Keukenhof Gardens of Holland – Picking the Perfect Time of Year to See Millions of Flowers in Bloom

When we moved to Germany, thanks to reading a fellow Travel Blogger’s site, I learned about this place that I knew my wife would absolutely love to visit!!

Imagine….7 million spring, flowering bulbs spread out over 500 acres of gardens that come in full bloom during an 8-week period. And, if timed just right, you will see all the peak colors from the hundreds of flower varieties. Our visit during May 2nd worked out perfectly for us to see all the peak colors.

When we decided we wanted to go to Keukenhof during our 3-day holiday weekend for May Day, we were happy to learn that Keukenhof was projecting that weekend to be the peak time to see all of the flowers in full bloom.  And, we were not disappointed!!

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7 million flowers over 500 acres. 800 varieties of tulips alone. 500 local flower growers come to Keukenhof each year to plant their flowers in September-October under the direction of the master gardener/designer for the 8 week show in April to May. 
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History: Keukenhof means “kitchen garden” in Dutch. From 1401-1436, the Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria gathered fruits & vegetables from this area for the kitchen of the castle (Teylingen Castle) in which she lived. This land later grew into an estate. But, it wasn’t until 1949 that a group of 20 flower growers decided to use the estate as a permanent exhibition to show off the local Spring flowers. In the first year of operation in 1950- 236,000 visitors came to Keukenhof. Today, millions enjoy the beauty of the gardens.

 

Since we read that Keukenhof allowed dogs as long as they stayed on leash and on the pathways, we decided to take our dog Barney with us.  From where we live in southwest Germany, it was a 6 hour drive to the town of Noordwijk aan Zee.  Noordwijk (on the sea) is a beautiful, seaside tourist town, and is  located in the state province of South Holland in The Netherlands. Noordwijk (Nord-vick) is situated halfway between the cities of Amersterdam & The Hague along the shore of the North Sea.

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Dogs are allowed in the park as long as they are on their leash, stay in designated areas, and their owners “pick-up” after them.
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On this busy day, we probably saw a dozen or so dogs both large and small. Our dog Barney is middle-size and a Beagle/Lab mix. And, he so wanted to “smell” the flowers.

A quick comment about some confusion that exists:  the country is called “The Netherlands”.  There are two large provinces called “North” & “South Holland”, which became a very rich area during the 17th & 18th centuries due to shipping.  Therefore, “Holland” is sometimes incorrectly used in referencing the entire country.  And, the people are called and speak “Dutch”.  The language to me sounds like they borrowed all of the vowels missing in the German language.

Next to tulips, windmills have to be the most iconic thing about Holland.  Originally used to help pump water off the land, many of these old style windmills are still standing today in use and mainly as tourist attractions.  The Keukenhof Gardens have this very nice windmill on the edge of the gardens next to the very large tulip fields.
Next to tulips, windmills have to be the most iconic thing about Holland. Originally used to help pump water off the land, many of these old style windmills are still standing today in use and mainly as tourist attractions. The Keukenhof Gardens have this very nice windmill on the edge of the gardens next to the very large tulip fields.

Since we planned to bring Barney with us, we looked for a hotel that allowed dogs.  After researching hotels on TripAdvisor.com, we settled on the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel.  It was very easy to find the hotel, as Noordwijk is not that big of a city.  We parked our car in the underground garage, and the three of us went to the lobby to check-in.  The hotel even gave Barney his very own welcome gift of dog treats and a map of where he was allowed on the beach.  Once we entered the room, the Hotel had already laid out a doggy bed and bowl of water for him.  Our stay in the Palace Hotel was excellent, and it is located within an easy 5 minute walk to the beach and from the shopping streets in Noordwijk.

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Our Hotel: Radisson Blu Palace Hotel. Dog & People Friendly. 5 minute walk to the beach and shopping. Lots of underground parking.

Our first evening, we decided to walk along the beach to watch the sunset.  This was especially nice for us, since this was the first time we had brought our dog onto the beach.  With Holland being basically at sea level and the very wide beach, to me the North Sea felt very huge with such a large view of the sky.  The beach is very wide with powdery sand.  The time of year that we visited is not exactly “beach weather” as it was about 60 degrees Fahrenheit and very windy, making it feel a little on the chilly side.  The best time of year to visit the beach here is in July & August.  We were not disappointed, as we got to see a very peaceful sunset and watch our dog play in the sand.

Stunning sunset over the North Sea
Stunning sunset over the North Sea

The next morning after breakfast at the hotel, we drove 15 minutes to Keukenhof.  We had read that at this busy time of year, it is best to arrive early before 10am.  Keukenhof opens at 8am and there are acres of parking.  The issue can be the 2-lane road to Keukenhof can get backed up with traffic.  But, if it does, you get to enjoy tulip fields for as far as you can see while being stuck in traffic.  Since we had left early, we had no troubles getting through traffic and finding a parking spot almost in front of the main entrance.

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Layout of the expansive gardens with a lot of different water features (ponds) and flower pavilions with gift shops within the gardens.
Inside the pavilions are different themes of planted flowers to inspire the onlooker to decorate with flowers in a similar fashion.
Inside the pavilions are different themes of planted flowers to inspire the onlooker to decorate their homes with flowers in a similar fashion.
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In the middle of the gardens is a large pond area with a fountain feature. What is special about this pond we counted at least 10 large white swans swimming about in the water.

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TIPS FOR A GOOD EXPERIENCE AT KEUKENHOF:  the following are some of the things we did that really made our time there very easy and enjoyable.

  1. Buy entrance tickets & pay for parking online before arriving.  The cost is 16 Euro per adult.  Our dog was free.  This is the link to the ticket costs.  For parking, you pay the attendant directing cars out of the lot when you leave.  That can seem a little confusing about how to pay.  Checkout the website for Keukenhof for all the details about how to get there, tickets, and information.
  2. Buy online the Park Guide for 5 Euro and pick this up at the information center at the main gate.  It is a 75 page booklet explaining the park, its history, and the flowers.  It is well worth the cost.
  3. There are onsite restaurants and food vendors, but maybe bring a small sandwich and snack to enjoy the atmosphere around the windmill area.
  4. Checkout this website tulipsinholland.com/  and sign-up for weekly newsletters to determine how close to peak all of the flower blooms are before your visit.
  5. Definitely arrive before 10am!!  As we were leaving, it was extremely packed with people near the main entrance.  Be sure to take your pictures of the main entrance area when you arrive because if you take the pictures as you leave, there will be a lot of people in your shots…and let’s face it…it’s all about the flowers!
  6. Take your time and wander around the park.  We were there for about 5 hours, and even still did not see everything.  Since we had our dog, one of us had to stay with him and could not go inside the pavilions together, and he was not allowed on the boat that takes you around the large tulip fields.  So, you can easily spend a full day to see everything.
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You will learn about “Tulpomania”….where you learn about the history of the Tulip flower with the first bulbs arriving from Turkey in 1593 on Dutch Ships, and how the cultivation started in the 1620s as the tulip flower thrived in the Dutch climate.
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It is said that no two days are exactly the same in Keukenhof because there are always different flowers in bloom and the various weather elements have vivid effects on the colors. From an overcast, cloudy day where the colors seem to pop-out from the grey skies to the bright sunny days giving the flowers and greenery a glowing effect that is very intoxicating to see….and smell.

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We enjoyed our time at Keukenhof during the day on Saturday!  After enjoying a relaxing evening at the hotel and breakfast the next morning, we left for our drive back home to Germany.  Our drive home was a little more challenging because we had rain the whole way, making it an 8-hour drive.  But, we would take the drive in the rain, since it meant that the day before we experienced absolutely gorgeous weather!!

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We learned about a planting technique that anyone can do in their gardens at home called: Lasagna Planting. Just like how one would layer a lasagna, you can layer different flowering plants at different depths in the soil. For example, early flowering plants would be buried 5 cm into the ground, middle flowering ones 10 cm, and late flowering ones 20 cm. What this causes is a garden that always has some flowers in bloom with times of all of them being in bloom together at different viewing heights, and can enjoy up to 8 weeks of flowering.
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A place for a little relaxing by the water and enjoying the flowers.

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We highly recommend a visit to Keukenhof, even if you do not like flowers, it is hard not to be impressed with the sights and smells of millions of flowers!!  And, it is an easy day-trip if you are visiting Amsterdam, and well worth the visit.  It is said that a flower will attract bees….well, millions of flowers attract people like bees, and it is a sight to see!

And, if the Keukenhof Gardens weren't beautiful enough....all around the gardens are very large tulip fields.  Here the tulips are grown and sold in markets throughout Europe, if not the world.  In this picture, I stopped our car to get out to take the picture.  And, it was amazing the smell in the air once I opened the door of the sweet smell of thousands and thousands of tulips in bloom.
And, if the Keukenhof Gardens weren’t beautiful enough….all around the gardens are very large tulip fields. Here the tulips are grown and sold in markets throughout Europe, if not the world. In this picture, I stopped our car to get out to take the picture. And, it was amazing the smell in the air once I opened the door of the sweet aroma of thousands and thousands of tulips in bloom.

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