One of the main reasons for this trip was to visit Kuekenhof again. We have both been here before, but the magnificence of the flowers draw us back yet again. We purchased our tickets online to avoid the hassles once there. Being Easter weekend, we knew there the crowds would be tremendous, but the fields are so extensive, it barely feels crowded. To get there, one option is to get to Leiden first and then take a bus, but there are also buses from the airport that go directly. We bought the combo ticket including round-trip bus fare and entrance into the gardens. My ticket was 21 Euros and Ron’s was 18.50, really quite a bargain. Our train tickets round-trip from Amsterdam to Leiden were 16.50 Euros each.
A little bit of history of the event: In the 15th century, Jacoba van Beieren had a castle in this area, which was also a popular hunting area. Herbs were collected in the area for preparing food for castle kitchen; hence the name Keukenhof. Keuken means kitchen and hof can be translated as garden in Dutch.
Over time, the land passed through many hands, but eventually Baron and Baroness Van Pallandt engaged the services of the famous landscape architects of the time, J.D. and L.P. Zocher to design a garden around the castle. The two designers were already famous for their creation of the Amsterdam Vondelpark. Their inspiration was the English landscape style of the time and has remained the style of Keukenhof.
The estate is currently owned by a foundation. By the initiative of the Lisse mayor in 1949 and a number of leading flower bulb growers and exporters, an open air flower exhibition was organized here for the first time. Each year, this increased in size drawing worldwide attention and tourists to admire the vast beauty of the flower displays.
Here are some facts and figures to give you an idea of why this is so incredibly exciting.
- As.one of the most popular attractions in the Netherlands, it has had more than 44 million visitors in the last 60 years.
- It is the largest bulb flower park in the world.
- It covers an area of 32 hectares 4.5 million tulips in 100 varieties.
- It is the most photographed place in the world.
- There are 15 kilometers of footpaths.
- It is the largest sculpture park in the Netherlands.
- The bulbs are supplied by 91 Royal Warrant Holders; 7 million flower bulbs are planted by hand.
- There are more than 2,500 trees in 87 varieties.
- There is a Walk of Fame with tulips named after famous people.
This year was dedicated to Germany with the theme “Land of Thinkers and Poets”, and a replication of the Brandenburg Gate was recreated with over 100,000 flower bulbs. They also had created the famous Van Gogh self portrait in flower petals.
We arrived at 11:45am brimming with energy and full camera batteries. After 5 hours and camera cards bursting with photos, we were starting to feel a bit punk. We just about covered every square inch of the place. The only major disappointment was my favorite pavillion where they usually have thousands of bulbs and other plants in bloom like tablecloths of color that have been spread out for a visual feast. However, due to the heat, most of the tulips and daffodils had already perished, leaving the space looking like a bad case of alopecia.
By 5:50 pm, I started getting nervous about the bus schedule to return us to the train station. No one seemed to know for sure if the buses were continuing after the park closed at 7:30. The line for the bus was out on an open field, but roped off like the lines at the airport, causing us to walk up one line and down another until we reached the butts of those who made it there before us. There were two lines actually: one for those going to the airport and one for those of us going to the train station. Keukenhof depends on the city bus line to provide the services, but the city service was not servicing us expediently. We had to wait a hour and forty-five minutes for our bus. It was almost forty minutes from the time we arrived in line until the first bus arrived to haul off people. The park employees were great about distributing water to everyone.
Once back in Leiden, we walked to the main canal and had dinner there, before getting our train back to the city. Although the day was exhausting, it was fulfilling at the same time. All photos will be in my photo blog in the next couple of days.