After a long, cold winter, Keukenhof celebrates love and seasonal renewal with Romance in Flowers, this year’s seductive theme. Through May 13, 800 varieties of Holland’s iconic tulip, plus showy displays of hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lilies and other spring blooms, will dazzle more than a million visitors at Europe’s most stunning spring garden. For eight weeks, the park is open daily from 8am–7:30pm.
Set in the tiny town of Lisse, about an hour from Amsterdam by public transport, the crown jewel of Holland’s bulb-growing region, or Bollenstreek, features the prize blooms of some 500 Dutch growers. Around Keukenhof, ribbons of colorful blooms thrive in the moist, well-drained soil that stretches for more than 20 miles between Haarlem and Leiden in the Netherlands’ world-renowned tulip fields.
Translated as “kitchen garden,” Keukenhof’s roots go back to the 15th century, when Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria foraged for cooking herbs, fruits and nuts behind Teylingen Castle in South Holland. After that property was reduced to ruins, Keukenhof Castle rose from the ashes in 1641. Its gardens were redesigned in 1857, laying the foundation for today’s stunning seasonal display.
True to theme, Keukenhof’s 2018 attractions include a Cupid’s garden with red and white flowers and a “kissing gate,” a Holiday Romance Garden with tropical palms, and a rose show starring hundreds of flowers synonymous with love. There’s also a serene Oriental Garden, wild Rebel Garden, and an aromatic Tea Garden fragrant with mint, lemon balm and chamomile. A Delft Blue Garden pays tribute to Holland’s ubiquitous water and windmills, while a Hipster Garden is the floral version of a man cave.
Other highlights of Keukenhof’s 69th season include the annual flower mosaic—a romantic pastiche created with 50,000 bulbs planted in two layers. The Oranje Nassau Pavilion presents daily flower arranging demos and floral displays that change weekly. In the Willem-Alexander Pavilion, thousands of tulips are on display before the world’s largest lily show debuts in the final 12 days of Keukenhof’s 2018 season. Throughout its eight weeks, the Beatrix Pavilion will house masses of orchids and anthuriums.
The Tale of the Tulip
Keukenhof’s 2018 Historic Garden pays tribute to the tulip, a flower as synonymous with Holland as red roses are with romance. Highlighting 400 years of cultivation in the Netherlands, it offers clues to the bulb’s journey from the western Himalayas to Persia, China and Turkey, where it was prized in the Ottoman Empire. When Dutch trading with Constantinople increased in the 16th century, tulips were introduced in Holland, where prices rose to make them a status symbol for the wealthy.
A Tulpomania exhibit in Keukenhof’s Juliana Pavilion reveals how demand for tulips outstripped production in the 17th century, inspiring people to use tulip bulbs as currency. When speculation became rampant, a single bulb sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman, creating the world’s first recorded economic bubble. After the market crashed in 1637, Tulip Mania became a metaphor for any unsustainable economic bubble marked by prices that wildly exceed an asset’s intrinsic value.
Keukenhof Celebrates Romance
Over its 2018 season, Keukenhof will host a flurry of romance-themed weekends, from a fairytale festival to a flower market with blooms sure to melt a lover’s heart. At the mill in the park, you can buy into the love theme (and give your feet a break) on a 45-minute whisper boat ride through the bulb fields. True to their name, the electric boats glide through the floral landscape with hardly a sound beyond the camera clicks of passengers.
Around 3:30pm on April 21, 2018, flower-covered floats in the 71st edition of the Bloemencorso will pass Keukenhof on the main car park side, on a 40km parade from Noordwijk to Haarlem. The 2018 season will conclude with Romance at Keukenhof, a classical music festival amid the park’s tulips.
Bike rentals are available at the car park adjacent to Keukenhof’s main entrance. For €10/day, you can peddle past dazzling blooms on cycling routes ranging from five to 40km. From March 31–May 6, big spenders can book a 30-minute flight over the flower fields in a Royal DC-3 Dakota aircraft. For €135, it’s an option to consider if you want to propose marriage or just invest in sky-high romance.
Prices and Transport
Adult tickets for Keukenhof can be purchased online for €17 or at the gate for €18. Tickets for children 4–17 go for €8. A combo-ticket that includes transport from Amsterdam and entrance to the park is available online for €29.50/adults; €12.50/children. Rather than going to the cashier, it allows you to walk straight into Keukenhof from the bus stop. Another advantage is savings, as the combo-ticket may be cheaper than the combined price of your journey and entrance to Keukenhof.
It’s easy to reach Keukenhof via public transport. From stops on Marnixstraat, Leidseplein, the Rijksmuseum and Museumplein, you can pick up the Airport Express (Conexxion bus #397). Take it to Schiphol Plaza and transfer to the Keukenhof Express (bus #858). Alternatively, take the train from Amsterdam Central Station to Schiphol and transfer to the Keukenhof Express at Schiphol Plaza, near the exit by Arrivals Hall 4, next to Starbucks. Free maps of the park are available at Keukenhof’s ticket office, information desk and entrance.