Every spring the entire region bursts into vivid colour as bulbs shoot and millions upon millions of flowers blossom. From Leiden to Haarlem, bold beautiful stripes of colour flame across the landscape. After the crocuses, it’s the turn of the tulips, daffodils and hyacinths – an impressive display that continues into May and beyond. In late summer the gladioli, dahlias, carnations and asters stage a second show of colour. Visitors flock from around the world to experience row after row of blooms stretching to the horizon. You’ll catch an eyeful on many of the trains heading southwest from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol – and even from your aeroplane when you’re coming into land – but the bulb fields truly deserve a closer look.
Where is the Dutch flower strip?
Stretching for 20 miles between Haarlem and Leiden, the Flower Strip (called the Bollenstreek or Bulb District) is home to the world famous Dutch tulip fields. Spreading as far as the eye can see across the provinces of North Holland just west and southwest of Amsterdam are fields of colourful flowers in all varieties, including (of course) the ubiquitous tulip.
The best time to see Dutch tulips
The earliest flowers bloom in January, with the show lasting until late May when the late-blooming lilies finally depart. The best time to visit the Bollenstreek is from mid-March to mid-May, which is classed as the core season. The best time to see tulips is mid-April, when the Tulip Festival takes over Amsterdam and the famous flower parade embarks on its 40km route to Haarlem.
Keukenhof Gardens and the flower auctions
One of the biggest attractions in the region is the Keukenhof Gardens, the world’s largest flower gardens and a home to more varieties of tulip than you can imagine. Visit from late March onwards to see a jaw-dropping floral spectacle of more than 7 million bulbs in bloom over 80 colourful acres. Real flower buffs should also pay a visit to the flower auctions in Aalsmeer to get a true grasp of the industrial scale of the Flower Strip.
How to visit the Flower Strip
Getting to the Flower Strip by public transport is a breeze. Regular buses run from Amsterdam and Schiphol to various points within the region, or alternatively you could take the train to Leiden or Haarlem and cycle from there. Find out more about getting to the Flower Strip, including public transport and excursions.
Biking the bulb fields
To explore the area at your own pace, a bike is by far the best option. You can rent bikes – from Rent-a-Bike Van Dam – at the main entrance of the Keukenhof for €10 a day, including a cycle route. In total there are four signposted and marked routes, ranging from 5km to 25km long. For the real green-fingered fanatics, there is also a longer ‘Bulb Route’, a bum-numbing 35km.
Many visitors also rent a bike in Amsterdam and then take the train (bike day passes are available) to Leiden and cycle up to Haarlem before catching the train back to Amsterdam (or vice versa). The tulip field cycle route between Haarlem and Leiden is well signposted and stretches for around 35km of flat, easily bikeable paths. Don't forget to stop at Keukenhof Gardens on your way.
Exploring by foot
The ‘Wandelnetwerk Bollenstreek’ is a network of marked hiking routes through the region. Follow the hexagonal signposts past green pastures and colourful bulb fields, savour the views from atop wooden stiles and navigate the waterways on pulley-operated ferries. Free maps are available at the local Visitor Centres.
E-driving around the flower fields
For a unique tour of the Flower Strip area, you can also rent a Renault Twizy, a 100% electric and environmentally friendly vehicle that seats two people, from Renzy. One excursion stops at one of the biggest Dahlia flower fields of Europe, an authentic Dahlia flower nursery and the garden of Castle Keukenhof, while another takes you around the colourful tulip and flower fields, the Keukenhof forest and an authentic flower nursery. An audio tour provides you with information about the destinations you're driving through, and GPS navigation ensures you will find your way around the area with ease.
Responsible behaviour when touring the flower fields
When exploring the tulip gardens of Amsterdam, make sure to stick to the paths and follow the farm rules. Walking across the fields can crush or damage the flowers. If a tulip plant is trampled, it will not produce a bulb large enough to be sold, so it is important to stay out of the fields. It takes a tremendous amount of work to cultivate the neat lines of flowers that blossom into a rainbow of bulbs each spring, and everyone who visits should be respectful of the flowers and the farmers who have invested so much time, effort, expense and love into the fields.