With only two nights in Amsterdam, my first thought was to spend all of my time in the heart of the city. The timing of my visit, however, coincided perfectly with the early tulip blooms at Keukenhof, the famous garden in Lisse. So I sacrificed time in the city for flowers early Saturday morning, and I have no regrets about that decision.
Getting to Keukenhof on public transportation is fairly straightforward with an advance ticket. Buying tickets directly from the Keukenhof website allows you to add roundtrip bus transportation. I stayed at a hotel near the Vondelpark, so I picked up Bus #197 from Museumplein to Amsterdam Schipol Airport. When we arrived at the airport bus terminal, the driver very helpfully pointed out the area for Bus #58, the Keukenhof Express Bus, and where to queue.
Even with a large line of tourists eager to see tulips, there were always two buses being filled, and empty ones arriving to take more passengers, so the queues moved quickly. After they fill seats, they invite small groups or solo travelers to stand if they feel so inclined. I was fine to stand, and after a 40 minute ride, we were entering the gardens!
After entering Keukenhof, the path leads you to the large pond flanked by flowers and filled with beautiful swans
The tulips of Keunkehof – over 800 varietals of them – come in riotous colors and with a slew of fantastic names. Kung Fu, Stresa, Montreux, Sweetheart, Monte Carlo, Parrot, Princess Irene, and a range of colors for tulips named Parrot, Triumph and Emperor. While my visit was probably two weeks prior to peak bloom, a whole range of tulips and other flowers were open and happily drinking in the sun during my visit in the gardens. However, I did not take the boat ride past the traditional fields of tulips, where very little was open. Consider time of year carefully in deciding where to spend your time at Keukenhof, it would be rather disappointing to see only dirt fields without blooms.
Tulip Mania! The main draw of Keukenhof are the astonishing variety of tulips, and they do not disappoint
Keukenhof is more than simply tulips however. Hyacinth, daffodils, narcissi, orchids all spring up about the grounds. And covering 79 acres of land with over 7 million flower bulbs planted annually, even with many hours I did not see everything I could possibly see in the gardens. My favorite non tulip sights were the cherry trees: I’m an amateur hanami enthusiast from spring visits to Tokyo and Washington D.C. (along with nice viewing in my home of NYC), so these were a pleasant surprise. The grove of three with twisted trunks and branches and clustered white blossoms made for fantastic photos.
Two shots of the glorious cherry trees of Keukenhof, beautiful white blossoms popping against the blue sky
I spent about half the day at Keukenhof before returning to Amsterdam. Because the gardens are only open 8 weeks each year, if you find yourself in Amsterdam in spring and have a decent weather forecast during your stay and are even remotely interested in gardens, I would highly encourage you to take the time to visit Keukenhof. There are many aspects of Amsterdam I was unable to encounter, but future trips in any season would allow me to experience those. My visit to Keukenhof may well have been a once in a lifetime experience, and I shall never regret it.
The beauty of Keukenhof beckons in spring: take the opportunity if you want a beautiful day trip from Amsterdam!