The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Keukenhof, the Best Garden in Europe
The Keukenhof is known as the Garden of Europe, and if you've ever had the chance to walk through their green fields, you will truly understand why. For two months every year, from March to mid-May, millions of rainbow coloured flowers (4.5 million to be exact) bloom over the 32 hectares of gardens inside the Keukenhof. They create what can only be described as a blanket of fantastical aromas and ethereal colours which cover the Dutch countryside.
When to Visit
The Keukenhof is official open March 21st to May 19th 2019. The park is open from 8:00am – 7:30pm. The best time to visit the Keukenhof is before 10:30am or after 4pm, this is when the least tourists will be in the park and you’ll have more of the flowers all to yourself. PLUS the morning sunrise and afternoon sunset provide an incredible backdrop to the rainbow of flowers. If you can avoid going on a weekend, this is also preferable if you’re trying to avoid the crowds.
Since the park is only open for a few months tickets can sell! Especially if you’re visiting over the weekend or on a holiday you’ll want to be sure to buy your tickets in advance. I would advise buying online either way since it means less time spent in line at the ticket office when you arrive. Adults cost €17,00 in advance and children are €8,00, kids under 3 are free. But the best thing to do is buy a Combi Ticket which combines your transportation with your admission. The prices are different depending on where you're departing from, but they range from €24-€30. The bus will drop you off at the main entrance to the gardens so it couldn't be more convenient!
The Keukenhof gardens were first established in the 15th century on what was then a substantial hunting ground. The name 'Keukenhof' means Court Kitchen in Dutch as the fields once served as a giant herb garden for the Queen's castle. Throughout the years, the various members of the royal family who inherited the manor continued to expand the garden, and in the 19th century, the Baron and Baroness Van Pallandt hired Jan David Zocher, a renowned landscape architect, to re-design it to create the unique and luscious garden the Netherlands had ever seen.
As time went on, the gardens were bought by the city, and in 1949 the Mayor of Lisse decided to open them up to the public. He held an exhibit of flowers from all over the Netherlands and Europe. People were able to see, and smell, hybrid flowers not available in their local markets. They walked through incredible floral landscapes created by illustrious Dutch landscape architects.
Since its opening in 1949, the Keukenhof has held the title as the world's largest flower garden as well as being the most photographed place on the earth. Today it houses more than 100 varieties of tulips, more than 2,500 trees in 87 types and 15 kilometres of walking paths. The date, more than 44 million visitors over the last 60 years have strolled through this real-life Wonderland. In 2018, the Keukenhof's theme will be Romance in Flowers.
The tulips are the main feature of the flower garden. Tulips were first brought to Europe in the 16th century and caught on in popularity in the Netherlands. Tulips were able to stand the harsh temperatures and conditions in the Netherlands more than many other internationally imported flowers. Due to their resilience, Dutch botanists became avid collectors and even started to breed new varieties. Soon, everyone wanted a tulip garden of their own. Tulips became a status symbol for anyone who planted or who carried a bouquet as they walked down the street. Today they have become somewhat ubiquitous, but in the 17th century, they were worth their weight in gold.
There are different groups and breeds of Dutch tulips. One is called the Couleren, which refers to the red, yellow or white coloured tulips. Then there is then Rosen, which are bright red or white with veining on the petals. The Violetten are the purple or lilac tulips, my personal favourite.
And finally, and best named, is the Bizarden, which are tulip with odd or eccentric appearances. They tend to be brown with purpled or yellow veins running across a jagged petal. A virus was known to infect these tulips during growth and was called the mosaic virus which made the tulips bloom in vibrant colours sometimes with flame-like streaks across the petals. Although it was a virus, it was one that botanists cultivated since those features were more and more desired by buyers for their bizarre appearance.
Access to the Keukenhof
To get to the Keukenhof there a few different ways of arriving depending on where and how you're travelling.
The Keukenhof is located in the village of Lisse, which is in itself, a charming Dutch village with hundreds of flower fields colouring the countryside. If you're renting a car while in the Netherlands you can park right at the park for €6. Driving into the Keukenhof is a great idea since it gives you the ability to drive around the surrounding village to see the farmers fields where they grow all the flowers for the Keukenhof. You can buy your parking pass online when buying your tickets or at the entry to the park.
We used the Netherland's amazing public transport system to access the park. The best way to figure out your journey is by using the public transport website to map your route. Most people will be accessing the Keukenhof from Amsterdam. The best way to get there is by purchasing the combi-ticket for the gardens which includes your transport and entry to the park. There are two options for the combi-ticket. The first option costs € 25 and covers the costs of THE BUS ONLY from Schiphol Airport to the park. Which means you'll be responsible for payment to the airport. This is especially convenient if you are travelling to the Keukenhof directly from the airport. If you are travelling from the city, you'll want option two, which costs € 30 and provides return access from Amsterdam. The combi-ticket gives you access to the special bus services which runs from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, Leiden station or Haarlem directly to the Keukenhof entrance.
There are many tour companies which offer tours of the Keukenhof. These tour companies tend to be a bit rigid on time and sometimes feel a bit impersonally but I know that for some nervous or older travellers, the removal of multiple forms of transport or excessive planning is worth the trade-off. Viator offers many tours of the Keukenhof which also combine views of the surrounding coutryside. With over 200 5-star reviews you really can't go wrong if this is the kind of experience you're looking for.
For those travellers I mentioned previously who might have certain issues with public transport but who don't want to deal with the time constraints of bus tours there is also taxis and uber. These cost between €50-€70 depending on where you're departing from for a one-way journey. While costly, I think it's important to provide this information to show inclusivity for all kinds of travellers.
The theme of 2019's Keukenhof is Flower Power.
Flowers inspire. At Keukenhof flowers connect people from across the globe who come together to enjoy the tulips, smells and colours. The Netherlands is famous for its bulb fields and the many flowers cultivated there. Bright colours, hippies, peace & music. Flower Power has that early 1970s vibe. A great theme for celebrating the 70th Keukenhof. Flower Power, the strength of flowers!
As soon as we stepped through the door, we were amazed by the colours and the overwhelmingly Dutch atmosphere of the gardens. There was an old wooden crank organ sitting in the front beside the entry fountain and the bright, rosy-cheeked Dutch boys and girls playing their instruments welcomed us inside.
Exploring the Gardens
Before setting out right away, take the provided map to study up and plan your preferred route. There are picnic tables near the entrance, a perfect place to enjoy a morning meal. Although there are a few snack stalls, I would advise stopping by a local bakery before arriving and then eating a little picnic in the gardens. You can eat while watching the other people pass by, smiles on their faces as they took in all the jewel-toned flowers spread out around them.
The hedge garden and maze was a lot of fun. We wove in between the thick bushes, discovering sinuous sculptures dotting the area. As we strolled through the garden, we found a small petting zoo with tiny horses and cows. Children were laughing as they reached their hands over the edge to pet the fuzzy little creatures.
Then, it was off to visit the main feature of this Dutch Disneyland; the Windmill. We climbed up the windmill to get a better look out over the fields where the tulips are initially grown before getting moved to the gardens.
As we climbed down, we took a moment to try on a few pairs of wooden clogs. The exhibit in front compared different ancient clogs to their modern-day equivalent.
Our next stop took us away from the array of tulips and into the Orchid building. Orchids are amazing flowers. They look so strange and almost otherworldly.
We left the orchids and continued throughout the grounds. We past by what can only be described as a "Barbie's Dream Greenhouse". The bright pink and red flowers were almost blinding. I had never seen anything like that before. Thank goodness we brought our sunglasses!
Tulips are the main attraction, but there is also a Japanese garden, a sculpture garden and even a lily pad garden where they added fake lily pads underwater that you could walk on. They sat just below the water, so the children playing appeared as if they were walking on water.
People seemed to come here not just to see the flower but to be inspired by them. A man had his easel out and had just begun to sketch out his next masterpiece as we passed by.
As we left the park, we sat on the bus home still in awe of all the wondrous things we saw. No matter who you are, this place seems to cast a magical spell on anyone who enters, and it is not to be missed!