While tulip bulbs may no longer be hard currency here, tulip mania continues to infect the Netherlands from late March to late April when the fields are in flower. Deborah Nicholls-Lee suggests nine ways to get your tulip fix this spring.
Visit the bulb fields
The greatest expanse of tulip cultivation in the country can be seen in the Noordoostpolder in Flevoland, which boasts a tulip route of 106 km. Spot the tulip mosaics proudly displayed by the villages as you pass through and visit the mammoth Mondrian painting, made from almost four hectares of flowers. The tulip festival runs from April 22 to May 7.
For the single largest bulb field in the Netherlands, head up to the Kop van Noord-Holland. Visit Anna Paulowna during the Bloemendagen celebrations (April 29 – May 3) and see the whole village bedecked in flowers.
Just up the road, the Bloeiend Zijpe, in ‘t Zand launches on April 7 a varied schedule of tulip-based activities, including photography and painting workshops, guided tours, and an art exhibition.
Take a tram ride through the fields
Board the vintage tram and enjoy the beauty of the bulb fields as you travel steam-powered between Hoorn and Medemblik. Beautiful views guaranteed and charming historical towns with a good choice of museums to enjoy – in both directions – once you reach your destination.
Watch a flower parade
The Bloemencorso is the most famous flower parade in the Netherlands. The floats, decorated with gigantic works of art made of flowers, are this year on the theme of Dutch Design and the De Stijl art movement, which is celebrating its centenary . The parade kicks off with an illuminated procession through Noordwijkerhout on the evening of April 21, passing through Noordwijk the following day, and then onto Haarlem on Sunday.
Stroll around some historic gardens
Most famous of all the tulip gardens is the giant Keukenhof. It’s a tick-list of all things Dutch: Row upon row of tulips, a windmill, canal bridges, and even clog-making. For children, there is a petting zoo, maze, and playground.
Further up the coast in Limmen, is the Hortus Bulborum bulb garden. With its focus on species preservation, this is a key destination for serious botanists and horticulturists. Here you can find over 2000 different varieties of tulips, some of which can be traced back as far as the 16th century.
Get an aerial view
To see the incredible patchwork beauty of the tulip fields, the sky is the place to be. From Rotterdam The Hague airport, you can take an airborne tour of the western bulb fields in a small three-seated plane. The ticket price includes a stunning ride over the Dutch western coastline.
To see the Noordoostpolder and the Mondriaan field, you can book a short helicopter trip for two from Creil, in Flevoland.
Visit a museum
The Museum de Zwarte Tulp in Lisse, near Leiden, is housed in a former bulb shed. There is an interactive exhibition on the history of tulip cultivation and a huge collection of artwork inspired by the famous flowers. The Amsterdam Tulip Museum is more of an excuse to sell bulbs than anything else.
For families, a trip to Fluwel’s Tulpenland is a fun way to celebrate the tulip season. The park is located in a forest in the heart of the north-west bulb district and is just a few minutes’ drive from the beach. The child-friendly exhibition takes you on a journey through time, beginning with the tulips’ homeland of the Himalayas. There is plenty to occupy all ages, including a go-kart track, train ride through the bulb fields, and maze made out of bulb boxes.
Watch a flower auction
To see behind the scenes of the tulip industry, you might like to visit a flower auction. Royal Flora Holland, which sells over 12 billion plants a year, welcome guests at their auction halls in Aalsmeer and in Eelde. See the bidders in action and learn about the trade. Guided and unguided tours are available.
Go tulip picking
If gazing at tulips is not enough and you need to get your hands on them, visit a pluktuin, where you can pick armfuls of colourful blooms to take home.
The tulips in Annemieke’s Pluktuin in Hillegom (between Amsterdam and Leiden), are ready for picking by mid-March. Once you have gathered enough flowers, you can hire a kayak (from mid April) and drift through the multi-coloured fields.
The Tulpenpluktuin in Marknesse, Flevoland, reopens on April 14 and offers 5000m2 of tulip fields with a lookout tower in the middle to take in the magnificent view.
Further west, the Floratuin in Julianadorp, near Den Helder, opens for tulip picking at the end of March. You can book a guided tour of the gardens in English, French or German. If you are feeling creative, take part in a flower-arranging class or perch your easel amongst the rows of tulips and paint the vivid landscape around you.
Deborah Nicholls-Lee is a writer and proofreader and the content manager for Amsterdam Mamas.