Destinations / The Netherlands

Before the Tulips: Early Spring at Keukenhof

The Netherlands is famous for its tulips, and everybody knows that. Keukenhof Garden, the tulip paradise that makes headlines on social media each year come springtime, is even more renowned. But what about the early season?

Keukenhof Garden opens around March every year, hoping to attract thousands of visitors from all over the world who will admire their meticulously arranged vast multicolored tulip beds. However, nature is unpredictable (even more so with global warming), and I happened to visit the famous garden before the tulips had fully bloomed. Was it disappointing? If your mind was set on seeing tulips only, and you had traveled halfway around the world to capture the iconic Holland tulip photo, then yes, it might have been. But if you still have a taste for the unexpected, then definitely not. Have you ever wondered what the garden looks like before the herds of tourists arrive to pose against tulip backgrounds? Let me show you.

Keukenhof in early spring

Keukenhof without the tulips: another garden

The first perk of visiting Keukenhof while it’s still too cold for the tulips to be out is obviously that there are fewer tourists. Departing from Amsterdam with the shuttle bus, there was almost no wait, and we reached the garden with no time or line. Of course, we had planned to be there early in the morning to ensure a less busy start to the day. The downside of this is, obviously, that it might be a bit cold, so don’t forget your jackets!

Besides these logistical considerations, what I loved about Keukenhof Garden in early spring is that you get to see a garden that is awakening: some tulips are already open, but mostly you get to see hyacinths and daffodils all around the garden. There were also beautiful rhododendrons. Cherry trees and apple trees are also in bloom, and the grass is a tender green that reminded me a lot of the landscape of the Shire in the Lord of The Rings (I actually made a lot of Tiktoks out of this).

A Shire-looking landscape at Keukenhof Garden

So that’s how I discovered that Keukenhof is not only about the tulips but also about other flowers. Although the park is not open all year round, it was just like Ashikaga Park in Japan; it’s lovely to wander around the garden just before the season to see the different sides of it. All in all, if you’re not 100% set to see tulips and only tulips, I’d say Keukenhof is still a wonderful flower paradise in early spring!

Beyond tulips: the land of the perfect flowers

An interesting aspect of the park is the various exhibition halls dotting the garden, where I could learn about tulips and flower art in general. I saw an exhibition about textiles, colour, and flowers, and that’s where I discovered the most unexpected tulips I’d ever seen!

Rainbow tulips seen at Keukenhof

Living in the Netherlands for a year, I understood that the Dutch have a real passion and expertise for botany and flowers. Not only are flowers everywhere when spring comes (the city of Amsterdam becomes a real flower paradise!), but I also discovered all sorts of experiments carried out on the flowers: triple-crowned tulips or rainbow tulips, turquoise lilies, double-crown white and rose amaryllis… Apart from the blue colors, which were obviously an artificial hue, it was sometimes hard to tell whether these miracles are natural or man-made (and I’m not going to talk about where all the fresh flowers come from here, because that’s a topic for another debate).

Last but not least, I’ll say that although you can buy many souvenirs at Keukenhof, flower aficionados will probably love hunting for bulbs at the Amsterdam flower market during their trip to the land of the crazy tulips!

Keukenhof Garden: practical information

How to go to Keukenhof Garden?
The easiest way from Amsterdam is to use the shuttle departing from the city center (you will have several options, suggested on the website upon booking your ticket). It’s about 45 mins on the bus to get there and expect a line if it’s the height of the season.

How to book the ticket to Keukenhof?
You can book your ticket online and choose the entrance+shuttle option. If you’re going by car, parkings are available all around the garden and you can just book your entrance ticket.

When to go?
The garden is open from March to May only. Check the opening times on the website and follow the flower reports online.

Website and social media
Instagram: @visitkeukenhof

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