(Amsterdam) April is probably one of the most pleasant times of the year to visit the capital of the Netherlands. Spring is already here; the trees are displayed in tender green, the flowerbeds and parks are in bloom, the surrounding countryside displays its countless tulip fields. But the must-see is Keukenhof, an ephemeral flower park that attracts visitors from all over the world.
Only open for a period of seven or eight weeks, Keukenhof is one of a kind. The floral park is renewed every year. With the exception of the perennial plots – some of which are over 150 years old – the approximately 7 million tulips, narcissi, hyacinths and other bulbous plants that the public can smell and devour in the spring are all unearthed during the ‘summer. The gardens are then redesigned and when autumn comes, planting begins again by hand, one bulb at a time.
Imagine: 800 varieties of tulips, an orgy of colors in a course where water is omnipresent, paths dotted with sculptures where you can also admire several old buildings, including, of course, a vintage windmill. Thousands of flowering plants are also featured in showrooms. You can also take a boat trip there to fill your eyes with tulip fields before their heads are cut off.
Besides, visitors come to Keukenhof from everywhere to fully experience their spring fever. Last year 1.1 million visitors from more than 100 countries paraded there. By way of comparison, the Montreal Botanical Garden attracts around 800,000 people… per year.
Located in Lisse, about an hour’s drive from Amsterdam, the Keukenhof flower park occupies 32 hectares of a huge estate whose origins date back a few centuries. The garden is funded largely by growers and exporters of bulbs, as well as revenue generated from admissions. “It goes without saying that the pandemic years were particularly difficult from a financial point of view,” said the organization’s spokesperson, Britt Verkevisser. In 2020 we remained closed and the following year the gardens were open for just over two weeks even though all plantings had been renewed, as always. »
Benefiting from an important commercial showcase, around a hundred hand-picked suppliers each develop their plot according to their taste, taking care to properly identify their plants. In order to ensure continuous flowering during the eight weeks of exposure, the bulbs are planted in three successive layers of thickness, so that the early species and varieties are in flower at the opening, while the late ones are demonstrate at the end of April.
What is most surprising, at least for a Quebec gardener, is that squirrels seem to be absent from this vast garden. ” Squirrels ! I’ve never seen one here! says Ms. Varkevisser.
Keukenhof is served by an efficient shuttle system. To be booked at the same time as the entrance tickets (from 19 euros for an adult). The place opened its doors on March 23 and the season continues until May 14, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. You will partly avoid the rush by going there early in the morning or at the end of the afternoon.
If Keukenhof is the main tourist attraction in the Netherlands in the spring, you don’t go to Amsterdam just to visit the garden, of course. Here are some other attractions to discover on site.
You have to do some barge tours on the canals, at least on two separate circuits, to enjoy all that the city has to offer in this area.
Visit the Rembrandt House (1606) if only to learn more about the architecture of the old and narrow houses of Amsterdam. Surprisingly, the master’s bed is extremely short. It is that at that time, we slept… sitting.
The Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum are two museums that alone are worth crossing the Atlantic. During our stay, they were full for the whole week. Tip: visit their websites every day. You will surely discover a time slot where there are still a few free places. Or better yet: book your ticket before you go.
Created in 1638, the Hortus botanicus botanical garden is one of the oldest in the world. Small, quiet, very well stocked – and with great coffee. The palm grove is home to two of the oldest potted plants in existence. Extinct in the wild, the imperturbable Encephalastos horridus has been growing in its tank for 300 years. He gets along well with his young companion of 200 years of age. And they still produce fruits whose seeds are donated to other botanical institutions.
Very close to the Central Station – from where several tourist barges depart – is the flower market. Built on the water in 1862, it amazes with the diversity of plants on offer.