Keukenhof is known as the most beautiful spring garden in the world. Located in the Netherlands’ tulip capital of Lisse, there are 79 acres of gardens and 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. My boyfriend is from a small village outside of Amsterdam, so we travel to Holland quite often. When planning our last trip, I scheduled our visit in April to see the tulips in their prime. Growing up, I spent countless hours with my grandmother in her garden where she taught me the names of all her flowers and I never lost that interest, I absolutely love flowers and being surrounded by their colour and beauty.
Going to Keukenhof (the literal translation is “kitchen garden”) is a lovely place to get lost amongst the flowers. There are 800 different varieties of tulips to appreciate, as well as pavilions filled with orchid displays, fashion featuring real flowers, special floristry art exhibitions, and bouquet arrangement classes. There are also special activities for children, such as a hedge maze, animal petting zoo, and a treasure hunt. I guess you could say that 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 in the fields, 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? It is an absolute colour explosion! Tulips are perennials and they usually only bloom for 3 – 7 days, but there was hardly a single flower out of place. I did not see one wilted tulip anywhere, it’s almost as if special flower fairies are on hand to magically maintain everything.
Tulips have played an interesting role in Dutch history over the years. 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 became infamous during 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 denoting 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 a nice area in central Amsterdam! Before long, the economic bubble burst and the prices all came crashing down when the Bubonic plague devastated much of Europe.
Did you know, tulips also saved lives? Towards the end of World War II, tulips 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!
Keukenhof opens from approximately late March to mid May, check the website for exact dates as they do fluctuate slightly each year.