I don’t even remember how I originally discovered this wonder but as soon as I knew I was moving to London, I wanted to plan a trip to the Netherlands to see Keukenhof. Luckily I have friends who live in and around Amsterdam so I could easily visit them and go to Keukenhof at the same time.
Keukenhof is located in Lisse, which is within half an hour of several cities in the Netherlands. It consists of 7 million flower bulbs that bloom over an 8 week period from March to May. Holland, and indeed the Netherlands as a whole, are known for their tulips and flower fields and Keukenhof has been going for over 60 years. Having grown up in Ottawa, where the Canadian Tulip Festival every May is the largest tulip festival in the world, tulips are special to me. The Dutch Royal family gifted the Canadian people with 100’000 tulip bulbs in 1945 as a thank you for their role in liberating the Dutch in WWII and for providing safe harbour for the Royal family during the war. Princess Margriet was actually born in Ottawa but the government temporarily declared the land around the Civic Hospital as extraterritorial so that she would be pure Dutch, not a dual national. If you care to read more about Ottawa’s tulip festival, go here.
Anyways, history lesson aside, I was dead keen to see Keukenhof. My only (small) disappointment was that my friends were not available to visit in late April/early May when the tulip fields are at their best so I went inside over the Easter long weekend.
We went to visit Keukenhof on Easter Sunday and what a lovely day to visit. The weather was lovely and, while it was crowded, it wasn’t ridiculously busy. The theme of Keukenhof 2013 was “United Kingdom-Land of Great Gardens”. Somewhat ironic that I’m now living in the UK and the theme was all about the UK but amusing nonetheless.
There were several pavilions in the grounds and each had a different flower show on. As the gardens are in bloom for 8 weeks, there are staggered shows so that there is always something in full bloom. Indoor pavilions were always in full bloom of course.
Unfortunately, because it’s been such a long, cold winter, not much had bloomed in the outdoor gardens. Disappointing but not the fault of organizers who certainly had enough indoor flowers blooming to fulfill any requirements.
In addition to the outdoor gardens, there are plenty of gardening ideas and art pieces around. There was, of course, a giant windmill, as well as little cafes, playgrounds and plenty to give you gardening inspiration. About 30 minutes into our wandering, my camera battery died. No worries though I was smart enough to charge my extra camera battery…..but no, I had left the battery in the charger, back at my friend’s apartment. Devastated does not even begin to cover how I felt….I admit there were several tears shed, mainly because I was so angry at myself for doing something so silly. Thankfully, I had an almost fully charged mobile phone so I was able to get my pictures (though not as fancy or nice as I would have liked, it still took some great shots).
My absolute favourite place was the Willem-Alexander Pavilion….a building that housed over 100’000 tulips!! I cannot even describe the feeling of walking into this building and seeing all the tulips. Speechless. Without a doubt it was the absolute highlight of my entire trip to the Netherlands (no offense to my friends!). This is what I had come for and even though I could not see the tulip fields in full bloom, this building more than made up for it! In addition to tulips, there were lilies, daffodils, hyacinths and various other gorgeous flowers throughout.
After the high of the tulip pavilion, I didn’t think there could be anything as beautiful but the anthurium, bromeliad and orchid show in the Beatrix Pavilion certainly tried. There were mannequins around the pavilion dressed in various woods and flowers which added a bit of interest should you be getting bored with the beauty of the flowers.
Overall, I had a wonderful day at Keukenhof. I wish I could go back when the fields are in bloom….maybe one of these years. If you get the chance to visit Holland between mid-March to mid-May….get your butt to Keukenhof….you will not regret it!
Open daily March 21-May 20, 2013