When I was young, every Spring I promised myself a trip to the Dutch flower fields, but never quite managed to find the time. Last May the opportunity came to visit the Flower Festival at Keukenhof in the south of Holland. It turned out to be one of the highlights my travels in 2012.
The Keukenhof Flower Festival is staged annually in a small town called Lisse, 21 miles South West of Amsterdam. If you arrive at Schiphol airport there is a regular bus connection (bus no 58) to the festival grounds. You can buy tickets for the bus in the airport complex.
Keukenhof is set in 32 hectares of beautiful parkland surrounding the Castle at Keukenhof. The Flower Festival was first organised in 1949, quickly becoming an annual event. Today it is one of Holland biggest tourist attractions.
Over the last six months, seven million, yes seven million bulbs have been planted ready to flower from late March to mid May. At different times over the next three months you will be able to see magnificent giant tulips, daffodils, amaryllis, hydranges and roses to mention just a few, flowering in the spectacular natural setting of the parklands that make up the Festival site.
/Each year the festival is themed. For the last decade a different country has been chosen each year to be the focus of the festival. In 2012 the theme was Poland, in 2013 the Theme is United Kingdom – Land of Great Gardens and the central attraction will be a bulb flower mosaic showing Big Ben and Tower Bridge.
Last October the last of the 60,000 bulbs creating the mosaic were planted by Paul Arkwright, H.M Ambassador to the Netherland. When the flowers bloom the mosaic will measure 13 x 33 metres. The Juliana Pavilion will house the My Great Garden exhibition, highlighting the best in British gardening and landscaping and produced in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society. In 2012 more than 70,000 British visitors visited the festival.
The best times to visit to avoid the crowds and see the daffodils and hyacinths in bloom is late March to early April. You can see the giant tulips flower in late April and early May but beware, the queues during these prime weeks can be long and uncomfortable.
Entry to the park is 15 euros for adults and seniors and 7.50 euros for children (4-11 years old). There is an annual pass available for flower lovers who plan to visit at least three times in the same season, costings 45 euros for adults and seniors or 17.50 euros for children. This buys you unlimited access to the festival site for the entire season. To avoid ticket queues and get a discount, buy an e ticket in advance from the Kuekenhof website at: www.keukenhof.nl/en/
You can rent a bicycle to cycle round the site, take a boat round the flower fields or if you want to really treat yourself take a pleasure flight over the site to witness the flower fields. It is one of the most magnificent views you will ever see.. Mile and miles of beautiful flowers blooming in all their glory.
If you happen to be visiting Keukenhof on April 20 you will see the annual Flower Parade. On Saturday, April 20, at 9.30am the Flower Parade travels 40 kilometres along the main road from Noordwijk to Haarlem where it arrives at 9pm. The parade consists of 20 large flower floats and more than 30 decorated luxury cars. On the evening of Friday April 19 from 7.30pm, there is a parade of the floats in Noordwijkerhout which becomes illuminated from 9pm. When the parade arrives in Harlem on the evening of Saturday 20 it will be illuminated from 9pm and will remain on view there till 7pm on Sunday 21.
The flower parade is free to watch and visitors to the Keukenhof Festival are allowed to leave the site to see the parade and re-enter afterwards to finish their visit.
If you choose to spend a few days on your trip I would recommend the seaside resort of Noordwijk as an ideal base. It is just 15 minutes from the festival site. We stayed at the Hotel Zonne a small family run hotel a three minute walk from the beach which I can throughly recommend. www.hotelzonne.nl
We had a wonderful evening meal at the Zon & Zeebad restaurant on the sand dunes in Noordwijk. The food was tradition Dutch with spectacular local fish and herring dishes to choose from. www.zonenzeebad.nl
For more information about Keukenhof and how to get there, click here: