As I was writing the recently published post about things to do in Amsterdam in Spring, it struck me that I could write a whole post about how and where to see tulips in Amsterdam, so that is exactly what I'm doing now.
Of all the cliched things that are associated with Amsterdam and the Dutch - coffee shops, the Red Light District, clogs, canals - the one thing that I think lives up to its cliched significant to the Netherlands is the tulip. Tulips are everywhere in Amsterdam and across the country, especially at spring... but not only during these months. The Dutch love tulips! Truly! Most residents (myself included!) have at least one specially designed vase that is only used to hold and display tulips (see below to find out more!) and of all the myriad of cheesy Amsterdam souvenirs you can find, the tulip shaped ones are definitely the least offensive and may even be found in locals' houses. When I recently bought a tulip-patterned onesie for a Dutch friend's baby she was so taken with it she asked if the same company made clothes in adult sizes. There is no denying that the tulip is a special flower for the Dutch, and you should have no shame in wanting to indulge this stereotype by searching for the best ways to find tulips in Amsterdam and beyond, if you have the time. (Also I feel I should add that if you time it really well, coming to visit Amsterdam in spring for the tulips could also mean you see some pretty special cherry blossom displays too. Find out more in this post about finding the best cherry blossom in Amsterdam.)
Tips for Seeing Tulips in Amsterdam
The best tip I can give you about seeing tulips in Amsterdam is to come at the right time. If you want to see tulips everywhere in Amsterdam - and I mean the real floral kind, not shops filled with tulip-shaped fridge magnets - then you obviously have to plan your visit for springtime, and most specifically April. Yes, you may possibly see some ambitious tulips popping up out of the ground in February and March, and it's possible that some of the slower flowers will be blooming in May, but your safest bet to see the tulips at their best is to come to Amsterdam in early to mid April, or late March if you get a lucky year.
My next best tip for finding tulips in Amsterdam is to advise you that the famous Keukenhof Spring Gardens and the arguably more famous (in our Instagram age) striped tulip fields of the Netherlands are not in or even very close to Amsterdam. It's true that you can easily hope on a train, a bus or get in a car and take a short day trip to enjoy either of these, but it's not accurate that you can just cycle out to find them from the city centre.... unless you are very fit and fast! You can expect a journey to see these things to take at least an hour. As I explain below, it's important you also know that going to Keukenhof and seeing the tulip fields are not one and the same day trip as Keukenhof is separate from the tulip fields (although you can book a combined private tour to make it work) but you can find more information about seeing these things below.
Now all this being said about spring and Keukenhof etc, it's also true that you can still find tulips in Amsterdam all year round. Yes, they may not be growing in flower beds all over the city like they are in springtime, but because this is the national flower of the Netherlands (and because there are many opportunistic people wanting to cash in on this with tourists!) there are many ways to find and see tulips - or learn more about the country's history of loving tulips - all year round. I'm writing this in early January and I've just seen bunches of tulips for sale in stalls in my local market, and no matter what time of year it is as you walk around the city you will see tulips of some form or another, so yes, I've also included ways to see or enjoy tulips in Amsterdam outside of spring months.
The Best Places to See Tulips in Amsterdam
1. Everywhere... during the Tulip Festival
If you time your visit to coincide with the month-long, city-wide Tulp Festival (Tulip Festival) then you will have to try hard NOT to find tulips. Lasting the whole month of April, events are held across the city to celebrate the tulip, and many landmarks, buildings, public spaces and open areas will have flower beds full of colourful tulips specially installed. My favourites (for photos as much for how pretty they all are) include the raised beds on Magere Brug (see photo above), those installed in front of the Rijksmuseum (see photo below) and those decorating the public parks and the gardens of museums. They say that the festival aims to display as many tulips as there are residents of Amsterdam so expect hundreds of thousands!
2. National Tulip Day
National Tulip Day marks the beginning of the tulip season and it takes place as early as January, so consider this the first example of how you can see tulips in Amsterdam outside of spring months. Usually held on the third Saturday of January, this is a small but impressive event in which Amsterdam's main square, Dam Square, is filled with temporary flower beds containing tulips, often arranged in a certain pattern or message. Consider this the closest thing to striped tulip fields to be in Amsterdam.
Organisers aim to have enough tulips for every resident in Amsterdam to take one home, and that is exactly what everyone is invited to do (and because not all Amsterdammers are that fussed you can expect just as many visitors to be lined up in the queue to pick their own). For this reason the whole event lasts only one day and in previous years has officially started at 1pm, so get there early to get in the queue, and to take your photos of the tulips in arguably the city's most famous and historic squares. It's also worth getting there early to watch the impressive set-up take place.
3. In Amsterdam's parks and gardens
Aside from the tulips that will be installed in buildings and spaces across the city's open spaces for the Tulip Festival in April, you can expect Amsterdam's parks and open public areas to also show off flower beds and tubs of tulips outside of these months. When treated correctly tulip bulbs will flower every year and so once planted they will return again, so there will be wild tulips growing in most of the parks in Amsterdam, as well as in private and public gardens.
All of the city's most-loved parks will be filled with tulips including Vondelpark, Westerpark, Amstelpark, Rembrandtpark, Erasmuspark, Oosterpark and Sarphatipark. If you fancy a longer bike ride and the chance to see some tulips growing in the wild then head out to Amsterdamse Bos, or Amsterdam Woods. Many of the canal-house museums will also have tulips growing in their gardens so should you go museum-hopping be sure to take a look outside (see below for some suggestions on where to do this!). The same goes for hotels where you'll no doubt find tulips on show inside and out.
4. A Day Trip to Keukenhof
As mentioned above if you want to really go big with tulipmania, and you are timing your visit with spring, then there is only one place you should go to see more tulips than most ever will in a lifetime; Keukenhof Spring Gardens. While the gardens are open from March to May each year (be sure to check the website each year for exact dates!) to see the tulips at their best you would do well to go in early April - I went in late April and most of the tulips were very open and had petals falling off (see photo above)- but whenever you go be sure to book your tickets and plan your journey well in advance as this day trip from Amsterdam isn't as simple as you may think. Here are all my tips for planning your visit to Keukenhof from Amsterdam.
You can buy your entry and transport tickets direct from the Keukenhof website (where you can find your options for getting to and from the spring gardens) or you can book a private tour and transfer. Alternatively, you can combine a visit to Keukenhof with a visit to the striped tulip fields...
5. A Visit to the Tulip Fields
As I explain in this post on Keukenhof, your ticket to the gardens won't include any official access to the surrounding striped tulip fields that the Netherlands are so famous for. While you will see them from certain parts of the park they are not an official part of the park so you will need to plan a separate trip or tour to see them or make your own way there, which you are allowed to do but obviously this is to be done with some caution and respect for the land as they are considered farmland, and peoples' livelihoods, rather than tourist attractions!
There are some companies and guides offering specific tours departing from Amsterdam to go and walk or cycle through the tulip fields closest to the city (see the final section of this article for the ones I recommend), but you can also make your own way to one of the largest tulip farming areas near Amsterdam, which are north of the city. Get a train Schagen (which is about an hour away from Amsterdam) and walk or cycle west towards the coast. Other towns that are reportedly (because I haven't personally checked all of these myself) the best places to go to by public transport and are surrounded by easy-to-find tulip fields are Den Helder, Castricum, Noordwijk, and Hillegom, and of course, you can still make your way to Keukenhof by bus (without buying an entry ticket in advance) and just skip the gardens and go walking about the tulip fields in the immediate area.
To find out where you can see tulips in bloom most recently make sure you know about flowerradar.com which has maps of the most recent in-bloom tulip fields (though as of January 2018 it looked like it was under development so I hope it's working better for you!). If you're just on foot or bike, it's free to explore the tulip fields but again, be mindful that these fields are farmers livelihoods so please do not pick or damage the flowers, and don't leave any litter behind! And if you're happy enough to see the fields from afar, then you can find some of the best train journeys for seeing tulip fields listed below.
When I first moved to Amsterdam one of the first places I wanted to go was the flower market. I looked up "bloemenmarkt" on my phone, hopped on my bike, cycled away with my camera in my bag... and was thoroughly disappointed when I got there. The main reason for this is that what was once the world's only floating flower market on Singel is now something of a tourist trap and there are only a few (if any!) stalls selling flowers.
Instead there are several stalls selling bulbs, and tulip bulbs are the most prevelant. So if you're wanting to come to Amsterdam for tulips... that you then grow in your own garden, Bloemenmarkt is absolutely where you should go, though I strongly advise you check your own country's customs laws on importing or bringing in flowers. And in case you didn't know, late autumn or early winter is the best time to plant tulip bulbs.
This is not to say you shouldn't visit Bloemenmarkt, it's still one of the most famous floating markets in the world and is steeped in history since it's been running since 1862, I just wouldn't prioritise it or think of it as anything other than a quick stroll along a canal... and an opportunity to buy some tulip bulbs from Amsterdam that you could possibly have growing in your garden, what a lovely souvenir that is!
7. The Tulip Museum
I'm still yet to visit the Tulip Museum which is a private museum (so not free with my Museumkaart) but I have been in the museum shop with several friends who are visiting and this is definitely the place to come if you want to buy almost anything tulip-themed. I have heard good reviews of the Tulip Museum, however, so be sure to consider going there if you want to learn the history of the Dutch national flower, which is actually originally Turkish.
The good news is that visiting is free with an Iamsterdam City Card, a 24, 48, 72, 96 or even 120 hour city pass that will get you free (or discounted) entry to many of the city's museums and attractions, as well as free public transport in Amsterdam and some discounts in shops and restaurants. It's also in a convenient and difficult to miss location along the Prinsengracht near the Jordaan area of Amsterdam, and is practically opposite Anne Frank House, so you could easily combine a visit there with a wonder around a lovely and historic part of Amsterdam.
8. Markets in Amsterdam
Again, if you time your visit right, you can expect to find an abundance of tulips in the city's markets and in flower stalls and shops, of which there really are a startlingly high number in Amsterdam. One of the things I never fail to notice is just how important and common it is to have fresh flowers in your house, always. It's unsurprising when you live in a country that has such a reputation for horticulture, but it's still a nice thing to see people wandering the streets with brown paper wrapped bouquets of all shapes and sizes, or bouquets of flowers proudly on display in peoples' homes.
Already now in winter I am seeing tulips being sold in flower stalls and shops near me, and this will last all the way through to May and even June. In line with tulip season the best, most colourful and most exotic variations will be easier to find during the peak month of April but in short, if you're visiting Amsterdam in the beginning half of the year, the chances are you'll be able to find and buy bunches of tulips in any of the city's daily markets and also in supermarkets.
My favourite markets (for flowers and more) are the daily Albert Cuypmarkt in De Pijp, Noordermarkt's farmer's market on a Saturday, the Monday morning plant market at Amstelveld, and the more locals' markets of Dappermarkt in East Amsterdam and the Ten Katestraat and Kinkerstraat markets in West Amsterdam.
9. The Black Tulip Museum
Forgive me for listing a place I've not yet checked out and the fact that it's another non-Amsterdam place but if you are planning on heading out to Lisse, the nearest big town to Keukenhof, for a day of nothing but tulip-related activities then you have to also include the Black Tulip Museum (Museum Zwarte Tulp) in Lisse. This museum shares the history, culture, techniques and traditions of tulip growing in the region that is so famous for tulips. I look forward to going and telling you more about what you can learn and do there!
Find out more about the Black Tulip Museum here, and you can get a direct train to Lisse from Schiphol Airport, but not from Amsterdam Centraal.
10. Other Amsterdam museums
If the weather is bad and you're in Amsterdam in the wrong season, then you can still make your visit a tulip-themed one by going to one of Amsterdam's museums. In the Rijksmuseum they have a permanent exhibit about "Tulipmania" which is the real story of how tulips became so popular (and expensive!) when they first arrived in the Netherlands. At the Van Gogh museum you should keep an eye out for a few of his sketches and paintings which feature tulips, and then in the Tassenmuseum (the Museum of Bags and Purses) there is a room dedicated to Dutch designed handbags and purses, which feature designs influenced by the tulip. I recommend getting tickets in advance for both Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum so you can avoid the queues and wait time, and all three of these museums are free if you have an iamsterdam City Card.
You should also take a moment to look outside in a museum's gardens, especially if they're a museum in a grand canal house as these have some of the finest gardens and courtyards. Museum Van Loon has a beautifully kept garden that will have tulips in spring, and the Hermitage Museum has a spacious courtyard to its rear that again will have tulips in the right time of year, and it's a perfect spot for a picnic if the weather is kind enough, and this one you don't need a museum entry ticket to enjoy.
11. In Amsterdam shops
It's true that nearly all of the shops selling the most touristy souvenirs will have a wealth of tulip shaped items to buy, but there are other places you can find more high quality and interesting tulip themed souvenirs from Amsterdam.
In the Bijenkorf, Amsterdam and the Netherlands' premier department store, they have a whole section on the top floor with books about Amsterdam and the country, and with decorative items including the famous tower style tulip vases.
There is also one souvenir shop I recommend as it sells things made with modern Dutch design, including tulip-themed artefacts. It's called Spiegel and is on the famous Spiegelgracht which is famous for being a street of art galleries and stores. You should also spend some time wandering the Nine Streets where you can find similar shops selling tulip artwork and tulip-themed souvenirs and gifts.
12. Stay in tulip-themed accommodation
One way to make your visit to Amsterdam the most tuliptastic (I think I just made up a word!) then book yourselves some tulip-themed accommodation, though you can expect all hotels in Amsterdam to have tulips in vases everywhere in spring. The Tulip of Amsterdam is a self-catering studio apartment in Jordaan that has a number of tulipy (another new word!) interior items. There is also the Blue Tulip B&B which has tulips in every room.
13. Royal Flora Holland
To really understand the size and magnitude of the Netherlands' horticulture industry, and to see what percentage of that is made up by tulips, you should consider going on the short journey from Amsterdam to Royal Flora Holland in Aalsmeer, the world's largest flower auction. Open to visitors, here you can see the auction in action - it's sort of like a stock exchange floor but with flowers - and learn more about how important this industry is to the Netherlands. Please note you should plan to go early as this is an early morning market/auction.
You can get to Aalsmeer by train via Hoofdoorp. Find out more about Royal Flora Holland here.
14. Flower Art Museum
If you do make it out to Aalsmeer for the Royal Flora Holland auction, you can make your visit even more worthwhile, and tulip-themed, by popping in the Flower Art Museum. The symbol for the museum is a tulip so you can absolutely expect tulips to be among the flowers on display depicting the best, most beautiful and most mind-boggling floral art works and sculptures.
Please note the Flower Art Museum is not included in the Iamsterdam City Card but it costs just €5 for adults and is free for children up to 14 years old. Find out more about the Flower Art Museum here.
15. Go on a train ride through the tulip fields
If you're not fussed about walking among the striped tulip fields, or taking hundreds of photos of them, then maybe the quickest and easiest way to see the tulip fields is by train. And if you're planning on doing a lot during your visit to the Netherlands this is a win-win situation as you can escape the city, head to another destination well worth visiting, and you can see the tulips. Needless to say again, it's essential you plan your visit in time with spring and peak tulip season (i.e. April).
Amsterdam to Haarlem to Alkmaar. This is arguably the best value for money train ride in terms of taking you through numerous tulip field and also allowing you to make quick stops in two cities close to Amsterdam that are well worth a few hours of your time.
Amsterdam to Rotterdam to The Hague to Leiden. This journey won't be a constant deluge of tulip fields until you're travelling from The Hague to Alkmaar, but I do remember being surprised seeing striped flower fields on a train journey to Rotterdam last year so keep your eyes open and also enjoy visiting the Netherlands' second city, it's political capital and then the cheese capital of the country. That sounds like a journey worth doing anyway regardless of tulip fields! (If you want some ideas for things to do in Rotterdam, here's my city guide.) For a shorter journey with more tulip fields you can skip Rotterdam!
Amsterdam to Den Helder. Heading directly north this journey takes in the wealth of tulip fields directly north of Amsterdam. Den Helder is a small town but with enough maritime history to enjoy a short wander around before you head back to the city.
Amsterdam Schiphol to Lisse. As mentioned above, Lisse is where you can find Keukenhof Spring Gardens and a vast area filled with striped tulip fields so it's no surprise that you can see some of them on the train journey there alone. You need to depart from Amsterdam Schiphol as there are no direct trains from Centraal Station to Lisse.
16. Go on a special tulip tour
If you want to make seeing tulips very easy (by basically paying someone else to organise a trip and take you there) the you should consider going on a special tulip tour be it a private guided tour or a group tour. Several leave Amsterdam every day (at multiple times a day during the spring) and there are a number of combination day trip tours that include visits to other destinations in the city or in the region. There are so many to choose from and of course which one is for you depends on your budget, who you're travelling with, when you're visiting Amsterdam and what else you want to do, but I've picked a few of my favourites based on what they claim to be offering, my knowledge of the trip they're offering and also value for money.
If you're only interested in tulips and tulips alone, then this sounds like the 5-hour ultimate tulip experience is for you. Taking in Keukenhof and surrounding tulip farms and fields, it sticks to showing you the best of the tulip growing region around Lisse. Departure and return points for the coach journey are in the centre of Amsterdam, but be aware this tour doesn't include any refreshments or meals.
This tour offers an exploration of the Keukenhof-Lisse region by boat which will include views of the striped tulip fields and windmills. It will then take you to the aforementioned Royal Flora Holland auction and finally to a cheese farm. It includes a Dutch lunch (which could just mean cheese sandwiches!) and some beverages and will depart from and return to Amsterdam by bus. With tickets priced from €95.00 that seems very good value for a full-day tour.
I think if I was going to go on a tour of the tulip fields I would do it by bike, and that is the option on offer with this small group cycling tour that is just half a day. However, be prepared to work hard as the tour will cover about 20km (12.5 miles) which suggests to me that you may actually be cycling from and back to Amsterdam though I don't know for certain. Also you should note that the bike rental is not included (€10) so if you have your own bike it sounds like you need to bring it!
If taking it easier and having a little more luxury is more your style then this private minivan tour of Keukenhof Spring Gardens and then some very scenic Dutch towns surrounding Amsterdam, including windmills and stripey tulip fields, will be more up your street.
And that's all the tips I have to offer so you can find lots of tulips in Amsterdam and the surrounding region. I hope you find it useful. If you'd like more Amsterdam travel tips you can check out the articles below:
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Frances M. Thompson
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