Let yourself bloom: Keukenhof, Holland

Let yourself bloom: Keukenhof, Holland

by Jessica Soto
Stripes Europe

Have you ever been to a place so enchanting that you stumble over the words to describe its beauty to your friends? If you haven’t, then immerse yourself in Keukenhof, a strategically designed garden where millions of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and other buds bloom with the rise of spring.

Embedded in the Dutch towns of Haarlem and Sassenheim is the magnificent garden of Keukenhof, which translates to “kitchen garden.” Tourists from all over the world flock to experience the splendor of 7 million hand-planted flower bulbs skillfully placed across 79 acres of land, transforming a patchy field into a botanical dream.

The history of the tulip in Holland dates back to the 16th century when the flower was first introduced by the Ottoman Empire. Its rarity quickly gained popularity by the upper class. During the 17th century, the country went through an economic boom. People began investing large sums of money for just one tulip bulb; some bulbs were priced higher than a house and continued to grow in value.

In 1634, a set of 40 tulip bulbs sold for 100,000 florins; at the time, the medium annual income was just 150 florins. Botanists began to hybridize the flower to make the bulbs more decorative and tempting. The hybrids were quickly seen as rarities and a symbol of high status.

The tulip’s reputation quickly spread. Across the country, businesses shut down and farms and animals were sold so that locals could partake in “Tulipmania.” The government could do nothing to stop the widespread recognition and was rendered powerless as the tulip epidemic took over. As with anything else, when supply became greater than demand, the tulip was no longer scarce. Prices dropped and many dealers went bankrupt. The tulip was no longer seen as a status symbol, and the desire for tulips decreased. Needless to say, the tulip is etched in Holland’s history, so more than 70 acres of land are dedicated to showcase the beauty of this once-rare flower each spring.

The flower forest is open from March 21 through May 20, and can be experienced in more ways than one. Though the orchard can only be toured by foot, there are bike trails along the outskirts of Keukenhof; you can either bring your bikes or rent them at the main gate for €10 (cash only) to explore the garden’s breathtaking, colorful surroundings. There are four cycle routes ranging from 5 kilometers to 25 kilometers, but if you’re a devout cyclist, you may want to consider the 35-kilometer “Bulb Route.” Whichever way you choose to travel, you will find yourself amazed as you get lost in a kaleidoscope of assorted flowers.

With 79 acres of land to see, your feet may get tired. If so, just catch the environmentally- friendly boat. For €7.50, silently sail for 75 minutes through the Dutch landscape and soak in its beauty from a different perspective. If you are planning your trip in April, pencil in the Flower Parade, which starts on April 20. The Flower Parade is the biggest parade held in Holland every year, traveling a 40-kilometer route along the main roads from the town of Noordwijk to Haarlem. The procession is comprised of more than 20 large floats and 30 decorated luxury cars adorned with millions of flowers and sprinkled with the sounds of music. Don’t worry about a spot to watch; Keukenhof has made sure there is plenty of room along the roadside for the hundreds of thousands of travelers that come to see the bulbs each year in all of their glory.

Traveling to the garden with kids? There is a great playground and maze for the youngest tourists to enjoy, as well as a petting zoo where children can see an array of young farm animals including lambs, rabbits, chickens and pigs. New this year is Miffy’s Garden, a wonderful place where Miffy the Bunny shares her garden with the smallest visitors. Inside, children can find a jungle gym and have their picture taken with Miffy. For an educational route, there are numerous greenhouses around Keukenhof for children to learn how flowers are able to live and grow out of their season.

With all there is to see and learn, it’s important to remember to eat; that’s why you can find plenty of cafés throughout the garden to take a break, grab a snack and enjoy the breathtaking surroundings.

The garden is perfect for every occasion, whether you want to take a romantic stroll with that special someone, capture phenomenal pictures or venture on a family trip; the garden has something for everyone. Adults can see the magnificence of the garden for just €15, children (4-11) are just €7.50, and parking is €6 per vehicle. Spring passes are also available on the first day the garden is open. Prices are: €45 for adults (including 65+), or €57 with parking. Entry is €17.50 for children ages 4-11.

Can’t get enough of the garden’s beauty and want to make a weekend of it? For luxurious accommodations, reserve your room at the beautiful, 4-star NH Leeuwenhorst, located nearby. Or, for the added bonus of a weekend beach getaway, why not consider the NH Zandvoort, located only 25 minutes away on the beach Zandvoort. Enjoy fine dining, bar and spa after a long day at the gardens.

Keukenhof is indeed art in full bloom with its row after row of dazzling color. So, grab your camera and get ready to capture memories at one of the most beautiful and unforgettable gardens of Europe.

For more information about Keukenhof, its restaurants, group tickets and overnight accommodations, visit the garden’s website.

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