I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Keukenhof Gardens twice in my life; once, in 2009, back when I had no idea how to use a camera other than to point it at things and hope for the best, and another in 2015, when I had a better understanding of what the hell I was doing.
I have to state right away that besides being the largest flower garden in the world, Keukenhof is also a photographer’s idea of paradise. With its 32 hectares of flowers encompassing every colour of the rainbow and its meticulously laid out arrangements, Keukenhof will turn anyone into a flower person – all you’ve got to do is pick your favourite among the 800 varieties. No biggie.
Rain or shine, the gardens are definitely a must-do day trip from Amsterdam in the spring. After all, aren’t tulips so quintessentially Dutch?
The tulips of Keukenhof Gardens
The Keukenhof Gardens – also known as the Gardens of Europe – first opened in 1949 in an effort to publicise Holland’s growing tulip industry (see what I did there?). And it worked! The Netherlands are now the world’s largest exporter of flowers, and Keukenhof went on to become one of the top attractions in the country with more than 7 million bulbs in bloom every year.
But if you think Keukenhof is only about tulips, you would be wrong. The iconic bloom certainly is the main draw of this show but there are many more flowers and plants to admire on site (like daffodils, carnations, hyacinths, lilies, orchids, roses, and irises), including a lush English garden and a surprising Japanese garden.
The technicolour displays and aromas are almost overwhelming at times – how can a single set of eyes observe everything?
How to visit Keukenhof Gardens
- The gardens are located in Lisse, one hour south of Amsterdam.
- You can either get there with a shuttle bus from Amsterdam (and skip-the-line entry ticket) or by public transit.
- They are open from March 24 to May 16, 2016.
- The best time to visit Keukenhof Gardens is mid-April; I visited the day before the gardens closed and while the displays were still absolutely beautiful (as demonstrated above), many flowers were wilted and tired.
- Plan between 2 and 3 hours to visit the gardens, the greenhouses, and the shops, more if you plan on photographing every single flower (like I did).
- Photography: you will want to have a good selection of lenses for your day trip. I had a wide angle (to capture the essence and vastness of the gardens) as well as a prime 25mm lens, which allowed me to get really good close-up shots of the flowers and their many intricate details.
- Don’t worry about lunch; there’s a fairly-priced and delicious restaurant on site.