March is around the corner! Which means – Spring is inching ever closer in Europe and Europeans are getting ready for warmer weather and sunshine. This is the absolute best time to travel to this part of the world and especially to the Netherlands. The Dutch are the kings and queens of celebrating a new season and they welcome spring with a variety of festivals, day events and by planting, well, millions of flowers – a big event on the flower calendar in Europe and the world!
The first flowers are already in bloom and the gardens promise to put on a grand show! It is expected that nearly 2 billion individual tulips will be sold this year. Like every year our team is preparing to take people from all over the world to Amsterdam and Keukenhof Gardens.
Why Tulips and why the Netherlands?
Tulips are spring blooming perennials (plants that live for longer than two years) and one of the most expensive flowers in the world along with daffodils, hydrangeas, lilies and hyacinths. Tulips get planted in fall and take up to 7 months to grow from bulbs, and once in bloom, they live for only two years. Here is the best part: when tulips come into bloom over spring, the average lifespan of a tulip flower is only 3 – 7 days.
The Netherlands is the largest producer of bulb tulips. It all started with a Tulip Mania four centuries ago. Tulips are not indigenous to the Netherlands. When Carolus Clusius brought the first tulips from Constantinople, the Dutch bulb trade kicked off like nowhere else in the world! Bulbs became heavily popular – soon they were a luxury item and currency of their own among the rich and famous. At the height of the mania in 1636, the market collapsed and many people unfortunately lost all their fortunes. This is was the end of the “Dutch Golden Age”.
Today, the Dutch are still fond of tulips and they are known around the world for this pretty flower. Even though they’ve never grown in the wild in the Netherlands, they are as Dutch as bicycles, cheese and windmills. Every year, spring time brings tulip and bulb time to the Netherlands. From the beginning of the year the Dutch wait for updates on the latest crop of flowers.
Where is the most popular Bulb Region?
The Netherlands cultivates flower bulbs in North Holland, South Holland and Flevoland. The most famous bulb growing area is in North Holland. It stretches from Haarlem to Leiden – a 30 minute drive from Amsterdam. In spring, flowering tulips cover over 10,000 hectares of land, or roughly 29 times the size of Central Park in New York.
Just outside the the town of Lisse (located halfway between Haarlem and Leiden) you can find the world famous Keukenhof Gardens. The largest flower garden in the world and home to more than 8 million flowers (tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, narcissi and gladioli) growing and blooming annually. Keukenhof is, simply put, an explosion of colour. This is truly the best place in the world to see bulb cultivation.
When are the flowers in bloom, and when is the best time to visit Keukenhof?
It all depends greatly on the seasons and temperature. If it’s a cold winter, the flowers will bloom later. If it’s a warmer winter, the flowers will bloom earlier. Generally, the last two weeks of April and the first week of May is springtime and the flowers are bound to be in bloom. Locals follow flower status updates as the year progresses to keep tabs on whether it will be an early, late or normal spring.
Keukenhof is open for about 8 weeks every year from mid March to mid May.
Keukenhof – home to Holland’s annual tulip festival. Here’s what you need to know…
What spring events, festivals and attractions should you not miss out on?
When? Month of April
28 different locations in Amsterdam showcase tulips in all colours of the rainbow. The idea originated ten years ago and the idea is to plant one tulip for every citizen of Amsterdam – adding up to 820 000 tulips! See the tulips at well-known attractions like the Rijksmuseum, van Gogh Museum and Vondelpark.
Where? Haarlem, Noordwijk and towns in between.
When? April 18 up to and including April 22, 2017
The Flower Parade or “Bloemencorso” is a huge parade that shows off the Dutch bulb cultivation in all its glory! Several gigantic floats decorated with colourful flowers and decorations proceed through the bulb-growing area, accompanied by performers and marching bands. Every year a certain theme is followed, and after the parade the floats are parked on market square in Haarlem to be admired! This year’s theme is Flowers and Fashion, check the schedule here.
Visit a Real Dutch Greenhouse
Where: All over Bulb-growing region
When? The first weekend in April
If you have green fingers – this one is for you! The Netherlands is a global leader in greenhouse farming – unlike many countries in the world. On the first weekend of April, numerous Greenhouse owners open their doors to the general public. You can explore the wonderful world of lush green vegetables, fruit and plant cultivators. Parents and children can explore how robots work in the laboratories and experience the Dutch greenhouse industry in-depth.
Celebrate King’s Day (formerly Queen’s day)
Where? All over the Netherlands (but it’s huge in Amsterdam)
When? 27 April 2018
Celebrate the royal family of Dutchland! King’s Day or ‘Koninginnedag’ as the Dutch call it is the Dutch’s monarch’s birthday and celebrated on the 27th with a public holiday across the Netherlands. Get on your orange outfit and enjoy live music, street parties, markets and other special events. It’s Amsterdam’s biggest street party of the year! The royal family also joins in by visiting a town or municipality. Remember to try some Dutch Tompouce with loads of cream and orange icing!
Pick your own tulips (and other beautiful spring flowers)!
Where? Annemieke’s Pluktuin in Hillegom, Lisse.
When? Mid-February through to the end of September
Cost? From €9.50
Within walking distance from the Keukenhof Gardens, you can pick a wide variety of flowers like dill, gladioli, artichokes, sunflowers and, of course, tulips.
Visit Keukenhof Castle
Where? Just outside Keukenhof main gate
When? Monday to Friday (8:30 to 17:00) and weekends (10:30 to 17:00)
Cost? €5 for adults, €2 for kids under the age of 11
Located just as you enter Keukenhoff Gardens, the Keukenhof Castle is one of Holland’s few country estates. Built in 1641 by Commander of the V.O.C, it was intended as a retreat for the family. Here you can find out more about the Golden Age of the Dutch Grandeur!
Visit Vondelpark in Amsterdam
Where? Close to the city centre in the Oud-Zuid neighbourhood
When? Whenever you want!
Vondelpark is one of the biggest parks in Amsterdam – 47 hectares of urban park! The hot spot for Amsterdammers to go jogging, walking, roller-skating, cycling or just to soak up some sun. In Vondelpark there are six different park areas, one open-air theatre and sculptures such as the one of Dutch Poet Joost van den Vondel – after whom the park was named. Vondelpark’s many ponds and trees is home to a variety of birds including wild ducks and blue herons. It’s the idyllic place for an outdoor stroll in the centre of Amsterdam!
Visit the Tulip Museum in Amsterdam
Where? Jordaan Disctrict, Prinsengracht 116.
When? Daily 10:00 to 18:00
Cost? €5 for adults, €3 for students and €15 for families of three and more (Iamsterdam cards accepted)
Yes, the Dutch have a museum designated to the tulip. You can find out every single thing you want to know about Tulips. The history, Tulip Mania, Tulip Trade and the growing of tulips. Visits last anything from 20 minutes to an hour.
Not to miss! Famous attractions in and around Amsterdam…
On which Expat Explore tours can you see the Tulips? The following tours will also pass through Amsterdam in tulip blooming season. You can explore Amsterdam and visit Keukenhof on your free day! We’ve also included a cheese and clog making tour, a visit to Zaanse Schans and a canal cruise on most of these tours.
Contact us if you have any questions about spring in Europe and how to make the most of your time in the Netherlands!