For many of us, the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of The Netherlands is tulips. These bell-shaped, vibrantly colored blooms carpet the countryside in spring and serve as a national symbol for the tiny country of tall people in Western Europe. The best place to appreciate these fabulous flowers? The Keukenhof park, of course.
Plan your visit to Keukenhof in 2020
Keukenhof welcomes over 800,000 visitors annually, even though it’s only open for eight weeks of the entire year. The gorgeous gardens draw crowds with their spectacular flower displays and abundant supply of bright and beautiful tulips. Last year alone, 1.5 million people visited the gardens during the two-month period that they were open – and this year is set to be equally busy. So, if you’re planning a trip to this world-renowned attraction, save yourself from an hours-long queue or any ‘sold out’ disappointment and book skip-the-line tickets in advance online.
Each year, exhibitors are given a theme to plan their exhibitions around. Some of the most impressive past themes include Van Gogh, Dutch Design, and Flower Power. The Keukenhof 2020 theme will be World of Colors. Considering the seemingly endless range of colours in which you can find tulips, this theme is sure to impress.
With over seven million bulbs and 800 varieties of tulips, Keukenhof is a treat for tulip enthusiasts and the I-like-getting-flowers-on-my-birthday types alike. Ready to book your Keukenhof 2020 visit? Here’s what you need to know before entering the World of Colors.
Keukenhof 2020 opening times
In 2020, Keukenhof will be open to the public from 21 March – 10 May, everyday from 08:00 to 19:30. (If you’re keen on avoiding the crowds and snagging a people-free shot of yourself in front of some blooming brilliant landscapes, head to the gardens before 10:30 or after 16:00.)
How to get to Keukenhof in 2020
Located between The Hague and Amsterdam, Keukenhof is easy to reach by car and public transport.
By car, the gardens are accessible via the A4 and A44 motorways. Parking is available at the venue. There are two parking lots, one on either side of the venue. The cost of parking per day is €6.
If you’re relying on public transport, the best way to reach the park is to make your way to one of six departure locations (Haarlem Station, Europaplein Metro Station, Hoofddorp Station, Schiphol Airport, Central Station Leiden and all Line 90 bus stops in Katwijk, Noordwijk and Noordwijkerhout) where you can catch an Arriva bus directly to Keukenhof.
Tulip mania in the Netherlands
You may find yourself wondering: why do the Dutch have a 32-hectare garden dedicated to flowers that only bloom for a few weeks of the year, and why do you feel like you just have to be one of the 800,000+ people who visit Keukenhof in 2020? We’ve got two words for you: tulip mania.
The Dutch infatuation with tulips began when Flemish botanist Carolus Clusius received a couple of bulbs from his Turkish associate Oghier Ghislain de Busbecq, which he planted in a botanical garden in Leiden. Impressed by the vibrant shades of the tulips that grew from those few small bulbs and their ability to withstand the harsh Dutch climate, Clusius published a book on the flower – and inadvertently sparked what later became known as tulip mania. The flowers were so popular that Clusius’ garden was regularly raided by Leiden locals. And that was just the beginning.
The popularity of tulips stretched beyond the small community of Leiden and the cheerful flower proceeded to captivate the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries. The tulip became a frequent feature in paintings, a regular on the garden decoration scene and even the subject of festivals. Excitement around the flower kept building and the prices of bulbs kept rising.
By the early 17th century, the value of tulip bulbs had increased to the point where a handful of them was worth as much as six ships or a small mansion. By 1637, that economic bubble burst and it seemed that tulip mania might be over. But while the price of tulips dipped back into an affordable range, their popularity continued to soar. During the 1640s, the Netherlands’ top exports were gin, herring, and tulips. It seemed the infatuation with tulips had spread beyond the Netherlands.
Tulip sales may have fluctuated since the 17th century, but the Dutch have remained the biggest growers of the flower to this day. In 2017, it was reported that nine out of every ten tulips are exported from the Netherlands.
So, where does Keukenhof come in?
The land that today comprises Keukenhof was originally part of the estate of Teylingen Castle. The castle grounds were generally reserved for hunting. However, in the 15th century when Countess Jacoba van Beieren lived on the premises, she added a small garden near the kitchen where she could grow and harvest herbs. The garden became known as the ‘Keukenhof’ (Kitchen courtyard).
Several centuries and owners later, in 1857, landscape architect Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul Zocher, also a landscape architect, were commissioned to redesign the Teylingen Castle gardens. They used the original ‘Keukenhof’ as a basis for the new design of the gardens – which at that point did not revolve around tulips. It was only in the late 1940s that Keukenhof became the tulip mecca that we know and love today.
The transformation of Keukenhof into a flower-lover’s paradise was sparked by flower exporters and bulb growers, and their need for a space to showcase their products. In 1949, Dutch flower merchants descended upon Keukenhof to prepare for their first exhibit of spring-flowering bulbs in 1950. During Keukenhof’s first year of operations as a flower garden, more than 20,000 visitors flocked to admire the labours of the Dutch merchants. And as we all know, the popularity of the park has only increased in the decades since.
Keen on combining your visit to Keukenhof with more tulip appreciation activities? You might like our Tickets for Keukenhof + Flower Fields Guided Tour from Rotterdam.
This post was updated by Lauren Voges on 16/01/2020.