We visited Amsterdam in July 2015, and again in July 2017, but had not ventured out to this area. We spent most of the day at Keukenhof, a showcase for the Dutch tulip industry. The Keukenhof of today is established on the former grounds of the Keukenhof castle (1641). In its day, the grounds of the castle were used to furnish herbs for the castle’s garden; Keukenhof means Kitchen Garden. The castle and its grounds encompass almost 500 acres, but it’s not what you might have thought-it is not acre after acre of row planted tulips. Those exist in nearby fields not part of Keukenhof and they are what you first see when coming into the area, but as impressive as they are, they pale in comparison to the displays at Keukenhof.
We left Amsterdam in the morning, taking a bus from near the Rijksmuseum to Schiphol airport, about 30 minutes. Once at Schiphol, we would need to change to another bus to complete the final leg of the journey (about 35 minutes). Door to door, with the wait times, it likely took two hours to get there. Before discussing the visit to Keuchenhoff, it’s helpful to understand the scale of Keukenhof.
Keukenhof first opened in 1949 and its intent was to display the finest in tulips. Growers from Holland and all over Europe come together in Keukenhof to show off their hybrids. Netherlands is the world’s largest exporter of flowers. The gardens are only open eight weeks of the year , from latter March to mid May. This year, the long winter pushed back nature a bit so we were concerned we might be early into the blooming season. We were not!
The scale of the number of visitors has grown from 236,00 in 1950 to 1.4 million in 2017 and only 20% of those are Dutch (I noticed a number of Russian, Indian and East Asians among the visitors). That’s an average of 25,000 visitors a day. When we arrived at Schiphol airport to transfer to the bus to Keukenhof, we noticed a large line of people lined up against the outside of the terminal. That was the line we had to join. But the organization of the crowds has to be excellent to keep them coming. There’s a bus coming to load passengers 18 times per hour (about every three minutes). As massive as the line appeared (and it was massive), it moved relatively quickly (45 minutes).
The buses travel an additional 35 minutes to get to the small city where Keukenhof is located. As you get closer, you begin to see entire fields planted in tulips like you’d see if planted in corn or soybeans. Acre upon acre of red, pink, white, blue. Tulips are big business in Holland. The world’s largest trading center for plants and flowers is not far away and may be where some of those field grown tulips are destined. And it’s likely that tulips you find at a local florist or in a local store came from this region.
The parking lots near the gardens seemed completely full and tour busses and shuttles like ours came in with more visitors, some of whom must have just arrived at Schiphol because they were carrying their suitcases. We later found there were lockers in the visitors’ center just for that purpose. The next day we found the parking was actually full and incoming traffic was re-routed away.
Even knowing that Keukenhof was wildly popular, I was really surprised at the number of people already in the gardens. Being a weekend and peak blooming time, it could well have been more than the average number of visitors (it sure felt like it).
The tulips and other flowers are not planted in big massive fields, but in well designed , but impressive, flower beds, with small signs indicating the grower/distributor for each. There are wooded areas and a large lake (with stepping stones across part of it). You’ve no idea of the number of different varieties that are on display and in some areas, the density of the tulips perfumes the air.
These photos are in no particular order and I certainly cannot share all the photos I took (over 200). It’s fair to say that in the approximately five hours we were there, we saw about half the exhibits.
Many of these photos were shot in extra high quality format and may take time to load.