Dutch flower fields and the Keukenhof gardens near Amsterdam attract more than a million visitors every spring and at least half of them were there last Saturday… Don’t make the same mistake we did! Find out all you need to know about visiting Keukenhof gardens and tulip fields in the Netherlands and get more out of your trip to Amsterdam in spring.
The best place to see colourful tulip fields in the Netherlands
The Netherlands are world-famous for their tulips and many people visit Holland in spring in order to see the endless colourful bulb fields. One of the best places to see tulip fields in the Netherlands is the area around Lisse, South of Amsterdam. One of the best-known flower gardens in the world – Keukenhof, aka the Gardens of Europe – is also located in the same area.
If you are only interested in seeing the tulip fields, you don’t necessarily have to go to Keukenhof gardens. On the other hand, the gardens are really worth a visit too. So if you have time, try to do both.
The area around Keukenhof is a good place to find colourful flower fields – tulip fields are everywhere in this area. We explored the small area between Keukenhof and Noordwijkerhout and saw plenty of tulip fields.
The best way to see the tulip fields around Lisse is probably by bike. You can either bring one yourself or rent one at the main entrance of Keukenhof. There are several route options – you can find one of them here. You can also explore the tulips fields in Lisse by car, just make sure to stay off the major roads, otherwise you won’t see much.
What is Keukenhof and what can you expect to see?
Keukenhof is a truly beautiful flower garden (32 hectares – 79 acres) with more than 7 million bulbs in bloom every spring.
Keukenhof is one of the largest flower gardens in the world with more than 800 different varieties of tulips and many other types of flowers blooming in the park every spring. Even the biggest sceptics will be impressed!
That being said, there are some things you should know before you head to Keukenhof gardens.
When is the best time to visit Keukenhof?
Keukenhof is only open in spring, from end-March to mid-May. It’s open daily, but – if possible – DO NOT VISIT KEUKENHOF ON THE WEEKENDS OR PUBLIC HOLIDAYS!
There are always plenty of flowers blooming in the park, but the very best period to visit Keukenhof is – generally – during the second half of April.
The best time to visit Keukenhof park is early in the morning on a weekday. If you want to have some pictures of the park without any people in them, make sure you arrive in Keukenhof at 8 AM and work fast. The areas around the pond and the windmill are the most beautiful, so pick one and head there first.
The last two weeks of April is also the best period to see tulip fields in the Netherlands as the flowers are usually cut off at the end of April. It has been really cold so far this year and not all tulips were blooming when we visited a few days ago, on the 23rd of April 2016. Nevertheless, we still got to see plenty of tulips and most bulb fields were nice and colourful.
We have been to Keukenhof several times, but this year was the very first time we visited on a Saturday. We expected it to be busy, but what we experienced was indescribable!
We knew we made a big mistake the moment we left the highway. We were stuck in traffic some 3-4 km from the park with tens of tour busses from Germany, France, Belgium and UK completely blocking the road. The last kilometres took us more than half an hour and we ended up parking at an alternative parking on the other side of the park in order to avoid the busy parking at the main entrance.
We arrived just before 10 AM and the park was already packed with people. It got even worse after noon and you could walk over peoples heads. There was not a single path in the whole park where you didn’t have to wait and queue… The restaurants were crowded and if you wanted to use the bathroom you had better planned it well in advance.
So whatever you do, avoid visiting Keukenhof on the weekends at all costs. It’s really no fun. You won’t see the ‘big picture’ of the park and it’s a pity because it’s really beautiful.
What can you do in Keukenhof?
Keukenhof is a park, but it has a lot of rules and regulations. Basically, you can walk around, look at the flowers and take pictures. You are not allowed to walk on the grass, although we didn’t know this and it looks like the other half a million of visitors were not aware of the rule either.
You cannot bring a bike or a kick scooter into the park and you can only picnic at one designated area, close to the windmill.
There is a treasure hunt for the children, a petting farm, a maze, and a playground. There are various exhibitions and flower arranging demonstrations in the five pavilions of the park as well. One of the main attractions of the park is the traditional Dutch windmill overlooking the tulip fields from where you can also take a boat trip through the beautiful flower bulb landscape.
Keukenhof is very tourist-oriented and you will find all kinds of typical Dutch ‘details’ in the park – like the traditional wooden clogs or this cow with Dutch cheese.
BUT – you will not be able to see and do much in the park if you are visiting on such a busy day like last Saturday. The queue at the windmill was immense, so was the queue at the ticket office selling the tickets for the boat trips. Luckily, we had bought the tickets for the park online and so at least we didn’t have to queue at the entrance. All the five pavilions with flower exhibitions were so crowded with people that you could hardly see any any flowers at all…
Dogs are allowed in the park, but you better leave your dog at home. We saw quite some people carrying their dogs in their arms. I assume they were worried that the dogs would get trampled by the crowd.
Is Keukenhof for you?
Keukenhof is a park that anyone will enjoy. However, the vast majority of visitors are retired people. We were joking that the average age of the visitors was probably around 65-70 years. You will not see many young people in the park and just a few families with children.
There are many Asian tourists and we even saw two Asian couples having their wedding pictures taken in the park. There are also lots of day tourists on a stopover in Amsterdam, some were even carrying their suitcases with them… I still don’t understand why they do it as there are lockers available at the park, but I wouldn’t be surprised that even the lockers got full on such a busy day…
If you like flowers, beautiful gardens and don’t mind the crowds, then yes, Keukenhof is for you. If you like flowers, but cannot stand the crowds, then you better skip Keukenhof and explore the beautiful tulip fields in the area.
How to get to Keukenhof?
You can either drive to Keukenhof by car or take a train and/or a bus (recommended). There are plenty of options available from Amsterdam, from the airport, and from the other towns – they make it really easy for the tourists to get there. You can find more information on the official website of Keukenhof gardens.
Alternatively, you can book an organised tour to visit Keukenhof and to see the flower fields. You can choose from half-day tours, day tours, private transfers, etc. Most trips are available from Amsterdam, but you can find a tour from The Hague as well. Check the best deals for Keukenhof and the flower fields tours here or see below.
How much does it cost to visit Keukenhof in 2017?
- The organised tours including a transfer and an entrance ticket start at around 38 EUR/pp.
- The entrance price to the park is 16 EUR for adults and 8 EUR for the children.
- Parking costs 6 EUR and the park guide – 5 EUR. Map is free.
- Renting a bike to explore the flower fields costs 10 EUR.
- A boat trip is an additional 8 EUR/ adult and 4 EUR/ child.
- The food is really expensive in the park. We didn’t see any of the restaurant menus (it was too busy to even try to get close to a restaurant), but a hot dog costs 4 EUR, a small bottle of water – 3 EUR, and an ice cream – 3,5 EUR. It quickly adds up.
TIP: bring a picnic.
Keukenhof is well worth seeing, just not on the weekends. Go early in the morning on a weekday during the last two weeks of April and you will love it!
Would I travel from the other side of the world to see Keukenhof gardens and the tulip fields in the Netherlands? I wouldn’t come to the Netherlands just for the flowers, but if you are planning a trip to Amsterdam anyway, spring is as good the time as any other.
I have created a short video of our visit to Keukenhof and the flower fields – enjoy!
If you have more time in the Netherlands, consider a day trip to the windmills of Kinderdijk and visit the Alkmaar cheese market. Make sure to read our post with 11 incredible day trips you should make from Amsterdam as well!
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