The Netherlands

Cycling Through Tulip Fields in Holland

You know those things you dream about doing as a child? The ones that when you finally get to do them as an adult, you’re awestruck?

One of those moments for me happened recently- cycling through the Dutch countryside in search of tulip fields.

I’ve been to Amsterdam plenty of times- it’s a city I become more fond of with each visit- but hadn’t ventured outside the city much. On a recent spring trip, I planned on spending a half day in southern Holland in Lisse to revel in the tulips before heading to Rotterdam for a day, and then back north to Amsterdam.

Although the entire trip was special- saw and caught up with a few of my favourite people- the half day I spent in Lisse was incredible.

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I caught an early morning flight from London to Amsterdam, which meant I landed by 8 am. After checking my backpack at the airport storage center, I headed to the front exit of Schipol (near the train station) to buy a return bus ticket and entry pass for Keukenhof.

Tip: If you only have a backpack on you, take it with you to Keukenhof. They have storage there as well- you’ll save time trying to find the luggage storage location in Schipol and then waiting in line (it’s done manually).

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Ticket in hand, I headed outside to catch the bus. Eager to get to Rotterdam post-tulips, I’d also looked at Uber estimates, but a bus, plus entry ticket for Keukenhof cost £22, whereas an Uber one way was between £25-28.

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I’d been on the fence about going to Keukenhof. Famed for its tulip gardens, everyone I knew who’d visited told me it was too touristy/overcrowded. But, I decided it was something I wanted to see and experience for myself. And, I’d heard you could rent bikes from the parking lot of Keukenhof to cycle the countryside, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to check it out if I was already going to be out that way.

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I’m glad I went, but I wouldn’t go again. The designed gardens and rare flowers were exceptional, but at 9 am, there were hundreds of people- which meant the gardens were already overcrowded.

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And, with that many people, you’re guaranteed to spend time in traffic. The bus ride from Schipol took ~35 minutes on the way there, and less than 20 minutes on my way back. When I left near 1 pm on a Saturday, traffic to get into Keukenhof was backed up for what appeared to be miles.

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Some people say Keukenhof is better on week days, but I think I’d still feel similarly even with less people. And sure, Keukenhof isn’t just about the flowers- there are plenty of nods to Dutch heritage, from cheese to sample to wooden shoes, and even a windmill. But, if you’re going to be in Amsterdam or any other part of The Netherlands, they’re all things you can experience in a more relaxed (and likely authentic) environment.

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After spending an hour at Keukenhof, I left in search of the parking lot bike rental stand. You can reserve in advance online, but I figured I’d be good to grab one mid-morning and I was right- there were still plenty of bikes available when I went to rent one around 10:30. When I returned though at 12:30, the supply was dwindling.

When you rent a bike, they’ll give you a map with a few different routes on it. I chose to do part of one of the longer routes where they assured me there were lots of flowers, cycling out for an hour and then back.

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There really aren’t words to describe the flower fields- rows and rows of colorful daffodils, hyacinth and tulips, it’s extraordinary.

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While you’re biking, as you approach a field, you’ll likely smell it before you see it- heavenly.

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I’ve heard you can rent bikes from Lisse (or even Haarlem, if you’re up for a half day cycling), and bike the countryside without going to Keukenhof. The flower fields were so magnificent, I’d definitely look into the details of just renting a bicycle if I ever returned to The Netherlands in springtime.

Time wise for a trip, try to plan for mid-late April- it’s usually when the flowers are in full bloom.

Even though I was only at the flower fields for a few hours, it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

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Have you ever visited The Netherlands in spring when the tulips were in full bloom?

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