Each year thousands of people ask themselves the same question: when is the best time to visit Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands? The reason for this is that the best time to visit Keukenhof Park changes every year and depends almost entirely on Mother Nature.
If it’s been a warm winter and the spring weather is immediately nice, the flowers will bloom faster than after a long and cold winter. On top of that, you have to accept that you’ll never see all the flowers blooming at once as there are so many different varieties. First, the crocuses bloom. Then the narcissus and then the tulips and the hyacinths.
The Keukenhof Gardens are only open to the public a few weeks a year. In 2018, the opening dates are from March 22 until May 13. During that period, the gardens are open every day of the week, each time from 8 am to 7.30 pm.
I visited the Keukenhof Park on a day trip from Amsterdam and I got to see them from the sky. Well, kind of, as not everything went as planned… but I’ll tell you all about that later in this post.
- Keukenhof Gardens: a little bit of history
- Visiting Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse
- A few tips
- Practical information on visiting Keukenhof Gardens
- Getting to Keukenhof
- How to get to Keukenhof by yourself
- Keukenhof Gardens aerial view – Not what I’d expected!
- Practical information on flying over the tulip fields
- Where to stay in Amsterdam
- Pin for later
Keukenhof Gardens: a little bit of history
The history of the Keukenhof Gardens goes back to the 15th century when there was a fruit and vegetable garden at the spot supplying the kitchen of Castle Teylingen. Two centuries later, that castle had been replaced by the Keukenhof Castle and its domain enlarged up to 200 hectares.
In the 19th century, landscape architect Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul Zocher redesigned the garden to what would become the foundation of the Keukenhof Gardens as we know them. The Zochers would later also design the famous Vondelpark in Amsterdam.
The first spring flower exhibition took place there in 1950 and had no less than 236,000 visitors. Every year now, about 100 flower growers exhibit their bulbs and flowers in beautiful garden designs and flower shows. In total, about 7 million flowers color the grounds of the Keukenhof.
Visiting Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse
Keukenhof is located in Lisse in the Netherlands, about a 30-minute drive from Amsterdam. It’s a 32-hectare park – the biggest flower gardens in the world – where gardeners plant around 7 million bulbs of 800 tulip varieties and other flowers each year. The planting takes around three months, which is longer than the time the park is open, and all the bulbs are delivered for free by Dutch bulb farmers.
Keukenhof looks different every year and some the flower designs in the park clearly depend on the theme of the year. In 2018, the theme is “Romance in Flowers”.
The Gardens get around 800,000 visitors from 100 different countries every year, so you can imagine I was a bit worried that it would be too crowded at Keukenhof to really enjoy the flowers.
I think I somehow got “lucky” as it was awful weather the start of the day I went. When we arrived by bus from Amsterdam, it was even raining. Luckily, there are also three indoor flower shows at Keukenhof and one indoor exhibition. Hoping that the rain would later pass, that’s where I headed first.
At the Oranje Nassau Pavilion, there is a different flower show every week. When I was visiting, the roses were on. I saw roses in all kinds of colors and shades, but as I’m someone who always has a hard time choosing, I liked these the best:
At this pavilion, you can also catch one of the daily flower arranging demonstrations.
The Willem-Alexander Pavilion is located in the center of the Keukenhof Gardens and is the biggest of the four pavilions. You can easily spend half an hour or more here, taking close-ups of all the different flowers exhibited. At the Willem-Alexander Pavilion, there are pot plants, amaryllis, perennials, lilies and thousands of tulips.
The last pavilion with a flower show is the Beatrix Pavilion. Are you noticing a theme here? That’s right, all pavilions carry the name of a member of the Dutch royal family.
I thought the Beatrix flower show was the fanciest, with lots of decorative materials and beautiful orchids.
No flower show at the last pavilion, the Juliana building, but an exhibition about the history of tulips in the Netherlands, called “Tulpomania”.
I visited Tulpomania at the end of the day, though because when I left the Beatrix pavilion, the sun had finally come out and it had stopped raining. I was so happy because I’d really thought that I’d be going home with only photos of inside flowers and soaked flowers. I picked up the pace and tried to follow as many of the little paths that criss-cross through the Keukenhof Gardens as I could.
After a photo or two, I slowed down again, though. Keukenhof doesn’t let you rush things. It’s designed in such a way that you automatically become zen.
In total, there are eight inspirational gardens at Keukenhof and one historical garden, with tulip varieties that go back to the 17th and the 18th century. The only thing I found a bit of a shame is that these different gardens aren’t marked on the Keukenhof map and so you can walk through them without really knowing what garden you’re in.
Then again, does that really matter when you’re walking in the sun, surrounded by flowers and smelling spring? No, I didn’t think so either.
A few tips
- If you want to visit the Keukenhof Gardens without them being too crowdy, try coming on a weekday and as early as possible. Especially if you’re coming by car, it’s best to come early to make sure you find a spot in the parking lot.
- Try visiting when it’s sunny. I got lucky that the skies cleared when I was there because the colorful lawns do look a lot better in the sunlight.
- Avoid days that have special events going on, unless you want to attend them, obviously. These days tend to be busier.
- Be patient. Everyone’s trying to take nice Keukenhof photos and people will get in your frame.
- Be respectful. Don’t walk on the lawns just to get a better shot.
Practical information on visiting Keukenhof Gardens
Keukenhof address: Stationsweg 166A, 2161 AM Lisse
Keukenhof Gardens opening dates: March 22 – May 13, 2018
Keukenhof Gardens opening hours: daily from 8 a.m. until 7.30 p.m.
At Keukenhof, there are cafeterias, souvenir shops and restrooms in each pavilion. If you’d like to bring a picnic, you can eat it at one of the cafeterias. There are also free lockers where you can put away your things – even luggage.
You can get a free map of the park by the entrance, but I didn’t really need mine as there are big maps posted around the Keukenhof Gardens as well.
You can easily post your favorite Keukenhof pictures on social media, as there’s free wi-fi throughout the park. Just make sure not to spend too much time on your phone, as that would be a shame.
There are several events at Keukenhof each season. It’s best to check the website for the calendar, but the most famous event is definitely the Flower Parade which will be held on April 21 in 2018.
Dogs at Keukenhof
Dogs are allowed in the Keukenhof Gardens if they’re kept on a leash. They can’t enter the pavilions and restaurants unless they’re guide dogs. You can get free dog poo bags from the people at the entrance of the gardens.
Wheelchairs and prams
The Keukenhof Gardens are easily accessible for people in wheelchairs, with rollators or pushing prams. There are special toilets and it’s also possible to get a free wheelchair for the day. There’s a limited number of them, so make sure to reserve one beforehand. You’ll have to pay a €20 deposit. If you want to rent a scoot mobile, that costs €10/day plus the deposit.
Getting to Keukenhof
How to get to Keukenhof by yourself
You can travel to Keukenhof independently either by car (parking is €6) or bus. There’s a Keukenhof Express bus from Schiphol Plaza and Leiden train station as well as other (slower) buses from Haarlem station, Katwijk, Noordwijk, and Noordwijkerhout.
It’s also possible to buy a combi-ticket which comprises both your bus trip and your entrance to Keukenhof. Savings on these tickets are minimal, but they make it redundant to queue twice as they’re skip-the-line tickets.
Keukenhof skip-the-line tickets
If you’re traveling to Keukenhof independently, I highly recommend you get skip-the-line tickets to make sure you can get in fast.
You can order them here.
Another way to visit Keukenhof is by joining an organized tour. Options range from only transportation from Amsterdam to Keukenhof and back to a fully guided tour. Here are some of the most popular picks:
Keukenhof Gardens aerial view – Not what I’d expected!
At the beginning of this post, I told you guys I got to see the Keukenhof Gardens from the sky, right? Well, not really. I should have, but things didn’t really go as planned.
I went on this sightseeing flight over the Keukenhof Gardens with an old DC-3 Dakota airplane. The flight leaves from the KLM Jet Center at Schiphol and I must admit I immediately felt fancy when I arrived there. No large airport halls, but a cozy lobby with lounge rooms and free tea and coffee.
While I was waiting for check-in to start together with my fellow passengers, the pilots came out to welcome us and have a talk with everyone. This immediately set the tone: the rest of our flight morning would happen in a relaxed ambiance.
Check-in went smoothly and we were quickly taken to the beautiful DC-3 that was awaiting us on the tarmac.
We didn’t immediately get on, though. Pilot Tom first shared a bit of the plane’s history and technical facts with us. I was amazed to hear that the plane we’d be flying in was built in 1944 and had taken part in D-Day. Tom even showed us the one spot where the Dakota DC-3 had taken a bullet. You could see a little metal square where he’d been patched up.
What I loved was how passionately Tom spoke of this plane. You could see that doing these sightseeing tours was more than just a job for him. He loved this plane and wanted to share that love with his passengers.
No better way to do that than from the sky, and so we boarded. I was happy to see I had the best seat: completely in the back by not one, but two windows. I took out my camera and started snapping even before take-off.
Purser Katleen handed out candy for us to chew on and the lady in front of me told me she really needed that. She’d taken this exact same tour last year and had been really sick. I didn’t think too much of it, ate my candy and continued taking photos when we left Schiphol behind us.
It was amazing to see the city be replaced by a patchwork landscape of green, purple and yellow. Green from the tulips that still had to awake, purple from the hyacinths and yellow from the daffodils.
We still had to reach Keukenhof when it hit me: nausea. Later I saw that Viator warns that this flight might not be ideal for people with motion sickness, but I think I missed that point in my excitement. I hadn’t taken anything and was now paying the toll.
I started to shake and sweat while my stomach felt like it was marching upwards. It quickly became impossible for me to look through the viewfinder of my camera – that only made things worse – and I thought: “You’ve got to be kidding me”.
Luckily, purser Katleen spotted what was going on. She put away my warm jacket and guided me to the front seat where it felt a little less bumpy. She brought me water and some more mints and even offered to take photos in my place, as my eyes were fixed on the wall in front of me now.
I wanted it to be over. I knew that throwing up (sorry for the subject) would help, but would you want to throw up in a plane with 14 other people and no bathroom? I didn’t think so.
My nausea disappeared when we landed again and although I’ve taken some great shots at the beginning of the flight, I missed getting an aerial view of Keukenhof.
Of course, that has nothing to do with the quality of this tour. In fact, the crew couldn’t have taken better care of me. They did everything they could to make me feel better and when the flight was over, they even let me in the cockpit after everyone else had already gotten off the plane and they posed for some final photos when the other passengers were waiting on the bus to be driven back to the Jet Center. I really want to thank Katleen and the pilots!
Besides being sick, the first half of the flight was really cool and while I was sitting there with a paper bag in my hands, I heard the other passengers go “oooh” and “aaah” the entire time. When we touched the ground, I heard someone say it had been more amazing that she could have ever thought, and another person felt this was the coolest thing he’d done since he’d come to Amsterdam.
Just to say: don’t let my weak stomach put you off. I wouldn’t recommend this sightseeing flight if you suffer from motion sickness really badly, but otherwise: go for it! Just take some medication beforehand and you’ll surely be fine. Enjoy the view, take some photos and come back later to tell me how it was to see Keukenhof from the sky, as I kind of missed that part.
Practical information on flying over the tulip fields
I took the Keukenhof Gardens Dakota Sightseeing Flight tour with Viator but unfortunately, they’re not offering that anymore. This is a good alternative.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
The last time I stayed in Amsterdam, it was at The Manor. You can also go to Booking.com for an extensive list of options for all budgets and needs.
If you’re looking for an apartment rather than a hotel, I would recommend checking airbnb. Sign up through my link and get a discount on your first stay!
Pin for later
I was invited by Viator to visit Keukenhof and write about it. Doing these kinds of trips is part of my job as a blogger. However, they will never affect my opinion as the most important thing about blogging to me is you, the reader.
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you book a stay through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting the site!