Visit the Bollenstreek
One of the most popular and unique attractions in the country, the Bollenstreek (or Bulb District) stretches for 30 kilometres between Haarlem and Leiden. Home to the world-famous tulip fields, the region comes alive with colour every year when millions of crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, asters and tulips burst into life. While the best time to visit is from mid-March to mid-May, tulip season is in full swing during mid-April.
Take a hike on a sunny day
The Wandelnetwerk Bollenstreek is a network of marked hiking routes which run throughout the Flower Strip region. A truly unique way to see the incredible blooms, to set off simply follow the signposts past green pastures and colourful bulb fields and you’ll soon be savouring the jaw-dropping views from atop wooden stiles and navigating waterways on pulley-operated ferries. Free maps are available at the local Visitor Centres.
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.
Experience the hustle and bustle of a live auction
At the Royal FloraHolland flower auction, visitors can get a behind-the-scenes look at the world’s largest flower sale. Experience the hustle and bustle of the trading floor, watch dealers bidding against the clock and be amazed as hundreds of thousands of beautiful flowers are sold to traders from all over the world. Located just a stone’s throw from Schiphol Airport, get there early to explore the auction at its busiest. You can also take a guided tour with an expert - available in Dutch, English or German - or use the information panels to embark on a self-guided tour.
Stroll through the world’s largest flower gardens
Nowhere is the Dutch cult of the tulip celebrated in a more glorious fashion than at the ‘the most beautiful spring garden in the world’, located in the bulb region south of Amsterdam. Open for just eight weeks each year (in accordance with the tulip’s national flowering season), Keukenhof boasts a staggering seven million blooms planted across a 32-hectare park. Over 500 growers present their most beautiful blooms, and leading florists create truly unique displays with them. Special activities for kids, exhibitions, events and performances will ensure the whole family finds something special to do.
Cycle through the flowersRenting a bike is the perfect way to explore the flower strip at your own pace. You have four marked routes to choose from - ranging from between 5km to 25km - all of which are well signposted, fairly flat and very safe. For the real green-fingered fanatics, there is also a longer ‘Bulb Route’, a bum-numbing 35km. If you want to rent a bike when you get there, simply head to Rent-a-Bike van Dam at the main entrance of Keukenhof Gardens. Check out these cycleseeing routes for more ideas in the Amsterdam Area.
Climb the Aalsmeer water tower
The 50-metre-high Art Deco Watertoren (water tower) is one of Aalsmeer’s showpieces. Swing by for a fascinating exhibition about local water management before climbing to the top for breathtaking views of the surrounding region. Across the road, The Flower Art Museum is the world’s first museum entirely dedicated to floral-inspired contemporary art.
Spend the day at the lakes
In Aalsmeer, the Westeinderplassen (Westeinder Lakes) offer plenty of watersports, from swimming to sailing lessons and boat rentals. The area is famous for its horticultural industry, and the small islands still grow strawberries and lilacs – just as they did long ago. At the foot of the Aalsmeer tower, you’ll find the On the Rock restaurant, which offers a stunning view of the lake and is a perfect spot for a surf break.
Get a different view from the waterSit back and relax as you enjoy the peace and quiet of the endless bulb fields around Keukenhof in an electrically-propelled boat, or special whisper boats, which travel through the beautiful flower bulb landscape in virtual silence during a 45-minute trip. Purchase your ticket on the day of travel at the mill in the park. Alternatively, head to the Westeinderplassen where you can take an open or covered boat tour through a maze of islands, and let knowledgeable skippers fill you in on the region’s horticultural history.
Pick your own tulips
Annemieke’s Picking Garden is a nursery specialising in cultivating tulips using organic horticultural techniques. With an impressive 300 varieties of flowers available, visitors can learn how the blooms are prepared for sale, wander through the tulip fields and even pick their own bunch of flowers to take home.
Meet the water wolf
Four metres below sea level, the municipality of Haarlemmermeer harbours a historic pumping station with the world’s largest steam engine, known as the ‘Water Wolf’. In the middle of the 19th century, the Cruquius steam engine was used to drain a lake in order to create new land. The only pumping station saved from demolition, Cruquius is now part of a fascinating museum. Learn about the Dutch struggle against water, marvel at a model of how the Netherlands would look without dykes, and experience a live steam engine demonstration.
Step back in time at the Black Tulip Museum
Located in the centre of Lisse, De Zwarte Tulp (Black Tulip) museum examines the history of the Bulb District, the origins and evolution of bulb culture and the science behind the development of new varieties of tulips. Through interactive exhibitions using pictures, photography and videos, the museum paints a picture of the remarkable bulb-to-flower-to-bulb cycle.
Be king of the castle
It may be perpetually outshone by its showy neighbour, but Keukenhof Castle (located straight across from the world-famous Keukenhof gardens) boasts an impressive history with 17th-century roots. Inside, you’ll find portraits, artefacts and period furniture. The estate now measures some 240 hectares and is home to 15 listed buildings, an art museum, café, petting farm and walking paths. For details of upcoming events and exhibitions, check the website.