April is Tulip Time in Amsterdam and Keukenhof Gardens showcases tulips like no other place on earth. Every spring over 800,000+ visitors from around the globe travel to Keukenhof to enjoy the seasonal spectacle of 7 million bulbs in bloom. Due to the tulip’s limited blooming window, the gardens are only open during an 8-week period beginning in March.
The History of Keukenhof Gardens
On the short bus ride to Lisse, our tour operator shared the history of Keukenhof.
Keukenhof sits on 15th-century hunting grounds and literally means “kitchen garden”. The name is fitting because the original garden provided herbs for the kitchen of nearby Teylingen Castle. Almost 200 years later, Keukenhof Castle was commissioned and the grounds grew to over 494 acres.
Subsequently in 1857, landscape architects, Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul, redesigned the Keukenhof Castle gardens in the English landscape style. By and large, this park still forms the basis of Keukenhof Gardens.
Afterwards in the 20th-centurty, the City of Lisse and the bulb industry developed a plan to use the garden as a permanent exhibition site. As a result, the gardens officially opened to the public in 1949. Furthermore, the exhibition welcomed 236,000 visitors in its inaugural season and initiated the birth of Keukenhof as a spring park.
Bulbs and Blooms
This year marks Keukenhof’s 67th season and over 100 bulb and 500 flower growers support the endeavor. After the spring season, the growers harvest the bulbs; and in a similar fashion, plant new hybrids the following fall. As a result, the garden is a constant work in progress and never grows old to its multitude of visitors.
While walking the grounds, I developed a sentimental attachment to the tulip varieties in the images below and nicknamed them ‘Roll Tide’ and ‘War Eagle’ respectively. Not to confuse matters, their official names are ‘Paul McCartney’ for the crimson and white hybrid and ‘Orange Emperor’ for the orange cultivar.
Perhaps the Dutch need to consider licensing to the Southeastern Conference?
Isn’t this a beautiful carpet of grape hyacinth?
Keukenhof Windmill and Canal Boat Ride
Two of the more popular attractions at the gardens are the windmill and canal boat ride. Unfortunately, they’re not included in the general admission ticket but are fairly inexpensive as add-ons. I believe the canal boat ride ticket is an extra €8 and the windmill is similar.
The Windmill features great views of the gardens and adjacent canals from its balcony. Similarly, the canal boat ride features a short ride through the canals of tulip fields. Not to mention, all guests receive headphones with a history of the Dutch tulip trade translated in multiple languages.
All in all, a great excursion if you’re ever in Amsterdam in the spring!