It was the grand finale of a unique trip: we took a bus from Amsterdam to Keukenhof for half a day to see the most wonderful tulips in the world. Our annually offered yet limited run river cruise itinerary revolved around tulip season in The Netherlands, between late March and mid May.
How can you do the same as us and take a Keukenhof day trip from Amsterdam? Or even stay for two days if you like? We have all the information you want and more to reveal how to get there and how much more this garden is than just tulips.
About the Gardens, Including History
Keukenhof means “kitchen garden.” Herbs were initially planted on 15th century hunting grounds to provide ingredients for the nearby castle kitchen. The Countess of Hainaut, named Jacqueline, was the castle resident during the century back then. When she passed away merchants took over the grounds.
Fast forward hundreds of years: In 1949, a group decided to rent space at Keukenhof to plant bulbs. They hoped people would visit the garden. It was successful! The city mayor helped establish Keukenhof as a place where hybrid flowers could be displayed from The Netherlands and Europe, and also boost their floral export industry.
The garden’s size grew from the mid 20th century to the vast space it is today. Each year, garden architects plant bulbs in different patterns with vibrant colors and varieties to impress any visitor.
Keukenhof is southwest of Central Amsterdam in The Netherlands, in a city in Holland, called Lisse. The region where Lisse is, is called ‘Bollenstreek‘ in Dutch.
Cost and Tickets
Cost for Keukenhof admission for 2021 have not been released. However, based on previous years, our best guess is adult admission for one to Keukenhof is around €18.
Sadly, Keukenhof will not open in 2020 because of the global pandemic. However, there are some wonderful, special online tours that open the gardens up to everyone around the world not just those on the premises. They are VIRTUALLY open! We loved learning about the different types of tulips there from their Managing Director from the comfort of our couch.
We recommend purchasing a combo ticket with a bus ride + Keukenhof admission if you’re doing a day trip. See more about this in our “Getting There” section, below.
There are many travel options to get to Keukenhof from Amsterdam. Our advice is to take advantage of the convenience of the Keukenhof buses around The Netherlands during tulip season that go (almost) direct to Keukenhof’s entrance. A combination ticket costs between €25 to 30, for entrance to Keukenhof including the bus price. We recommend buying your combo ticket ahead of time. (Tickets will be emailed to you for your convenience).
From Amsterdam’s City Center:
- Private bus or car is about a 45 minute drive from central Amsterdam. That’s how we got there because we were sailing with Emerald Waterways on a limited run Amsterdam itinerary cruise. It ended with a day at Keukenhof Gardens to see the tulips.
- Bus/train from Amsterdam will takes between an hour and and hour and a half depending on traffic and transfer times. There’s two start location options from Amsterdam:
- Amsterdam Central: you take train Metro M 52 for this option, and transfer to Bus 852 at RAI Station Amsterdam. The bus takes you to the entrance to Keukenhof. The cost of this is €30, excluding the metro portion of the journey, which costs extra.
- Amsterdam Oud-Zuid and Oud-West neighborhoods, near the Rijksmuseum: pick up Bus 397 from one of these three stops:
- Amsterdam Museumplein
- Amsterdam Rijksmuseum
- Amsterdam Leidseplein
- All three above option in Oud-Zuid/West neighborhoods are within a 10 minute walk from each other. Bus 397 should be included in a €30 combination ticket including a transfer to Bus 859 at Hoofddorp station. Bus 859 will drop you off at the entrance to Keukenhof.
Don’t be discouraged by transfers! Nearly everyone in The Netherlands speaks English and can answer questions along the way if needed. And the public transportation is really quite simple to navigate. For more info on the above buses and train routes, click here.
From Amsterdam Schiphol Airport:
- By bus from Schiphol Airport: A combo ticket is €25 and takes about 45 minutes to an hour on Bus 858.
- By private car or bus: It’s about 20 to 30 minutes depending on traffic. Parking at Keukenhof is €6 for the day.
You can take a taxi from Amsterdam to Keukenhof but it will cost you over €100. It’s the most expensive option.
It’s also possible to buy a combo ticket and take the bus from Haarlem, Leiden, Hoofddrop, Noordwijk, and RAI to Keukenhof. That’s available to purchase from an I amsterdam Visitor Center. (Which we recommend stopping in anyway because they provide great information and have cool souvenirs you won’t find elsewhere in The Netherlands.)
When we pulled into the parking lot we saw spaces for cars, tour company coach buses and also where the city buses drop visitors off.
**As mentioned above, there is a small €6 fee to park your car in the Keukenhof lot during your visit.**
Third Party Tours from Amsterdam
If you want to kill a few birds with one stone there are great tour options that leave from Amsterdam and get you to Keukenhof. Some even have the perk of an additional destination. You do not have to book a separate bus with the options below, as transportation is included with the tours:
Guided Half-Day Trip from Amsterdam to Keukenhof + Flower Fields: This six hour tour leaves from two points in Amsterdam: 1) At the “This is Holland” shop by the Eye Film Museum, right across the water by Amsterdam Central Station. (It’s very easily to get across the water with a free ferry that takes about 5 minutes, leaving port side at Central Station every 10 minutes.) 2) By the Heineken Experience in the Oude Pijp neighborhood of Amsterdam. The tour price is inclusive of transportation on a coach bus, a guide with commentary, and passing flower fields on the ride. It runs twice a day, morning or afternoon. (Priced just below $70 USD in 2019.)
- Private Full Day Tour of Keukenhof from Amsterdam: If a private tour is more your style consider this option. Priced at $120 USD in 2019, it includes pick up in Amsterdam at 10:00am (at your hotel, cruise port, etc.) and 8 hours worth of time, with a drop off at approximately 6:00pm (pick up/drop off times). We liked that it includes a stop of your choice from a list of great options, including Delft (which was a favorite of ours on our Emerald Waterways river cruise), countryside windmills, or a dairy farm to see how the Dutch make cheese. This tour can also accommodate private groups, from one to twenty people. (Vehicle size varies depending on your private tour size). This tour passes by flower fields as well.
- Amsterdam Combo: Keukenhof and Zaanse Schaans Windmill Village: This tour’s title doesn’t do it justice. It seems to stop at two fabulous locations but when you read the description you actually get a lot more. It was priced at just under $100 USD in 2019. The stops include: 1) Keukenhof with a drive through Lisse on the way (the city where Keukenhof is), viewing beautiful tulip fields on the coach bus drive to the garden; 2) Zaanse Schans, a windmill village and recreation of a village from 18th and 19th century Holland (photo of us there below); 3) clog wooden shoe workshop; 4) Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm, including a Dutch cheese tasting.
Tip: we saw a tour online for “Skip the Line” at Keukenhof. We don’t think this is necessary. The line to get in, even if long, moves really quickly once the gates to the garden open in the morning. However we realize we were only there one day and it could potentially vary day by day, especially when Keukenhof is busier on the weekends.
Pros and Cons of a Third Party Tour
- Depending on the third party tour, you may get to see more than just Keukenhof and Lisse.
- A private tour will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel.
- You’ll have guided commentary on the drive there.
- It costs a bit more.
- If you want to stay at Keukenhof for more hours you may not be able to.
- You most likely won’t be able to see anything else in Lisse, like nearby Keukenhof castle, unless you have a private tour and can customize it a bit more. (We mention the castle later on in this article.)
We had just under three hours at the garden. We had the option to stay for another two hours with our river cruise bus or leave when we did on an earlier one. Though we perhaps could have used another thirty minutes we opted to leave because we didn’t want two more hours there. (At the time we wanted to enjoy the last day on our river cruise ship!)
Weeks and Hours of Operation
Keukenhof is only open two and a half to three months every year. The staff works for much more time before and after, planting the bulbs and tending to the flowers, but it’s open to guests only from March to May. (Usually the end of March to mid-May with mid-April usually being the ideal time to visit, mother nature dependent.) This is because of the short season of tulips.
We predict the public operation dates for 2021 will be March 20 to May 15. This is not official dates from Keukenhof. It’s just our prediction based on previous years, when Keukenhof has been open from the second weekend in March to the second weekend of May.
The annual Flower Parade is predicted to be the fourth Saturday of April 24, 2021 which is sure to be one of the most crowded days in Lisse.)
Different types of flowering bulbs have different blooming schedules. Note the exact blossoming time of flowers – just like Cherry Blossoms – vary with the weather every year.
- March (opening) to early April: from what we’ve read, tulips are on display indoors during this time and daffodils and crocuses are the main event outside. (Crocuses bloom fairly early in the spring.)
- First half of April: Hyacinths bloom early to mid-spring and early tulips bloom in Keukenhof at this time. Leaves start to blossom on trees. (There are many evergreen trees in the garden, who always have their green pine needles on them.)
- Second half of April to early May (closing): We felt this was the peak time to be there. All the photos in this post are from this time period in 2019, the third week of April. Tulips abound, there were many daffodils still in bloom and lots more varieties of flowers to see inside the pavilions, including tropical orchids and Birds of Paradise. This is also the time when the shrubs and trees are in full bloom, with all their leaves.
We learned most areas of Keukenhof have bulbs planted in layers so when one dies, like a Crocus flower, another flower’s blooming schedule (like a tulip) allows the space to be filled in right after. This means there are constantly flowers to see, from the time the garden opens to the time it closes.
Best Time of the Day and Week to Enter
The best time to visit is first thing in the morning on a weekday, as soon as they open at 8:00am. It simply gets more crowded as the day goes on. There’s no wrong time to be at the gardens we just thought it was great we got there shortly after the gates opened for the day; we noticed it got more populated with each passing hour.
We also hear it’s less crowded after 4:00pm most days (probably because most of the tour busses and huge crowds have left by then) and Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The gardens close at 7:30pm Monday through Saturday and at 7:00pm on Sundays. The ticket office is open daily from 8:00am to 6:00pm.
We heard Keukenhof had about 1.2 million visitors in 2018, within less than 10 weeks!
You can’t deny the beauty of tulips! But they also have a long history with The Netherlands. We learned for all the fame Holland has for being the go-to destination for tulips, they’re surprisingly native to Turkey, not The Netherlands.
The first tulips in Holland came from Tibet, Turkey and Kazakhstan, centuries ago. At one point in the history of The Netherlands, tulips were more precious and more valued than land or property, like homes. People traded single tulips bulbs for unimaginable amounts of money. (Can you imagine if you bought one bulb, hundreds of years ago for a high price then it died? Eeek!)
Over seven million bulbs (yes, SEVEN MILLION) in over 800 varieties were planted for the season in 2019. Wow. The gardeners plant them as early as October and wait until spring to see the fruits of their labor. (The bulbs need the cold of winter to stimulate growth.)
Pavilions and Distinct Areas of the Garden
We were pleasantly surprised to learn there are multiple pavilions throughout Keukenhof, not just fields of tulips. The pavilions are covered and/or enclosed. They are a great place to cool off if it’s hot outside, find shade from the sun, see more varieties of plants, tulips, and other assorted flowers, visit a gift shop in some cases or use the restrooms in others.
The pavilions include:
- Mill (Windmill)
- Juliana Tulpomania
- Oranje Nassau
We’re pretty sure all the pavilions are named after Dutch royalty! There’s also a front “Main Entrance” and “Extra Entrance” at the opposite end or back of the garden.
There are also other surprising, welcome elements around Keukenhof, including:
- Various water features and fountains
- Many sculptures
- Manicured shrubs and plants
Varieties of Tulips
We had no idea there are thousands of tulip varieties. Over 3,000 varieties of tulips are currently registered in the world – we saw about 800 of them at Keukenhof.
We were fascinated by the size of some of their petals, nearly as big as our heads. And tulips that hung from the tops of stems like bells ringing towards the ground. Or the ruffly, frilly edges on others. It was awe-inspiring.
Flowers Besides Tulips
We figured, “It’s a tulip garden so why would there be other flowers there?” We were surprised to learn, though, there are other kinds of flowers there! There were many varieties, shapes and sizes of daffodils we had never seen before. (We especially loved the apricot colored ones.)
We also saw a lot of tropical flowers in the Willem-Alexander pavilion, including Birds of Paradise and orchids. There were lots of gorgeous Amaryllis flowers too. (Photo below, on the left.)
You’re able to walk up the stairs of the windmill to the top level (it’s just about a flight of steps, so not a long or strenuous climb). It’s not a working windmill other than the fact the blades still turn. It’s pretty much just an icon for classic Holland photography within Keukenhof.
You can also buy tickets to “Whisper Boats” here for below €10 a piece. They’re called such because they’re very quiet, electric boats that take you on a relaxing journey past the flower fields. It lasts about 45 minutes.
There will most likely be a line for the boat rides so if you think you want to do this (and have the time during your visit to Keukenhof for it) we recommend getting to the boats first, before you even walk around to see everything. (You’ll pass a lot of flowers on the walk to the windmill from inside Keukenhof, regardless!)
There aren’t flower fields everywhere in The Netherlands during this season yet we did pass quite a few during our Emerald Waterways river cruise journey to Keukenhof. And there happens to be fabulous ones at Keukenhof right near their windmill.
We loved the view from the top of the windmill looking down at flower fields.
Theme, Food and Drinks
There was a really cute “Flower Power” theme when we visited in 2019. (2020’s theme is “World of Color.”) Flower mosaics were created in accordance with the theme in certain areas, including planting designs and themed food stations. At one area an old Volkswagen Van was repurposed as a burger station.
There are plenty of food options at several spots around the gardens. There was also plenty of places around the property to purchase coffee, hot chocolate, poffertjes, ice cream and more.
You’re probably wondering if you can purchase tulip bulbs at Keukenhof Gardens: of course you can! They’ll even ship them back to home if you like. (Don’t forget you cannot bring plants from abroad back into the United States through the airport!)
The bulbs are not inexpensive – they’re still priced accordingly – but it is one of the cooler things to bring home if the climate where you live supports bulb growth. (New York’s climate does. But Florida’s, for instance, does not. It’s too warm! Don’t forget bulbs need winter cold to stimulate growth.)
They also have wooden tulips, postcards, and other gifts for sale that you’d expect to see at any gift shop of its kind.
What Else Is There to Do Near Keukenhof, in Lisse?
We discuss the “things to do” below in depth in our One or Two Day Itineraries that follow:
- Rent a Bike: The bicycle rental office is open daily from 9:30am to 7:00pm and they are located next to the Keukenhof parking lot, at the main entrance. There are several mapped routes around Lisse where you can ride past the Flower Fields at your own pace for the duration of under an hour, to one hour or three hours, depending on the route. You can also rent a bike for an entire day. (Visitors are not permitted to walk through the flower fields – please respect the flowers and field owners.) We hear the lines for rental bikes can get long and you may have to wait for a bike to became available sometimes. To avoid this, be sure to reserve online ahead of time if you know you definitely want to do this. Pick up is before noon. Bike rentals are €10 for three hours or €15 for a full day. You can add a ticket to Keukenhof to the rental for €18 (if it’s not already in a combo bus ticket you purchased or part of an organized tour). Adding an audio guide for the Flower Field area is also an option for another €5.
- Visit Keukenhof Castle: The castle is a short walk from Keukenhof (0.3 miles). It’s the one we mentioned in the history paragraph of the post; the kitchen garden supplied this dwelling centuries ago. The castle park is open year round from 8:30am to 4:30pm, October through March and from 8:30am to 7:30pm April through September. Entrance to the park/gardens at the castle is free. Guided tours through the castle are €10 and availability varies based on private events and construction.
- Learn about tulips at the Black Tulip Museum:Visit the small, two-level Black Tulip Museum (Museum de Zwarte Tulp) where you can learn about the history of tulips including the tulip trade and how the Dutch worked with the flowers and their land. Cost for the museum is €8 and includes a free audio guide.
- Reserve an Electric Twizy for a GPS guided Audio Tour: **Usually available from the end of March through second week of May.** Riding in a Twizy is one of the most fun things we’ve ever done! We did a different tour through another region of Holland, driving a Twizy first-hand so we know what a blast these electric vehicles are. You must have a valid driver’s license to drive one. A person without a license is permitted be a passenger in the back of a vehicle. (There are two people per vehicle, max.) The pre-programmed tour takes you through Lisse, past many flower fields, past Keukenhof (not inside), and past Keukenhof Castle. We cannot recommend this experience enough! It’s just about €97 per vehicle, which includes up to two people. The whole experience takes about two hours, including checkin and a quick Twizy lesson, with the tour constituting about 45 minutes of that time. (It’s a 20km route, or 12.4 miles.) The driver controls when the vehicle starts and stops so you’re welcome to stop for photos along the way! During the season, they’re open seven days a week and have four departure times a day. (10:00am-12:00pm, 1:00pm-3:00pm, 4:00pm-6:00pm or 7:00pm-9:00pm.) The tour departure point is very close to Keukenhof: a seven minute drive or 25 minute walk. (Approximately 1.25 miles.)
One and Two Day Itineraries in Lisse
One Day in Lisse, including Keukenhof
- 8:00-9:00am: Arrive at Keukenhof, when they open.
- 9:05am: Immediately head to the Whisper Boats kiosk near the windmill, to beat the lines. (Get your ticket at the kiosk inside Keukenhof, next to the windmill.)
- 10:30am: walk around the garden until lunch.
- 12:30pm: Enjoy lunch at the garden.
- 1:45pm: Visit Keukenhof castle, across the road.
- 3:00pm: Head back to Keukenhof. Be sure to return at least two hours before they close to enjoy it for a final time before heading back to Amsterdam! It should be a bit calmer at this point too, with most of the tour buses leaving earlier in the day.
Two Days in Lisse, including Keukenhof, and Stay Overnight
If we were to go again we’d take a dedicated overnight trip to Lisse and do the following:
- 8:00-9:00am: Arrive at Keukenhof, when they open.
- 9:05am: Immediately head to the Whisper Boats kiosk near the windmill, to beat the lines. (Get your ticket at the kiosk inside Keukenhof, next to the windmill.)
- 10:30am: walk around the gardens for a few hours.
- 12:30pm: Enjoy lunch at Keukenhof.
- 1:30pm: Spend more time at the gardens, ensuring you see all the pavilions, the various gardens and sculptures, bodies of water and fountains, and the viewing platform on the windmill.
- 4:00/4:30pm: Walk across the road to visit Keukenhof Castle.
- 6:30pm: Head to your hotel in Lisse for your overnight stay. Explore the town.
- 10:00am: Rent a bike at Keukenhof, next to the parking lot. Take the two hour route. (Make a reservation ahead of time.)
- 12:00pm: Visit the Black Tulip Museum (Museum de Zwarte Tulp).
- 1:00pm: Have lunch in town, in Lisse.
- 3:15/3:30pm: Make a reservation ahead of time for the 4:00pm-6:00pm Electric Twizy GPS tour. Head there between 3:15-3:30pm to ensure you have ample time for travel from where you are, and to arrive to your reservation a little early.
- 4:00-6:00pm: Electric Twizy Tour time!
- 6:00pm: Head to your next destination in The Netherlands, whether back to Amsterdam or another day trip.
If you’ll be in Lisse for two days, one of them being a weekday, be sure to go to Keukenhof on a weekday as the weekends are a bit busier there. See “Best Time of the Day and Week to Enter,” earlier in this post.
Here are some hotels recommendations in Lisse:
- De Oude Pastrorie Lisse: A beautiful building with an outdoor dining patio and rooms with a bed and breakfast vibe.
- Bed & Breakfast De Vier Seizoenen: This hotel has fantastic reviews and a cozy, warm welcoming feel.
- Bed & Breakfast Madeleine: Also a great option, situated above a pastry shop in a mixed use building.
Keukenhof Practical Information
- Wifi: There’s free wifi around Keukenhof. The signal didn’t seem very strong when we were there; we had a difficult time getting onto the network. So while they have it we would caution you to not necessarily rely on it.
- Dogs: leashed dogs are allowed in Keueknhof, but are not permitted in the restaurants.
- Storing luggage and lockers: There are free lockers at the front of the park to store luggage.
- Toilets: There’s plenty of restrooms around the park!
- Drones: They are not permitted at Keukenhof.
Please note: we thank Emerald Waterways for generously hosting us. We also may make a small commission from affiliate links in this post but all opinions are ours and we bring you genuine content with real facts, photos, thoughts and recommendations. Always.
Heading to The Netherlands? Also check out:
- Traditional Dutch Foods and Drinks to Try in The Netherlands
- 15 Memorable Things to Do in Amsterdam
- Easily Accessible Bus and Train Trips from Amsterdam