Keukenhof, Dutch for kitchen garden, has a history dating back to the 1400’s when Jacoba van Beieren gathered fruit and vegetables in the area for Teylingen Castle. In 1641, Keukenhof Castle was built and the gardens were re-designed in 1857. Ultimately, the park was established in 1949 as a spring garden, today attracting over 1 million visitors each year to enjoy over 7 million tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and other spring flowers during the season in March, April, and May.(http://www.keukenhof.nl/en/)
Our flight from the U.S. arrived at Schipol Amsterdam Airport at 9:20 a.m. With our carry-on luggage in hand, we skipped baggage claim and headed straight for customs. After clearing customs, we stopped at an ATM to get euros then asked for directions at the information desk for the bus to Keukenhof. It’s an enormous airport but bus 858, the Keukenhof Express, stops right outside the door and goes directly to and from Keukenhof all day long. We purchased a combi-ticket for 24 euros each which covered round-trip transportation from Schipol in addition to the entrance fee.
Before 10 a.m., the lines were still short. We boarded the bus with our luggage and took the half hour ride to Keukenhof in Lisse where we arrived directly outside the main entrance. We could have stored our luggage at the park but we decided instead to walk the 2 km (1.24 mi) to our hotel and leave our bags there. We hoped for an early check-in after our overnight flight but our room wasn’t ready so we used the restroom near the lobby to freshen up, left our bags at the hotel, and headed back to the park.
As we entered the park, we picked up a map to find our way around the 32 hectares (79 acres) but we really didn’t devise a plan of attack. Instead, we just wandered in wonder at the beauty surrounding us. Staff explained that the season was a bit delayed and, while there was a chill in the air, the sun was shining and it was truly a perfect spring day to us. We later heard there was a cold snap several days after our visit with hail and snow and the nearby annual Flower Parade was adversely affected.
Also immediately inside the main entrance, we found a charming barrel organ playing folk music that set the stage for visitors.
Eventually, we found our way to the windmill and climbed it to check out the view.
Next to the windmill, I spied a ticket counter for the whisper boat canal tour of the bulb fields. We wouldn’t have enough time in Lisse to rent bikes or drive the flower route to see the bulb fields so this seemed like a good opportunity. The tickets were around 8 euros each and rather than standing in line until it was our turn, they scheduled our tour at 2:15 so we could explore further and return at the appointed time.
The whisper boat, powered by electricity, glided silently through the canals while we listened to information through headphones. Tulips originated in central Asia and Turkey and first appeared in Holland in the 16th century. Their extreme popularity resulted in a period in Dutch history called tulip mania during which speculation and soaring prices caused what may have been the first economic bubble. Today the Netherlands are the largest producer of tulips, half of which are exported. Because the canals and the boats were at the same level as the fields, the views weren’t as good as I expected but nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed our tour.
After our 45-minute boat ride, we were recharged and ready to walk some more.
The bulbs are provided to the park at no charge by the producers and planted by hand each fall in a new design every year. The theme in 2016 was The Golden Age, referring to the period in Dutch history during the 17th century when tulip mania peaked.
These gardens are arguably the most beautiful in the world. And honestly, the fragrance permeating the air captivated me nearly as much as the amazing sights. I wish I could share the scent of hyacinth with you. If you visit the Netherlands in springtime, a stroll through Keukenhof is not to be missed.
Based on events in April 2016.