Cheese, clogs, windmills, and, of course, tulips: these are some of the most recognisable icons of the Netherlands. Visitors can enjoy most of these Dutch treats and sights year-round, but seeing the famous Dutch tulips is something of a special event — the delicate flowers blossom for just a few weeks in the spring.
Tulipomania is still going strong in the Netherlands, and there are plenty of places to enjoy tulips in and around Amsterdam throughout the season.
Pick your own on National Tulip Day
In the spring, the Netherlands’ famous flower fields become a blanket of tulips — but the season actually starts much earlier than that. The Dutch tulip season in Amsterdam kicks into gear in the heart of January on National Tulip Day, when Dutch growers present 200,000 tulips in a temporary garden on Dam Square. These beautiful blooms are not just for viewing, either — all visitors can pick a tulip from the garden to bring home free of charge.
See Amsterdam in technicolour at the citywide Tulip Festival
The annual Tulip Festival in Amsterdam, held throughout the entire month of April, brightens up the streets of the city with colourful tulips adorning gardens at various locations in Amsterdam. The goal of the festival is to eventually have one tulip for every Amsterdammer — amounting to 800,000 tulips in the city alone. All that visitors need do to experience the festival is go tulip-spotting around the streets and attractions of Amsterdam: participating locations include the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Vondelpark, Rembrandtplein and EYE Filmmuseum.
Visit the world's largest flower garden at Keukenhof
Also known as the Garden of Europe, Keukenhof is one of the most famous tulip and flower gardens in Europe and, in fact, the world. The garden, established in 1949 in Lisse (easily accessible by railway and car from Amsterdam) is only open for a few weeks from March to May to display its blooms. In 2017, the theme of Keukenhof is ‘Dutch Design’, bringing the work of artists and designers such as Mondrian and Rietveld to life in flowers.
Tulips as far as the eye can see at the world famous Flower Strip
Take a trip through the Netherlands to view the Flower Strip or Bollenstreek, a spectacular 20 kilometre display of blossoming crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths and the famous tulips. Fields stretching from Haarlem to Leiden come alive with colour beginning in late March, coming to a vibrant peak in mid-April. The trip can be taken by car, but perhaps the best — and most Dutch — way to visit the Flower Strip is on the bike route.
Catch 'tulipomania' at the Museum de Zwarte Tulp
Since the tulip came into prominence in the Netherlands in the 16th century, Dutch artists and collectors have sought to capture tulip’s beauty and fame in art. At Museum de Zwarte Tulp (Museum of the Black Tulip) in Lisse — perfectly combined with a visit to Keukenhof — visitors can view tulip artwork, botanical illustrations and flower bulb glasses, as well as learn about the history of tulipomania and current science about flower bulb cultivation.
Soak up some local flavour at Amsterdam's flower markets
The Dutch have a clear affinity for plants and flowers, as evidenced by the many markets in Amsterdam bursting with flowers in the spring. The floating flower market on Singel, Bloemenmarkt, is one of Amsterdam’s main attractions for tourists and residents alike, boasting bulbs for tulips and other flowers in stalls floating on the canal. But the Bloemenmarkt isn’t the only market in town for flowers: you will find flowers in almost every market in Amsterdam, especially in the spring.
Create your own bouquet at a picking garden
If simply seeing and buying tulips isn’t enough, visit a picking garden to create your own handpicked bouquet. At Annemieke’s Picking Garden in Hillegom, just a short ride from Amsterdam, visitors can pop into the greenhouse to pick fresh tulips from mid-February to mid-May. Outside Lisse is De Bollenburcht, where visitors can explore a restored 1930s bulb shed and, in April and May, pick tulips from the garden’s 100 different varieties.
Trace the history of the tulip at Amsterdam Tulip Museum
Tulips are beautiful, but there is more to them than meets the eye. Immerse yourself in the history of tulipomania at the Amsterdam Tulip Museum, located in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam. Six connected rooms detail the tulip’s journey from its native Central Asia to the Ottoman Empire, finally landing in Dutch markets in the 16th and 17th century. For those that love the unusual, the museum’s Cabinet of Curiosities displays some of the strangest tulip items at which to marvel.
Line the streets for a flower powered parade
View tulips in a whole new light as they float by in a parade of flowers at Bloemencorso Bollenstreek. Get an early start and watch the floats come to life, expertly crafted with hundreds of tulips, hyacinths and daffodils, a few days before the parade makes its way from Noordwijk to Haarlem — passing by the Keukenhof Gardens — on 22 April 2017. The floats will be joined by lively musical acts to truly make it a celebration.
Witness the buzz of the world's largest flower auction
Once you’ve soaked in all the tulip knowledge available in Amsterdam, hop on the train to Aalsmeer, a 15-minute ride from Schiphol, to become a real tulip trader. The international trading platform for plants and flowers is truly a sight to behold, though it’s easy to miss — trading at the FloraHolland flower auction starts at 07:00 and continues at breakneck speed. Guests are welcome to watch the auction from a special gallery, where they’ll see modern tulipomania in real time!