There’s nothing more Dutch than a tulip, right? Well, besides windmills, cheese and wooden shoes of course… Tulip season in The Netherlands lasts from the end of January til the end of April. It’s a wonderful and colourful experience to find yourself in the middle of a tulip field. It’s like being in a sea of flowers, with brightly coloured tulips everywhere you look. The Dutch flower bulb fields are famous all over the world. Tourists and locals alike love to have their picture taken amid the tulips. So where should you go for the ultimate tulip experience?
Since there was a tulip picking event for kids in Lisse this weekend, I decided to take our little one there and visit some flower fields on the way back. Last year we went to see the tulip fields at the end of April and by then they were almost overblown. This year we were much earlier and some tulip varieties hadn’t even started to bloom yet. Most of them were in full bloom though and our little man loved it! He even wanted to take some pictures himself.
Best time to see the Dutch tulip fields
There are more bulb fields than just the tulip fields. As early as late January you can see the first crocuses. Then early spring it’s time for daffodils, narcissus, and hyacinths. And April to early May the tulip fields are in full bloom. If you want to see the tulips, by far the best month to visit the bulb fields and admire all this floral wonder is April.
Of course, the weather remains a deciding factor. If we had a mild winter, the flowers might bloom a bit early. If the winter was more extreme or temperatures stayed low in the first few months of the year, it might take some more time for the flowers to be in full bloom. To be sure though, don’t wait until the beginning of May. By then a lot of the flowers will be overblown. If you want to see where the flower fields are located and which are in full bloom check out the Flower Radar website.
Some fun facts about Dutch tulips
- The biggest Dutch flower auctions generate an annual turnover of nearly $5 billion
- Holland bulbs are famous, each year approximately 1,7 billion flower bulbs find their way to homes all over the world
- In the Keukenhof over seven million flower bulbs are planted, with no less than 800 tulip varieties
- National Tulip Day was launched in 2012 by Tulip Promotion Netherlands (Tulpen Promotie Nederland or TPN) to promote the Dutch tulips
- Dutch tulip growers produce 4,32 bilion tulip bulbs per year, of which 53% are used for cut flowers
- The tulip isn’t a Dutch native flower, tulips are originally from the high plains of Central Asia
Start of the tulip season with National Tulip Day in Amsterdam
The official start of the tulip season in The Netherlands is known as National Tulip Day (or ‘Nationale Tulpendag’ in Dutch). It’s held every year on the third Saturday in January. The Dam Square in Amsterdam is transformed into a giant temporary picking garden / cutting garden.
Around 200.000 tulips herald the start of the tulip season. Setting up the garden starts at 08:00 in the morning and it’s is open to the public from 13:00 til 16:30. And the best of all, picking your own bouquet of tulips is free!
Holland Tulip Festival
From early April to Mid May (in 2017 April 1-May 14) tulips dominate the city of Amsterdam for the Holland Tulip Festival (or ‘Tulp Festival’ in Dutch). Over 500.000 tulips can be admired at 60 locations in the city. You can buy an information guide that describes all the venues and tells you which tulips you can see in each location. On the Holland Tulip Festival website you’ll find an interactive map. The map also indicates which flowers are in bloom and which will be blooming soon. Tulip Festival 2017
Keukenhof gardens and Keukenhof Flower Festival
The Keukenhof is one of the most famous floral gardens in the world. It’s only open for 2 months per year (mid March to mid May) and attracts 700.000 visitors annually. The flower garden covers a surface of 32 hectares and has 15 km of walking paths. There are flower shows, inspirational gardens and various events. Kids are also very welcome too at the Keukenhof. There is a free children’s treasure hunt, a petting zoo, a maze and a playground.
We visited the Keukenhof in 2014 when we had some friends from Egypt visiting Holland. It was amazing, but if your kids are small, I don’t think you can get the full experience. There’s just too much to see and most kids aren’t known for their patience. To be honest, our toddler and I had just as much fun visiting the tulip fields this weekend. And that didn’t cost us anything.
Flower parade (Bloemencorso)
There are numerous flower parades in The Netherlands. A lot of them are held in September and the floats are decorated with dahlias. The Flower Parade in the bulb growing area (‘Bloemencorso Bollenstreek’ in Dutch) is the only parade of this size that takes place in the Spring. It is also the only one that is made entirely with bulb flowers. The event is closely linked to the Keukenhof.
A lot of people don’t know this, but there’s actually a Flower Parade Week in this area of Holland. The 3 days before the actual parade, the 20 floats and 40 luxurious vehicles are decorated. You can visit the huge hall where this is done. The entrance fee is quite low and it’s very educational to see the decorators at work. The Bloemencorso Bollenstreek is always on a Saturday and the decorating takes place the Wednesday – Friday before. The Sunday after the parade, all the floats are exhibited in our hometown Haarlem, in the city center. You can find more information on the website of Bloemencorso Bollenstreek.
Tulip Museum Amsterdam
If you haven’t seen enough tulips, you can visit the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. Also a great alternative if you’re visiting The Netherlands in Summer, Fall or Winter when the tulips aren’t in bloom. The Tulip Museum teaches you everything you want to know about the history of tulips. The museum is small and to enable visitors to see everything, only 25 people can visit at the same time. It’s housed in a historical canal-side house, so as a bonus you get to see one of these old houses from the inside.