Every year, the Garden of Europe is open to the public for a blissful period of just eight weeks. Easy to reach as a day trip from Amsterdam, Leiden, or Haarlem, Keukenhof is a celebration of colour and all things floral-related. Brimming with flowers like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths, here’s your guide on how to visit Keukenhof, including insider tips and things to know before you go!
I personally visited Keukenhof (aka one of the largest gardens in the world) in early April 2019 and so this honest review is from that visit! To set the scene: it was simply a glorious day and I’d spent the night before at a hotel in the nearby town of Lisse. As soon as I walked in the front gate (there’s also an extra entrance towards the back of the garden), I knew I was somewhere special.
After all, it’s not every day that you’re greeted with the sight of thousands of flowers! From the traditional Dutch tulip to sweet-scented hyacinths, the sunny daffodil, the rarer amaryllis and even a pavilion that simply houses the widest collection of orchid varieties you’re ever likely to admire, there’s something for every botanist enthusiast when it comes to Keukenhof.
What is Keukenhof and where is the garden located?
Contrary to what you may well think, Keukenhof is not located in the middle of nowhere. Instead, the world-famous flower gardens can be found on the fringes of Lisse, a small town in the Dutch countryside that doesn’t even have a train station! Instead, the little settlement is served by a bus station and can easily be reached from the cities of Leiden or Haarlem.
The gardens can be found within the region of Duin- en Bollenstreek, in South Holland. The name is literally translated as ‘dune and bulb’ region on account of the stunning dunes such as those of Scheveningen and the impressive tulip fields such as those surrounding Lisse. Other villages in the Bulb Region include Bennebroek, Heemstede, and Noordwijk.
This area of the Netherlands rose to prominence since the peaty soil in the area is great for growing flowers, and in particular, the tulip. Indeed, some of this part of the Netherlands was reclaimed from the sea by way of polders. Once upon a time, the flat expansive landscape was once part of the seabed. Through water drainage and flood control methods, the water was removed, leaving behind rich and fertile soil.
A brief history of Keukenhof, the Garden of Europe
Though the tulip is as synonymous to the Netherlands today as cheese, clogs, stroopwafels or the colour orange, it wasn’t always this way. Something you may well not have known before is that tulips are not native to the Netherlands.
They were actually first imported from Turkey during the 16th-century in a craze that came to be known as ‘tulip mania’. At this time, a tulip could cost as much as a house, even in a city as expensive as Amsterdam! For more information about the history of tulips in the Netherlands today, you might consider a visit to the tulip museum in Amsterdam.
The name Keukenhof itself means ‘kitchen garden’ and the name derives from the fact that during the Dutch Golden Age, the area was used to grow herbs for Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut who resided in the nearby Hainaut Castle. Prior to this period, the area was used as 15th-century hunting grounds. Now, the castle still stands and is known as ‘Keukenhof Castle’.
The current garden was established in 1949. The then-mayor of Lisse wanted to create a space where growers from the Netherlands, Europe, and beyond would be able to display and exhibit their wares (including hybrids) and even further the export of flowers from the Netherlands. Now, the Netherlands is the largest exporter of flowers in the world!
Today, each year over a million people visit the garden, hoping to catch a glimpse of the beautiful tulips, floral displays, and flower-themed attractions. In 2019, the theme is ‘flower power,’ with a focus on how flowers can inspire and connect people. Many of the displays are 1970s-inspired and so you can expect to spy bright colours and hippie-themed exhibits.
Quirky and unique facts about Keukenhof
Since its opening, Keukenhof has seen close to a staggering 50 million visitors (that’s around the population of Colombia or South Korea)! Other equally fascinating statistics about Keukenhof include that around 75% of the gardens’ visitors come from outside the Netherlands, with the majority from nearby countries such as France, Germany, and the UK.
The millions of bulbs in the gardens have actually been supplied for free by around 100 bulb growers. For more information on specific flower varieties and about the grower, there are little signs denoting the name of the plant, as well as the supplier. Every year, the Keukenhof gardens have a theme. Past themes have included Holland (in 2014), Romance and Flowers (in 2018), and Van Gogh (in 2015).
Finally, there are several dozen full-time gardeners who work at Keukenhof all year ’round. The garden is not just about tulips (though there are over 800 varieties on display!), but also includes several internationally-inspired gardens, including an English themed garden, a Japanese garden, a natural garden, and a meadow.
Highlights of the Keukenhof Gardens (and places you shouldn’t miss)
Thanks to an impressive 32 hectares of surface area and over 7 million tulip bulbs (yes, you read that last Keukenhof fact correctly!), there’s no shortage of things to do in Keukenhof. And once at the gardens, it soon becomes clear why this site is one of the most visited attractions in the Netherlands. After all, between a windmill, meandering whisper boat rides, plenty of covered pavilions, and even a maze, there’s something for everyone.
Keukenhof Molen (Windmill)
Located on an outer extremity of the park, if you’ve never explored inside of a Dutch windmill before, then now is your chance. The Keukenhof windmill overlooks the stunning Lisse tulip fields and can be climbed. Clamber up the steep steps to the top viewing platform and you’ll be rewarded with bird’s eye views of the Keukenhof Gardens sprawling out in front of you…
The Flower Parade
In 2019, the Flower Parade is on the 13th of April. Highlights of this one-day annual event include a floats made of flowers passing by from Noordwijk and ending in Lisse. Though you can enjoy the parade from within the Keukenhof gardens, the floats can be enjoyed for free in any of the villages en route.
Instagram friendly displays
What was particularly pleasant about our day trip to Keukenhof was our ability to take as many photos as we liked without anyone really caring/ noticing. After all, everyone was visiting the gardens because they loved flowers and almost everyone I could see was documenting the day through at least a snap or two. Throughout the park, there are several ‘Insta-worthy’ displays. Some of my favourites included a wedding dress covered in flowers, as well as a ‘love’ sign.
Take a Lisse/ Keukenhof Whisper Boat Tour
For an extra fee (of just under €10), it’s possible to take a forty-five-minute boat tour around the tulip fields surrounding Lisse. While you can purchase tickets in advance, it’s also possible to buy Keukenhof boat tickets in the little chalet beside the windmill.
Also of note and close to the Keukenhof Gardens is the Keukenhof Castle. Constructed in 1642, the castle requires a different entrance ticket than the gardens which can be found here. Open on a daily basis, you can find more information about visiting on the official Kasteel Keukenhof website.
Keukenhof Maze (Outdoors)
Perhaps what surprised me the most about our visit to the gardens is that there was a small maze close to the Willem-Alexander Pavilion (i.e. the indoor space where there’s a café and hundreds of tulips on display). This small maze is easy to get lost in, though make it to the end and you’ll find a lookout point from which to enjoy the Keukenhof Gardens from above. The maze was originally opened to the public in 1999 and was designed for children, but is fun for all ages!
Walking on water
Situated on the lake closest to Wilhelmina (this body of water is also referred to as the Keukenhof Pond), where sparkling fountains dance across the surface and a mini island is populated solely by swans and ducks, you’ll get the chance to walk across the lake on little wooden platforms and snap photos en route.
Pavilions at Keukenhof
The gardens are divided into several distinct areas, each with their own layout and vibe. Dotted across Keukenhof, you’ll also soon discover that there are plenty of Pavilions with toilet facilities, cafés to grab a bite to eat, and shops where you can buy Keukenhof-themed merchandise. Most of the pavilions also have cut flower
The star of the show when it comes to the pavilions of Keukenhof is that of Willem-Alexander. Filled with several Instagram photo spots, as well as varieties of every tulip you can imagine (from frilly specimens to pastel-hued plants), this pavilion can be found in the centre of the garden and has toilet facilities, a restaurant, and a shop.
Situated at the far end of the park, close to the Keukenhof pond and not far from the extra Entrance, Wilhelmina is one of the only pavilions where there are no flower displays. Instead, this pavilion has a shop, food facilities, and washrooms. Close to this Pavilion you’ll also find a small hut with the name ‘Keukenhof’ emblazed in bold lettering. This is the original entrance to the park from decades ago.
This pavilion is in the South of the park, just above the Irene pavilion. Boasting an exhibition featuring tulip bulbs and an exhibition about the history of tulip mania, this chalet is the ultimate must-see for any history buff. Surrounding the pavilion you’ll soon discover meandering waterways and delicate flower displays. This pavilion has a shop, café, and toilets.
For lovers of orchids, Beatrix pavilion, in the Northern-most corner of the park, not far from the entrance extra, is the ultimate can’t miss Keukenhof attraction. Filled with all kinds of orchid varieties (including some particularly unusual colours), there are cut displays, and even the chance to purchase some orchids for yourself. Amenities of the Beatrix facility include a restaurant, toilets, and a shop.
You’ll know you’re in the right place when you spy the giant fountain in front of the pavilion. Much like Wilhelmina, this pavilion has no florally-inspired displays or exhibits. Instead, head here and you can expect to find a shop, restaurant, and toilet facilities.
Close to the park entrance and not far from the Keukenhof maze, this is where Keukenhof’s current year theme can truly be enjoyed. Filled with flower shows, displays, and even a miniature ‘Keukenhof indoor theatre’ where regular live shows take place, amenities of this pavilion include a shop, restaurant, and toilets.
What is the best time to visit Keukenhof Gardens?
As you may well have gathered from the fact that Keukenhof is open for just eight weeks a year, the tulips in the Netherlands don’t bloom all year round. The bulbs tend to bloom from the end of March until the beginning of May, meaning that the best time to enjoy the tulips is in April. In 2019, the Keukenhof Gardens are open from March 21- May 19.
The gardens can get very busy, especially so during the weekend, school holidays, and later on in the day. If you want to make the most of your time, then you should aim to get to Keukenhof for when it opens. This is at 8 AM so set your alarm and grab a coffee. To make the most of your time in the garden, you’ll need to set aside at least three hours, as well as time for transportation.
Visit at the weekend, particularly during the Parade Day, and you can expect to find intense crowds and long line ups (even for things like using the bathroom or entering the various flower pavillions). We visited for opening on a Friday morning and even by 10 AM, the crowds were already swelling and queues were forming for some of the more popular attractions within Keukenhof (like the windmill and whisper boat tours).
Things to know before visiting Keukenhof (and insider tips and secrets!)
If I could just give you one Keukenhof travel tip, it would be to purchase your entrance ticket ahead of time. This one tip will save you plenty of time since the ticket includes a ‘skip the line’ function which means you won’t have to wait in the queue for as long before entering, resulting in more time to enjoy the beautiful flowers!
Upon arrival, be sure to pick up one of the free maps to help you navigate the extensive park! These fold out guides show all the facilities, including toilets, food spots, and each of the flower pavilions. There’s free WiFi, though you can still easily get lost and it’s easy to miss even the most impressive of the Keukenhof attractions. Another amenity worth noting is the luggage storage facility, which is free.
Of course, you can buy food on site. However, soft drinks and hot meals are particularly expensive. While coffees are around €3 (which is a pretty standard price for the Netherlands), a burger with fries will set you back around €15 while soft drinks will set you back closer t0 €4.
Luckily, there are plenty of benches dotted around the park that are perfect for sitting down to have a picnic. If you forget to pack a lunch, then Lisse is a flat walk of approximately 1 km from the Keukenhof gardens. Once there, there are a variety of restaurants to choose from, as well as several supermarkets (including an impressively large Albert Heijn).
It should go without saying that you’ll want to wear your comfiest walking shoes. There are quite literally tens of kilometres of pathways stretching through the gardens and so you’ll also want to pack comfortable clothing. Since Keukenhof is in the countryside, the area can also be a little colder than Amsterdam and so be sure to bring a warm jacket and scarf along!
Finally, you definitely won’t want to forget your camera! While it’s well worth sitting back for a moment to enjoy the scenery in real time, you’ll probably want to snap a few (or many) photos as well! For a quick guide on how I take all of my macro flower photos as well as wider landscapes, here’s a breakdown of my travel photography gear!
How to visit the Lisse Tulip Fields in the Bulb Region
You should know that despite what you may have seen in photos online, Keukenhof has not got any tulip fields! The space is actually a giant garden with perfectly manicured green lawns, sculpted gardens, and artfully arranged floral displays. As such, if you head to Keukenhof expecting to wander amongst bright tulip fields, then you’ll be sorely disappointed.
However, after visiting Keukenhof (and admiring the stunning flower exhibits), if you still want to enjoy the best of Dutch tulip fields, then there are plenty of open tulip fields surrounding the gardens. Lisse is well-known around the world for its many colourful fields and many of them can be seen from the roadside. If you do see a field you can enter, remember to be respectful. Don’t pick the flowers, trample on the tulips, and definitely don’t leave the designated paths!
How to purchase your Keukenhof tickets (opening times and prices)
If you purchase your tickets online in advance from the official website, then the entrance price is €17. Purchase the ticket on the day and the price is €18 (the same as buying the ticket with the skip the line function). Children benefit from a reduced rate; ages 0-3 are free and ages 4-17 are €8. Car parking is €6,00 and a park guide is €5, though there is a free map available upon entry to the garden.
If you truly want to experience the best of Keukenhof without the crowds, then going at the opening time is your best bet. In order to capture photos without all of the other tourists, we made sure to arrive at 8 AM and did this by staying at the Restaurant De Vier Seizoenen.
Clean and comfortable, for an extra fee you can even order breakfast. Otherwise, it’s a fifteen to twenty-minute walk to the tulips of Keukenhof, ensuring that you won’t have to wake up too early. The address for Keukenhof is Stationsweg 166A, 2161 AM Lisse, Netherlands and opening times are 8 AM – 7:30 PM on a daily basis. Here’s where you can purchase your Keukenhof tickets in advance and benefit from a skip-the-line function.
How to visit Keukenhof as a day trip from Amsterdam
If you’re visiting Amsterdam in April, then a day trip to the tulip fields of Lisse and the Gardens of Keukenhof are an absolute must. The best option for enjoying the excursion is to purchase the ‘combi-ticket’. This includes transport (you’ll need to take a ferry to reach the bus that will transport you to Keukenhof) as well as your entrance ticket (which includes skipping the line function). Check prices here.
Otherwise, you should note that there’s no direct way to reach Keukenhof from Amsterdam by public transport, apart from if you drive. The car journey is around twenty-five minutes and there is plenty of parking at the gardens. Finally, if you want to purchase a combi-ticket (transport and skip-the-line entry ticket to Keukenhof) and a canal cruise at the same time, be sure to check out this ticket.
Check here for the best Amsterdam accommodation prices
How to visit Keukenhof as a day trip from Leiden
For those looking to combine a visit to a 17th-century storybook city with a visit to the flower fields, then a trip to Leiden is a great place to start. And if you’re in the mood to enjoy even more flowers, then it’s well worth noting that the very first tulip bulbs in the Netherlands were actually grown by Carolus Clusius in around 1593 when he planted them at the University of Leiden.
Today, the Hortus Botanicus (Leiden Botanical Garden) is one of the best hidden gems in Leiden. During Keukenhof opening hours, there’s a special bus that goes from Leiden Centraal straight to the entrance of Keukenhof. The bus takes around half an hour.
You can purchase tickets on the bus using card, though you should know that most buses in the Netherlands do not accept cash. If you want a skip the line feature for your Keukenhof ticket, purchase this gardens entrance ticket in advance.
Check here for the best Leiden accommodation prices
How to visit Keukenhof as a day trip from The Hague or Rotterdam
Planning on taking a day trip from Keukenhof from the politics city of The Hague or from the every-so-modern architectural city of Rotterdam? Well, this excursion will be a little more complex than some of the other day trips on this list, though it’s still perfectly possible.
From either city, you’ll need to take the train to Leiden Centraal. From The Hague this is a fifteen minute train ride, while from Rotterdam it’s a forty-five-minute ride with a train change. Train travel in Holland is surprisingly affordable and from Leiden, you’ll take the special bus that goes from Leiden Centraal straight to the entrance of Keukenhof. The bus takes around half an hour.
You can then purchase tickets on the bus using card, though you should know that most buses in the Netherlands do not accept cash. If you want a skip the line feature for your Keukenhof ticket, purchase this gardens entrance ticket in advance.
How to visit Keukenhof as a day trip from Haarlem
Haarlem is a beautiful city that’s just a ten minute train ride away from Amsterdam. Best-known for its once great North sea trading port, today the city is characterised by its medieval feel and cobbled lanes. From Haarlem, you’ll need to catch the No. 50 bus, which will deposit you in the centre of Lisse, around a fifteen-minute walk away from Keukenhof.
If you’re looking to see the garden If you want a skip the line feature for your Keukenhof ticket, purchase this gardens entrance ticket in advance.
Check here for the best Haarlem accommodation prices
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