Invariably I always fail to discover when special events are occurring in the places I travel to, even with all of the internet research and bargain seeking I do. As a result I usually find myself in a bit of a predicament, and yesterday’s experience at the Keukenhof Gardens was no different.
Yesterday was the annual flower parade in the Netherlands. Traveling along some 40km of highway in the bulb growing region, spectators are greeted with a variety of floats created almost entirely out of flowers.
It happens to be the country’s most popular parade to visit, and, well…I found out first hand.
It’s amazing how what is supposed to be a 30 minute bus ride can turn into one, two, or even three hours when there are thousands upon thousands of people trying to access a rural area with only two routes to get in and out.
Bravo, Erica. Bravo.
Despite the crawling traffic and the ungodly amount of people packing the side of the road and also (attempting) to flow through the garden complexes within the park, the trip really was as pleasant as it could have been under the circumstances.
I have never seen anything like the flower fields here in Holland in my life. For miles all you see is rows of different bulb plants blooming alongside each other (like tulips, hyacinths, and crocuses), creating blankets of color that just seem to go on for miles. It’s truly a spectacular sight.
Open for only two months of the year, the prime time to see the blooming flowers in the fields in the Keukenhof gardens is between mid-March and mid-May. After that time the bulbs are harvested and shipped all over the world.
The flower/bulb industries in Holland are as important to this country as agriculture is to the Midwest. It is a huge business market, providing jobs to thousands and exporting millions of dollars worth of products to countries all over the world.
Despite the insane crowd and relatively expensive price for the tour (around $50 USD per person), I think that it was completely worth it. It was money well spent and I will always remember the experience.
I just have a few tips to offer:
1.) Break down and pay for the tour through one of the bus companies. I was originally planning on taking the train to Lisse (the small town where the gardens are) and then taking the bus, but thank goodness I didn’t.
Taking this route only saves you a few dollars and you have to stand and wait in a winding line through cattle gates to get on a city bus, which comes about every 20 minutes if the roads are clear. Yesterday people were waiting for hours.
2.) Unless you like paying $8-10 on a ham and cheese sandwich or $6 on an ice cream cone, I’d suggest packing a lunch and snacks to take into the park with you to save money. In addition, watch out for the prices at the gift shops. While the books and other items specific to the Keukenhof are fairly priced, the general “Dutch” souvenirs (like wooden shoes) are not. You can find the same items for less than half the price in Amsterdam, around Dam Square.
3.) Plan ahead…I’m warning you: do not wait until there’s an emergency bathroom situation. I know this is something you’d hear in elementary school, but with only five or six buildings holding public restrooms, you should expect to wait at least 30 minutes in line.
Erica’s Amsterdam Verdict: Overall my trip to Amsterdam has been really nice. The city has something offer everyone: the Red Light District, Museums, Flea Markets, great shopping and restaurants with International Cuisine. The central part of the city is also pretty compact and can easily be walked by foot. You just remember to watch out for bikes! They stop for no one.
Other than being almost run over by multiple insane bike riders and a couple of trams, the only real drawback of visiting is that Amsterdam is an expensive city. Hostel beds will cost 25 Euros+ p/night and eating a “so so” sit-down meal will cost at least 10-15 Euros.