KEUKENHOF, THE NETHERLANDS: Keukenhof is best known for being the capital of tulips, its vast fields, and beautiful gardens. It is the most visited and most photographed site in The Netherlands. It attracts most of its tourists during the very beginning of spring each year, which is around middle of March thru middle of May. It is the place to be to see spring blossom. Not only the Keukenhof Garden is decorated with millions of flowers, but also the city itself changes its look around this time of the year. All the empty fields are now huge beds of colorful tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths; every front yard of the neighboring houses comes back to life with new blooms of flowers, the curb sides of the roads also carelessly grow tulips here and there to contribute its share to beautify the whole city.
TIME OF TRAVELLING: We visited Keukenhof end of April 2012 for a weekend. This was the Saturday when yearly flower parade takes place. Unfortunately the weather was not so springy that weekend. We got both rain and cold, may be little sun every now and then.
OUR HOTEL: Our hotel was about 10 km away from Keukenhof (or Lisse), called NH Leeuwenhorst Hotel. Most of the hotels in Keukenhof this time are very expensive. If you have your own car or don’t mind using public transportation, my recommendation is to stay in the nearby cities out of Keukehof. Our hotel was one of the biggest hotels we have ever stayed in so far. It didn’t have free wi-fi or free breakfast, but it had nice restaurant, lounge, kids play area, spa/swimming pool, board-games and card playing area for the adults.
WHAT TO BUY AND EAT IN KEUKENHOF: The best thing you can buy from this place is the tulip bulbs. You will find all sorts of colors of tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths in the shop near the main entrance of Keukenhof Garden. There are few souvenir stores all over the garden, but the biggest one is near the main entrance. You will find Dutch wooden shoes, unique looking tulip vases, gouda cheese along with other original Dutch cheeses in the stores.
Inside the garden, the biggest café/restaurant is again near the main entrance. But you will find carts/trolleys selling waffles, sausages, soups & bread all over the garden. If you want to taste something really Dutch, try raw herring fish with onion from one of the carts. It doesn’t have any smell or anything, but very fishy in taste. You won’t regret it.
PLACES WE VISITED: We reached Keukenhof on a Friday night, attended the flower parade on Saturday morning, then in the afternoon we headed for the flower garden in Lisse, Keukehof. Finally on Sunday we took a tour to Keukenhof Castle before leaving the city.
1) FLOWER PARADE: The flower parade in Keukenhof takes place once a year. This unique parade can only take place in spring when the hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils are in bloom. The parade is called the “face of Spring”, which usually consists of about 20 floats and more than 30 motorcars all covered and decorated lavishly with flowers. Every year they decorate the floats and the vehicles according to a specific theme. This year’s theme was “Communication”. Hundreds and thousands of spectators gather around the route to see this 40 km long parade regardless of the weather. You can see the colorful flowers, hear the bands playing their festive music, and smell the sweet hyacinths in the air when the parade is passing you by.
This is a free event for everyone. This even starts at 9:30 in the morning and ends at 9 at night (taking 2 breaks in the middle). You can always ask for a schedule of the parade from your hotel reception. It will show you the route of the parade and you can choose to stand/sit in one of the spots along that route and enjoy the parade. It takes about an hour for the whole parade to pass a single point from the beginning to end. It’s a memorable event for people of all ages, especially the kids.
2) KEUKENHOF GARDEN: The perfect time to visit this garden is when tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths are in bloom in spring. More than seven million flowers make up this garden. Every corner has surprises waiting for you and to inspire you. The garden does not ONLY display tulips. It is decorated with different colors of daffodils and hyacinths, along with many other kinds of flowers. There are some special indoor houses inside the garden and each of them displays real work of art with flowers. The shades of colors and the shapes of the petals of these flowers are endless. You really have to see them in real life to appreciate the hard works that gardeners/designers put into making this garden the ultimate place to enjoy spring.
The garden is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. everyday. The ticket for adults is 14.50 euros and 7 euros for kids from 6 years of age. Every year the garden also has a theme. These year’s theme was “Poland: The Heart of Europe”. You can easily spend the whole day inside the garden; it is that huge in size. Make sure to go to these greenhouses.
Another must see in the park is the windmill. It is a typical Dutch looking wooden windmill near the spot where boat tour starts. You can go on top of that to get a good view of the park. There is a small souvenir store very close to the wind mill; also try to look for a pair of big Dutch wooden shoe in front of that store.
Right underneath the windmill, you will find ticket booth selling tickets for canal tours. The tour is every half an hour and it takes about about 45 minutes. It takes you around the small canals and the nearby flower fields. I personally didn’t think the boat tour was all that, since the fields are still a bit far away from the water. You get to see some houses by the water, smell hyacinths when passing by their fields, and get a little taste of Hollandish life.Tourists are not allowed to roam around the fields (although we saw bunch of people walking and taking pictures in the fields), so boat tour is the only way to try to get to the fields as close as possible.
3) KASTEEL KEUKENHOF or KEUKENHOF CASTLE: Many people don’t know about this castle, or rather an old estate in Keukenhof. This is only 5 minutes of walk from the main entrance of Keukenhof Garden. There is a huge garden surrounding the castle and a small hut-looking café inside the gated area.
The history of this castle goes back to the mid-17th century. The most amazing part of this castle is that many of the furniture and belongings of this castle are from the original owners from couple centuries back. For example, the bookcase and books/encyclopedia in the library; sink, oven, and the stove in the kitchen, some decors, paintings, some China and original Delft serving wares, and chandeliers (just to name few of those) are still in display in the castle.
The castle can only be accessed by a guided tour (1 pm and 3 pm everyday) and the tour was about hour and half long. Entrance fee to the castle garden and park is 4 euros for adults and 2 for the kids. There is a separate fee to get inside the castle with a tour guide. It costs 7:30 euros for adults and 3 euros for the kids. The tour is at 1 pm and 3 pm everyday including Sundays.