One of the things that I was most looking forward to when studying abroad in the Netherlands, was enjoying the spring tulips in Amsterdam. The world-famous indication of spring in the Netherlands is when tulips start to emerge from their earthy caves into blooms of every color in the rainbow. When I first arrived in the Netherlands, Bloemenmarkt, the flower market in Amsterdam, mostly consisted of flower bulbs instead of cut flowers. As spring approached, the markets started to overflow with tightly closed tulips with a slight tinge of their beautiful color just evident on the backs of their petals. (Tulips are sold just before their petals open because then they will stay alive longer!) After soaking in the flowers in the city, I was eager to visit the Netherlands’ most famous tulip attraction, Keukenhof. Keukenhof dates back to the 15th century. The land was originally owned by Countess Jacoba van Bieren and Teylingen Castle once stood there. Jacoba van Bieren used to collect fruits and vegetables there so Keukenhof translates to kitchen garden in Dutch! The castle and gardens were redesigned by the architects who designed Vondelpark in 1857. In 1949, exporters and flower bulb growers thought it would be a good idea to use the space as an exhibition garden for the bulbs they were trying to sell. In their first year, they had 236,000 visitors! (All of this information is from https://keukenhof.nl/en/about-keukenhof/ if you would like to learn more). Keukenhof is now a huge tourist destination and continues to welcome thousands of visitors every spring.
I visited Keukenhof twice this month. My first impression of Keukenhof was that the gardens were beautifully curated in winding shapes over the grass and had gorgeous hyacinths, daffodils, and a variety of other flowers in addition to tulips. I appreciated the free maps that laid out the garden and it was very helpful when navigating. We got to go up to the top of a windmill and look over the gorgeous hyacinth fields. The second time I went to Keukenhof, I went on the Whisperboat tour with my boyfriend and I really enjoyed an up-close experience of the fields through the small canals and learned more about the fields and the history of Keukenhof.
However, overall I was underwhelmed as I was expecting more of the flower fields and less of a botanical garden before visiting Keukenhof. This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a worthwhile experience, it was just very crowded and we did not get to visit any fields.
My friend and I were determined to visit the flower fields that we keep seeing on Instagram and we set off on an adventure to see the flowers in their natural state. We took 2 trains to get to the fields. I took the train from Amsterdam Sloterdijk to Heemstede-Aerdenhout and then to Hillegom. We got off the train at Hillegom and followed the route that my friend found online:
Dutch Flower Route
This route was absolutely unbelievable! As we biked through the Dutch countryside, I was overwhelmed by the beautiful fields that rolled out in waves of color around us. We biked (and of course took lots of photos!) for over two hours which amounted to over 16 miles of biking! Some of the fields had signs asking people not to go in, but others allowed visitors. The fields were interspersed with farmers selling bulbs, an occasional restaurant, and we even passed a house that had cut your own tulips!
We passed fields of white, pink, blue, and purple hyacinths, yellow and white daffodils, and many tulip fields in shades of pink, red, combined yellow and orange (my personal favorite!), and many more. In one of the fields we visited, the red tulips were bigger than my hand! We actually ended up biking past Keukenhof and the Tulip Barn which seemed like a great combination of gardens and fields!
If you are not up for the full route, (we ended up taking a detour to cut off a few miles), I would suggest renting a bike from Keukenhof and biking around fields close to the gardens!
Hope you enjoy the spring tulips and get to experience this Dutch symbol of spring in real life!
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Hi! My name is Rachel Alliker and I am a Junior Psychology major and Spanish and Honors Forum double minor at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY! I am from Greenwich, CT and I’m excited to be studying abroad in Amsterdam with IES (Spring 2023). At Skidmore, I am one of the head tour guides, a Writing Center tutor, a sustainability office volunteer. I’m also a part of the Positive Psychology Lab and Co-Vice President of the Honors Forum. Outside of academics, I love to bake, read, spend time with my friends and my dogs.