Roll up, roll up for Keukenhof, where a symphonic, sensory fusion of floral sights and scents awaits. If you have a penchant for plants or a flair for flower-arranging, this annual Dutch flower show takes place just outside the small town of Lisse and makes for a fantastic short-break opportunity combined with the many delights of Amsterdam, just a stone’s throw away.
Originally a small flower show, first held in 1949, the gardens of Keukenhof have blossomed into what is now recognised as the world’s largest annual floral display. Literally translated as ‘kitchen courtyard’, for centuries the area belonged to the estate of Teylingen Castle where, in the 15th century, game was hunted and food gathered for the castle kitchens. In the mid-19th century, the Keukenhof Gardens were formally landscaped with the first flower exhibition organised just under a century later by the Mayor of Lisse.
Fast forward 65 years and today Keukenhof attracts hundreds and thousands of visitors from across the globe, descending on Amsterdam and its environs to take in the wealth of floral delights on offer across the show. And yet for the Netherlands, it is regarded as the platform for the Dutch floricultural sector on an international stage, for Keukenhof offers an independent showcase to the industry, with 100 selected suppliers and 500 flower growers displaying the best of their blooms at the event.
This year’s theme is Holland and centre stage naturally goes to the very symbol of Dutch identity, the tulip, with over 75,000 bulbs in over 600 varieties on display. And amidst the 80 acres of woodland and sculpted gardens, containing some seven million spring flowering bulbs, you’ll see a wealth of tulips at every turn. Indeed, some 60,000 have been used alongside grape hyacinths to create a glorious floral mosaic depicting the canals of Amsterdam. If, however, tulips alone are not enough to whet your appetite, you’ll also see a kaleidoscopic cornucopia of spring blooms – gerbera, freesia, iris, anthurium, alstroemeria, hyacinth, hydrangea, amaryllis, chrysanthemum, rose, daffodil, carnation, orchid and lily to name but a few – all competing for attention in a sensational sensory assault.
To complement the bulbfields, there are themed gardens in which to wander – cookery, love, family, bee happy, Dutch cow, recycling and healthy are just some of the titles – as well as sculptures and art exhibitions showcasing the work of some 50 hand-picked artists. You’ll also find a selection of eateries and shops (16 in total) where you can purchase bulbs, plants and traditional Dutch souvenirs to take home as well as lots of child-friendly options including a playground, scavenger hunt and petting farm.
Keukenhof opens on Thursday, 20th March and runs continuously until Sunday, 18th May from 8am until 7.30pm. During the season a direct bus service runs to Keukenhof from Schiphol airport (bus 858). Tickets cost 15€ per adult (7.50€ 4 – 11 years) or if you prefer, a combi-ticket (bus and entrance) costs 28€ from Amsterdam centre, or 23€ from Schiphol (12.50€ children).