UPDATE: Holland’s spectacular spring flower show is canceled
By MICHAEL ABRAMS | Stars and Stripes | Published: March 12, 2020
Editor’s note: because of the coronavirus outbreak, Keukenhof has been canceled for 2020. Please check their website for further updates.
When 40 bulb growers from the Lisse area got together in 1949 to hold a flower exhibit at a 15th-century Dutch hunting estate called Keukenhof, they probably didn’t realize that their gathering would plant the seed of what was to become one of Holland’s biggest attractions.
When Keukenhof opens its gates for the 71st time on March 21, it’s expected to attract close to a million visitors.
The only thing more numerous than the people at Keukenhof will be the flowers.
Nearly 100 bulb growers have planted about 7 million tulips, daffodils, crocuses and hyacinths in the nearly 80 acres of flower beds and exhibit halls at the former hunting estate.
Tulips were first brought to Holland from Constantinople — today’s Istanbul — in 1593 by an Austrian botanist named Carolus Clusius. At the time, only the rich could afford the pricey bulbs for their gardens.
In the 17th century, “tulip mania” swept across Holland as people speculated in the flowers, spending thousands of guilders on a single bulb. There is an exhibit on “Tulpomania” in the Juliana Pavilion, one of four indoor exhibition spaces at Keukenhof.
When the bubble burst on the tulip bulb market in 1637, fortunes were lost, and the tulip became just another flower.
Today, Holland is the largest producer of tulips and other bulb flowers like narcissus, hyacinths and gladiolas. The country exports more than two billion bulbs a year, mostly to the U.S., followed by Japan and Germany.
Keukenhof belonged to the Countess of Holland, Jacoba van Beieren, in the early 15th century. She and her court would hunt and gather vegetables and herbs for her kitchen at the estate, giving Keukenhof its name, which means “kitchen garden.”
In the 1830s, German landscaper J.D. Zocher designed a park in the English garden style at the estate.
Visitors can spend hours walking the paths that criss-cross the park, past ponds, fountains and the flower beds bursting in red, yellow, blue, pink, violet and white. Works by about 25 artists line the walkways, making Keukenhof an art, as well as a flower exhibit.
A climb up the old windmill offers a good view of the park and the tulip fields.
Early in the season, before the flowers are in full bloom, there can still be much green at Keukenhof, but inside the Prince Willem Alexander Pavilion, the tulips, daffodils and hyacinths dazzle.
The orchid exhibit in the Queen Beatrix Pavilion is a must-see for fans of the exotic flowers.
Gardeners inspired by their visit can order bulbs here to give their own garden a blooming Keukenhof look next spring.
DIRECTIONS: The park is on the outskirts of Lisse, between The Hague and Amsterdam. The address is: Stationsweg 166a, 2161 AM Lisse, Netherlands.; From Amsterdam, take the A4 toward The Hague, exit at N207 toward Lisse and follow the signs to Keukenhof. From The Hague, take the A44 toward Amsterdam, exit at Sassenheim and take N208 toward Lisse.
TIMES: Keukenhof is open daily from March 21 to May 10. Hours are 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The ticket office closes at 6 p.m.
COSTS: Admission is 17.50 euros (about $20) online or 19 euros at the ticket office for adults, and 9 euros for children 4 to 11 years of age. Children under 4 years get in free.; Parking is 6 euros.; Combi-tickets that include the price of bus travel to Keukenhof plus admission are also available. From Amsterdam, they cost 32.50 euros, from Leiden and Schiphol Airport 27.50 euros for adults. Children ages 4 to 11 pay 14 euros from both places. Details are available on the Keukenhof website, below.
FOOD: There are restaurants and snack stands on the grounds. The prices, while not cheap, are not unreasonable. You can bring your food and eat outside on the benches and tables located throughout the park.
INFORMATION: Dogs are allowed on the grounds, but not in the flower pavilions and restaurants.; The annual Flower Parade from Nordwijk to Haarlem takes place April 25.; On the web: keukenhof.nl; bloemencorso-bollenstreek.nl for the flower parade.; Special note on coronavirus: As of March 6, the Dutch authorities had not advised event and festival organizers to take special measures against the coronavirus. Any changes to that status will be posted online on tulipfestivalamsterdam.com/coronavirus-update/.