and luxury. During the short-lived Tulipmania, some people made, and subsequently lost, a lot of money. Tulips were so expensive that a single bulb would fetch a price high enough to purchase a house in central Amsterdam. Before long, the economic bubble burst and the prices crashed when the plague devastated much of Europe.
Towards the end of World War II, tulips also became a source of food for those trying to survive the famine.
The Bollenstreek Bloemencorso (Bulb District Flower Parade) is held at the end of April every year. 20 floats and 30 cars, all ornately decorated with spectacular displays made of more than a million hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils drive in a motorcade along a 42 kilometre route from the seaside town of Noordwijk to the city of Haarlem, making a slow procession past Keukenhof enroute. Think Rio Carnivále, but for flower lovers!
Open: Late March to mid May, check the website for exact dates as they do fluctuate slightly each year
Best time to visit: before 10am and after 4pm
For more, why not check out April in The Netherlands