Keukenhof Gardens, The Tulip Festival, and Fun Floral Festivities
We have jokingly alluded to Holland being the home of the tulip (and other plants) for some time now. After a plethora of visitors accidentally clicking through to LillyLikes thinking we are a garden centre – we thought it was about time we did a blog to appease them.
Holland loves plants and that’s the real truth of the matter. The people of Holland love them so much, in fact, that they hold festivals for them. Every year around Springtime, you can see the most renowned gardens in the entire continent. Today, we wanted to cover the festivals, the Keukenhof Gardens, and all things tulip!
Why on Earth Have a Festival for Flowers?
When you first hear about a flower festival there is a “huh?” moment. It’s common, don’t feel bad abut it. When you speak English, and someone hits you with a Dutch word it’s understandable. Keukenhof is actually a castle in Lisse, in Holland, which was built in 1641…
A Dutchman named Adriaen Maertensz Block built the castle. He was an administrator for the Dutch East India Company. You can learn a little more about the Company themselves on one of the Comedy Tours of Amsterdam, if you are in the area.
This fine castle was built during the Golden Age of Holland, when everything they touched turned to capital. By some miracle, it managed to stay intact and whole. It was updated in 1850 by a caring owner. Since then, it has been lovingly looked after to survive to this day. It’s also a tourist attraction itself and houses a museum. But we’re here for the garden, not the castle.
At some point amid those dark ages, the castle garden changed from a place where they grew kitchen herbs, to a place where tulips pervaded everything. We like to imagine it was magic… That some poor cook was wringing her hands, wondering why the turnips she planted had turned into tulips… again.
The reality is that the gardens were part of the 1850 renovations of the castle. A landscaper plotted it all out. Traditionally, this area of land was designated for hunting ground. People had used it since as long ago as the 1400s. It wasn’t until the Mayor of Lisse opened it up for exhibition in 1949 that it became a celebrated place.
Why? We can only imagine it would boost public spirit after the war. Whatever the reason the Keukenhof Gardens held their first Tulip Festival… and they have become a national treasure in the years since.
The Garden of Europe
Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse are known as being the largest flower garden on the planet – never mind just in Europe. They are only open for an 8-week period throughout the year, allowing visitors a brief burst of colour that everybody wants to last. From the middle of March the middle of April you can go and visit them.
The Flower Farms
It is estimated that some 7 million bulbs make up the gardens in Keukenhof. That’s more bulbs than a single person could ever plant in a lifetime! They are sold and the bulbs are usually taken from the ground to go to new owners every season. This means that it all needs to be replanted, every year… All 7 million bulbs.
So why have a festival just for flowers? Why not, when they are keeping everyone in work…?
The Tulip Fields Near Amsterdam
Tulips that are grown and harvested in Amsterdam go on to travel the whole world. Tulips from Amsterdam will grace halls throughout Europe, and even find themselves in America. Some of those tulips come from Keukenhof Gardens, yes: but not all.
In fact, Lisse lies some 40 km from Amsterdam… so if you’re not to confident in geography, where do you go to see the tulips in springtime? Amsterdam actually grow and maintain their own tulip fields in springtime. Although they aren’t as massive as the Keukenhof Gardens; these fields are big enough to provide a genuine feast for the eyes. If you can get even a little outside the city between mid-March and mid-May then this is one (totally free) sight you should make time for.
Of course; once tulip season is over, they cut them all down and sell them on. Those that aren’t sold will be bought up by people in the city and used for the Tulip Festival… and that, my friends, is why you have a Tulip Festival in Amsterdam.
Not so crazy now as you first thought, is it?
The Tulip Festival – Amsterdam
So every year, the Gardens put out enough Tulips to go around the country a few times. Since there is this excess of plants, every town and city that can afford it buys up excess tulips and throws a festival. It’s traditional in Holland that spring be celebrated by bright colours and lots of flowers. This country-esque tradition is carried on in the city, even if the people there don’t farm flowers anymore.
The Tulip Festival actually culminates in a beautiful parade. The floats used feature flowers – mostly tulips – but daffodils and hyacinths are on there as well. The real name of the parade is Bloemencorso Bollenstreek. Bollenstreek is the ‘bulb region’ of Amsterdam, and the blooming of all those bulbs is a big occasion.
The tulip parade takes place on Saturday April 25th, 2020. If you want to watch the parades being built you can get there a few days early. The parade floats are constructed from April 22nd, so you can enjoy the festival atmosphere for that whole week.
Helicopter Rides over the Tulip Fields
One of the most common ways to enjoy the tulip fields and get the whole impact, is to go via air. Indeed, when you first fly into Amsterdam you are greeted with both the flower fields and the windmills on first sight of Holland. Helicopter rides are only available for six days throughout blooming period, but it is a trip well worth taking… if you can afford it.
The ten-minute flight over the Tulip Fields of Keukenhof costs a little over a hundred euros. The helicopter fits four people. If you can fill the helicopter it will work out as around 33 Euros each. Well worth it for memories you will never forget.
The helicopter flight lets you see a sea of colourful flowers from the best possible angle. You can get flights during the tulip parade, but they will fill up fast. You can have a longer flight too, if you have the cash. This flight will also take in the rest of the castle grounds. Tourists tend to forget the splendour of the whole area. This flight is a good reminder.
You can learn more about the helicopter flight around Amsterdam by visiting the Keukenhof Gardens website.
When Does the Tulip Festival Take Place?
So if you want to go to Amsterdam for the flowers (and we recommend that you do!), when should you visit? As we mentioned before; mid-March until mid-May is the best time to visit to see flowers in full bloom. The construction of the parade floats is visible from the 22nd of April until the 24th of April (2020), and then the parade itself will be on the 25th of April.
If you are booking a holiday and want to see something spectacular, these are the dates to aim for.
What if I got The Date Wrong?
If you are desperate to see some flowers but you booked the wrong dates; don’t give up. You can visit a arrange of floral festivities that are open all year. Throughout the surrounding land you will find the tulip museum in Lisse, Floriworld, and a range of others. The Kuekenhoff Garden team already made a full list, you can see it here.
The Tulip Festival Destinations
The Tulip Festival of 2020 incorporates 85 floral locations containing tulips. You can visit all those in public for free, and those that are in museums may have their own ticket price. The Tulip Festival features all sorts of participants, and the Keukenhof team even give out awards for the best of blooms!
Among the list of sights included this year are the Conservatorium Hotel, the Botanic Garden Zuidas and the Amsterdam’s Port. All you need to do is walk around town and you are sure to come across some delightful tulips.
Why We Love Spring in Amsterdam
The Dutch have a long tradition of celebrating spring with bright colours, music and laughter. This historic tradition has expanded to include the one floral symbol of Amsterdam that everyone approves of: the mighty tulip.
Every year, Amsterdam exports around two million of these precious flowers. With one product making them so much in export tax – what’s not to celebrate? But on a serious note: the tulip is symbolic of peace, prosperity and wealth that goes all the way back to the Dutch Golden Age of Trade.
The Tulip Festival is about more than flowers and profit. It is about heritage, culture, and filling the world with colour. Really… what’s not to love?