Amsterdam

Keukenhof, Netherlands (Flower Strip)

The Netherlands produces 90 percent of the world’s tulips. This equates to billions of tulips. Billions.

Tulips are a big deal in the Netherlands, so much so, that they’ve dedicated an entire month to them.

April is that month, the month when the Tulip Festival is held in Amsterdam. Think parades, flower displays, tulip mania, an influx of tourists, that type of thing.

And while celebrating tulips in Amsterdam is neat, the mother of all-things-tulips are the flower fields located approximately 30 minutes southwest of Amsterdam.

Located in South Holland, the tulip (and other flowers) growing region goes by many names: Bloemenstrook (flower strip), Bollenstreek (bulb region), and probably most commonly, Keukenhof.

For the purpose of this post, I’ll refer to this region as “Keukenhof” but it must be noted that Keukenhof is the name of the garden complex near the town of Lisse. Think of Keukenhof as the Kew Gardens of Amsterdam – a fenced complex with paid admission. I’ll refer to it as “Keukenhof Gardens”.

Things may already be confusing, so to recap:

Keukenhof = tulip/flower growing region

Keukenhof Gardens = paid admission, fenced complex

There are two ways to “get your tulip on” as a day trip from Amsterdam via public transport.

  1. Visit Keukenhof Gardens
  2. Cycle through the fields of Keukenhof

We chose to cycle through the fields and we had amazing weather and it did not disappoint!

Getting to/from Keukenhof

The journey to Keukenhof from Amsterdam (via public transport) is the same whether you are visiting Keukenhof Gardens or as a do-it-yourself cycle tour through the fields of Keukenhof.

In short, you take a bus from Amsterdam that terminates at the entrance of Keukenhof Gardens. From there, you can either enter the gardens (tickets must be purchased in advance) or walk to the bike rental kiosk at the other end of the massive car park.

Full details on the bus routes can be found here, however, note that this website is for Keukenhof Gardens. Do not buy tickets from this website if you do not intend to visit Keukenhof Gardens because the ticket sold on this website include transportation and admission into the gardens.

Since we were doing a DIY cycle tour and only needed transportation tickets to/from Keukenhof, we purchased a one-day “Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket” for 19.50€ per ticket.

During tulip season, this regional travel ticket includes journeys on the 858 bus which runs seasonally from Schiphol Airport to Keukenhof Gardens.

The regional travel ticket can only be purchased from a handful of places as noted here. In Amsterdam, the most popular shop is the Iamsterdam Visitor Centre located across the street from Amsterdam Centraal Station.

Our accommodation was located in the Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam, so our journey to Keukenhof Gardens began at Amsterdam Centraal Station.

It went like this:

TimeAction
10:28Train to Schiphol Airport
10:43Arrive at Schiphol Airport station
11:17Board the 858 bus to Keukenhof Gardens
11:47Arrive at Keukenhof Gardens

The biggest hurdle we had with our journey to Keukenhof Gardens was finding where the 858 bus departed from at Schiphol Airport. We spun our wheels for 15 minutes until we found an info desk and were able to speak to a human.

Since the 858 bus is a seasonal bus, it does not depart from the main Schiphol bus station which was confusing at the time but is all clear now.

The 858 bus departs near the Starbucks at Arrivals 4. It’s a short walk from the train platform to the 858 bus stop and there are toilets (free) along the way which was a bonus.

Here’s a helpful map I created that shows the route from the train platforms (technically below the arrivals hall level) to the 858 bus stop. Simply follow the green arrow and you’ll be set.

The 858 bus runs up to six times per hour, however, at peak times, it is likely that there will be long queues. We arrived at the bus stop just as a bus was leaving and due to our position in the queue, we did not make it on the next bus but successfully made it on the next, next bus. Our wait time was ~25 minutes.

And even though we had a longish wait, it was a bonus to be one of the first passengers on the bus because we got seats (the journey time is 30 minutes, longer if there are traffic jams).

The bus dropped us off next to the entrance of Keukenhof Gardens. To my surprise, there were public toilets (free) between the bus stop and the entrance!

Keukenhof bike rental

We rented bikes from Rent-A-Bike Van Dam. Their kiosk is at the other end of the car park, a couple minutes’ walk at most. It could not be more convenient.

Bikes can be rented for a 3-hour period or for a full day for 10€ and 15€, respectively. Since the journey time from Amsterdam to Keukenhof can be unpredictable, I recommend the full-day rental as well as reserving bikes in advance.

They ran out of “first come, first serve” bikes on the day of our visit and it would be a total bummer to travel all the way to Keukenhof and not be able to rent a bike.

Protip: Familiarize yourself with bike pick-up and drop-off rules here. Most rules apply only to 3-hour rentals but there are a few helpful tidbits like the ability to pick up bikes 30 minutes before the appointed start time and 12:30pm being the cutoff time to pick up reserved bikes for the day (thereafter, they release the bikes as first come, first serve).

To give you an idea of how things went for us, our bike rental start time was 11am and we arrived at the kiosk at noon. If we had opted for a 3-hour rental, we’d only have had two hours remaining in our rental period which would not have been enough time to cycle the recommended route for that day.

Having booked our rental in advance, we were able to skip the queue and go straight to bike pick-up. We were given a short briefing on the best cycle route for that day (based on the fields that were currently blooming) and shown how to lock/unlock the bikes.

The process could not have been more efficient and painless (in total five minutes) and after a quick adjustment of the seat height, we were off!

Rent-A-Bike Van Dam gets a rating of 10/10.

Cycling through the fields

During our bike rental briefing, we were told that the green route was the best route for the day because it had the most fields in bloom. The green route takes 1-2 hours based on cycling pace, number of stops, and if you do the full route or take one of the two shortcuts back to Keukenhof Gardens.

Shortcuts are denoted by dotted lines

From pick-up to drop-off, we were in possession of the bikes for two hours and 20 minutes. We cycled the full green route which looked like this:

We stopped frequently to take photos and we made two pit stops. The first pit stop was at the Tulip Barn to use the toilets and devour a brownie. The second was much more fun, a brewery.

If you’re cycling through the tulip fields, then I do not recommend stopping at the Tulip Barn unless you need to use the toilets. It’s a purpose-built complex for tourists who want to see blooming tulips and flowers but don’t want to put in the effort of cycling or even driving around the region.

The Tulip Bar is like a food court of flowers. There are many varieties of flowers in one spot making it easy to satisfy a group of people who like different types of flowers.

The cycle routes were well marked throughout the region which is such a small thing but has such a big impact. We never had to reference the paper map nor use Google Maps.

The green route was flat, however, we cycled into the wind on our way back to the Keukenhof Gardens which was mildly unpleasant.

Honesty tulip stand at one of the growers

Near the end of the green route (#31 on the map above), we detoured to a brewery in a quest for food and beer.

Sadly, the brewery was only serving light snacks despite stating otherwise on their website so we drank beers and tried bitterballen which are deep-fried mushy meatballs that are served with a mustard dipping sauce.

I was a fan of bitterballen. Peter was not.

After the brewery, we cycled to Keukenhof Gardens and returned the bikes at the kiosk. It was 2:20pm and there was a queue of 50 people waiting for bikes to be returned so that they could rent them and cycle off into the distance.

A little planning and commitment go a long way when it comes to visiting Keukenhof.

We arrived at our hotel in Amsterdam at approximately 4:30pm. A day trip to Keukenhof is a proper full-day trip.

What we’d do differently

Now the bit everyone always asks. What would we do differently if we were to do our day trip again?

First, we were an hour late for our bike pick-up (arriving at 12pm versus 11am), so we’d depart Amsterdam Centraal an hour earlier than we did so that we could pick up our bikes as close to 11am as possible, possibly even earlier than 11am.

Second, we’d take the shortcut (#26 on the map above) back to Keukenhof Gardens versus cycling the full green route. There were no blooming fields – or anything really – past #26 on the route so it ended up being a long boring slog from about #25 to Keukenhof Gardens.

Taking this shortcut would have also indirectly omitted the Tulip Barn stop which would have been a good thing.

Here’s what our route would have looked like if we had taken the shortcut back to Keukenhof Gardens.

Third, we would’ve possibly packed a picnic lunch. A picnic lunch would have come in handy because we completed the route at 1:30pm which was about an hour later than what we had planned. Most of the delay was due to the queuing times for the 858 bus at Schiphol Airport, so that is something to take into consideration.

However, on the other hand, if we had picked up our bikes on time, at 11am, then we would’ve completed the route at 12:30pm and would’ve cycled to the nearby town of Lisse for lunch at a local restaurant.

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