A spring trip to Amsterdam and the Netherlands is not complete without a visit to the Dutch countryside to see the tulip fields in bloom and to visit one of the world's best displays of bulb flowers. Touring Keukenhof Gardens, the worlds' largest tulip gardens, is a wonderful shore excursion, but visitors are also amazed at the amazing cultivated gardens throughout the country. During a trip to the Netherlands in the spring, you'll see tulip fields in Noord Holland, Zuid Holland, and Friesland. In addition, there are some beautiful tulip fields next to Keukenhof Gardens, near the large windmill.
People are crazy about tulips today, but not as much as in the 17th century. Tulips became wildly popular with the Dutch people in late 1636 and early 1637, and a mania for the bulbs swept through the country. Speculative buying and selling drove the price of tulips up to where some tulip bulbs cost more than a house, and a single bulb cost the equivalent of 10 years' salary for the average Dutch worker. Much of the speculative trading was done in drinking establishments, so alcohol fueled the tulipmania.
The bottom fell out of the market in February 1637, with many tulip sellers and buyers seeing their fortunes lost. Some who speculated in the tulip market were left with unsold bulbs, or with bulbs on "layaway". The economic concept of options arose from this tulip disaster, and the term tulipmania still is used to describe any investment frenzy.
Although the Netherlands is a small country that can be visited with a car or on a bus trip, cruise lovers will definitely enjoy touring the Dutch countryside on a river cruise. A Dutch tulip cruise is one of the best ways to see the Netherlands and enjoy the spring flowers. Tulip cruises also include stops at several of the charming Dutch villages and also include time to see some of the old windmills that are also associated with the Netherlands. Some tulip cruise itineraries also include stops in Belgium, Germany, and/or France.
The best time to visit the Netherlands and see tulips blooming is when the famous Keukenhof Gardens are open. These gardens are open for about eight weeks--between the last week of March and mid-May each year. Fortunately for cruise lovers, this time frame coincides with the Dutch tulip cruise season. Professional bulb gardeners display their flowers at Keukenhof, and visitors can see the flowers blooming, choose the bulbs in advance that match their favorite flowers and have these bulbs delivered to their homes after they are harvested in the late summer or early fall.
The Keukenhof Gardens cover 32 hectares of rich Dutch soil, and visitors can see over seven million bulbs of 800 different varieties. Not all varieties bloom at the same time, so don't try to count them. The Juliana Pavilion at Keukenhof has an interesting exhibit on Tulip mania. Dutch tulip river cruises always include at least a half-day excursion to Keukenhof gardens but also feature bus rides across the countryside to see flowers blooming.
Keukenhof is not the only place to see spring tulips in the Netherlands. Fields cover the rich soil of the country, and travelers can even visit a commercial tulip farm to see how tulips are harvested and delivered all over the world. It's very interesting to see the process for preparing the cut tulips to be sold to the wholesale markets.
The Floriade World Horticultural Expo
Another excellent place to see tulips and other flowers in the Netherlands is at the Floriade, which is a horticultural exposition held every ten years at a different location in the country. Planning for the next Floriade starts many years in advance, and the Netherlands held its first exposition in 1960. The Floriade runs from April 1 through the end of October, so it's not just tulips on exhibition. The Dutch horticulture industry presents its latest trends and developments to the rest of the world.
Topics range from water, sustainability, flowers, gardens and architecture to culinary delights. The next Floriade is in 2022, so you can start saving your dollars now!