Amsterdam wasn’t on my travel wish list for 2014 but when I realised I had 30,000 bonus air mile points that were due to expire (that will teach me to read the small print more carefully), I was faced with a “use ’em or lose ’em” dilemma.
Of course, it wasn’t much of a dilemma – I’d be crazy to let a (nearly) free flight opportunity pass me by.
What ensued was a flurry of phone calls to a friend, a quick flight search with British Airways (the holder of my points) and a quick vote on my Indiana Jo Facebook page.
Amsterdam won and I couldn’t have been more delighted because it was the perfect time of year in Holland – I was finally going to get to see the tulips in Amsterdam.
Seeing the Tulips in Amsterdam
In reality, I had very little time to explore Amsterdam in sufficient detail – I managed to squeeze in visits to the Van Gogh museum, the Anne Frank House, a quick (half covering my eyes) skirt around the edges of the red-light district, and a pit-stop for a local brew in one of the brown cafes (traditional pubs to you and I), but it was a mere appetiser for the main course on my travel menu – seeing the tulips in Amsterdam.
With a little bit of research online, I quickly came to realise there are two main ways to see tulips if you are basing your stay in the city. You can – i) visit the tulip fields or ii) visit Holland’s largest flower gardens, Kuekenhof.
The major difference between the two experiences is that the tulip fields represent huge expanses of flowers that are being grown ready for harvest and sale around the world while Kuekenhof offers the chance to walk around large tended gardens seeing many different varieties of tulips cleverly planted in visually gratifying patches. On an ideal trip, you’d probably want to experience both. But I wasn’t on an ideal trip – I was on a short one – and with a complete inability to stay upright on a bike (necessary for exploring the tulip fields), I chose Kuekenhof.
The tulips in Amsterdam epitomise the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words so, instead of my usual prose, here’s a summary of my visit in pictures. I just wish I could have somehow captured the thick, heady scent of flowers that clouded the air and made me want to inhale a dozen times more regularly than normal.
Getting to Kuekenhof
Geographically, Keukenhof (along with some of the tulip fields) sits about 30 minutes by bus beyond Schiphol Airport (southwest of Amsterdam and the airport). With my flight departing for London at 8pm, it made perfect sense to see the tulips on my final day in Amsterdam.
The easiest way to get to Kuekenhof is by taking the Kuekenhof Express from Schiphol Airport. The bus is brightly coloured, adorned in pictured of tulips and leaves from Schiphol Plaza (near “Arrivals 4”).
Even if you want to visit on a day trip from Amsterdam, you still need to go via the airport to catch the Kuekenhof Express. To get to the airport you can take bus number 197 from Museumplein or Leidseplein or a train from the central station.
There are lockers available at the airport (€7) for storing your bag or suitcase if you plan to return to the Schiphol for your flight.
The bus is run by a company called Arriva and there are 4 to 12 buses per hour depending on time of day.
The bus goes direct to the Keukenhof gardens and takes around 30 minutes each way.
Sit on the driver’s side on the way to the gardens and have your camera ready – as you near Kuekenhof you may be able to catch a picture of the tulip fields.
The gardens are only open for a set period each year. In 2014, the dates are 20 March to 18 May. You can check opening days here.
The park is open from 8am to 7.30pm.
Entry to Kuekenhof costs: €15 (adults), €7.50 (children 4-11), free (children under 4).
You can buy a combined bus and Kuekenhof ticket from a booth next to the information desk within the airport (€23 adults; €12.50 children). The saving is only €1 compared to buying separate tickets, but it’s still a saving. You can also buy a combined tickets from various points within central Amsterdam.
The gardens can get very busy. I visited towards the end of the day (between 3.30pm and 5.30pm) which seemed perfect as the crowds had thinned. As I arrived, the queue for the return bus looked like it required a two-bus wait to get back. It wasn’t nearly as busy when I left at 5.50pm though I still had to stand for the entire return journey.
Tip: Make sure you have plenty of space on your camera memory card – there’s a lot to prompt photographs.
There are plenty of facilities at Kuekenhof – toilets, cafes, restaurants and food carts. I didn’t try any of them so can’t comment otherwise to say that they were there!
For more information about visiting Kuekenhof, see www.holland.com.
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