TWENTY ONE YEARS AGO – August 1999 an American girl who never left the country (well except for many trips to Montreal, Canada) left for a two-week trip to Europe with her Dutch boyfriend. As I only had 14 vacation days, we planned to spend a a week in the Netherlands and and then a week on Ibiza. When we arrived in the Netherlands, I was so excited to visit the Keukenhof Gardens and see the tulip fields but I was quickly informed that that was a seasonal thing and that I would have to wait and return another time. Disappointed we headed to the Zaanse Schans instead to be tourists – check out this photo! It’s been now 21 years that I’ve waited to visit – and now I finally visited and it was AMAZING! I’m convinced my experience now was better than it would have been had I been in the past – I’ll elaborate why below.
HOW WE VISITED THE GARDENS AS A TEST EVENT
Typically this time of year the Keukenhof would be open for eight weeks late March to early May and millions of tourists from around the world would be jamming the roads and walking around admiring the 7 millions flowers meticulously planted and maintained at the world-famous gardens. But with the corona pandemic it was forced to remain closed for the second year in a row.
FACT: Keukenhof is not the world’s largest garden – that is actually Dubai’s Miracle Garden which looks spectacular too.
However, the gardens have been allowed by the Dutch government to participate in a trial to test how locations could be safely opened during the corona pandemic. They are also doing trials at museums, theatres, parks and zoos. They are allowing 5,000 visitors a day to enjoy the flower park on a two weekends in April and how lucky was I that I was able to enjoy it this way!? Of course, all applicable corona measures such as the 1.5 metre distance rule apply in the park. The restaurants were closed but takeaway food & drink options were available.
When you see my photos, you’ll won’t see that many people which is one thing I LOVED about this experience. Friends even made comments about this how they had visited in the past and not a photo didn’t have tons of people in them. They limited the number of visitors to 5,000 in one day between 8 am and 7:30 pm. Previously, on normal days they can receive 50,000 in one day!
Also the main difference with normal opening days is that anyone who wants to visit Keukenhof during the trial days must have a negative corona test that is not older than 40 hours upon entering the park. The corona test is free of charge and must be taken at one of the 100 special corona test facilities. There is also a test site close to the entrance of Keukenhof. The one location which is in Noord Brabant, closest to my house, is is the middle of nowhere so without a car, it would require a long bike ride on Friday evening and that wasn’t in my ideal plans. I don’t mind the bike ride as that is my main method of transport but I chose to get mine done in Rotterdam’s Ahoy – which is the home of this year’s Eurovision Song Festival so it was set up perfectly.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH MY FIRST COVID TEST
I personally have not yet had to take a test. My kids both took one and I was there with them so witnessed first-hand that long swap and dreaded the thought of having it done to myself. But going to the Keukenhof was well-worth the test so I knew it was time for me to “put on my big girl pants” and just do it. Yet it wasn’t without some anxiety the days before. Looking back it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Would I like to do it again no, would I do it again just to visit the movies… no unless the new Top Gun was playing on the big screen. The worker was wonderful – the instructions were 100% in Dutch but easy to follow. And as it was a “sneltest” we had our results emailed to us before we even got back to my friends’ apartment. Both our results NEGATIVE – as expected! You then put your code into a special Corona Check app on your smartphone which you would be required to show before entry into the Keukenhoff. We were not allowed to take photos inside but I took a few photos of the waiting area, etc.
When you arrive at the park you have your QR code scanned proving your are negative and then you can scan your tickets, enter and enjoy!! We arrived for our slot which was between 10 am and 11 am. When we booked, the earlier slots were already sold out. So at 9:50 am, we parked right in front of the entrance and had to queue for about 1 minute. We wore out face masks in line but apart from that one time and then when you are in the toilets or inside the one open indoor exhibition area, you are free to remove them in the park. Tip: For furture visitor, if you want to beat the crowds you should know that Keukenhof is less busy before 10:30 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m. When we left just before 1 pm, the parking lot was very full and there was a line to get in.
Here is my first photo – I was finally inside, we set off to explore.
FUN FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY
Keukenhof is a great outing for the entire family. While didn’t take my two kids this year, there were tons of kids there. The garden has a petting zoo, has scavenger hunts, a maze, playgrounds for both small and big kids. There is a prominent presence of Nientje, the beloved bunny, created by the late Dick Bruna, is on display throughout Keukenhof. I think the kids would love walking over the stones and even taking their shoes off and walking in the water on the stepping stones and eating poffertjes!
VISIT THE NEARBY BULB FIELDS & AREA BEACHES
As you have read, I was a HUGE fan of the Keukenhof, but I’m also a huge fan of the nearby tulip fields. In the past years you could buy a ticket for a whisper boat tour through the fields
The entire region is called the Bollenstreek and you can read all about it on the following website – see maps, info on our & bike rentals, etc. Many people were out on rented bikes and electric scooters taking in the sites, standing in the fields and taking photos. Of course, we had to join one time for some photos. A bit windy but had to do it once. While I live in the Netherlands, going to the flower fields is not a common thing for me so why not do it.
Afterwards we drove over to the seaside specifically Langevelderslag in Noordwijk where one could spend hours walking in the dunes or playing on Longfield Beach. The area with the beach cafes and Natuurspeeltuin NederzandT, was only open for takeaway but was packed with people, like us, out enjoying the sunshine. We had brought some 0.0% beers which we fully enjoyed in the sunshine on a bench mostly out of the wind. Then a short drive by Noordwijk Beach to see what it was like. It is far more built up than Katwijk but a lovely area nonetheless. As I love the sea, I know I’d enjoy a holiday there. Again as it was VERY windy, we didn’t walk the beach. It’s also worth noting that the city of Leidin is also nearby, so you could combine a visit there the same day. I’d say you would stay at max of 4 hours at the Keukenhof and feel you’e had seen enough.
BRING HOME SOME FRESH FLOWERS
You can take home fresh flowers from one of the many local stands in the area. We stopped to adjust our navigation and coincidentally we saw a farmer selling freshly cut bunches of tulips out the back of his farm and at €1 a bunch, I bought 5 bunches! I always love having fresh flowers around my home especially tulips this time of year!
Last year 22 million people visited the garden virtually. So while I know most of you reading this would have liked to go see the 7 million flowers too, it’s worth mentioning they do a great job on their socials. So for those of you who want to see what Keukenhof looks like at the moment can see this via @keukenhof on Facebook and Instagram, and take virtual tours on YouTube or visit www.keukenhof.nl
WOULD I GO BACK?
Absolutely, but… ONLY if I had an out of town friend or family in visiting (during the right time of year) but I would not find myself returning each year. I was TOTALLY spoiled this year with the opportunity to attend this test day – limited people, amazing weather, an extremely patient companion who didn’t mind me stopping for over 300 photos of flowers from all different angles and was so kind enough to join me on this adventure! He even took some photos of me as I’m always the one behind the camera so photo credit is due to him. 🙂
Oh and of course, I bought a magnet!