When spring comes to Europe everyone rejoices; the cold, dark days are over and color comes back into our lives as the flowers bloom. One of the very best places in the world to experience this explosion of happiness is the Keukenhof Gardens near Lisse in the Netherlands. These gardens are only open for a couple of months a year – usually mid-March to mid-May, and are all about the flower quintessential to Holland: tulips.
While not native to the Netherlands, tulips have long been a national symbol; in the seventeenth century they became such an object of financial speculation (dubbed Tulipmania) that the government had to step in to stop people losing all their money buying bulbs at huge prices.
These days Holland produces about 3 billion tulip bulbs a year! The 70-acre Keukenhof Gardens were opened in 1949 as a place for growers to show off their wares and every year around 7 million bulbs are planted here. Last year over 800,000 people visited to revel in the beauty and be amazed by the sheer variety of tulips.
There are seven ‘inspiration gardens’ giving ideas of how to design your own tulip garden, plus tents and kiosks where bulbs can be ordered (they are delivered in September when they are in their deepest hibernation). The garden is also dotted with sculpture by Dutch artists and, naturally, there is a windmill dominating the landscape.
Keukenhof Gardens tours leave from Amsterdam, and they are also easy to reach by bus from Haarlem and Leiden, and there is even a direct bus from Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. Just don’t forget your camera when you go because this place is beautiful; it’ll make you forget all about those winter blues.