Amsterdam is one of my favourite European cities, famous for its canals and tulips and somewhere I always enjoy visiting. The city centre is absolutely gorgeous with its scenic canals, quaint architecture and world renowned museums but did you know that there are lots of idyllic places to visit further afield that are easily accessible by public transport? Within this series of posts I’ll be introducing you to some hidden gems including an open-air folk museum, a castle and some picture perfect small towns.
We were up at the crack of dawn, in fact it was actually earlier than that as it was still dark when we set off for Leeds-Bradford Airport for our 6.20 a.m. KLM Cityhopper flight to Amsterdam, taking just under an hour. KLM are a really good airline to travel with as even on short flights, passengers are offered complimentary snacks and refreshments.
Schiphol airport was very organised and it seemed to take no time at all for us to pass through immigration and board a train into the centre. Standard single fares cost €4.60 but we each received a €1 discount by purchasing a paperless ticket on our phones. With a journey time of just 20 minutes we were soon in Amsterdam Central Station where we popped into the tourist office to pick up maps and to collect our 72 hour Amsterdam Cards.
These offer excellent value as they include admission to the majority of the city’s museums and attractions, canal boat trips and unlimited free travel within the city centre boundaries.
We made good use of our cards immediately as we used them to board Tram Line 2 to our hotel. Do remember that it’s necessary to both tap in and out on public transport with any type of ticket/ card purchased. We’d arranged to stay at the Park Plaza Vondelpark, located in the city’s sought after Oud-Zuid neighbourhood just steps away from the beautiful Vondelpark. Although it was only 11.00 a.m. when we arrived, our room was ready and we were able to settle in and freshen up straightaway.
Leaving the hotel, we wandered through Vondelpark which looked lovely in the spring sunshine. It’s Amsterdam’s largest park, established almost 150 years ago and home to many old Dutch red chestnut and horse chestnut trees.
The pathways were filled with weekend cyclists and families out for a morning stroll. We stopped off at one of its attractive cafes for a coffee and pastry which we enjoyed on a sunny terrace before continuing through the park to Leidseplein, one of the city’s most popular squares. From there we took a tram back to Central Station on our way to the world famous Keukenhof Garden.
Nothing says spring more than a visit to Keukenhof which is one of the most popular places to visit in the Netherlands in springtime. Combination entrance/ Keukenhof Express bus tickets are available from Amsterdam and Schiphol Airport (€29.50 to €33.50 depending on departure point) with frequent services taking visitors to the main entrance gates. We only had to wait a couple of minutes for a bus to arrive which then whisked us to the garden in Lisse in 25 minutes.
Keukenhof is the most beautiful spring garden in the world and opens its doors for just eight weeks each year (24th March – 15th May in 2022). In 2019 Keukenhof welcomed 1.5 million visitors and after two years of the garden being closed and only visible online, everyone seemed happy to be able to wander around the sea of tulips once again. Upon reading this you might think that it would be crowded but as the garden spans 79 acres there is plenty of room for everyone to spread out away from the main entrance.
The historic park dates back to 1857 with the initiative for Keukenhof taken by ten bulb growers/ exporters who wanted to create a showcase for their trade, with the present garden being established in Lisse in 1949. The then-mayor wished to create a space where growers from the Netherlands would be able to display and exhibit their bulbs to increase the export of flowers from Holland. The Keukenhof garden attracts visitors from near and far and has enabled the Netherlands to become the largest exporter of flowers worldwide.
This part of the country rose to prominence for bulb growing as the peaty soil in the area is ideal for growing flowers, and in particular, the tulip. Part of this region was reclaimed from the sea, with the flat expansive landscape (polders) once part of the seabed. Through water drainage and flood control methods the water was removed, leaving behind rich and fertile soil perfect for the cultivation of bulbs.
A team of 40 gardeners plant seven million flower bulbs each year taking them approximately three months, which is actually longer than the time the park is open. Planting is done in layers so that there are always beautiful displays to be seen.
After the flowering season is over the bulbs are all dug up enabling the cycle of autumn planting, spring flowering and harvesting to start once again. The bulbs are provided free by around 100 different suppliers to showcase their products and information on the specific flower varieties and bulb grower are provided on small signs beside each display.
The theme for 2022 was Flower Classics, with a new design and layout created each year using 1,600 varieties of bulbs to change the appearance of Keukenhof. These are combined in such a way that the park is in bloom for the entire eight weeks.
Our visit took place during the third week and the garden looked stunning from every angle with its wonderful displays of spring flowering bulbs including many tulips, daffodils, lilies and fragrant hyacinths.
We spent four hours walking along the paths criss-crossing the garden which were awash with colour and floral scents. If you walked along the full length of the paths this would measure 15 km in total but it’s unnecessary to walk so far as the enchanting displays are absolutely gorgeous throughout the park.
In addition to lawned areas there are ornamental ponds and inspiration gardens for ideas to take back home. There are also cafes, gift shops, plant sales and four indoor pavilions. These covered areas are equally beautiful with each of them named after Dutch royalty.
The Oranje Nassau Pavilion showcases roses and offers daily flower arranging classes whilst the Willem Alexander Pavilion, located in the centre of the park is the largest of the halls. In this vast pavilion we admired thousands of tulips, amaryllises, perennials and lilies. Not to be missed on any visit but especially useful to pop into if it’s raining.
The Beatrix Pavilion contained an exquisite collection of delicate orchids all beautifully arranged, some hanging from the ceiling with others in arrangements and vases.
The fourth pavilion, the Juliana Building took on a different theme with an exhibition about the history of tulips in the Netherlands entitled Tulipomania and was equally interesting to view. Originally cultivated in Turkey, the tulip made its first appearance in the Netherlands in the late 16th century, becoming a status symbol for the Dutch soon afterwards and continues to this day to be a much loved flower.
On the edge of Keukenhof stands a windmill which is over a hundred years old and was originally used as a pumping mill. In 1957 a cruise company purchased the windmill in Groningen and donated it to Keukenhof to become a feature of the garden.
Visitors can climb to the viewing balcony and enjoy views not only of the garden but also of the flower fields in the surrounding area. These bulb fields produce a delightful striped carpet effect and are another unmissable sight in Lisse during the spring time.
Visiting Keukenhof is a delight for the whole family as alongside the magnificent floral displays there is a maze, adventure playground, small petting zoo and stepping stones across the lake to keep everyone happy and entertained.
Our feet might have been tired as we boarded the bus back to Amsterdam but our spirits were high as spending a few hours at Keukenhof is such an uplifting experience so do try and visit sometime if you can as I’m sure you’ll be as enchanted as we were.
If you have enjoyed reading this post you may also like:
If you use Pinterest please consider sharing and pinning the image below: