In the Netherlands, April is the best month to view Holland’s beautiful tulips. We packed a trip to Keukenhof, cycling through tulip fields, and King’s Day celebrations into a single long weekend. Read on to discover what we learned about these iconic flowers!

Tulips originated north of the Himalayas, in Central Asia, and were first cultivated in ancient Persia as early as the 10th century as a symbol of grace and beauty. From there, tulips spread westward, eventually reaching Istanbul, which opened the door to Europe. By the second half of the 16th century, travellers had brought bulbs and flowers to various countries, finding a particularly enthusiastic audience in the Netherlands. This marked the beginning of Dutch tulip cultivation, with important varieties emerging just a few decades later, forever shaping the history of this beautiful bloom. We started our weekend trip with the main goal of understanding tulip cultivation better and admiring the stunning variations growing in the fields around Lisse. Our travel schedule included visiting a tulip farm, cycling along tulip fields, and exploring the famed Keukenhof gardens.

We started our adventure by cycling through the tulip fields, creating a loop from Leiden to Sassenheim, Hillegom, Lisse, Voorhout, and back to Leiden, covering nearly 50 km on the first day (detailed map in practical info section). Equipped with phone holders on our bikes and a well-marked route on Google Maps, navigation was a breeze. Dutch cycling paths are incredibly intuitive, and we didn’t get lost once. Coinciding with our trip was King’s Day, a national celebration on April 26th, where every small city burst into street parties with people dressed in vibrant orange, celebrating the King’s birthday. To our surprise, most of the tulip fields had already been cut, which we later learned happened two weeks earlier than usual this year. Despite this, we thoroughly enjoyed our tour and couldn’t help but imagine the sheer beauty of the fields in full bloom.

We passed few tulip farms where we could see small show gardens with many types of tulips with specific names and numbers to make it very easy to order them online. A great chance to see different types and choose the one that will fit your garden best!

Tulip Farm De Tulperij is a charming family-run business that started in 1927. The son of the owner decided to take over the farm and will start the 4th generation in the near future. Visitors are welcomed personally by the owners, the farmer, and his wife. It’s located near Keukenhof Gardens and is open during the same time as the gardens.

Since we joined a guided tour, the owner generously shared invaluable tips on how to grow tulips more effectively in our gardens. One key takeaway was to plant tulips in sandy soil with a high level of groundwater. On their farm, the groundwater sits just 65 cm below the surface, eliminating the need for additional watering as any excess is channelled into irrigation systems. We also learned the importance of rotating tulip bulbs to different spots each year to prevent bacterial and viral diseases that can develop around the bulbs.

We also received a step-by-step explanation of the tulip cultivation process. De Tulperij is a bulb grower’s farm, unlike flower growers’ farms, meaning they don’t grow tulips year-round. In contrast, other farms cultivate tulips continuously in greenhouses. Remarkably, 80% of tulips produced in the Netherlands remain in the country, with only 20% being exported.

The tulip cycle at De Tulperij begins between October and December, when bulbs are planted and protected with hay. They require lower temperatures for a few months to bloom in spring, ideally around 9°C. As spring arrives and tulips start to emerge, the grower meticulously checks for viruses, removing any plants that look different, such as those lacking leaves or displaying a mosaic pattern.

We learned that the timing of flower cutting, which typically occurs during the first two weeks of May, happened 2 weeks earlier this year. Cutting the flowers helps reduce insect activity around the tulips and ensures that energy is directed toward bulb development rather than seed production. After cutting, the bulbs remain in the ground for another 6-8 weeks until the leaves turn yellow. Then, the bulbs are harvested, cleaned by hand (process is called “peeling”), dried, and stored in a dark, ventilated place until the next planting season. Up to five small bulbs can be expected to grow out of the mother bulb.

A small part of the bulbs is still sold at auctions. Large bulbs destined for international markets are washed to eliminate any bacteria or fungi. The smaller bulbs are stored and replanted in the autumn, with bulblets taking two to three years to grow large enough to sell.

De Tulperij farm has a new tulip color from 2001, orange, which is really rare and costs 30% more than red tulips. While red, yellow, and purple tulips are most prevalent, it takes, on average, 20 years to introduce a new variety to the market. These new varieties can emerge by chance through random mutations, as was the case with the orange tulip, or through intentional crossbreeding. The orange tulip at De Tulperij was a lucky find, emerging from a random mutation. The growers carefully isolated the bulb, and when it bloomed the same vibrant color the following year, they knew they had something special. This permanent mutation marked the start of their efforts to cultivate and increase the number of these unique orange bulbs.

Right next door to De Tulperij, there’s a neighbor with an impressive collection of 7,000 different tulip types, including virus-resistant varieties. Each new tulip variety receives a certificate from the Gene Bank, a testament to its uniqueness and identity. From the beginning, tulips were named after famous personalities or breeders. The most famous one is “Semper Augustus,” named after Roman Emperor Augustus in the 16th. century. One fun fact we learned from the farmer at De Tulperij was about the unique process of growing hyacinths. Unlike tulips, the cultivation of hyacinths involves a deliberate technique where farmers manually damage the bottom of the bulbs. This surprising method causes the bulbs to multiply rapidly, producing 20-30 new bulbs within just 2-3 months. Afterward, each new bulb is carefully separated by hand and then needs to grow for three years before it’s large enough to produce flower.

Last day was dedicated to visit famous Keukenhof that wes established in 1949 (exactly 75 years ago!). On the photo below you can see the former entrance to the park that is still one of the features of the park. The garden was initially opened to showcase the best flower bulbs the Dutch floricultural industry has to offer, and it has since become one of the largest and most well-known flower gardens in the world.

One of the highlights of Keukenhof is its charming windmill, originally produced in Groningen in 1892 and donated by a cruise company. From the platform at the top of the windmill, you can usually admire breathtaking views of the colorful tulip fields at the peak of the season. However, during our visit, the surrounding fields had already been cut.

Keukenhof’s main attraction is its focus on the 7 million spring-flowering bulbs, showcasing a living catalog for the 100 participating companies. Over 500 flower growers present an impressive variety of cut flowers and pot plants at more than 20 flower shows. Early in the season, you can enjoy crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, and early tulips in full bloom. As the season progresses, the garden transforms with larger tulips and other flowers making their appearance. Keukenhof is a must-visit destination for any flower enthusiast, providing a spectacular display of nature’s beauty. However, it’s worth noting that the park can get quite crowded, even on a Monday morning. While the experience is undoubtedly magical, it’s not something I would repeat annually due to the sheer volume of visitors. Nonetheless, Keukenhof remains a floral paradise that should be experienced at least once.

Practical info:

  • Easy Fiets in Leiden Very friendly stuff, and we could give them back even after opening hours, but the bikes were quite small and cycling 50 km with these, was not idle.
  • Tulip Store Showgarden is a tulip show garden with big fields with tulips that you can enter without a fee. Another spot with beautiful fields was next to Vernooij VOF, not a tulip farm but nice fields with easy access.
  • During our bike ride, we mostly followed the route outlined on You can open it, and it will redirect you immediately to Google Maps, making it very easy to use. Then you can just follow the marks on the map. We skipped one loop that goes to the sea because the weather was unstable, and we still had to get back to Leiden. Our colleagues did this part, and they confirmed that the landscape changes dramatically, with the dunes looking stunning even in windy and stormy weather.
  • Tulip Farm De Tulperij in Voorhout - you can get a guided tour through the tulip fields (3 tours every day, English and Dutch). There is also flower greenhouse with a coffee, tea and a Dutch waffle, beautifully decorated. You can also buy many tulip and Delftware related souvenirs. During our visit, it was not possible to buy any bulbs but these can be purchased online and shipped later to your home address. It’s incredible to see the dedication and time that goes into growing bulbs. If you ever find yourself near Keukenhof Gardens, a trip to De Tulperij is a must for any flower lover! The visit lasted almost one hour and included a 20-minute movie and free time for pictures in the fields that are normally not open to every visitor. On this farm, you can also see dahlias – beginning of August to beginning of October when farm is open for visitors again. Note that while everyone can see the tulip show garden, to take photos on the fields, you need to book guided tour.
    • Keukenhof is probably the most visited place in the Netherlands during the few weeks it’s open. The number of large tourist buses in the parking lots we passed on Saturday while cycling was astounding, not to mention the number of cars parked in various lots around the famous gardens. We were glad to have booked our ticket for Monday morning at 8:30 am. The only issue we encountered was that the parking lots were so empty in the morning that we weren’t sure where to go. We ended up driving to two different lots before someone finally directed us to the correct one, wasting almost 20 minutes. It seems the designated parking lot changes during the day, so if you arrive in the morning, definitely head to the main parking lot (coordinates: 52.268923, 4.551555). It’s also the same lot where you can rent a bike. We approached Keukenhof from another direction, so look for temporary signs on the roundabout that indicate where to turn. The sign simply said “Keukenhof,” which was confusing. It would be more helpful if it included the word “open” and a parking pictogram as well.

Until 11:00 am, the number of visitors in the park was reasonable. After that time, it started to get really crowded. We noticed more and more large groups, making it difficult to navigate some areas. Because we visited after the tulip fields had already been cut, it wasn’t worth rushing to the windmill first since the view wasn’t spectacular without the colorful fields. Instead, we recommend heading to the Historical Garden, which is great for selfies and, as we noticed later, a popular spot in the park. After visiting the park, we had a walk to city center of Lisse for a lunch (less than 20min walk) and then came back to the car parking.