Want to beat the crowds at Keukenhof? Go on a rainy day!
Keukenhof is a big flower park in Zuid-Holland, one of the 12 provinces of The Netherlands. Part of the Bollenstreek (bulb region), it attracts many visitors from all over the world in spring to see the flowers bloom. Keukenhof and the surrounding fields are heavy on tulips, our nation’s pride and joy and prime export product. This year (2019), Keukenhof opens from the 21st of March until the 19th of May.
We went on a Tuesday afternoon early April. It was not really intentional to go on a rainy day, but here in The Netherlands you can’t really plan around it! We wanted to go after 4 PM, because it would not be as crowded. The Keukenhof website says to go either before 10.30 AM or after 4 PM when there are less people, which would also give you a great opportunity to take photos in the golden light. Not so much when it’s raining. On the flip side, you do get the park practically to yourself! Keukenhof closes at 7.30 PM.
Keukenhof can be easily reached from Amsterdam. You can buy a combi ticket with coach travel from Schiphol airport, Amsterdam or villages and cities in the area. The name Keukenhof (kitchen garden) comes from the 17th century when there was a castle on the premises that took herbs and berries from the garden. After that, the estate and its gardens were expanded into what we can visit today. The Keukenhof opened for visitors in 1950.
What to see and do at Keukenhof
Keukenhof is a meticulously manicured park consisting of flower beds showcasing flowers from Dutch and some international bulb farmers. There are tons of tulips in many variations! It is not only about the tulips, but there are plenty of other types of flowers so there is always something pretty to see during the opening period of Keukenhof. This Facebook page shares updates on what is in bloom when in Keukenhof and surroundings. You may want to consider going more than once spread over a period of time to see variation in the blooming periods of the flowers.
There aren’t many covered areas in the park to shelter from the rain, but you can go inside to one of the pavilions. They have even more flowers, shops and restaurants.
Souvenir shops are scattered all over, selling scarves, bags and ornaments with flower designs. A bag of bulbs would make the best souvenir. Do check customs regulations to verify if you are allowed to bring it back home. Prices are on the high side in the park; I estimate even higher than at the airport and the flower market (Bloemenmarkt) in Amsterdam.
You will find restaurants in the pavilions and there are also some stalls for tea, coffee and snacks. I would not recommend having a full meal there, but try these Dutch staples:
- haring (herring)
- appelgebak (apple pie) – usually sold in combination with coffee – add whipped cream to the apple pie!
- broodje bal (meatball on a bun)
- warme chocomel met slagroom (hot chocolate with whipped cream) – not really a Dutch staple I guess, but so comforting!
If you go later in the day, be aware that some stalls will close early-ish.
This year’s theme is Flower Power; 50 years after John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed In, it is a fitting theme to celebrate love and peace. Throughout the park you will see the theme come back, for instance in the Flower Power Miffy pictured above. Miffy (Nijntje) lovers rejoice: there is an entire Miffy themed shop!
Surrounding flower fields
You don’t even need a ticket to Keukenhof to tour the Bollenstreek‘s flower fields. Best way to go around is by bicycle, but in that case better to check the weather forecast (we use Buienradar.nl) . Cycling in the rain is no fun at all. Check this website for an excellent overview of where and when to see the flowers of the region.
Inside Keukenhof, you can also take a boat ride (gondola style), but in my opinion it is not worth it. The water level is quite low, so in order to see properly you would have to stand up and I think it is not so safe. Also, depending on the time of the season, you may not see much at all. Plus, I have a little trauma since I once got stuck in a boat for hours because of the low water level. It was cold and they didn’t have enough blankets and there were no blooming flowers and it was miserable. End of rant. In any case, better to walk, cycle or drive around to tour the fields.
Instead of going to the Bollenstreek, you can also go to Noord-Holland to surround yourself with flowers. Check my blog post on a visit to West-Frisia last year.