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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There really aren’t words to describe the flower fields- rows and rows of colorful daffodils, hyacinth and tulips, it’s extraordinary.
While you’re biking, as you approach a field, you’ll likely smell it before you see it- heavenly.
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.
Have you ever visited The Netherlands in spring when the tulips were in full bloom?