Tulips first arrived in Holland from Turkey in the 16th century, and this flower-loving nation has never been the same. Each year a springtime explosion of the iconic flower carpets the country in brilliant shades of red, yellow, pink and purple. Visit the Netherlands in spring to discover a nation in love with the tulip and awash in color, its city markets and rural fields brilliant with the hues of millions of blooming tulips and other flowers.
The Dutch capital celebrates the arrival of spring with its annual Tulip Festival throughout the month of April. Look for hundreds of tulip varieties at 85 locations across the city. The floating flower market, the Bloemenmarkt, displays and sells multi-colored tulip bouquets and bulbs throughout the spring. Located in barges moored in the heart of Amsterdam on the Singel canal, the market sells flowers brought in fresh daily from the verdant Dutch countryside.
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The Hortus Botanicus, located in the middle of Amsterdam, dates from 1638 and ranks as one of the world’s oldest and most respected botanical gardens. Admire tulips and more than 4,000 species of plants spread across three compact and tidy acres in urban Amsterdam. Want to learn more about the Dutch connection to the tulip? Visit the Tulip Museum to learn about the history of the Netherlands’ favorite flower, from the Ottomans to the present day.
A rainbow-striped carpet of blossoms surrounds the Keukenhof gardens. Designed in 1857, it’s one of the world’s most famous and largest flower parks in the world. More than 7 million flowers bloom brilliantly across close to 80 acres of land each spring in a garden open exclusively around tulip blooming season, from mid-March to mid-May. Besides tulips you’ll see plantings of daffodils, hyacinths, orchids, roses, irises, lilies and many other flowers.
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For an in-depth view of Keukenhof gardens, join a guided walking tour. To see the tulip fields and scenery around Keukenhof, take a silent whisper boat tour or, in quintessentially Dutch style, pedal the grounds via bicycle courtesy of Rent-a-Bike van Dam. Bicycle maps guide visitors along routes ranging from 5k to 25k, which allow visitors to explore the area at their own pace.
The spectacular Flower Parade, the Bloemencorso Bollenstreek, takes place this year on April 13 and passes by the world-famous Keukenhof. Dozens of flower-laden floats and extravagantly decorated vehicles travel a 42k (26m), 12-hour course that leads from the coastal town of Noordwijk to Haarlem. Hundreds of thousands of spectators line the procession route each year, intent on catching the colorful springtime display.
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Rent a bicycle in Noordwijk or Haarlem for a leisurely ride along the Bollenstreek, one of the Netherland’s flower bulb growing region, toward Keeukenhof. You’ll ride through a colorful ribbon of landscape, encountering the region as the locals do. Photograph the local farms that specialize in growing spring bulbs, pedal past windmills, and stop to purchase tulips and other spring bulbs such as crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths.
The world’s largest flower auction, Royal FloraHolland, sees an average of 20 million flowers and plants each day and is less than 20 minutes from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. Visit the Aalsmeer Flower Auction, which sits at the heart of the Netherlands’ commercial flower industry, to get a sense of the magnitude of the flower business in the Netherlands. Plan to arrive by 7:00 a.m. to watch from overhead galleries as workers flit about the hall with carts of tulips, daffodils, orchids and other blossoms.
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Take a self-guided tour of Royal FloraHolland’s Aalsmeer auction hall. A combination ticket allows visitors to venture out and explore Aalsmeer’s Historic Garden, which replicates the region’s 17th-century flower gardens and orchards; and a boat tour of the Aalsmeer lakes, the Westeinderplassen, and its maze of waterways and islands.
(Traveler Winter 2019)