How to visit Keukenhof: the garden of Europe

Have you always been dreaming of visiting the famous Keukenhof Gardens? Unfortunately, the popular Dutch flower gardens are closed to public in 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis, but it’s never too early to plan your visit for the next season, in 2021. Visiting the Keukenhof gardens is a unique experience, but definitely one that requires a little bit of planning.

Located in a small Dutch town called Lisse, the Keukenhof Gardens are one of the most popular day trips from Amsterdam for tourists and locals alike. You don’t want to miss out on the colourful explosion and unique exhibitions that change each year. If you want to get a glimpse of what to expect, pop by the official Visit Keukenhof YouTube chanel and have a look at their beautiful videos, covering the 2020 season!

In this quick and easy guide, written by a local flower lover, you’ll find all the essential tips you’ll need on where to book your tickets for 2021 and how to get there, as well as insider’s tips on how to beat the crowds and what not to miss. It doesn’t really matter whether you’ve visited one of the most beauitful gardens in Europe before, or planning your first-time visit. Since the flower exhibitions and the theme change annualy, your visit is bound to be unique and interesting in its own way. Just be warned – you will come home with hundreds of colourful shots like these:

Colourful flower beds in Keukenhof, Lisse
Colourful flower beds in Keukenhof, Lisse

Planning your trip

To begin with, don’t plan a half-day trip to Keukenhof, or even just naively assume you’ll just pop by and see what’s in there. The place has a way of sucking you in, and the gardens are vast. Besides the carefully manicured gardens, there are numerous greenhouses and if you’re a bit of a plant nerd, you’ll want to visit them all! From hundreds of orchids to the multi-coloured dahlias, you won’t know where to look first. The greenhouses and pavillions are the place to be for all sorts of hybrid species, colourful experiments and special exhibitions.

In preparation for your trip, don’t forget to do a couple of things before you go. Check your SD card(s) and make sure they’re working and provide enough space. Your battery and powerbank should be fully loaded, and you might even want to bring a back-up SD card (or, if you’re like me, a back-up smartphone). Take my word for i:, once you’re amidst the flower beds, you’re be unwilling to leave until you take a picture of literally EVERY colourful specimen that crosses your path. You’ve been warned.

How to get there

Last April, I embarked on the journey to visit the Keukenhof flower gardens with my best friend, who was visiting the Netherlands for the first time. The best way to get to Lisse is to take the train to Leiden, where you can hop on a special bus going to Keukenhof. If you’re coming from Amsterdam, then the trip to Leiden won’t take more than 30-40 minutes.

One of the advantages of going by train is that you don’t have to worry about (and pay for) parking in Lisse, which is a rather small village and gets very crowded during the tulip season. Anothe big plus is the fact that once you get closer to Lisse, you might already see the large tulip fields surrounding the town! And, last but not least, the train connections in the Netherlands are very efficient and reliable (just like the Dutch, haha!).

Making the most of your visit

The moment you get off the bus in Lisse, the real fun is about to begin. If you want to make your entrance smooth and fast, make sure to get a ticket online at least a couple of days in advance. This will save you a lot of waiting time at the gates. Once you enter the gardens, make sure to grab their free map at the main entrance – not that you won’t get lost at some point anyway, but at least you increase your chances of finding your way back!

On your map, you’ll see a number of possible routes, all the greenhouses, exhbition halls and various amenities. It doesn’t really matter which route you follow, but there are a few highlights you wouldn’t want to miss. One of them is the central pond with a fountain, where you can ‘walk on the water’ and take the ultimate instagrammable picture (if you’re willing to queue up for that).

Fountain in Keukenhof, garden of Europe
Fountain in Keukenhof, garden of Europe

Similarly, you can’t skip the 50,000 flower mosaic, which is located near the main entrance, and represent the theme each year.

Another quintessentially Dutch experience is to visit the original windmill, which dates back to 1892 – you can climb up to see the enormous windmill blades turning, but also to enjoy the views of the surrounding tulip fields. Fun fact about this cute windmill is that it used to stand at a different place, near Groningen (north of the Netherlands), but it was dismantled and donated to Keukenhof in 1957.

Windmill Keukenhof Lisse
Original Dutch windmill in Keukenhof Gardens

Bonus tip: from there, you can choose to go on a short boat trip through the tulip fields; the boat leaves every hour and you can buy the tickets on the spot for €8.

Best time for a visit

The Keukenhof gardens are normally open between the end of March till mid-May. In order to enjoy the fields in full bloom, I’d recommend to visit anywhere between the end of March and mid-April (of course, this depends on the weather each year). Last year, the gardens were open till May 19, but I can tell your from experience that towards the end of April, the fields were already getting a bit less colourful and some of the displays already started fading away.

In general, the gardens are less busy before 10.30 and after 16.00, with biggest crowds arriving around lunch time. Also, it’s obviously less busy on work days (specifically on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) than right before or during the weekend. While most people recommend going early in the morning to avoid the biggest crowds, I have to say the most enjoyable part of the day was the late afternoon, with a soft light and numerous spots where you could take pictures just sitting between the flower beds, without a queue forming quickly behind your back. It depends a bit on whether you’re a morning person or not, but if not, you might want to come in later in the day and still have enough time to enjoy the beauty.

Red and yellow tulips Lisse Holland
Tulip fields in Lisse, the Netherlands

Know before you go

One thing I’ve mentioned before is that each year, the gardens and exhibitions are organised to reflect a certain theme. The theme in 2019 was ‘Flower Power’, giving the main exhibitions a funny hippie touch. In 2020, the theme has been announced to be ‘A World of Colours’.

Fun fact: the 50,000 bulbs that create the amazing flower mosaic near the main entrance were already planted in October 2019. This year, tulip bulbs, grape hyacinth and crocuses were used, to create a spectacular, colourful mosaic representing this year’s theme.

Colourful flower beds in Lisse, Keukenhof
Colourful flower beds in Lisse, Keukenhof

Before you go ahead and start planning your visit next spring, just be aware of the fact that visiting the Keukenhof gardens is not the same as visiting one of the the many tulip fields. If you want the perfect Instagrammable picture of yourself, walking through the endless fields of colourful flowers, you might want to rent a bike in Lisse and go for a bike trip around the countless tulip fields instead. One way or another, I really hope you’ll make the most of your visit. Might see you there!

Getting your tickets

So, are you ready to experience Keukenhof at its best? As with all major attractions, you’re better off getting your tickets online before you go. The prices as of March 2020 were as follows:

Adults online €17,50 / €19,00 on the spot

Kids 4 – 17 y.o. €9,00

Parking lot €6,00

Open daily from 8 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. (closed in 2020)

For more info, visit www.keukenhof.nl

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