The Keukenhof in Lisse, the Netherlands
As a true Dutchie I grew up between the bright colored tulip fields. Seeing these fields along the roads every April/May is a very common thing to us. But to all foreigners in our country it isn't. Every year it's a parade of tourists that stop next to the road (at something dangerous places) to take a picture or just stare at it. Crazy stuff! What is it that people like about it? Why is it so special to them? To find answers to these questions I spend a day in the Keukenhof, the centre of the floral madness.
Keukenhof is the international and independent show of Dutch floriculture, with an extreme focus on bulb flowers. In eight weeks time the Keukenhof shows what the Dutch floriculture has to offer. In the park the emphasis is on the 7 million spring flowering bulbs, with 100 exhibitors showing their live catalog. And in more than 20 flower shows, 500 flower growers present cut flowers and pot plants in all their variety.
It's the biggest tourist attraction of the Netherlands. With 800.000 visitors a year and only 8 weeks of visiting, you can imagine how busy it can be. Large touringcar buses come and go from all major cities in the Netherlands. I paid a visit on the busiest moment of the week: Sunday between 11:00 and 14:00, don't ask me why.
It was a drizzly day and I hoped that it would keep people away, but of course it didn't. I feared long queues at the entrance and even longer at toilets or coffee corners. But I have to say that all was taken care of. The Keukenhof is pretty used to large crowds so I didn't stand in line at all! Although the paths through the park are a bit small so no chance you can walk faster than the grandma before you. Yes. grandma, cause I saw a lot of grey-headed people walking by ;-) And also, considering all the umbrella's pinning my neck, my guess is that more than 50% of the visitors is Asian. But that is just a guess of course.
Regardless of my minor interest in tulips and the above mentioned group of visitors, I had a great time at the Keukenhof! Don't get me wrong, I still don't get it why people pay to see flowers, but I do get that people are attracted to it. The tulips at the Keukenhof are absolutely not the same as the ones I grew up with. They're bigger, brighter, more intens and unique in many ways. So if you're not used to it, it might tickle your senses.
The fun part for me were the little themed gardens, like Cupids Garden, Holiday Romance Garden, Hipster Garden and small Dutch settings with boats and bridges. It was impossible to get a nice picture of it without any other tourist in it, but that challenge only was great fun already.
Things you must have seen at the Keukenhof when you're not Dutch:
The big windmill, which was relocated from the North of the Netherlands to the Keukenhof. You can get in and check it out yourself.
Another great place you must go are the stepping stones in the lake. Don't go when there is traffic jam of insta-models and their insta-husbands, but it's a fun thing to do!
Last thing you have to check out is the Tulpomania. You'll find it at the Juliana Pavilion. The story of the tulip is impressive. Bulbs worth gold, theft and a mountain dweller who feels at home in the Dutch climate. But there is also the story of the mysterious black tulip and celebrities who got their own tulip.
My Keukenhof advice to you
Are you Dutch? Don't go unless you really love flowers. I know it sounds harsh, but yeah... I really didn't feel like I missed something like this for all my life. I never even had a picture taken of myself in the flower fields... Yes, now I did, but still. I'm not thrilled about this super touristic spot.
You're not Dutch? Drive around the Keukenhof area: Lisse & Hillegom. Or even better: go to the NoordOostPolder, where they organise the Tulipfestival. You just follow a route by car through this area and it brings you to all major tulip fields out there. For free! And you even get lots of chances to take a picture of yourself in the middle of a field WITHOUT anyone else. That's all you wanted right?
From one traveler to another: put on your boots and go for that last option ;-)