Keukenhof Gardens – After Over 20 Years Waiting – I finally visited!

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!

VISIT VIRTUALLY

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!

TULIPS, TULIPS, TULIPS

Everyone knows, the Netherlands is famous for the amazing array of tulips, how the bulbs are sold to the tourists in bulk, how they are beautifully displayed for sale in markets, in vases in homes and of course there is the world-famous Keukenhof.

I personally LOVE the Spring – when the grey days are less and less.  The flowers are in full bloom, sun is shining.  Last year were were sooo lucky, we had amazing weather and loads of sunshine.  I’m hoping this year is a repeat.  I welcome sunny, dry days in March & April – bonus if they are warm!    Back to the tulips – being they are my favorite flowers (used the be gerber daisies) but I’ve moved on.  So I’m very much looking forward to getting through Winter and into tulip season.  The tulip season is late March to May with Mid-April being the peak, and lucky us, the kids have two weeks off.

HISTORY OF TULIPS IN THE NETHERLANDS

Originally cultivated in the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey), tulips were imported into Holland in the sixteenth century. When Carolus Clusius wrote the first major book on tulips in 1592, they became so popular that his garden was raided and bulbs stolen on a regular basis. As the Dutch Golden Age grew, so did this curvaceous and colorful flower flower. They became popular in paintings and festivals. In the mid-seventeenth century, tulips were so popular that they created the first economic bubble, known as “Tulip Mania” (tulipomania). As people bought up bulbs they became so expensive that they were used as money until the market in them crashed.   In so-called Dutch famine of the Hunger Winter during the last year of the WWII, the food shortage was so severe that some Dutch people were forced to eat food that they normally did not consider edible including tulip bulbs.  

NATIONAL TULIP DAY – January 19, 2019

 

Every year, on the third Saturday of January, the start of the tulip season is celebrated officially with National Tulip Day in Dam Square, Amsterdam.   But you still won’t find tulips in the fields in January – these ones are grown in glasshouses.  The event is organised by Dutch tulip growers who build a special tulip picking garden on Dam Square.  Anyone can come to pick 20 free tulips here too between 1-4:30 pm but be prepared to wait in LONG lines and come 1 pm it’s every man for himself! Set up starts at 8 am, so you watch outside the gates the displays being set up.  Personally, I’d love to go but when I shared the idea with my family – all shook their head and didn’t want to go.  Clearly, they don’t share the same love for tulips.

TULP FESTIVAL AMSTERDAM – April 1 – 30th, 2019

31317744_791190681066782_1130572526317993984_o

The beautiful flower fields of Lisse are not the only place where you’ll see beautiful tulips – during the month of April, you’ll see beautiful flowering tulips at more than 85 locations throughout the city of Amsterdam.   You can buy a €2 Information Guide (Dutch and English) which details all tulip locations and gives the names of every variety of tulip on display and includes a detailed map.   Again, something which sounds great for me – wonder if I can talk the kids into this one or is it another solo tulip adventure? 🙂   Perhaps if I combine it with a trip to the NEMO or another cool thing in Amsterdam they’ll go for it.   That is actually a photo from the top of the NEMO.

VISIT THE BOLLENSTREEK – ‘THE BULB’ REGION BY BIKE

31706387_10156004776831636_8141873171205718016_o

When the fields are in bloom, the best place to go and enjoy the tulips is in the Bollenstreek – the area between Leiden, The Hague and Haarlem which include:

  • Lisse
  • Noordwijk [beach]
  • Katwijk [beach]
  • Noordwijkerhout
  • Sassenheim
  • Hillegom
  • Voorhout
  • De Zilk
  • Rijnsburg
  • Warmond

You can take a train and view them that way but why not rent bikes.   Rent-A-Bike Van Dam provides various types of bikes (and guides if required) and a free route map of the dune and flower bulb region included which is based on length.  It looks fab – now that I look closer at this – I do think the kids would love to do this with me on a warm, dry day.  You could even visit a tulip farm where you can get a tour, etc.   This website here gives you some of the names of those farms – as there are differences – ones which grow flowers for the world markets and those who grow bulbs,  etc.

Fietsroutes_keukenhof.jpg

DUTCH FLOWER PARADE – SUNDAY, APRIL 13, 2019

bloemencorso-bollenstreek-2018

 

In 2019 the Dutch Flower Parade will be held on Saturday April 13th.  It’s the most famous flower parade in Holland.   More than a million visitors from all over the world will come see this flower parade that will ride from the seaside resort of Noordwijk on Saturday 13 April 2019 via the flower fields near Lisse to the historic city of Haarlem. The route is in total more than 42 kilometers long. Along the route several viewing locations have been created where extra entertainment and explanation about the corso floats will be given.   Download the route map here.

Flower Parades in August and September

Many flower parades are held in Holland in August and September. Summer Flower Parades use different flowers than the Keukenhof Flower Parade. Primarily Dahlias are used to build up the gigantic flower floats.

August

ONLINE TOOL TO FIND THE MOST BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS 

With bloemenradar.nl and flowerradar.com you can see  exactly where you need to be to find the most beautiful flowers.  In the spring the beautiful Hyacinths, – narcissus, and tulip fields are in bloom. Every day, during the season, the then flowering bulb fields are followed to help tourists determine their cycling and walking routes.  Obviously, some of you are not going to get to the Netherlands to witness this these beautiful fields but perhaps you want to see them yourselves online?

KEUKENHOF

 

Important to know that it is ONLY open from March 21st to May 19!!

Well, I say best for last because it’s a purposely built huge flower park with 800 different types of tulips but even more impressive is that in the fall they plant 7 MILLION TULIPS!  And to me it looks wonderful.  BUT…. it gets SUPER crowded and it is filled with tourists (average age 65-75) so for some might it hell.  I know my husband would absolutely find it a NIGHTMARE of a place to visit.  I’ll of course, offer him to join me, but I know how he is with crowds especially busses and busses of tiny tourists all over the place – I personally think he’d suggest I go alone than visit with him.    Maybe he’ll go with the kids to the playground area – as there are some treasure hunts and nice spaces for kids!

Important to know that it is ONLY open from March 21st to May 19!! 

Every year the flower park is dedicated to a specific theme. The inspiration gardens, events and artworks are adjusted accordingly. The theme for 2019 is Flower Power. The flower park will open for the 70th time, so 2019 is the year to go back to the 1970s and to experience the power of flowers.

_media_filer_public_thumbnails_filer_public_44_6d_446dfded-c7b1-46ca-a9e3-fc517a92c258_181004llt8905.jpg__1200x1200_q85

Events at Keukenhof Gardens

Every day of opening the gardens will look amazing. On some days there are special events being held for your to enjoy. All events are free (you only pay for your Keukenhof ticket). You will find the events for 2019 below. Sign up for our free newsletter to stay informed.

Here is a video from the official website – as you’ll see it looks beautiful.    So while I cannot give any tips as I’ve yet to go, I think a few are common sense ones.

  • Don’t go on a bank holiday or weekend if you don’t want to be with all the crowds.
  • Go early – be one of the firsts to get it.  Opens daily at 8 am!  It is less busy before 11:00 and after 15:00. The light of the morning and evening sun allows you to take wonderful photographs. It is also less busy on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday than on the other days of the week.
  • When you get inside, walk away from the crowds to the back if you want to get photos without other people in them.
  • Buy your entry tickets online [€18. adults, €8. kids 4-11] and show the ticket on your phone to gain entry (or print if you really must)
  • There is large parking area nearby for €6.00 all day which you prepay with your entry ticket, or you can take the train, bus, etc.  Depending on where you come from and what you want.
  • You can bring your own lunch.   There are lockers which you put in €2 coin – store in there so you don’t have to carry around the park.  There’s a picnic meadow and various benches throughout the park where you can sit down to eat.  Taking your own food into the restaurants is of course prohibited. There are restaurants like poffertjes, Italian and an Asian restaurant and across the park you will also encounter a number of mobile food outlets that offer, for example, strawberries, herring or hotdogs.  I suspect they are packed!!
  • There is an hour-long, electric boat trip (leaves from the Windmill) for €8. and goes through the tulip fields.

Whether it be with the kids, friends or alone – I’m very much looking forward to going this year.   I’ll be sure to post tons of my photos for sure!

Now I know not many people will come to the Netherlands just to admire the tulips, but if you are here (DURING THE RIGHT PERIOD), at least there are these options & more to see the beautiful flowers

So now, family & friends – guest bedroom is waiting if you want to join me in tulip field visiting adventures! 🙂